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Posted On: 01/3/18 9:02 AM
The month of December is when high school basketball gets into full swing. Even though the majority of teams open their seasons in late November, the first couple of games consist of a feeling out process. Once mid-December hits, rotations are starting to get figured out, players are finding their roles and teams start to take on a mold that will set the tone for the remainder of their schedule.
I was able to see a decent amount of teams in the Baltimore area over the past month or so and have decided to put together five random observations that I gathered.
It’s no secret that Baltimore is a hotbed for high school basketball talent. There have been eras in the past that produced a countless number of collegiate and even professional players. If you count this group of players (class of 2018-2021) as their own era, I think we’ll see a number of these kids eventually get paid for playing this sport. For college coaches of all levels, there really aren’t any ‘wasted’ trips when they come to Baltimore for recruiting. Chances are they’ll come to a game looking at one player and end up noticing another who may fit the mold of their team as well. It’s tremendous to see the talent in this city and realize the kids have the opportunity to not only keep playing in college, but have the opportunity to get their degree and make something of themselves.
The Great Debate
In every state, city or county one common debate that is always relevant is who is the best team? It always seems like there is no right answer, either. For Baltimore, three teams have seemed to separate themselves from the pack thus far. St. Frances (15-2), Poly (4-2) and John Carroll (9-3) have all put together strong starts and have talented, deep rosters that bolster their argument for being the best team in the area. In my opinion, St. Frances is the most proven out of the trio. Not only have they compiled marquee wins against teams in Maryland (including John Carroll without Immanuel Quickley), but they’ve also traveled to North Carolina (twice), New York and Georgia to beat quality teams as well. Their roster through and through is loaded with talent and their winning ways should continue in 2018.
What Happened To Man-to-Man Defense?
As a made my way out to games (private, public or prep schools), there was one thing I observed that blew my mind. 80 percent of the teams I watch are playing zone defense. Not just for a possession or two, but for the entire game! Now I’m not against the decision to play zone defense, especially if in that given night, it gives your team the advantage. With that being said, these kids need to be exposed to playing man-to-man defense and being taught the correct principles of such. I spoke with a number of college coaches on the topic and even they said they’re seeing zone defense becoming more of a trend the in their respective leagues as well. What happened to getting down in a stance and playing with the “I’m not letting this man score another basket” mentality?! Maybe it has to do with the new rules in which referees have to enforce that favor the offensive player. Defenders aren’t allowed to be as physical as they used to be even five or so years ago. Coaches don’t want their players to get into foul trouble, so they figure if they sit in a zone, they’ll avoid that problem. Maybe so, but prepping these kids for college should be the first thing on coach’s minds. Sitting them in a zone and not forcing them to guard anyone surely isn’t going to help make for a smooth transition into the collegiate game.
Thank You For Shot Clocks!
The implementation of shot clocks for county and city schools in Baltimore have been a game-changer for more than one reason. The biggest and most important being that it prepares the student athletes for college. No longer can teams hold the ball for 3-to-4 minutes during a possession and play an unrealistic game plan. The other way it benefits the overall game for viewership purposes. Fans don’t want to come watch teams who hold the ball for almost half of a quarter and see a final score in the 30s. Basketball is a free-flowing game and should be played as such, so implementing the shot clock was absolutely needed and has already benefited in both of these ways in the month that the season has been underway.
Class Of 2020 Will Be Very Special
Every five or so years we see a specific class of players have elite talent in the Baltimore area. In recent memory, 2010 had a long list of players that played high-level collegiate basketball and a number were fortunate enough to play professionally at some point. I touched on this subject earlier in the prospects section, but the class of 2020 I believe in the next wave of players that we’ll hear about for a long time. Players such as Ace Baldwin (St. Frances), Justin Lewis (Poly) and Che Evans (Dulaney), just to name a few) are all talents that are years above the number on their birth certificate. A few players in this class have already made national names for themselves. By the time 2020 rolls around, expect that number to increase. The future is in good hands for the city of Baltimore.
*Feature photo of Ace Baldwin courtesy of i95Ballerz.com