By Keion Robinson, Randolph College, 2018
A lot of elite high school basketball talent has emerged from the east coast. North Carolina, Florida, and New York are among some of the states that produce many players with college-level talent. When one looks at the history of high school hoops, they will notice that Baltimore too was a force. Don’t remember? Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
Who can forget the powerhouse of the Dunbar High School Poets back in the day? The 1982-83season saw the men’s team win the school’s first of three national championships, ending with a 31-0 record and ranking first in the nation by USA Today. Head Coach Bob Wade had a fantastic lineup that season: Muggsy Bogues (Wake Forest and NBA lottery pick), Reggie Williams (Georgetown and NBA lottery pick), and the late Reggie Lewis (Northeastern and NBA All-Star) were the “Big 3” on the team, but the rest of the depth was just second to none. Mike Brown (Syracuse, Clemson) Keith James (South Carolina), Tim Dawson (Miami), Herman Harried (Syracuse), Eric Green (James Madison), Derrick Lewis (Northeastern) and co-captain Darryl Woods (Virginia Union) were other key members to construct this team as arguably Baltimore’s best high school team of all time. About a decade later, in the 1991-1992 season, Head Coach Pete Pompey won the school’s third national championship with another power team that finished 28-0. Keith Booth (Maryland), Michael Lloyd (Syracuse) and Donta Bright (Massachusetts) all went on to contribute to their college programs. The team also included Cyrus Jones (West Virginia), Paul Banks (University of Texas-Arlington) and Alexander Mobley (UMES). The Poets played a demanding schedule throughout the season that included nationally-ranked opponents Simon Gratz of Philadelphia, St. Anthony of New Jersey, Oak Hill of Virginia and Dunbar of D.C. The school won its second national championship in 1985 under Wade.
Calvert Hall College High School also had major success during the early 1980s.. During the 1980-1981 season, the men’s team featured Duane Ferrell (Georgia Tech), Marc Wilson (Minnesota), and Paul Edwards (Mount St. Mary’s), all of whom advanced to big-time college play. The team was victorious in a triple-overtime win against Dunbar at the Towson Center and finished as the Catholic League regular-season and tournament champions, losing only to Dunbar of D.C. and Gonzaga. They were also a forerunner of the 1981-82 national championship team that was led by veterans Ferrell, Edwards, and Wilson. As acknowledged as they were, Dunbar and Calvert Hall were not the only two basketball powerhouses in the Baltimore area during its glory days. Cardinal Gibbons, coached by Ray Mullis, finished with a record of 32-8 during the 1984-1985 season and, at one point, was ranked 4th in the nation. The roster included Rodney Walker (Syracuse), Bernard Royster (Old Dominion) and David Brown (Massachusetts). Lake Clifton, coached by Woody Williams, was the MSA A champions and held a 27-1 record during the 1986-87 season, featuring star talents Thomas Jordan, Kenny Mcneil, and Anthony Wiley.
While one may say that those glory days are long gone, Baltimore has still had an effect in its production of basketball talent. Current NBA players Carmelo Anthony and Rudy Gay played their high school hoops in Baltimore, along with former pros Sam Cassell, Dudley Bradley, and Gene Shue, who arguably put Baltimore basketball on the map.. Over the past years, current pro Aquille Carr also put Baltimore hoops on notice by his highlight mixtape, which has garnered over 8 million views on YouTube. Carr has recently signed with the Baltimore Hawks of the ABA.
Overall, the history of Baltimore high school basketball has been very significant over the last few decades. Most impressive is its mass production of college-level players. When one thinks of some of the best high school teams ever assembled, attention should instantly shift to Baltimore. Don’t be surprised if it’s not too long before we see another rise.