McNair, Lewis supply Comets with much muscle at the post

A POWERFUL PAIR

January 28, 1993|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Contributing Writer

Twin towers they're not.

Twin steamrollers might serve as a better description.

At 6 feet 1 and 6-2, Printice McNair and James Lewis of 14th-ranked Catonsville aren't blessed with the imposing height that usually warrants the "big" in big man.

But for these two wide bodies, who together average more than 36 points, 22 rebounds and 215 pounds, it's the thought that counts.

"It's a mind thing," Lewis said. "You stay confident and you can play with anyone."

Said McNair: "It's self-focus. If somebody is on the foul line, I'll look at James and say, 'It's my rebound,' and I'll go up and get it no matter what. You play in a zone."

It's a zone in which few opponents dare enter, and in which even fewer have had success.

The pair have wreaked havoc in the middle against Baltimore County competition. In a recent win against Perry Hall, they combined for 45 points and 35 rebounds, with Lewis' 22 rebounds more than the entire Perry Hall team.

"I think Lewis is the most dominating player in the county," said Perry Hall coach Phil Walter, whose team handed Catonsville its only league loss in the season opener before losing by 29 two weeks ago. "He can control a game on the boards. Together, he and McNair make a good tandem."

After recovering from a finger injury he suffered at the end of football season, when he was an All-Baltimore City/County selection at running back, Lewis has come on to average 18.0 points and 14.4 rebounds.

McNair, a transfer from Lake Clifton, where he sat out last season with a dislocated shoulder, is contributing 18.4 points and 8.3 rebounds.

The two usually rotate between the high and low post, drawing numerous defenders and opening up the perimeter for the guards, who have taken full advantage.

"The fact that James and Printice are on the inside gives us a lot more opportunities," said guard Mike Barrett, the Comets' biggest outside threat who leads the team in scoring at 18.6 points. "Teams can't really focus on the inside game or the outside game."

Said backcourt-mate Jeff Mohler: "It's nice to know that if you miss, you have James and Printice down low for the rebound."

It makes for an inside-outside combination of which dreams are made for coach Art Gamzon. His team averages in the low 80s, using a three-guard offense bent on getting the ball into the big guys.

"They work together really well," Gamzon said. "They not only give us real good rebounding, but they also pass the ball really well."

Gamzon said each has unique talents. While both excel at rebounding and passing, Lewis has the better outside shooting touch, and McNair is among the best at finishing fast breaks and tends to be more physical.

Mohler can attest to that. While playing with McNair in a summer three-on-three basketball tournament, his quick thinking may have prevented a melee.

"[McNair] had the ball inside, and he went up and scored on this older guy," Mohler said. "The guy started talking trash to him, and Printice got real mad, looking like he was going to kill him or something. I told him to forget about it and just get him in the game, and after that he just took over.

"[Printice] is very intimidating. He's one of the nicest guys I know, but there are also times, during the game, when he's not so nice."

Gamzon said that his newfound talent, along with Lewis and 6-3 reserve Matt Taylor, averaging almost seven rebounds, makes the Comets a better rebounding team than his state Class 3A champions of last season.

"I think we have a real shot at defending our regional title," said Gamzon, whose team is 12-2, including 11-1 in the Baltimore County 4A-3A League, and is top-rated in Class 3A, Region II.

One of the team's biggest tests will come tomorrow at home against No. 5 Woodlawn, which is undefeated and first in the league.

McNair said that if he and Lewis have anything to say about it, though, you can put another title in the books.

"We're two of the biggest guys in the league," he said. "Not many people can stop us. As long as we stay fired up, nobody is going to beat us."

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