By RON BAILEY, SPECIAL TO DMVELITE
BOWIE, MD - Last weekend DMVElite held its inaugural Fall Showcase, a collection of high-level boy’s high school aged competition. It was a perfect prelude to the impending school season’s start.
Following are observations and anecdotes gleaned from the contest:
BULLDOGS LED BY GUARDS AND COACH
Early on Saturday, Bulldogs Elite prevailed in a thrilling 44-43 contest over Paint Branch (Md.). The victors, players who attend Bowie High School (Md.), were up, fell behind then won on an isolation move from senior guard Isaiah Burke (RIGHT) with less than five seconds to play.
The final sequence was thrilling; down a point, the Bulldogs pushed the ball, which eventually landed in Burke’s hands. The 5’10”, 165 pound combo guard had a plan.
“I was going to take the last shot” he explained, as he wanted to “get deep into the paint”, conflating the defense. At that point Burke stepped back and hit the jumper.
All of this happened after several teammates touched the ball. Sharing the rock is something the Bulldog’s new staff, led by head coach Tremaine Price, has communicated informally during this preseason. Bowie’s players have taken note.
“We make sure to play together” said Burke. Additionally, defending is a focus.
Burke finished with a game-high 20 points and holds interest from the likes of Howard and Hampton. Fellow backcourt guy Kyree Freeman-Davis, a 5’10”, 165 pound sophomore is a player to track in PG 4A play. Offensively expect them to initiate offense, find teammates, attack the tin and shoot.
PAINT BRANCH HAS YOUNG FRONTCOURT STALWART
Not a member of an AAU/travel team, Paint Branch’s Class of 2020 forward Jordan Alphonso is likely unknown outside of Montgomery County. His lack of collegiate interest also points towards a relative lack of exposure.
That could change going forward.
Standing 6’4 and standing a strong, 195 pounds, Alphonso rebounded and defended well versus Bulldog foes, using his strength and athletic ability to at times overwhelm his opponents. He was a presence.
Unless he hits a growth spot, Alphonso will surely have to function more as a perimeter player for college – Saturday all his work was in the lane. He understands what’s necessary in the future.
“I can shoot outside the paint” noted Alphonso, though he did acknowledge the need to burnish that and ball handling. “It’s just that my team needs me to play center.”
Why doesn’t Alphonso, who physically looks like a possible defensive end/tight end candidate, compete on the gridiron? Family members have ruled that out.
‘L.A.’ SET TO BE KEY FOR EAGLES
Having played behind Jacob Long and Kaleaf Tate last season, senior guard Lawrence ‘L.A.’ Martin (RIGHT) has inherited Cesar Chavez’ (DC) leadership mantle. Gone to Bowie State and Niagara are Long and Tate, respectively, forcing last year’s third best scorer to not only pace the Eagles in that regard, but be an overall lead dog.
“He has very good leadership qualities, and is being coached on how to effectuate them on a team full of young guys” said Chavez head coach Malcolm Battle. In essence, Chavez’ staff is leaning heavily on Martin, who has accepted the challenge.
“It’s tough, it’s a whole lot. I’m capable” opined Martin after his team’s Saturday morning loss to Reservoir (MD). He continued, noting “It’s a big difference” not having two college level guards like last season, as “We were able to score better and everybody played like a team”, and resultantly “We have to learn, and I have to help teach them."
During the Reservoir tilt, Martin dropped 17 points in the loss, but didn’t communicate as intently with his teammates as necessary. He played well overall, yet didn’t display the leadership Battle et al expect.
The afternoon’s game was a different story. Though he finished with close to 20 points, Battle talked effusively of Martin’s complete performance: “He bounced back great the second game because scoring wasn’t his litmus for that…In fact despite the final total he struggled scoring up until the last minute. I was really proud of the talking, being engaged, rebounding…other stuff. That other stuff is going to determine how successful we are as a team this year.”
Martin is a 6’1”, 180 pound guard who has lost weight, making him more explosive. Always able to put the ball in the hole, ‘L.A.’ as he’s known is truly embracing the complete game, a necessary advancement for him if more schools like Virginia State, East Stroudsburg and Hampton will continue to show interest and eventually offer this fully NCAA qualified performer.
RESERVOIR’S MR. DO-A-LOT
Junior swingman Grant Okolo leads Reservoir in multiple ways – emotionally, defensively and dropping buckets. Against Chavez he finished with 14 points, which understates his impact.
Why? The 6’3”, 200 pound athletic slasher played 94-foot defense, encouraged teammates, rebounded and hustled. Much of his scoring was on the break. A pull up jumper would greatly expand his game, but Okolo nevertheless got to spots in half court action. He’s a strong, aggressive player.
Prep school could be an option for Okolo, who presently has received interest from Hampton to date.
YOUNG BIG SHOWS PROMISE
Just a freshman (Class of 2021), 6-foot-9. 215-pound Virginia Academy big man Duro Segun (RIGHT) has a world of promise. He possesses solid hands and feet, while also exhibiting a willingness to mix it up down low.
Sure, Segun doesn’t really have solid post moves yet, and can rim run more intently. There is no doubt he needs to get stronger – a point he agreed with – and focus on becoming a devastating rebounder.
But Segun, who played 15U hoops for Boo Williams this summer, is capable. This being only his third year of hooping augers success as well. Radford, VCU and Georgetown have sniffed his trail early on.
SCOTLAND CAMPUS SPORTS HAS DIFFERENCE MAKER
Class of 2018 guard Koreem Ozier gives Scotland Campus Sports (Pa.) options, being able to score and at times lead a team. He’s an offensive slasher who can also shoot, is relatively vocal, and has the quickness and tenacity to defend.
Presently, the likes of Creighton, Sam Houston State, New Mexico, St. Louis, Grambling and others are showing him interest. If Ozier continues to show true lead guard capabilities, offers will pour in.
STATE CHAMPION GUARD STILL TURNING HEADS
As a junior, Darren Lucas-White (RIGHT) was a prime part of Fairmont Height’s Maryland 1A state championship in 2016-17. A 6–foot-2, 170 pound guard, Lucas-White has shown no propensity to rest on his laurels.
Per Fairmont Heights head coach Chuck Henry, Catawba and Wheeling Jesuit have offered Lucas-White, while Morgan State, FAMU, James Madison and Arkansas Pine-Bluff have all shown interest.
What they see is a tough, competitive performer who doesn’t duck a challenge defensively. In terms scoring the rock, Lucas-White loves to attack the paint, scoring via finish or pull up. Shooting from distance is a developmental focus for him, one he’s embraced.
On a smaller Fairmont Heights team, Lucas-White is not its primary ball handler, though does make plays for others regularly. “He’s going to be a point guard in college” opined Henry, who celebrated his player’s ability to “get us in all our sets”. Henry also appreciates the “Quiet leadership” Lucas-White displays, despite the coach desiring a more vocal player.
Some kids may strut like peacocks after winning a state chip. Not Lucas-White, as Henry revealed “Our championship has motivated him."
PHOTOS BY RON BAILEY OF I95BALLERZ.COM