At 16-0, Warriors short only in experience Team sizes up where it counts underneath

February 04, 1993|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Contributing Writer

Their power forward is playing his first year of high school basketball. Their point guard is a sophomore. One of their top scorers has been injured nearly the entire season.

And their center? He spent last season playing for a church team in Nashville, Tenn.

Who says experience is the key to winning? With one senior in the starting lineup, the fourth-ranked Woodlawn Warriors are doing just fine without it.

"We're very young," said coach Rod Norris, "but we're developing into easily the best team I've ever coached."

Norris has assembled a collection of junior varsity call-ups, previously ineligible players and transfers into one of only two undefeated teams in the metropolitan area, the other being Granite Baptist, a small private school in Anne Arundel County.

The roster includes one returning starter in leading scorer Donte Dudley, two new big men in 6-foot-6 Guy Butler and 6-5 Emanuele Adekunle, and a supporting cast of eight talented players up from junior varsity.

Together, they make up what so far has proved to be the most dominating team in Baltimore County.

Through 16 games this season, the Warriors have beaten opponents by an average of 20 points, using their size to dominate on the boards and their quickness to score in transition.

But it wasn't always that way.

Though they've often had quickness, the Warriors haven't had a true big man since Evers Burns, who graduated in 1989 and now plays for Maryland. In his junior and senior years, Woodlawn went 43-5, losing in the state semifinals his senior year.

Since then, the team has been above average -- 15-8 last season -- but small. Norris knew he needed more size in the middle.

In Butler and Adekunle, he has twice the punch.

"I feel blessed," said Norris. "The last two years we've been uncharacteristically small. We had to hustle and scrap to get everything we got. It's like night and day."

Until last summer, however, it didn't look like Butler or Adekunle would ever play for Woodlawn.

Butler, a junior, had attended Woodlawn his first two years, but was ineligible to play, and Norris said Butler didn't seem very interested. Instead, he played for various recreation teams, and Norris could only watch.

The nephew of former Loyola College standout Ed Butler, Butler had potential.

was like a bear in hibernation," said Norris. "I said to myself: 'Guy Butler is a man-child, and I've got to get him out here.' "

Norris worked on Butler, convincing the sophomore to attend some home games late last season. Finally last summer, Butler decided to play.

For Adekunle, the road to Woodlawn was quite different.

After playing on the freshman team at Hillsboro High in Nashville, Tenn., Adekunle spent his sophomore year playing for his local church, choosing to forgo the long drives to and from high school practice.

When Adekunle and his family moved to Woodlawn last September, Norris greeted his new center at the front door -- literally.

"When I first walked into school, I took my first couple steps before Coach Norris saw me and asked for my name and number," Adekunle said. "It was pretty funny."

Dudley, a 6-2 forward who leads the team in scoring for the second straight year, said that when he saw the new 6-5 guy around the neighborhood, he had to check him out.

"I was wondering if he could play," said Butler. "We played a lot of one-on-one."

Adekunle's offensive skills needed honing, but his size and athleticism made the possibilities seem endless. Plus, as a member of the National Honor Society, Adekunle was a quick study.

So far, he has learned to rebound and has begun to sharpen his skills underneath.

Dudley, who averages 14.7 points, Butler (10.2) and Adekunle (7.5) lead an extremely well-balanced Woodlawn attack that features seven players averaging more than 7.5 points. The others are guard Hafiz Greer, point guard Keon Carpenter, forward D'Andre McQueen and guard Steve Jackson.

Forward Brian Stubbs, who had been starting in front of Dudley early in the season, averaged 14 points before suffering a dislocated shoulder in the team's third game against rival Randallstown.

Norris says Stubbs is now at about 65 percent strength and could return to action before the end of the season.

But even without him, the Warriors are approaching a number of school records. Their 16 straight wins to start the season easily set the school mark for best start, and they are approaching the record for most consecutive wins (17).

The team also has the chance to go farther than any in school history if it can reach the state title game. To get there, however, it will have to get past top-ranked Lake Clifton and perennial Prince George's County power High Point in the regional playoffs.

But the Warriors already have beaten four members of The Baltimore Sun's Top 20 -- Perry Hall, Edmondson, Broadneck and, most recently, Catonsville.

Last Friday, the Warriors showed the defending Class 3A state champions just how good they can be, winning, 82-70, and ending the Comets' 30-game home winning streak in a game that wasn't that close.

"We got beat by a real good team," said Catonsville coach Art Gamzon. "They not only have great size, but excellent quickness. What's really scary is that they're so young."

Norris says the youth of this team just adds to the excitement of an already stellar season.

"They've got great potential," said Norris. "For the first time in a few years, we've got great balance."

Said Dudley: "This year has been a big surprise to me. I didn't expect to go as far as we have so fast. I think we can be as good as we want to be."

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