PENINSULA DISTRICT BOYS: Undersized Hampton the clear favorite

They call them "Airport Teams" — teams that look impressive in airports. With no player taller than 6-foot-4, Hampton isn't one of them.

Then again, the Crabbers weren't one of them last year when they won the Group AAA state championship.

So how much does size matter in basketball, particularly on the high school level? Let's ask the coach with the biggest team.

"I'm not 100 percent sure how that plays in," said Kecoughtan's Ivan Thomas, who has four players 6-foot-6 or taller. "Hampton was a very small team last year and they did a substantial amount of damage.

"I think guard play in high school the most important. Guards can dictate the game. They take most of the shots, anyway."

Which is why Hampton, despite its best post player standing only 6-1, is the obvious favorite going into the season. The Crabbers overcame a lack of size to win their first state title since 1997. And they did it with a rebound-by-committee approach.

"There will always be someone larger than us," Hampton coach Walter Brower said. "If I had somebody come out who was 6-6, 6-7, I wouldn't know how to act."

Truth be told, Brower would much rather have a 6-2 guard like Anthony Barber, the Group AAA Player of the Year as a junior. Defensive stopper and clutch shooter Jordan Baker is Robin to Barber's Batman, and 6-1 Sammie Royal is an undersized rebounding machine.

The Crabbers' top threat should be Kecoughtan, which returns 6-7 Rodney Bullock and 6-4 shooter Greg Alexander. Bethel lost the PD's top scorer in Aaron Bacote but returns Rakeen Brown; Phoebus lost megastar Troy Williams but returns guard James Daniel III.

And the consensus among the coaches is that Heritage, with Michael Gardner going into his fourth season, could be this year's surprise team.


LAST SEASON: 27-5, 15-3 (T-1st, beat Petersburg in Group AAA final.)

COACH: Walter Brower Sr.

THE BUZZ: The obvious favorite to repeat, at least in the district, with the return of Anthony Barber (21.3 ppg), G Jordan Baker (9.1 ppg), F Sammie Royal (9.5 ppg), and F Tre Perry (6.3 ppg). The Crabbers lack size, but they have the best player in the state and guys who know how to win.


LAST SEASON: 22-10, 15-3 (T-1st, lost to Petersburg in Group AAA semifinals)

COACH: Ivan Thomas

THE BUZZ: The Warriors made the Group AAA semifinals for the first time since 1985, but they want more. They have the talent to get back with the return of 6-7 F Rodney Bullock (14.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg) and 6-4 G Greg Alexander (6.5 ppg). C Kaelin Poe and G Marcell Haskett have starting experience.


LAST SEASON: 15-8, 12-6 (T-3rd)

COACH: Craig Brehon

THE BUZZ: The Bruins lost top scorer Aaron Bacote (Old Dominion) but return 5-10 G Rakeen Brown, an emerging star who averaged 15.3 ppg last season. G DeShawn Barton (6.9 ppg) and F Karlus Grant (5.3 ppg) also are returning starters. The Bruins will always guard you on defense.


LAST SEASON: 15-10, 12-6 (T-3rd, lost to Landstown in Eastern Region first round).

COACH: James Daniel Jr.

THE BUZZ: Troy Williams is off to Oak Hill for his senior year. But returning is G James Daniel III (12.2 ppg, 3.1 apg), one of the district's best 3-point shooters. G Khaaliq Fletcher (7.4 ppg) will look to increase his scoring. F Josh Davis, a 6-5 transfer from Heritage, should be a nice addition.


LAST SEASON: 5-17, 4-14 (8th)

COACH: Michael Gardner

THE BUZZ: After six consecutive losing seasons, the Hurricanes might be ready for prime time this year. Heritage has a solid group returning led by 6-3 F Romello Anderson (12.3 ppg) and 6-0 G Marquise Johnson (7.3 ppg). Corey White, an athletic 6-5 junior, was all-district in volleyball.


LAST SEASON: 13-10, 11-7 (6th)

COACH: Erick Mays

THE BUZZ: The Wolverines were always a tough out last year and will give teams fits again with Air Force commitment Trevor Lyons (15.0 ppg) returning in the backcourt. Mays also has two freshmen who could make an immediate impact: 6-5 F Chris Orlina and 5-10 PG Devonte Carter.


LAST SEASON: 19-7, 12-6 (T-3rd, lost to Norview in Eastern Region quarterfinal).

COACH: Dennis Koutoufas.

THE BUZZ: Koutoufas has been a head coach for 27 years and believes this is his least-experienced team ever. The Monarchs lost all five starters from last year's playoff group and the top returning scorer is G Josh Knight (4.2 ppg). An intriguing addition is 6-7 DaQuan Lake from the Virgin Islands.


LAST SEASON: 1-20, 0-18 (10th)

COACH: Lamont Strothers

THE BUZZ: The Raiders went into last season with no varsity experience but are in a little better shape now. G Lewis Freeman (8.6 ppg) is the top returning scorer, and Strothers believes G Patrick Hunt (8.3 ppg in six games) has all-district potential.


LAST SEASON: 8-14, 7-11 (7th)

COACH: Demetrius "Duke" Phipps.

THE BUZZ: Phipps, a former Woodside player and JV coach, takes over a program that has had three straight losing seasons. G Marcus Taylor (11.7 ppg) is the top returnee, and the Patriots should get a boost from Heritage transfer Devon Mayo (6.8 ppg).


LAST SEASON: 4-18, 2-16 (9th)

COACH: Christopher Morgan.

THE BUZZ: The top returning scorers are 5-11 G Derek Poole (5.1 ppg) and 6-2 G Dan Osborne (4.8 ppg), but the Dukes will need more ability around them. Morgan expects a physical presence from 6-1, 260-pound Jarrell Bennett (2.1 ppg), a lineman on the football team.

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