Teira Pendleton's fierce competitive streak shows on her face in every Poly basketball game. Intensely focused and in the moment, her physical inside presence has been a factor on both sides of the ball as the No. 8 Engineers advanced to the Class 4A state semifinals for the second year in a row.
The 5-foot-8 junior forward-guard leads a young team into Thursday's 3 p.m. state semifinal at UMBC against Walt Whitman with 12.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. She is also a key component in a defense that allows just 26.57 points per game. Planning to play basketball in college, Pendleton has visited a handful of programs, including Quinnipiac, Wofford, Winthrop, George Mason and Claflin.
However, she is looking at academics first. Planning to become a pediatrician, she has a 3.8 GPA in Poly's challenging A Course.
How did you get started playing basketball?
When I was 7, my father took me to Pikesville Middle School. There was a Saturday league in the morning there. We'd get put on a team and just practice the fundamentals and play games against each other, nothing too serious, just a start to the game.
When did you start really liking the game?
Once I started getting the hang of it and when I joined the team I'm currently on (Shooting Stars' Team Maryland). I've been with the same group of girls my entire AAU career, so I guess forming that bond and developing my skills definitely made me grow.
What is your role on the Poly team?
Most of my coaches refer to me as the workhorse and the leader of the team. I have to be the most composed throughout everything, so that everyone else won't be frantic. If they see someone who's their leader doing what they're supposed to do, then it will transfer, and I think that's why we've gotten so far.
You're not the most vocal person in the world, but is that a role you're trying to take on as one of the older players?
It's always been my thing to lead by example, but after the departure of our seniors last year, I have had to become a more vocal person and I'm still working on it now.
What's the key to your team's defense?
We definitely, definitely don't want the other team scoring. That's our thing. We know good defense will develop good offense, and since we all like to play offense, we have to play good defense in order to get it. We're growing as far as talking, and I think that game on Friday (Class 4A North regional championship win, 45-43, at Paint Branch) showed our growth on defense. But that's our program — defense first.
How do you think playing in states last year will help you this year?
I can’t say it will help a lot because we lost most of the girls who played last year (laughs), but for the people who were there, I think we’ll be able to tell everyone else how it is and what to expect and not to be too nervous but to play your game.
Why did you come to Poly?
Academics. I want to be a pediatrician, so the science field definitely stuck out to me when choosing this school. I didn't really hear a lot about the basketball program, so that wasn't really even on my list. After I decided this is where I wanted to go, I started taking a liking to the team. I came to a couple of games.
Are you involved in any other activities in or out of school?
Usually in my spare time or in the summer, I love to work with children. My grandmother works at a day care center, so sometimes I volunteer there. It's where I got all of my community service hours.
Have you always enjoyed being around children?
When I was young, around fifth grade, I always found a liking in helping other children with their homework or playing a game with them. I guess just their smiling faces and looking at their faces when they learn something new. That always seemed to grab me.
Where does the interest in medicine come from?
I used to watch a lot of science shows with my dad on the Discovery Channel. Watching the different experiments and medical discoveries, I took a liking to that.
Are you supersititious?
Actually, yes. I like to listen to a lot of slow songs before a game. Usually people like to get all hyped, but I like to stay calm, so I usually find myself listening to Destiny's Child most of the time or Beyonce to just keep calm.
Do you like snow days?
Love them — any day but this Thursday (laughs). I usually lay home and watch TV and love the break, because I know it's back to practice when I come back.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen or the best book you’re read recently?
We’re reading The Great Gatsby now. I really like that book. It kind of focuses on a topic not many books focus on, which would be like 1920s America and the new rich and the old rich, something that not a lot of Americans know about, so it was a very informative book, as well as a nice story.
Are you more competitive on the court or in the classroom?
Honestly, I would say in the classroom. When you see someone get one point higher than you on a test that you know you had, it does kind of drive you.
What's something most people don't know about you?
I'm not really the person who you see in my games. I'm not really mad all the time (laughs). I'm really happy. I love to laugh and tell jokes and all.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Never give up. It kind of started when I was young. Sometimes school would be a struggle, so I would get angry and not want to do it any more, but my parents would say, "Never give up, because you never know what can happen," and now I find myself with a 3.8 GPA at one of the highest high schools in Baltimore. Them ingraining that point in me definitely helped.
What role has sports played in making you the person you are today?
It definitely has made me stronger as a person. It's gotten me to realize that not every situation will go my way, but there's always something you can do to make the situation better or to prosper from that situation. It also gave me a competitive edge, which has grown into a classroom competitive edge.