When Maurice Boone was in the sixth grade, Edgewood High basketball coach Bob Slagle saw him play and quickly predicted that Boone would be his future point guard.
Now, four years later, Boone is in his second season as the varsity point guard for Slagle's Harford County champions. The Rams (21-1, 14-0 league) are top-seeded in Class 2A, Region IV and drew a bye for the first round of the state playoffs. At Edgewood tonight (7), the Rams will meet Wicomico, which beat Fallston, 69-62, in Monday's first round.
Boone, a 6-foot sophomore, is averaging 15.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.0 steals. "Maurice is as good as any sophomore around and just as good as any point guard," Slagle said.
"He is the ultimate point guard and has all the physical skills. His biggest attribute is that he sees the floor well," said Slagle, who has watched Boone mature this season. After starting every game for the 16-7 Rams last year, Boone has increased his scoring average eight points this season.
Still, the Rams are a senior-dominated team, led by forwards Steve Lewis and Damon Bomar, guard Brian Johnson and swingman John Hobbs.
"Maurice runs the offense, but it's not his role to be a leader," said Slagle. Before Lewis suffered a lower-back strain that forced him out of the lineup for more than three weeks, he was the team's leading scorer with an 18.2 average. Asked if he felt pressure to fill the scoring gap in Lewis' absence, Boone said, "Yeah, but everybody else stepped up and did well."
In addition to Boone, Hobbs helped pick up the slack while Lewis was out. Hobbs and Johnson, who are both 5-10, combine for 15.5 points a game. Johnson is the team's defensive specialist. Bomar, who plays forward at 5-11, averages 16.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.3 steals and has 39 blocked shots.
The 6-3 Lewis made his return last Wednesday, scoring five points against Havre de Grace. On Friday, he had 16 points and 11 rebounds in 16 minutes against Fallston. He now has 994 career points.
"He's not completely back to 100 percent, but he's getting closer every day," Slagle said. "Right now, I wouldn't anticipate him starting [tonight]."
Anticipating the Rams' appearance in the playoffs is something Slagle, ever the prognosticator, had figured all along.
"I knew we were capable of beating all the teams on our schedule," he said. "We're certainly capable of playing with any team in our region and state."
This season could be a chance for the Rams to earn the first state title since 1975 and leave their mark as one of the better teams in Edgewood history. Edgewood teams won county titles in 1975 and 1977 and the state crown in 1975. That 1975 team was led by Dudley Bradley, who went on to star at North Carolina and played in the NBA for nine years.
Last year the Rams lost in the regional semifinals to Aberdeen, in triple overtime. This year Boone, the veteran sophomore, likes the Rams' chances in the playoffs and cautiously said, "I think we can take the states."