With help from talented parents, Ismail stars for Patterson Mill

Patterson Mill junior Qalea Ismail, who recently scored her 1,000th point.
Patterson Mill junior Qalea Ismail, who recently scored her 1,000th point. (Kenneth K. Lam, The Baltimore Sun)

Patterson Mill junior Qalea Ismail says she gets her speed from her father and her basketball skills from her mother. That's a good combination for the daughter of former Ravens wide receiver Qadry Ismail and former Syracuse basketball star Holly Ismail.

A 6-foot All-Metro second-team guard, Ismail (whose first name is pronounced kuh-lay-uh) scored her 1,000th career point last week in a 30-point performance in a 67-49 win over then-No. 11 Aberdeen.


She averages 18.8 points, eight rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.8 steals per game for the No. 11 Huskies, who reached the Class 2A state semifinals the last two seasons. Last spring, Ismail went to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to try out for the United States Under-16 national team.

Her mother, who is 6 feet 4, coaches her basketball teams, including the Amateur Athletic Union Maryland Elite, while her father coaches the Huskies track team, on which she is a sprinter. She also has a 3.78 GPA and plans to make a college basketball decision this spring.


How did you get started playing basketball?

Apparently, I don't remember it but, I saw my mom playing basketball, film from college of her playing basketball, and ever since then I wanted to play. When I actually started, I was 5.

What is your first sports memory?

I do remember going to my dad's football games when he was in the NFL. I never knew where he was on the field. I used to cry when there were fireworks, but I just liked going.


Your first name is so unique. Is there a story behind it?

Yes. My mom was in the shower reading the shampoo bottle and she was reading the ingredients. She pronounced one of the ingredients like Qalea, and that's how she got it. It's actually a real Polynesian name, but they just don't spell it with a Q. The Q comes from my dad.

How do you and your mom balance the mother-daughter, coach-player relationship?

You have to separate it. When she's my coach, she's not my mom. Anything she says to me, like if she's giving me criticism, I can't see her as my mom. At home, she's my mom. We'll talk about basketball if we want, but we separate it.

How did you develop guard skills and inside skills as well?

I've always been like a guard, and since I'm tall I can play in the post a little bit just to help out, but it's really not my position. I've always trained for the guard position and my mom, being a post player, sometimes she helps me out and shows me some skills down low.

What was it like to get your 1,000th career point against Aberdeen?

Hugging all my teammates afterward was really cool, just getting all the love that I got. It's an accomplishment I'm proud of, but there's more to do, more team things that we're excited for.

What's the key to this team getting back to states?

It's to keep playing with confidence. Every time we go out there we have to know what our game is and not be afraid of who our opponent is. We have to keep working hard at practice and getting better.

Do you take more of a leadership role this year now that you're a junior?

Definitely. Me and Sam Herman were named captains, and there's definitely more leadership responsibility that goes along with that. At practice, we try to be more vocal. I'm kind of a shy person, so I've learned to be a leader.

How did trying out for the national Under-16 team help your game?

I think that gave me a lot of confidence. It showed me I can play with the top girls in the nation and that really put me out there for recruiting, and it showed me what I need to work on.

Where are you in the recruiting process?

Right now, the major schools that are looking at me are Maryland, Duke, Stanford, Notre Dame, Louisville. I'm probably going to take a couple official visits in April and probably make my decision around then.

What's your dad like as a coach?

He definitely knows his stuff. He ran track in college as well as played football. He loves that stuff. He's all about the form and technique of running. He's always researching it.

Who's the tougher coach, mom or dad?

That's a good question. Well, basketball's my main thing and track, I take it seriously, but it's not like as important, so I guess my mom.

How have benefited from having elite athletes as parents?

It helps so much. They have been in my position. They've been in the place where you're getting recruited. They know how much work goes into it, so they've shown me what it's like, what it's going to be like to play in college and what I need to do to get to the next level. They've given me good advice.

What music do you listen to before a game?

It depends. I listen to Beyonce every day, especially her new album. That's been on repeat lately. Songs that get me hyped, but Beyonce is my favorite.

Your mom said they call you the basketball Beyonce. How did that happen?

Our managers know we all like Beyonce and they were just being silly. On my camera you can hear them [yelling], "that's Beyonce," every time I scored in the Aberdeen game.


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