There is no shortage of brotherly love at Southern High, where the third-ranked Bulldogs basketball team is led by two sets of talented brothers -- Damon and David Cason and Che and Kwame Evans.
"They are two sets of brothers any basketball coach would really enjoy having," said Southern coach Meredith Smith. "They are all very talented and also good kids."
David Cason, a senior point guard, is considered the best of the group, although many believe his brother Damon, a freshman, and Kwame Evans, a junior, will eventually be better players.
Each of the brothers has a well-defined role for Southern (3-3), a team that is second only to Dunbar in talent and lacking experience but a contender to defend successfully its Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference championship.
David Cason, 5 feet 11, is the prototypical point guard -- a leader, excellent ballhandler and solid defender who consistently hits the outside shot like a shooting guard. Through six games, he is averaging 12.0 points and 9.2 assists. Street & Smith's magazine lists him as one of the country's top players.
Che Evans, a 6-4 senior forward who is averaging 12.0 points and 10.5 rebounds, is a hard worker and defensive intimidator. Last season, he was the first forward off the bench, and this season he starts at power forward. His strength is his inside game, where he displays a knack for grabbing key rebounds or drawing the foul for possible three-point plays.
Kwame Evans, a 6-6 guard who is averaging 10.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists, is the team's most versatile player, capable of playing every position. Last season he played sparingly off the bench, but this season he starts at shooting guard.
Damon Cason, 6-0, who backs up his brother, is the newcomer to the varsity. His skills are almost identical to his brother's, but he lacks experience. After going scoreless in his first two games, he has averaged 5.3 points and 1.8 assists.
"These kids are brothers, and that's one thing, but the real plus is they are such talented kids," said Smith, who is godfather to the Evans brothers.
Both sets of brothers are close, and both older brothers say their accomplishments may be exceeded eventually by those of their younger brothers.
Of Damon, David said: "In the years to come, he will be better because of his experience. He is starting out as a freshman on the varsity. He has a good head for the game and knows when to make the right moves. As a senior, he should be better."
Damon's first varsity game was not memorable. Facing nationally ranked Dunbar of Washington, he went scoreless, tossing up a couple of three-point attempts that didn't touch the rim. After the game, his older brother was there to encourage him.
"The first thing he said to me was, 'Now you know how varsity is,' " Damon recalled. "He told me I have to go in and play hard and keep my head in the game and it will come along."
Spectators at Southern anticipated a backcourt of the Cason brothers featuring the fancy passes and ballhandling displays that became their trademark when they teamed up while growing up in Cherry Hill, but Smith has brought Damon along slowly as a backup to David. Damon started one game, Friday when the Bulldogs were upset by Cardinal Gibbons, but only because David was nursing a sore ankle and did not dress for the game.
"Everybody wanted to see that this year, but I told them I wouldn't come in and get as much playing time," Damon said. "High school ball is different. Anybody can play recreation [league] ball."
After watching from the bench for much of last season, Kwame has developed into a solid starter.
"I think right now he is one of the top players in the city and next year he should be one of the top players in the country," said Che.
Kwame credits his older brother and uncle Dickie Kelly, a former Dunbar standout, with the vast improvement in his game. He says one-on-one games with Che, a tough defender, have made him better.
Who usually wins?
"He wins some, I win some and sometimes he cheats and we just quit," said Kwame.
Like the Cason brothers, the Evans brothers are capable of playing the same positions but at the two forward spots. There is some competition for playing time between each set of brothers, but it has not caused any rivalries.
"I push him to do better things because I want him to learn the things that I know as a senior while he is a freshman," said David, who includes Towson State, Maryland and Northeastern among the colleges he is considering.
Che said, "I'm more competitive against him [Kwame] because when he is a senior, I'd like for him to be one of the best players in the country."