When Nike Baltimore Elite needed scoring this summer, Carlton "Bub" Carrington usually turned to City shooting guard Nick Faust. When the veteran AAU coach wanted to feed the post, he looked no further than St. Frances power forward Greg Lewis. And when Carrington had to have a stop, the responsibility fell to City combo guard Mike Cheatham, a lockdown defender with an expanding offensive game.
"Mike's role has always been to [guard] the best offensive player. He's one of the best on-ball defenders I've ever seen," Carrington said. "However, he came into his own in the middle of the season, right about when we went to Houston. He started scoring the ball at will, and it just carried over to Los Angeles. Going into the summer, it was always Nick [scoring], and trying to get the ball into Greg, establish our post presence early. Then Mike would kind of go where he fit in, then just step up and start making shots. Mike and Sam [Cassell Jr.] made a lot of shots from the perimeter."
Cheatham, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior, has always prided himself on defense. But he relished the chance this summer to showcase his underrated scoring ability. Cheatham was able to do so on the AAU circuit's biggest stage – the inaugural season of Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League.
"It was real high-profile," Cheatham said. "You know everybody you're playing against, you know what each team can do – they go through the whole scouting report. But it was good."The summer also provided Cheatham the chance to get even more comfortable playing with Faust, his backcourt partner at City. Cheatham and Faust guided the Knights to their second straight Class 2A state championship last spring. From Cheatham's perspective, hopes for a three-peat were buoyed by their chemistry built over the summer.
"We learned more about each other, what we can do and what we can't do in different situations," Cheatham said. "… We feed off each other. It depends on who's hot and if he's not, then I'll get the ball. If I'm not, then he'll get the ball. We both do other stuff to get ourselves going – rebounding, passing and playing defense."
While Faust's recruitment will wrap up before the fall signing period, Cheatham isn't close to ending the process. Cheatham said he has received varying degrees of interest from "Temple, Quinnipiac, Florida State, UNLV, Central Connecticut, Loyola, Iona [and] George Mason," while Carrington also mentioned the Seminoles and Patriots, in addition to Xavier and most of the local Division I programs. Carrington thinks Cheatham – who can play the 1 and the 2 – will be "very, very valuable" to some DI program.
"He's the kind of player that you pretty much have to know to appreciate his game because he's not a rah-rah kid, he doesn't slap his chest," Carrington said. "But I've seen him take the ball from [Kentucky small forward commitment] Michael Gilchrist at half court. I watched the tape and it was just baffling how he bottled him up. But he just kind of goes about his business. Whatever you need, he'll do it. With kids like that, they tend to get kind of overlooked unless someone's pushing them. Mike can get overlooked, but I think he's got his fair share of schools that are recruiting him that saw him play enough to understand the kid is a player."
For Cheatham, speeding up the recruiting process is the least of his concerns. Guiding City back to Comcast Center remains his No. 1 goal. After that, there will be plenty of time to pick a school.
"It's not stressful," Cheatham said. "I just didn't want to put all that pressure on me before basketball season. I just wanted to see what offers come … and then I'll work from there."
Baltimore Sun photo of Mike Cheatham by Colby Ware / Jan. 12, 2010