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Posted On: 10/6/18 11:49 AM
We are officially a month away from the private schools in the Baltimore area getting on the floor for their first practice. Public schools will officially begin Nov. 15. Here at Prep Hoops Maryland, we have a ton of preview content around the entire state, but as usual I’ll focus on the Baltimore and surrounding areas. This year, I’ve decided to put together a list of the top 15 backcourts going into the 2018-19 season. We continue with nos. 10-6.
10. New Town- ’20 Martaz Robinson & ’19 Maurice Smith
New Town looks to be one of the contenders in the county this season led by their dynamic backcourt. Robinson had a productive sophomore campaign last year and enters this season with high expectations of taking the next step as becoming one of the best players in the county. The 6-foot-2 guard has good size for the point guard position and is equally effective as a creator and scorer. When he’s dialed in, Robinson can be a pest on the ball defensively, but the two main areas of concern is his ability to with stain that energy for 25-28 minutes. He’ll have plenty of scoring options around him, but there will be times when his team needs him to be the scorer he can be. That’ll be another area of evaluation for us concerning Robinson. Smith has one of the best stories in the country. The 6-foot-2 guard is a two-time cancer survivor and looks to make his return back on the court for his senior season. He transferred to New Town from Mt. St. Joe and with his consistent aggression with the ball, Smith will be the slasher next to Robinson. These two should complement each other pretty well and be one of the main reasons why the Titans will be feared as it comes to Baltimore County play.
9. City- ’21 Darrius Tilghman & ’20 Dominick Carrington
Both Tilghman and Carrington are transfers to City and considering both of their skill sets, it shouldn’t take them long to mesh next to each other. Tilghman is a 6-foot-3 guard with good length who is shifty with the ball. The southpaw plays maturely off of ball screens and has good vision on his drives. He is also a capable catch-and-shoot shooter from three and can be efficient off the dribble in the mid-range area. Although he’ll handle the ball a lot, Tilghman will also be expected to rebound with City’s lack of size. Carrington is a sharpshooter from three who plays well off the ball. His ability to create off the dribble is an underrated aspect while his tenacity on defense obvious. At 5-foot-10, you’d expect him to be the main option bringing the ball up, but initiating offense and controlling the pace of a game is still an area he has to improve on, hence why Tilghman may spend majority of the possessions filling that role.
8. Gerstell- ’21 Ahmad Harrison & ’19 Anthony Carpenter
Gerstell returns their same backcourt from last year’s B Conference champion roster. Harrison is a 6-foot-1 smooth operator with the ball. The lefty has advanced vision and feel for the game and uses soft touch on his floaters around the rim. His jumpshot is still a work in progress, but he’ll knock down an occasional three off the catch or in transition as the defense is scattering to locate their man. One area of improvement for Harrison is his tendency of being a ball stopper. Many teams throw zone Gerstell’s way and Harrison has a habit of holding the ball two seconds too long trying to find the home run pass. With his continued growth, he’ll have to realize with a quick swing of the ball, when he gets it back, that pass could be there in a much bigger window. Carpenter is a savvy, tough-nosed scorer who can make his impact felt at all three levels. He’s a much better catch-and-shoot shooter from three than he is off the dribble, but does a nice job of using a shot fake to free himself up for mid-rangers. When he attacks the basket, he does so with strong intent. Carpenter isn’t a guy who will throw one down, but the 5-foot-11 guard embraces contact and converts from the free-throw line consistently. Both guards are good defenders with Harrison being able to guard multiple positions effectively.
7. Gilman- ’19 Jalen Rucker & ’19 Chase Drew
Rucker could very well be the toughest player in the area. It’s a rare sighting to see him slack on any possession. The 5-foot-11 guard is quick with the ball and can get passed most defenders that guard him. When he does get into the paint, he’s an efficient finisher and often looks to draw contact, but at the same time remains focused on the finish. I’d say his efficiency as a shooter is equal whether its off the catch or off the dribble and once he sees one go in, the flood gates are open. Defensively, there may be one other guard included on this list (cough, cough Poly) that I would want to go against. Rucker is on his man as soon as the ball goes through the rim ready to defend the full length of the court. He’s good about chesting his match up and not reaching while sliding laterally. Lastly, Rucker is a winner. He makes all of the plays teams need to end the game with a W. Drew will look to prove himself after sitting out last season following his transfer from Dulaney. At 6-foot-5, Drew can give coaches nightmares with his shooting ability. When he has a clear path, he can rise above the rim for some emphatic finishes. Our evaluations of Drew for the upcoming season will be focused on his toughness and physicality on drives and defense.
6. Poly- ’20 Rahim Ali & ’21 Trae English
The back-to-back 3A champions reloaded this summer with a number of key transfers, but one thing remains the same: Ali, their floor general. The 5-foot-11 guard is the definition of a Baltimore guard. Tough, gritty, physical and the only thing that matters is a win. He and Rucker are tied in my eyes as the most effective on-ball defenders in the Baltimore area. Ali is relentless and every time you slip up, he makes you pay. With the ball, Ali is a conductor of the offense. He’s been doing so since he walked on campus as a freshman two years ago. Experience is the least of concerns. Offensively, Ali can operate as well as anyone in the pick-and-roll sets. With a vastly improved jumpshot, the defense can now pick their poison with his ability to pull up from 15 or allow him to thread a bounce pass in the tiniest of windows to the roller for a lay up. Forward Justin Lewis rightfully would get the most votes as the team’s best player, but Ali is the engine that makes this thing go. English on the other hand is a pure scorer. The Mt. St. Joe transfer lit it up at the junior varsity level last season and has done the same in summer league play thus far. It’s unsure if head coach Sam Brand will start English or use him more as a sixth man considering he stands just 5-foot-10, but there’s a good chance he’ll garner most of the minutes, especially in crunch time of games.