Quick! Say the name of South River's top-scoring basketball player three times, fast, and it almost sounds like the last name of a boxer they call "The Greatest."
Al Lee, Al Lee, Al Lee.
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound senior guard packs a heavy punch on the court, and he certainly drew an entourage as he emerged through the doors of the auxiliary gymnasium during a break from Wednesday afternoon's practice.
Six girls surrounded Lee in the hallway, a day afterhe scored 32 points and grabbed seven boards with four assists in an84-83 double-overtime victory over Meade.
His 10 points in the final two minutes of regulation included two three-pointers and a buzzer-beating 18-footer that tied the game at 69, forcing the extra session.
"I taught him everything he knows," said a male bystander Wednesday. And one of the girls joked, "this (Lee) is my new boyfriend."
"My fan club," mused Lee, with an impish, toothy grin. He has led South River (7-1) to its best start ever, including a school-record seven straight victories.
But having raised his scoring average to 21.75 points per game, surpassing Annapolis' Marvin Brown (20.5) as the county's top gun, Lee is likely to attract less friendly attentionin tonight's game at Glen Burnie. The high-scoring Gophers (5-2) -- who routed Archbishop Spalding, 119-67, on Dec. 13 -- are coming off a 63-45 Tuesday night victory over Northeast.
"If a team focuses totally on Al, that's going to be a big mistake. It'll just open things up for the rest of us," said the Seahawks' 6-foot-7 center Darren Hall, who had 20 each in points and rebounds against Meade.
Edmund Hicks, a 6-5 senior forward who also scored 20 against Meade, added: "Al can take it inside or take it outside. He's what makes our team multidimensional."
And he'll make a solid Division I player -- if he doesn't turn to professional baseball instead.
On the heels of his effort last spring, where he played nearly every position, batted .363 and fielded .960, Lee has such schools as Old Dominion, Richmondand Radford vying for his baseball talents. He's also attracted the interest of a few pro scouts.
"Hopefully, I'll make it to the pros, so I can help out my mother (Pauline)," said Lee. To that end, he maintains a 3.0 grade-point average.
"I want her to know that she raised a good student-athlete. There's a lot of peer pressure that youhave to avoid, and my mother has been a real big influence."
As has Lee to his teammates.
"Al's a great team leader," said Hall. "He's got the kind of attitude that we need to help keep us together."
Despite his season-low, 7-for-14 free-throw shooting against Meade, Lee has converted 72.3 percent of his foul shots. He also has netted 16 three-pointers and averages six each in assists and rebounds.
"Al's scoring a lot, but he hasn't stopped working on the rest of his game. He wants to be a complete player," said South River coach KenDunn, whose Seahawks are the county's tallest team, with five players standing 6-4 or taller.
"Lee (who has a 35-inch vertical leap) plays bigger than his 6-2 stature. He can play anywhere, but he plays good hard defense -- and that's No. 1. But he can even post up if we need him to."
A good example of that was in the Seahawks' 72-39 victory over St. Mary's in the championship game of the Saints' holidaytournament.
Lee had 21 points, five rebounds and four each in steals and assists. The contest featured Lee's 19-point first half and acrowd-pleasing slam dunk, of which he said, "I did it because I knewthe team would feel good about it."
Dunn said, "He's not a show-boater. Whatever he does on the floor, he incorporates the team concept into it. He's been banged up a little bit lately. His knees are bad, and he's got bandages on his right hand, but he's always working hard. So when the other guys see him busting his hump, they pick it up.He's always going at it 100 percent in practice."
The bad knees are hereditary, said Lee. But against Meade, which Lee calls "his worst performance of the year," he also played with an injured right ankle, suffered during a collision in practice the day before the game.
Still, he seemed to be moving at breakneck speed, making a few shots off-balance. He might have been even more effective had he not beenslowed when a hard pass damaged the middle finger of his right hand in the first overtime.
"I thought I had broken my finger. That game almost killed me, it was so hard-fought," said Lee, who turns 18 tomorrow. "But I just thought I lost my concentration at times, not hustling, with too many unforced turnovers. I hope I never have another game like that one."
So do his county rivals.
"I couldn't believe that I scored 32 points," said Lee. "I guess it's just one of those things where you don't count the points, but just play to win."
Lee certainly is winning fans at South River.