When first-year Towson Catholic boys basketball coach Josh Pratt and the members of his team step off of the airplane in Portland, Ore., for the Les Shwab Invitational, he will be in a place he's never been, taking on teams he doesn't know too much about.
"One thing I do know," Pratt said. "All of these teams are going to be good."
Pratt will rely on his Syracuse-bound, 6-foot-9 center Donte Green and the guard play of second-team All-Metro pick Malcolm Delaney to lead the No. 2 Owls in the 16-team event, which takes place Tuesday through Dec. 30 and features 12 programs from Portland and four others that are nationally revered.
"It'll be a great chance for us to get away from Baltimore, build some camaraderie," Pratt said. " ... The bottom line is we want to get off the bus and play, set the tone by winning the first game."
To be successful, the Owls will need to receive stellar play from their two leaders, as they did in a 62-52 victory over Bishop McNamara on Dec. 9.
In that game, Green missed a triple double by one block, finishing with 22 points, 14 rebounds and nine blocked shots. Delaney scored 19 points, going 14-for-14 from the free-throw line, to go with 11 rebounds and nine assists.
Pratt said Delaney has drawn interest from Maryland, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Boston College.
Eagles plan rebound
McDonogh girls basketball coach Tom Gizzi could not have been happier to see last week come to an end.
His Eagles struggled through a brutal week, falling to the other three Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference teams ranked in the top five and dropping from No. 2 to No. 4. Losses to No. 1 St. Frances, No. 3 Towson Catholic and new No. 2 Seton Keough left the Eagles reeling a bit - especially because they all came within five days.
"We've been through Round 1 of the big dogs and I think we learned a lot about our team and what we need to focus on. The A Conference is very competitive," said Gizzi, who returns every starter from a team that jumped out to a 16-0 start a year ago.
The teams scheduled to participate in the Jan. 5-7 Basketball Academy Tournament at Morgan State have been announced. They represent boys and girls programs from Baltimore, Harford and Prince George's County, as well as those from Baltimore City, Philadelphia and New York.
The three-day event features Baltimore City boys programs that include state champions Dunbar and Walbrook, as well as Carver, Douglass, Lake Clifton and Mervo. The city girls are represented by state runners-up City and Western.
Baltimore County will be represented by boys teams from Owings Mills, Parkville and Woodlawn, and girls teams from New Town and Milford Mill.
Aberdeen's boys of Harford County are also in the tournament.
Payne runs away on Shore
Woodlawn senior Justin Payne posted three individual victories at the UMES Invitational on Saturday.
Payne captured the 500-meter race in 1 minute, 12.20 seconds and the triple jump with a leap of 43 feet, 8 1/4 inches. He also tied Cameron Dohse of Centerville, Va., as both shared top honors in the 300 in 38.06 seconds.
Woodlawn junior Dwight Parker won the 800 in 2:02.13, while sophomore Tyshia Oliver took the 500 in 1:19.10.
In other county action, the Western Tech boys and Dulaney girls indoor track teams opened the season with wins at a county meet last Wednesday.
Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.