The Cecil Kirk AAU basketball program has sent more than 100 players to the college ranks in its two-decade-plus history.
At least five players from the 2009 team will join that club shortly, according to Anthony Lewis, the longtime director of the Cecil Kirk recreation center in East Baltimore.
"Basically the thing with Antonio, he was a lead guard," Lewis said. "He got an opportunity to come into his own and show that he's a high-level player in his own right. I think he definitely accomplished that."Cleveland Melvin, a 6-foot-8 forward from Lake Clifton, picked up right where he left off with the Lakers. A Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selection, Melvin averaged 17 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks per game as a senior. He'll do a post-grad year with Barton at Notre Dame Prep.
According to Lewis, "UConn, South Florida, Seton Hall, Missouri and some other schools" are recruiting Melvin.
"He did a fantastic job, as pointed out in his offers," Lewis said. "He has the Big East and ACC schools. He [will probably sign] in November, and he starts his visits soon. He's scheduled to visit [the schools on his list], so it depends. Sometimes they get through all of [the visits], and sometimes they only get to one or two of them."
Former Parkville forward Durand Johnson, who has transferred to Lake Clifton for his junior season, is being courted by the same schools as Melvin, plus Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.
"He's a 6-7 swingman," Lewis said. "He's athletic and can shoot the ball. He's got good range on his jump shot. He's a quality kid."
Two more Cecil Kirk players will be DI-bound eventually. Antoine Myers, a 6-foot-2 point guard from Forest Park, is hearing from South Florida, plus several Atlantic-10 and Colonial Athletic Association schools. Raphael Akpejiori, a native of Senegal who plays at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, is hearing from "South Florida, Missouri and a host of A-10 and Colonial schools, [plus] LaSalle, St. Bonaventure, Texas A&M Corpus-Christi," Lewis said.
Lewis has coached some of the top AAU teams in Baltimore during his 20-plus years on the job. This summer's Cecil Kirk squad ranks favorably with the best of them.
"I think they were right there with a lot of good teams we've had," Lewis said. "It's hard to rank kids and teams. Each team takes on its own individual identity. But I would say overall, this team had a very positive work ethic, and it shows in their recruitments. It shows how the kids developed as a whole."
Sun photo credits: Antonio Barton photo by Kim Hairston / March 14, 2009. Cleveland Melvin photo by Gene Sweeney Jr. / Feb. 24, 2009