Dennis Edwards was nicknamed "Instant Offense" for his sixth-man role at Annapolis last season.
The 6-foot-5 leaper averaged 11.6 points in 16 minutes per game, as the Panthers swept to their first state championship under coach John Brady.
Edwards capped his junior season by entering the Class 4A final at the three-minute mark and scoring 14 first-half points (of 22 total) on a series of spectacular baseline drives.
It was a major contribution to the 106-102 victory over favored defending champion High Point, but Edwards was not satisfied.
"My role was to provide help by scoring, but I wasn't really happy. I thought I should have been starting," he said. "It was all right for the time being because Coach Brady told me I would start this year. We needed to get the seniors their time, then
bring me on.
"I enjoyed the contribution," said Edwards, who, given the starting nod this year, has come into his own. His area-leading 35.0-point average includes a 50-point effort in the 110-101 victory over Parkdale (Prince George's) Dec. 6.
That was two points shy of the Anne Arundel County record set by Glen Burnie's Mike Thibeault (now at Maryland) against Queen Anne's last year, and left Edwards tied with Arundel's James Hamilton (1987) and Brooklyn Park's Pat Mangum (1974) for the second-highest single-game total.
Brady does not believe that Edwards will be second for long. "He could light up somebody's gym with 70 points this year," Brady said.
"I've never seen a player go to the basket like Dennis. He's fantastic, a slasher who knifes to the heart of a defense," Brady said. "And he has more concentration in a crowd than anybody."
"Lots of players are distracted by the defense, but not Dennis. His forte is going in there and scoring -- that's where he excels," Brady said.
Operating in the middle of Annapolis' high-post offense, "Dennis scores within our system," Brady said, "and enhances everybody else's scoring potential."
Said Edwards: "When I get the ball in the high post, it's like I'm the point guard because I can see the whole floor. They [the defense] are looking for me to shoot, but I can dish it off.
"I try to get everybody in the game. I'm always looking for the open man or the better shot," he said.
Brady noted that while Edwards took 32 shots (and hit 23) against Parkdale, he also had five assists and five rebounds. And guard Rob Wooster added, "Dennis will score, dish it off or get the rebound -- it's always positive.
"When Dennis gets the ball, something exciting will happen. He'll make something happen," Wooster said.
That was underscored in Friday's final of the Capital Classic tournament, when Edwards had a slow start against Poly. He hit four of his first 13 shots, and the Engineers had a 37-36 lead at the half.
Then, playing with three fouls, Edwards exploded. He hit nine of his last 13 shots and scored 19 of his game-high 28 in the last 14 minutes, as Annapolis ran away to a 72-56 victory.
When Poly's defense sagged around him, Edwards whipped the ball outside to Wooster for back-to-back three-pointers. And with the Engineers still within reach, Edwards accounted for his team's last 11 points on three twisting drives in the lane, a follow of his own miss, one free throw and an artful back-door feed to Ahmed Middleton.
"I wasn't about to get down on myself [in the first half]. I maintain a natural high because I know I can explode at any time," said Edwards, who believes that he is capable of scoring at least 60 in a game this year.
He has 105 of his team's 274 points in three games since returning from a brief suspension for a minor and technical violation of school policy.
"Dennis is an unbelievable player and scorer. He excites the team and gives us all that extra energy," Wooster said.