When the boys basketball season tips off this week, a lot of playerswill try to put up the big numbers that can take their teams to the postseason playoffs. Even in a league known for its team-oriented play, a handful of guys are going to be a step above the rest. Here are the players most likely to draw attention this season:
* Demont Blackmon (5 feet, 7 inches, senior, point guard) Aberdeen -- Put the ball in Blackmon's hands and he can do just about anything. An explosive player despite his size, the veteran averaged 12.3 points a game, but also gave up the ball a lot to pick up nearly five assists a game.Blackmon can hit from almost anywhere and loves to pop the three-pointer. He is also a menace on defense, picking up more than three steals a game.
* Steve Chaires (6-0, senior, guard) Fallston -- If Chaires can come back quickly from an ankle sprain, he could lead Fallston to its best season in years. Averaging 18.7 points last year, Chaires has become a more complete player offensively. A good ball-handler, he can hit from outside, but isn't afraid to penetrate.
* Demetrius Harris (5-8, senior, guard) Aberdeen -- Another Eagles veteran, Harris is half of what is probably the best backcourt in the league. His 6.7 point average should improve this year. But Harris also has a good eye for his teammates, averaging more than five assists a game.
* Jermaine Head (6-0, junior, forward/guard) Joppatowne -- With all five starters gone for the two-time defending Class 1A state champion Mariners, Head is the most seasoned player back. Quick, with a good jump shot, Head didn't get much chance to shine last year with so much talent ahead of him. But this year, Head will start. He should score a lotof points and help on the boards.
* Robert Hunter (6-0, senior, forward) Havre de Grace -- The leading scorer for the Warriors last year, Hunter averaged just over 20 points. Although he can hit from three-point range, Hunter is also hard to stop in the lane. With a quickstep, he can take on just about anyone. He has a great eye from outside, hitting 38 percent of his three-pointers last year. He'll have plenty of chances this year, because coach Alex Spooner's game plan isto "get the ball in Hunter's hands as much as possible."
* Brian Grzyb (5-11, senior, guard) C. Milton Wright -- In his second year with the Mustangs after transferring from Florida, Grzyb should again be the scoring leader for a balanced squad. Averaging over 14 points agame last year, Grzyb is a solid ball-handler who can shoot the three-pointer. Grzyb is also strong on defense.
* Akeil Johns (6-1, senior, guard) Harford Tech -- The leading scorer in the Baltimore Metro area last year, Johns averaged 31 points. He also pulled down 11 rebounds, had 3.5 steals and shot 67 percent from the foul line. An excellent offensive rebounder, Johns averages about half his points off those rebounds. He can bury it from three-point range.
* Damon Roberts (6-5, junior, center) North Harford -- In a league with few legitimate big players, Roberts should be a major factor. He missed half of last year with a broken finger but is looking strong early this year. He works inside with more confidence and more aggressiveness. He should be a powerhouse on the boards. He is also the best shot-blocker the Hawks have had in a long time.
* Lawrence Worthington (6-2, senior, forward) Edgewood -- Worthington is the only starter returning for the defending county champions. With some big guns playing in front of him last year, Worthington averaged seven points a game, but his greatest strength was on the boards. He averaged only 6.8 rebounds but came on strong in the state playoffs to battle guys 6-5 and 6-8on the boards. He had 10 rebounds in the title game against much taller Forestville. Look for Worthington to get plenty more chances thisyear and to improve both his scoring and rebounding averages.