Mark Rohde Jr. never wavered during an inspiring fight to continue his basketball career at Swarthmore College this season.
From his open-heart surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital last June through a three-month recuperative period, Rohde always believed he would be in a Garnet Tide uniform for the season opener.
"I never thought my basketball career might end with the operation," Rohde said Monday from his dorm room. "But my parents [Cindy and Mark Sr., an outstanding player at Loyola High and Loyola College] did."
Rohde had just graduated from Gilman last June when he underwent open-heart surgery to repair a hole and a damaged vein in his heart. The hole, between the size of a nickel and a quarter, had been discovered the summer between his junior and senior years at Gilman. The vein problem was a late surprise to the doctors.
"It didn't affect the way I played in high school but I was always totally winded after games," said Rohde, who was elected co-captain of the team his senior year and averaged 10 points, six rebounds and three assists for the 18-13 Greyhounds.
Rohde, 18, played with a torn meniscus through most of his senior season, opting to wait until April to undergo knee surgery because he felt his team needed him.
That knee surgery came exactly two months before the successful heart operation which forced Rohde to halt all physical activities for three months.
However, he headed to Swarthmore in September to start freshman classes and begin light workouts, preparing himself for the season opener. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound forward/center has appeared in 22 games, averaging 11 minutes a game for the Garnet Tide (12-10 overall, 9-6 Centennial Conference).
He's averaging 2.5 points and 1.8 rebounds a game.
When asked to judge his performance to date, Rohde said, "I'm about where I expected to be as a freshman before I had the operation. Anything else I accomplish is a bonus."
Another former Gilman basketball player, 6-8 junior center Arthur Chalmers, has averaged 9.1 minutes, 1.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in 15 games this season for Swarthmore.
Birden makes mark
Power forward Dwayne Birden (Calvert Hall) has been a strong contributor to the success of the Jacksonville (Texas) College basketball team, which competes in the Region XIV Athletic Conference in junior college Division I.
Birden, a 6-6 freshman, is averaging 10 points, a team-leading 5.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. Jacksonville (13-13 overall, 9-9 in Region XIV) is closing in on a playoff berth with the help of Birden, who has attracted some attention from four-year schools such as Texas State.
"He plays an inside-out game for us and is adept at running the floor on our secondary break," said Jacksonville coach Brandon Curran.
Neal strikes again
Neal also had seven rebounds and three assists in that game, giving him a two-game total of 51 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists last week.
The 30 points marked the sixth time in his career he has scored 30 or more points in a game, and it ran his career total to 965 points.
Neal, a 6-4 sophomore, leads the Explorers (10-14 overall, 5-6 Atlantic 10) in scoring with a 20.2 average, and tops the team in free-throw shooting (85 percent).
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