Senior forward De'Vondre Perry, who recently committed to temple university, finishes an ab circuit.

Theory & Practice

Poly's Preseason in Photos

Photos and Text By Reginald Thomas II

Last season the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (Poly) men's varsity basketball team went 20-4—undefeated in the city—and brought home the first city championship in the high school’s history. The team fell short in its quest for a state championship, suffering a loss to Woodlawn in the regional playoffs. The past is the past, but Poly has seven seniors returning, with new guys coming into the fold this year to defend their city championship and, hopefully, make a run at a state championship.

The guys have used last year's experiences as fuel for this season. The team works through the preseason in a unique way that reflects the “our family vs your team” mantra seen on team gear. Basketball serves as only one medium through which each player on the team expresses himself as he navigates the joy, weird quirks, frustration, and bonding that goes into being on a team that spends so much time together. When they're with each other the players can be themselves; they can use the sport as a vessel to develop as not only athletes, but also as young men living in Baltimore city. They're not just basketball players, rather young men that are working diligently toward their goals while enjoying their teenage years.

Over the last four months of photographing the team as they ramped up during the preseason, I watched as they buckled down on the court and in the classroom, while still finding plenty of time to build team chemistry and let loose.

This is the first in a series of photo essays following Poly’s dynamic basketball team this season. On Dec. 8, Poly opens their season with a home game against Digital Harbor.

Freshman Rahim Ali's father gives him some direction during a pool workout. Ali was kept out of most preseason activities as he recovered from a sports hernia. helping with the rehabilitation is a way for the two of them the bond.

Senior Jabray Franklin in the upward facing dog position. Twice a week during the preseason the team took yoga classes to improve their flexibility.

Part of the culture at Poly is going across the street to Arlon's and 7-Eleven after school to load up on chicken tenders, pizza, Arizona and Brisk drinks and other junk--to the dismay of the team's nutritionist, chef Rodney Williams.

Junior Cleveland Horton, in his first year at Poly, is still adjusting academically. Here Cleveland is working through multiplying matrices.

Senior Herbert Godinez works through a math problem during study hall. Several players boast grade point averages above a 3.0, as the team fell just 0.2 grade points below a 3.25 team gpa for the first quarter.

Seniors Seth Jones (left) and Demitrice "Meaty" Weaver (right), toward the end of study hall, engage in a debate over who's better between NBA stars DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis.

Senior De'Vondre Perry is most comfortable and expressive in the weight room.

Coach Anthony Fitzgerald pushes Torrin Stephens in practice. Through tough coaching, Coach Fitzgerald wants his players to know that he and the rest of the coaches want each player to succeed.

After a less than stellar first practice for senior Kyshon Tate, Coach Fitzgerald pulls him to the side and encourages him to persevere.

HEAD Coach SaMuel Brand pulls the guys in for a huddle mid-drill to emphasize intensity and attention to detail.

Junior Demetrius Mims (left) and senior De'Vondre Perry (right) are two team leaders. Mims is still finding his voice as a leader, while Perry is the more vocal of the two.

Senior Seth Jones stands out on the court for both his three point shooting ability and his sports goggles that evoke memories of basketball Titans like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.

Torrin Stephens and Amani Walker wrestle after practice.

Senior Deshaun Mosley embodying the ways in which athletes express themselves and their quirks through sport.

Devondre Perry drives baseline on randallstown's john mcneal, who played on poly's city championship team last season.

Demetrius Mims lays the ball in after out-rebounding Randallstown defenders.

Freshman Rahim Ali glides in for a layup during the team's lasT scrimmage before the season kicks off.

The guys exhibit elements of team chemistry that translate to success on the court, like dancing to their favorite songs in the locker room or in the weight room.

Poly Scouting Report

The team, during mandatory study hall, got a homework assignment to write each others’ bios.

“Jiggy” Jeffery Alexander: Jeff is a shifty, quick guard who can get to the paint and find his teammates easily. He's a lefty and shoots the ball extremely well. Off the court, Jeff is a good guy who will always look out for a teammate in any way he can. Jeff works hard on the court and in the classroom. He is quiet and is always looking to improve himself. (Jabray Franklin)

Rahim “Rah Rah” Ali: Rah is an amusing player to play with on the court because of his great ball handling and his ability to give stunning passes to his teammates. It will be very fun to play with this guy for the next three years and enjoy our time as student athletes. Off of the court, Rah is a perspicacious player who earned a 3.5 GPA and is a very phenomenal teammate to be around. He is always in a great mood and there is never a dull moment with him. Very fortunate to have him as a teammate. (Amani Walker)

Jabray Franklin: Jabray is a cool dude. He's very unselfish, hardworking, and humble. He's always been the first one in the gym and last one to leave. His rotation on his jumper is a thing of beauty. But also in the classroom his grades are good as well. He's a complete student. He has good relationship with teachers and carries a high GPA. (Jeffery Alexander)

Herbert “G Herbo” Godinez: Herb is one of the best shooters on the team. He's a tough point guard and when I first met him my freshman year he was quiet, but he sounds black every time he speaks. With one of the highest GPAs, Herb can be solving a math problem with ease while engaging in a conversation. He always knows the right time to speak and he uses his words wisely. This dude, win or lose, is my brother and we need him. Our relationships go further than basketball. Herb, in my eyes, is the most reliable and honest team member. (Demitrice Weaver)

