Marvin Price has to duck to get through the door of the Patterson athletic office before basketball practice, his broad frame barely squeezing through.
At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, the 17-year-old nearly buries the chair when he sits to talk about his sophomore year at Patterson, his first after transferring from national power DeMatha.
A hefty load has been placed on his shoulders: returning to his hometown, entering a new school with new teammates, coaches, teachers and friends.
But Price didn't just arrive as another kid trying to fit in. He is a highly touted college recruit, a four-star prospect as rated by rivals.com. Talk had him being able to make the same kind of impact at Patterson as former great Aquille Carr, who ignited the program and led the Clippers to their only state championship in 2012.
Despite the high expectations and accompanying pressure, he sits comfortably —and with good reason.
The Clippers are ranked No. 3 by The Baltimore Sun with an 18-3 mark, and will take on No. 2 Poly (15-6) for the Baltimore City Division I championship at 8 p.m. Saturday at Coppin State.
Price, who averages 23 points and eight rebounds, has succeeded, giving the Clippers a needed boost while creating a positive buzz in Baltimore.
When asked what his new teammate has brought to the team, senior forward Isaiah Clemons takes it a step further.
"What he's brought to the team?" he replies. "It's more about what he's brought to the school, the city, everything. He's got it all and has brought everything. It's basically like the same experience as Aquille. He's brought a lot of energy, he has a beautiful offensive game, he's young. He just has a lot going for him and he's revitalized the entire school."
After going 14-9 and finishing in the middle of the league last season, Patterson returned one starter and three others with varsity experience, and coach Harry Martin was counting on a number of junior varsity players to make the move up to the big team this season. It added up to a rebuilding season, but the outlook changed in August.
That's when Price, who never felt completely comfortable at DeMatha, decided on Patterson. A couple of weeks later, another promising sophomore guard, Gerard Mungo, who has known and played with Price since elementary school, transferred to the East Baltimore school from St. Frances.
While Martin still thought the Clippers may have been a year away from a special season, Price helped accelerate the process. He has shown a dominating inside-outside game and selfless play that keeps his teammates involved. And when it's time to close out a win, he wants the ball and has shown he can get the job done.
"I wanted to come home and chose Patterson because I thought it was the best fit and I felt as though we could really do something special. I just thought this was the best place I could fit in and do what I need to do," he said.
Price's easygoing personality was an instant draw to his teammates. His hard work from the first day of practice earned him immediate respect from the coaching staff. Martin had never selected a sophomore as a team captain until this season.
"He's a personable guy, so fitting in was easy for him," Martin said. "From a coaching standpoint, you try not to put too much pressure on him because he's only a sophomore and you keep in mind it's going to take time. We named him captain — he goes to his classes [he made the honor roll his first semester] and he comes to practice every day and works hard. If he's doing things the right way, it's pretty hard for the other guys not to follow him."
What has Price enjoyed most about his first season at Patterson?
"My team," he answers. "I really like playing with them and being around them. It's fun."
He said his freshman year at DeMatha (he lived with his uncle during his time there) was challenging and often difficult, but it was an important experience that helped him grow. Since he started playing basketball when he was 8 years old, he was often the best and biggest player on his team. At DeMatha, he was just one of a roster filled with standout players. He played about five minutes a game and averaged 3.5 points. It was different for him.
"It was very difficult, but it helped me see where I was at and how it really is," Price said. "It helped me see what's really out there and how I compare to some of the best players."
But Price didn't lose confidence and it showed over the summer playing for the DC Blue Devils 15-under team in the Under Armour Association. He led the league in scoring, averaging 22-plus points per game.
The strong play carried over to Patterson with his breakout game coming in a 69-59 win at Lake Clifton on Jan. 10. He finished with 27 points — 23 coming in the take-charge second half — and added 10 rebounds. On Feb. 3 at Dunbar, he finished with another double-double, with 18 points and 11 rebounds in a grinding 49-47 win that clinched a berth in Saturday's title game.
"Marvin has brought excitement just from his personality. He's very different," said senior center Christion Adams, the team's lone return starter and a fellow captain. "He's a happy dude, but once the whistle blows, he has a killer instinct. From his experience at DeMatha, playing at that level, he's bringing that to us and showing that we can play at that level."
On Saturday, Patterson will be looking to avenge their only league loss. After the win against Dunbar, the Clippers visited Poly on Feb. 7 and the host Engineers, led by All-Metro senior guard De'Vondre Perry, had the overtime answers to take a 54-51 win that clinched their spot in Saturday's game.
Poly coach Sam Brand has watched Perry emerge as one of the area's most dominating players and sees many of the same qualities in Price.
"He's a guy who can be physical with big men, but also has the skill set to penetrate on guards, so he becomes a really tough matchup on defense. He's just a relentless scorer and a tough kid who is highly competitive. He's going to be a problem for years to come," Brand said.
Price wants to be a big problem on Saturday with the Clippers determined to beat Poly the second time around.
"We could have won [the regular season game] but we didn't execute when we needed to, didn't do a bunch of the little things," he said. "But it's good to have another chance and I would have rather lost that one than to lose in the championship game. Mostly, it's not really making adjustments, but keeping our defense up and execution — making free throws, getting to the loose balls."
When Price decided to come to Patterson, he envisioned playing in big games like the one on Saturday. He also picked the school because of the basketball program's strong track record in academics.
For the past three years, the team's collective grade-point average has been 3.0 or better. In the past five years, 11 graduates have gone on to play college ball.
Price has his eye on playing big-time college ball. He understands what it will take as he talks about his work on improving his defense on the court and maintaining good grades in the classroom.
So far, Virginia Tech and Kansas State have made him offers with Maryland among the other schools showing interest.
Tom Strickler, a Maryland-based scout for the National Recruiting Report, a coaches-only service that evaluates high school talent throughout the country, can see the interest in Price continue to grow.
"You're talking about a kid that's 6'4 or 6'5 and strongly built. He's a prototypical high major power guard prospect — simple as that. And he's a shot in the arm for Baltimore City high school basketball — people should enjoy watching him play," Strickler said.