When McDonogh's Brittany Mallory was 5, she couldn't bear the sight of her father and 8-year-old brother Bobby leaving for basketball practice without her.
"She used to cry," said her father, Bob Mallory. "We'd be trying to walk out the door, and she'd be holding on to my leg. She wanted to go with her brother."
So Bob Mallory made a deal with his little girl. She could go, but while he coached Bobby's team, she had to stay in the corner and dribble the basketball.
Later that year at her first basketball clinic, other girls would bounce the ball once or twice, but she could dribble down the floor with either hand.
That little girl's game grew into one of the most complete games in area girls basketball. Now a senior, Mallory is a two-time All-Metro first-team guard with a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame.
Versatile at both ends of the floor, she is best known for her offense - a dead-on three-pointer, tricky moves to the hoop and a keen eye for teammates. She runs the floor exceptionally well and, at 5 feet 11, her height makes her a tough matchup for most guards and lets her challenge bigger post players.
Last season Mallory averaged 19.1 points, and she has scored 1,436 points for her career, an average of 17.8 points per game.
"It seems like every play is made for her," said St. Frances senior LaKisha Walker, a former Amateur Athletic Union teammate of Mallory's. "She's always moving. She's always on the go. It's hard to keep an eye on the ball and keep an eye on her. If you lose her, she's going to the basket."
It takes a lot to stop Mallory, who is also a two-time All-Metro pick in lacrosse and considered Division I scholarship offers in that sport, too.
However, she has spent a lot of time on the bench this season, coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. She tore the ligament early in last spring's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference lacrosse final, had surgery in early June and rehabbed for 5 1/2 months.
Sitting out the rest of that lacrosse game - a 10-7 loss to St. Paul's - and the rest of her Fairfax Stars AAU basketball season was difficult for Mallory.
"That was the hardest part of this whole thing, the sitting and watching. Sometimes seeing girls not play as hard as they could and thinking to myself, 'I could be playing harder than that,'" said Mallory, who has reluctantly given up lacrosse to lessen the chance of re-injuring herself before she heads to South Bend, Ind., in the fall.
"Brittany's a tough competitor and she hates to be on the sideline. She's just not a kid who can sit out," said McDonogh coach Tom Gizzi.
"She was so anxious to get back, and that made her rehab a little bit more aggressively. I think it's really important to her to prove to herself that she still has a lot of potential as a basketball player ... and she can still compete on the highest level."
Although she took part in a lot of drills, Mallory wasn't cleared for full-contact play until Nov. 27.
"When I first got to play, it was just great. I couldn't stop smiling at practice because I was so happy to be back. It was a little harder, though, because I wasn't in shape that much, but I could still do things," said Mallory, 17.
Although she played almost the entire time during Monday's 76-65 loss to No. 1 St. Frances, Mallory returned slowly, averaging 16.1 minutes per game and 13.2 points through the first five games. Still, one opponent doesn't think her game has suffered.
"Not that I can tell at all," St. Paul's coach Jim Stromberg said after Mallory helped the No. 5 Eagles to a 61-39 win on Dec. 11. "Her shot may be even better than before, her outside shot. She scored 13 on us and I don't think the ball ever hit the rim."
Mallory said she is more aggressive now than in her first game back against Georgetown Visitation on Dec. 2.
"That first game, I was a little more hesitant to go in and get rebounds," she said. "By [the St. Paul's game] I was on the floor, I was battling. I'm not as quick as I was, but that will come."
Mallory honed that work ethic along with her skills and competitive streak on the hoop at her Arbutus home, playing against her brother. Bobby Mallory never took it easy on his little sister.
"One time I was about to win," she said, "and he pushed me and I hit my nose. I had a bloody nose and a bloody lip. We would go hard all the time and I think that just pushed me to always want the ball and help my team win whether I'd be the one passing or the one shooting."
Her reputation as a clutch player dates to her freshman year when she hit several game-winning shots. In the A Conference quarterfinals, she scored seven points in the last three minutes, including a three-pointer and two free throws, to beat the Institute of Notre Dame, 45-41.
"She has an intensity about her," Roland Park coach Scott Buckley said. "Since she was young, she always wanted the ball when the game was on the line. Even if you're a good player, not all good players want to put everything on their shoulders. She does."
All the hard work on the court and in the classroom, where she has a 3.4 grade point average, paid off for Mallory, who literally jumped around Gizzi's office with joy in February when told Irish coach Muffet McGraw had offered her a full scholarship.
Gizzi, who has coached boys and girls basketball as well as football in his 20-year career, said she has the most well-rounded game of any athlete he's ever coached.
"I sit back sometimes instead of getting so caught up in coaching and I find myself just watching her play," Gizzi said. "Her game, her willingness to grit it out and do whatever it takes - guard the toughest player, get the rebound, bring the ball up against pressure, make the three-pointer when it needs to be made. I'm not sure when I'll be afforded the opportunity to coach another girl like her.