Gilman basketball coach Owen Daly approached this season with a sense of reality. After the Greyhounds moved up from the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference to the A Conference, Daly had a mission statement: try to capture the last playoff spot in the 10-team league.
He realizes that finishing ahead of some of the top A Conference teams in the area — St. Frances, Mount St. Joseph, Calvert Hall, John Carroll and Archbishop Spalding — would be difficult.
The Baltimore Sun ranks all five in the top 15 of its boys basketball poll.
"You have to have a vision, and I have spoken to the guys about that," said Daly, whose team returned four starters from a 16-15 squad that lost in the B Conference final to Pallotti last season. "Our goal is to really get that sixth spot."
It's looking as though the Greyhounds have a legitimate shot of getting it.
It might be a small sample size, but six games into conference play, Gilman sits tied for fifth with Spalding because of victories over McDonogh, Loyola Blakefield and Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Daly and his Greyhounds are happy with their start in the league, considering the team's youth.
They're counting on getting better because there are just two seniors on the 14-player roster and a number of younger players, who will have time to develop.
Freshman Donald Duncan and sophomore Everett Winchester start in the backcourt.
Two other freshmen, Douglas Cooper and Tyler Foster, are part of the Greyhounds' rotation.
Cooper and Winchester's defensive work was on display early in the season when they helped cut a 22-7 deficit to 22-18 against Mount St. Joseph in a game they eventually lost.
Foster scored a team-high 16 points in that loss.
"Since we are basically a new team, we are trying to get some chemistry and see what we can do and who can do what," Gilman junior forward Kai Locksley said. "It's definitely been a learning experience for the first half of the season. Now that we are getting toward the second half, we are definitely getting closer as a collective group."
If the Greyhounds win, Locksley is usually a big reason why.
He's averaging a team-leading 17 points per game. Foul trouble hampered the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Locksley in the first half of a 69-61 loss to Spalding on Dec. 23, but he still managed to score a game-high 23 points.
"He has a basketball IQ you don't find in a lot of high school players," Spalding coach Derrick Lewis said. "He lets the game come to him. He really knows how to play the game. He can score or give it up. He is a complete player."
Locksley said he is starting to play his best basketball after taking some time to adjust from his main sport, football. He will make college visits next year to Florida State, Oregon and UCLA among other schools.
Daly said Locksley's game has improved from last year, when he averaged 18 points and 8.3 rebounds. "He has even been more explosive and gotten stronger," the fifth-year coach said.
Locksley and Owen can't talk about the Greyhounds without mentioning the team's young players.
Duncan has done an excellent job of distributing, averaging six assists a game. Cooper, a guard, and Foster, a guard/forward, are averaging nearly 10 points.
"They have shown they should be at the top of our lineup," Daly said. "So we are not sacrificing anything by putting them out there and kind of throwing them to the wolves. They have earned a spot. They can compete and get that experience. It is very meaningful."
The Greyhounds are also getting solid contributions from senior guard William McBride, sophomore forward John Fitzgerald, junior guard/forward Matt Egan and senior forward Cory Watson.
Daly, whose team won a B Conference championship in 2012, said one of the most impressive things about his Greyhounds has been their overall collective effort.
"We are learning different things about ourselves," he said. "We learned a lot about coming back in a close game against (league leader) St. Frances. They got up by 11 points and we cut it to one with a minute and a half left."