Parkland Graduates Find A Home At West Point




The following article appeared in the Allentown Morning Call on Wednesday, Jan. 28, and was writting by Mandy Housenick. 

Parkland graduates Erin Anthony and Laura Baranek are told when to study, when to eat and how to dress.

They can't just pick up and head south to their Lehigh Valley homes whenever the urge strikes. They need a pass for that. And shopping off-campus? They must get permission for that, too.

But those rules, and their backgrounds, have helped make them the role models every child could use these days.

In addition to being one of the Patriot League's best women's basketball players, Anthony, an Army sophomore, is in the top 70 in her class academically (out of about 1,000 students) and is among the academy's highest ranked female athletes.
Baranek, also a West Point sophomore, is hovering around the 350 mark in her class and worked her way into the starting lineup despite not having played basketball for two years.

Factor in all of their military responsibilities and it's easy to see why these girls are special.

''What they do just blows my mind,'' said Army coach Dave Magarity, whose team travels to Easton today for a 7 p.m. game at Lafayette. ''I just shake my head some days when I think about all they have to do.''

Following footsteps

The 6-foot-2 Anthony, The Morning Call's player of the year for the 2006-07 season, is becoming as dominant in college as she was in high school.

She's was leading the league in rebounds, but has recently slipped to No. 2 with 7.9 per game. She is fifth in field-goal percentage (44.9), eighth in free-throw percentage (74.6) and 12th in scoring (10.8 ppg). Anthony's 36 blocks are good enough for third-most in the league and she was named the league's player of the week on Dec. 8.

''She has the chance to be one of the all-time best players here at the Academy,'' Magarity said. ''I just need her to get little more aggressive offensively. She's a little too unselfish. She has the capability of being a 20-10 kid every night. She's that good.''

Anthony, a junior on Parkland's 2006 4A state championship team, also has developed an unmatched leadership ability. On an Army team that has no juniors, Magarity already found himself worrying about who would guide this team mentally and emotionally next season.

That concern, though, was short-lived.

''She has shown terrific leadership on a team where she's got to,'' he said. ''She's just like a mother hen. It's funny watching her. She ties everyone together. Everyone sort of looks up to her. And she doesn't do it in an obnoxious way. She's very unassuming, and that's hard to pull that off when you're so accomplished.''

Anthony, whose father Jim is a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Iraq, admits she's had a desire to serve her country for a long time.

She has fired or will learn how to fire an M16 and an M4 (automatic assault rifles). She's also learning to operate tanks and Humvees and their weapons systems.

''They train us mostly for infantry tasks,'' said Anthony, who'll be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army when she graduates. ''That's the main effort of combat. If everyone understands what the infantry is doing, it helps us understand the mission.''

She knows there's a chance that, after graduation, she could be sent to the Middle East, Europe, Korea or elsewhere. But there's not a hint of fear in her voice when she talks about it.

''It's almost inevitable and part of the decision you make when you come to the Academy,'' she said. ''I've really bought into the whole culture here. You meet so many great people who have served in the Army. It's empowering.''

Her own path

Baranek made it to West Point by way of New Jersey.

After high school, she enrolled at Seton Hall to play softball. But throughout her freshman year, things didn't feel right. After talking to Anthony, the thought of being at Army piqued Baranek's interest.

''I wanted to do something different,'' she said.

With the decision to go to Army came a few sacrifices. Baranek, a senior on Parkland's state title team, had to start over academically.

In addition, because of NCAA transfer rules, she had to sit out a year of basketball (the same rules do not apply for softball and she did play that sport for the Black Knights).

The break hardly seemed to bother Baranek, who was able to practice with the basketball team last season. Despite having not played competitively since the 2005-06 season, Baranek didn't lose her touch. She's starting for Magarity.

''She's a great athlete, no question about it,'' Magarity said. ''She's a lefty, and I love that. She's a little unorthodox in the way she does some things. But she's getting better every day. I think, by the time she's a junior, she could be one of the best players in the league.''

A forward in high school, the 5-9 Baranek is now at guard. She is averaging 7.1 points per game.

''I think I've gotten a lot better at shooting,'' she said. ''It's definitely a change [playing guard], but I like it. As a post [player], it was frustrating because you couldn't really affect the game as much because you're not touching the ball as much. I like getting more touches.''

Anthony had eight points and four blocks Saturday as the Black Knights (11-8, 2-3) lost to Navy 44-39 at home. It was the team's third loss in four games and dropped Army into a tie for fifth in the Patriot League with Lafayette (8-12, 2-3) and Bucknell.

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