(Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
Since the first day of basketball practice at Lake Clifton, the Lakers' new and highly celebrated senior point guard Josh Selby has showed his coach something different every time out.
A couple of days before Thanksgiving, during a scrimmage at Archbishop Curley, it was a determined scowl.
"We were down a couple points and I just watched his whole facial expression change," Lake Clifton coach Herman "Tree" Harried said. "I saw a determined player who decided we weren't going to lose. It was right there on his face. You can't buy that."
A consensus top-10 recruit in the country, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound DeMatha transfer brings uncanny strength and athleticism to the defending Class 3A state champions, along with an ability to score from anywhere on the court.
In addition, Harried has been pleasantly surprised with how eager Selby has been to share the ball with his new teammates, something that is often difficult for a natural scorer.
But it's that scowl that has the Lakers' coach smiling the most so far.
Just like his ability to get to the basket, crash into bigger defenders and still get high above the rim, Selby's competitiveness is in constant overdrive.
He says it comes from his childhood days in Baltimore playing basketball with his cousins. And it didn't stop once they left the court, extending onto Lanvale and Barclay streets as they found their way home.
"We would go shoot hoops and then race to the house. The loser would have to do something like clean everybody's shoes or go to the store to buy stuff," said Selby, who averaged 16 points, eight assists and five rebounds last season at DeMatha.
"I used to hate when I lost, so that's where I got it from."
It has been a trying past year for Selby, but he has made an effort to grow from it.
Last year at DeMatha, his second school after starting his high school career at John Carroll, the daily grind wore on him. He would have to wake up every morning at 5 to catch the train to Hyattsville, not getting back home to Baltimore until after 9 p.m. His schoolwork suffered and he was put on academic probation, prompting him to leave DeMatha and transfer to Lake Clifton last spring.
In the summer, Selby withdrew his commitment to Tennessee and is now drawing attention from all the top colleges. He has narrowed his choices to Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse. The lofty list of schools speaks to his unlimited potential.
"Josh has everything you look for in an elite talent," said Jerry Meyer of Rivals.com, who ranks Selby fourth in the country overall and the No. 2 point guard. "It's really a combination of three things: athleticism, high skills and competitiveness. He has all those characteristics. There's no telling how good he can be. He has a chance to be a one-and-done college player, an All-American type who can be a longtime pro that goes on to play in [ NBA] All-Star games."
For now, Selby just wants to be a high school senior - he says his mother, Maeshon Witherspoon, handles all his recruiting details to help keep his hectic life as routine as possible - and he's glad to be at Lake Clifton.
Last year, the Lakers had transfers Will and Antonio Barton come in to help lead the team to a 28-0 season, No. 1 area ranking and the state championship.
Last year's team also had a strong nucleus already in place, with senior leaders Jason Sharp and Cleveland Melvin helping the new players find their way in Harried's disciplined program.
This year's team only has one starter back in senior center Karee Watson, forcing a largely new group to learn as they go. Selby has proven to be a quick study.
"He brings a lot to the table," said senior swingman Durand Johnson, a highly touted transfer from Parkville. "He's looking to find everybody, keeps talking to us and tries to make us all better any way he can."
Added Harried: "I've seen leadership from him, and he communicates well and is very helpful to the other players. He works very hard. He's still not used to working at our level, but he does it and you don't have to push and yell."
Selby has welcomed the change.
In the fall, he ran for the cross country team at Harried's urging to get an appreciation of hard work and discipline that has carried into the basketball season. It proved a valuable experience.
"Coach Tree, the things he brings out of you is amazing. I never thought I would be able to run cross country," Selby said. "It was interesting and hard, but also fun because I was running with a team. We were running up hills, down hills, in the mud, and it was everybody getting dirty. It really helped me mature and made me more mentally and physically strong."
That doesn't bode well for coming basketball opponents.
Casually brash and confident, Selby is comfortable describing himself as a leader, a winner and someone who plays with a lot of heart, intensity and enthusiasm. But the very next moment, without having been asked, he quickly adds: "Things I need to work on? I'm not Kobe and I'm not Jordan, so I need to work on everything."
And that "everything" begins with helping lead the Lakers to another state championship.
"Coming in, it was different because last year the team went 28-0, so I got a lot of pressure on me, people saying 'Can Josh do it?' " he said.
"But I'm not worried about me - I'm worrying about us. As a team, I think we can do it. I think we can repeat. My senior year, I want to win a championship, get a ring - that's what I want right now."