1997-98 All-Howard County boys basketball teams

March 17, 1998|By RICK BELZ AND STAN RAPPAPORT

Coach of the Year

Jim Albert, Atholton: The Raiders entered the season as a talented but unproven team, especially at guard. They returned just one starter and were one of several teams thought to be capable of winning a county title. There was no clear favorite. Strong down the stretch, capturing 16 of 17 games and nine straight, the Raiders pulled away to win by three games over runner-up Long Reach. They had a 16-2 league record. Albert, the dean of county coaches in his 18th season, molded a starting team of three seniors and two juniors into a winner with his usual combination of up-tempo offense and pressing defense. The result, a No. 20 ranking and Atholton's second-best record at 19-4, more than exceeded expectations. They lost two of three games to regional champion Long Reach, one to state semifinalist Edgewood and one to Hammond. "We started slow but kept learning, and because they were young, I stayed positive with them so they never got down," Albert said. "It wasn't my most talented team, but it was a pleasure to be around this team because they were unselfish and liked one another and any player could spark us." Albert, 50, has coached the Raiders to county titles four of the past five seasons, and also in 1986. A native of Johnstown, Pa., where he played high school football, basketball and baseball, he attended Cisco Junior College in Texas on a basketball scholarship and graduated from Towson State. He has taught physical education at Atholton for 26 years.

Player of the Year

Chris Smith, Long Reach, Sr., G: The toughest player in the league to guard because of his quickness, Smith greatly improved upon his jump shot this season and was nearly impossible to stop -- even with a hand in his face. Opposing teams tried to make him work hard on defense, hoping to tire him out. It didn't work. Smith, a point guard, averaged 20.3 points and 5.4 assists. He scored at least 20 points 11 times. His high game was 36 points against Wilde Lake, and he had 32 points against Howard. He was on fire in the playoffs, scoring 26 points in a regional playoff win over county champion Atholton and 25 points in a regional win over McDonough. In the regional championship loss to Central he scored 20 points and had 10 assists. Oakland Mills coach Dave Appleby said: "Chris Smith certainly deserves Player of the Year. He's an all-around athlete and a great kid with good grades." Long Reach coach Al Moraz said: "I can't say enough good things about Chris Smith. We'll really miss him next season." Smith may play for either Lafayette or Penn next season.

The first team

Brian Boykins, Atholton, Jr., F: Atholton's only returning starter this season, Boykins carried that heavy responsibility well, and pushed Smith for Player of the Year honors. Boykins rebounded well, displayed strong inside moves and a soft perimeter shot, and handled the ball well. "He has all the tools," Atholton coach Jim Albert said. Sturdily built at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, Boykins emerged from being primarily a rebounder his sophomore year into the team's top scoring threat. Boykins averaged 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds. He blocked 43 shots, shot 68 percent at the foul line and 54 percent from the floor. He scored 31 points against Long Reach in a regional playoff game, and 30 in a late-season win over Hammond.

Murray Graves, Oakland Mills, Jr., F: Quick to the ball and a quick leaper, Graves averaged 19.9 points and nine rebounds despite double-teaming and triple-teaming. He blocked 19 shots and had more than a dozen dunks. At 6-5, 190 pounds, Graves had a good shooting touch from 15 feet, and he could play with his back to the basket. His high game was 37 points against Glenelg. He also scored 30 points against Centennial. He shot 70 percent from the foul line (70-for-93) and 60 percent (142-for-241) from the floor. "He consistently had good numbers, and I thought he was the best big man in the county," said Appleby.

Jabraille Jackson, Howard, Sr., F: Adept at slashing to the hole and dishing off, he dribbles well for a 6-4, 190-pound player. He also dunks well and produced some of the season's most memorable slams. And his rebounding was as strong as anyone's in the league. His intensity was infectious. In Howard's upset of regional champion Long Reach, he scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half, as the Lions overcame a 13-point halftime deficit. Jackson averaged 20.3 points and 9.6 rebounds. He led his team with 18 three-point baskets. "To average 20 points when other teams know he's your go-to guy is impressive," Howard coach Craig O'Connell said. Jackson is considering playing football and basketball at either Montgomery-Rockville or at Shepherd College in West Virginia.

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