Akeil Johns is the best-kept secret in Harford County basketball.
A 6-2 senior at Harford Tech, Johns doesn't draw much attention outside Harford County, even though he's averaging 32.8 points a game.
That's higher than anyone else in the Baltimore metro area. The next highest average is held by Teon Carter of North County High in Anne Arundel County, with 27.3 points. Fallston's Steve Chaires is nextwith a 25-point average.
Last year, Johns averaged 31 points to lead the Baltimore metro area.
Why Johns' talent has remained a secret outside the county is no mystery to Harford Tech coach Bill Verity.
"Tech doesn't have the greatest reputation in the county. We don't play in the county league. And they think he scores because he takes 50 million shots and we play inferior competition."
Johns scored a career-high 51 points in a season-opening 85-80 victory over Bohemia Manor. But he also scored 31 in a 79-68 loss to Fallston on Tuesday and 30 in a 97-76 loss to Perryville on Thursday. Both teams put a box-and-one defense on him.
Verity said even some folks at Harford Tech don't understand Johns' talents. "What I get upset about is that when he scored 51 points, people came up and asked me, 'How many three-pointers did he take?' Most of his baskets were layups.
"They were guarding him one-on-one and nobody was helping. Akeil was driving by his man and taking it to the basket. It's tough to get a charge off of him, because he can just slide around you."
Harford coaches who have seen Johns play agree that his outside shooting is not his greatest asset.
"The strongest part of his game is the way he goes to the basket," said Joppatowne coach Mike Bauer. "When he gets the ball, he goes hard and strong, and he draws a lot of fouls."
Bauer's Mariners have been the only team to hold Johns under 30 points. Against the Mariners' box-and-one, Johns managed just 14 points. Still, Johns, who plays forward as the tallest of the Cobras (2-3), impressed Bauer.
"Any time you have the scoring average he has, you know he's a good player. He could play on any team in Harford County. When you go into every game marked like he is and score, that shows theability he has."
But Johns has received few postseason honors despite his big numbers, and that has disappointed him. His only notice came as an honorable mention pick on The Evening Sun's All-Metro teamlast winter.
"People say I can't play, and that kind of offends me," Johns said.
"I've just got to prove myself every time I go outon the court no matter who I'm playing against."
He has played against -- and with -- some of the top high school basketball players in the country in the highly competitive summer Baltimore NeighborhoodBasketball League. BNBL players include those from Dunbar, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.
Last summer, Johns also attended the 26th annual Five-Star Basketball Camp in Pennsylvania, one of the premier camps in the country. The Five-Star camp honed the skills of hundreds of future NBA stars, including Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkens.
Johns said he hopes that hard work will earn him a basketballscholarship. He has received letters from a handful of Division I-A schools, including Maine, Old Dominion and Virginia Tech.
Johns, who wants to major in electrical engineering, shouldn't have any trouble getting in academically, since he carries a 3.5 grade-point average.
But if college isn't in his future, Johns knows he has something to fall back on. He has already been offered a job this spring in electronics, his concentration at Harford Tech.
Johns knows the value of trade school. His father, Robert L. Johns Jr., attended Northern High School, a technical school in Baltimore City. The elder Johns played basketball there while learning a trade that helped him land the job he still holds at General Motors.
His parents -- especiallyhis mother, Antoinette Johns -- wanted him to learn a trade, said Johns. So he transferred to Harford Tech for his sophomore year. The move was good for his education, but not so great for visibility as a basketball player.
Dealing with the lack of attention despite his big numbers has helped Johns keep his ego in check and his priorities in order. He enjoys playing on the same team with his brothers Tykell, a junior, and Lechea, a freshman.
"Sometimes people ask me why Icome to this school," Johns said. "I tell them maybe I can make it alittle better for other people to come here, maybe I can get the school's name out.
"We're not the greatest basketball players in the world, but we are learning a trade. My father always tells me there'sother aspects of life besides basketball. Maybe basketball isn't always gonna to be there. Freak things happen. Something might happen tome where I can't play basketball any more. It's like my father said -- keep an open mind."