An Annapolis-Spalding match-up would be SRO, but not this winter Loaded county teams rank among the best in metro Baltimore

Boys basketball

December 04, 1998|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

It would be "the county game of the year," No. 3-ranked Archbishop Spalding vs. No. 4 Annapolis.

Unfortunately, coaches could not schedule what would have been a sellout, no matter where it was played.

"I talked to John [Brady, Annapolis coach] about playing, but we could not get together on a date," said Spalding coach Tony Martin. "We would pack the house -- would probably be standing room only."

Maybe next year this scheduling can be done, because the two teams will be hanging around with the metro area's elite for some time to come, and the lobbying for a showdown will heat up.

Annapolis has been a top-10 team in all but four of Brady's 22 seasons in Maryland's capital, finishing as high as No. 3 in the final Baltimore-area poll four times. The Panthers won a state championship in 1990 and have been in the top-five 10 times.

Such lofty status is all new to the Cavaliers (17-17). They've never been a top-10 team, but they belong now, no question.

For now, high-school basketball fans can only fantasize.

Annapolis, a semifinalist last winter, has a shot at a Class 4A state championship this time, and Spalding is the team to beat in the strong Baltimore Catholic League.

A matchup of Annapolis' Thomas Hawkins and Spalding's Derrick Snowden would be a match made in hoops heaven. Hawkins, a 6-foot-3 swingman, is the returning county Player of the Year. The 6-0 Snowden is, some say, the metro area's best point guard, with no offense to Dunbar senior Lafonte Johnson.

Hawkins led the Panthers (21-7 last winter) in scoring with 20.2 points a game and in rebounds (seven), becoming the first sophomore ever to be named Player of the Year. Brady calls him a "clever and mature offensive player."

Last year, Hawkins played guard, forward and even posted up in certain situations. He can shoot off his dribble, is quick, creates underneath, follows his shots well, and is athletic and strong in the paint.

From three-point range, Hawkins, a high Street & Smith honorable-mention All-American underclassman, lights it up with 42 percent accuracy, forcing defenders to extend from the lane.

His defense has gradually improved since he became the first freshman to play varsity at Annapolis.

Snowden got national exposure last year because of Spalding's ambitious schedule, which took the Cavaliers to tournaments in Las Vegas, New York and Washington, D.C. This summer, the smooth, acrobatic play-maker stole the show at high-profile Five-Star camps in Pennsylvania.

At the June session, Snowden was named "most outstanding player." Weeks later in Pittsburgh, where 430 players from the U.S. and 12 other countries participated, Snowden was tabbed "best prospect."

Snowden also started as a freshman and last year led the county in assists with 204 in 34 games (six a game) against some of the best competition in the nation. Spalding played 24 games against locally or nationally ranked teams.

His ball handling frequently borders on magic, and his instincts, quickness, court sense and vision are on a higher level. Snowden can create and score, inside or outside. He averaged nine points in the Cavs' balanced attack.

Snowden and the Cavs will be showcased in Latrobe, Pa., and during the holidays in the King Cotton Classic in Pine Bluff, Ark. Three of the top 11 teams in the Street & Smith preseason top 25 will be there.

Hawkins and Snowden -- clearly their teams' ringleaders -- are surrounded by quality casts. Both teams are loaded with outstanding underclassmen.

College recruiting services list Snowden and Spalding teammates Tremaine Robinson, Darren Johnson and Isaac Brooks among Maryland's rising juniors.

Robinson, a second team All-County guard last year, was named to the all-star teams at both Five-Star summer camps.

Senior sharpshooter Chris Masters (third-team All-County last winter) was also an all-star and leading scorer at one of the camps. Derrick Goode, a 7-footer who was Spalding's leading scorer and rebounder last winter and second-team All-County, and guard James Bowen are also back.

Aleksandar Pavlovic, a 6-8, 200-pound senior exchange student from Serbia, has an excellent outside touch.

Annapolis has four returning starters in addition to Hawkins -- senior Kyron Belt, 6-5 juniors Marcus Johnson and Travis Foster and sophomore Marcus Neal.

Belt and three other forwards -- the scrappy Dewayne Hunt, Keith Buckingham, and 6-6 Daralin Lawson -- are the only seniors.

Johnson averaged nearly 11 points as a second-team All-County guard, and Foster impressed inside. As a freshman, Neal played like a senior, scoring 12 points in the final period of the 70-64 state semifinal loss to Gaithersburg.

What a game it would be.

Pub Date: 12/04/98

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