Cleveland “Baby Cleve” Horton: On the court, Cleveland is an excellent player who takes pride in his defense. On offense, he has an arsenal of moves that allow him to get off a shot or find an open teammate. Off the court, he is always full of energy and fun to be around. Never a dull moment with him. (Seth Jones)

“Professor” Seth Jones: Our floor general on the court who directs the traffic. He is a marksman when it comes to shooting. Off the court, he can be unpredictable when it comes to his funny remarks or his forced stare-downs. (Cleveland Horton)

Demetrius Mims: Mims is a long wing who will shoot the ball every time if you let him. I played with him for two years, but the best times with him are off the court. The walking tattoo doesn’t really get into any trouble or influence others to make wrong decisions. Even though he moves faster than his brain, he is still a good player who does a lot of different things for our team. (Deshaun Mosley)

Deshaun Mosley: On the court, Deshaun is a great player to play with. Having someone who commits on defense so much is a blessing considering he isn't selfish on offense. He always looks for the right play. Going against him is annoying since he seems like a hack when he's your man. Off the court, that’s my brother; he can come to me about anything, he's a lot weird. I can't even say “a little.” You got to love the guy, though. (Demetrius Mims)

De'Vondre “Dre” Perry: Dre came to us from Edenton, North Carolina, looking like a grown man at 15 years old. In the two years since, Dre has grown into the leader of the team on and off the court, averaging 20.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game as a junior. He has posted a 4.0 GPA in his senior year so far, as he prepares for his collegiate career at Temple University. Dre's strength is his versatility. He is a physically gifted player that relies on a diverse skill set including exceptional passing, handling, and shooting ability. He is on pace to score over 1,500 points and grab over 750 rebounds in his career at Poly. Dre has a full season left for the Engineers but has already left an everlasting mark on our program through his work ethic, leadership, and overall presence. (Samuel Brand)

“Big T” Torrin Stephens: Off the court, Torrin and I argue like brothers. We've been in hella fights and sometimes I can't stand him but I got love for his big ugly ass. On the court, when he gets out of his feeling, he plays really hard and can knock the tre ball down. When he complains, he’s soft and weak, but I'll always go to war with him against anyone in the world. (Kyshon Tate)

Kyshon Tate: Kyshon on the court is a monster rebounder who brings a lot of energy to the game. His length and his communication on the court is the main thing he does and he does it well. Off the court, he continues to work hard in class like he does on the court. He's a good guy to hang with off the court and he looks to continue to improve on and off the court. (Torrin Stephens)

Amani “Big Mani” Walker: Amani is a versatile big who is an exceptional passer for his size, and when he's not playing like a big chump, he can be one of the best bigs in his class. Off the court, Amani is a funny guy who will always put you in a good mood and will always have your back. I’m looking forward to spending the next couple of years playing with him and watching him grow into a pro with the best coaching staff in the nation. In the classroom, he is working hard to adjust to Poly's rigorous coursework so he can lift his GPA. (Rahim Ali)

Demitrice “Meaty” Weaver: Meaty is one of the most positive and energetic guys on the team. We rely on him to start off practice or any other things with high energy and intensity. Not only can you see his energy is on the court but you can also see it off the court. He’s a good student, too. (Herbert Godinez)

Anthony Fitzgerald “Coach Fitz:” Coach Fitz is an assistant coach but plays just as important a role just as the head coach. He is our defensive coordinator. On the court, he sets our defensive tone and shares the responsibility of discipline with our other assistant coach Kenny. Off the court, he is a cool guy to be around especially when you need a laugh. (De'Vondre Perry)

Coach Samuel Brand aka “John Cena” is the head coach but shares his role equally with all of his assistants. He isn't like most coaches, he'll jump out there and get after it with his players. He is the offensive coordinator. On the court, he is a shooter and an energy guy. Throughout all our practices he gives off so much energy it's hard for players to not match his intensity. Off the court, he is a very caring person and finds joy from seeing others get better and succeed. (DP)

Coach Teyon Crudup “Freaky T” is another assistant. He's a more laid-back coach. He chimes in when he feels it is necessary. On the court, he helps with defensive principles and encouragement. Off the court, he is a funny guy. He'll keep a smile on your face and also reminisce about his high school days. He always finds a way to connect basketball to your everyday life. He makes sure you know there's more to life than just basketball. He wants you to become a better man within the program, as well. (DP)

Coach Mike Turner aka “Mr. Steal Your Girl Mike:” Coach Mike is a cool dude, wears the tightest pants, and has all the latest gear. On the court, he is all about perfection within the guards. Off the court, he is a joyful person to be around and loves to joke and talk trash. Coach Mike takes pride in the guards setting the tone early. (DP)

Coach Dominic Harrison “Mr. reliable”: Coach Nic is the most reliable and unreliable person ever. He's only reliable in clutch situations. He can do just about everything. He is the coach during the offseason because of the Baltimore City rules. On the court, he preaches about chemistry and destroying guards on the opposite team. Off the court, he buys all this food at restaurants and never eats it. He comes to the games during the season and leans on the referees the whole entire game, you will definitely know when he's in the building! Words of senior point guard Deshaun Mosley: “You can hear Coach Nic wherever you go.” He will definitely make his presence known. (DP)

Coach Khalid Bilal aka “Mr. No Chill” is a assistant coach. On the court, he preaches about communication on offense and defense. Off the court, he will lecture you about everyday life and has your best interest as a person in mind. (DP)

Coach Kenny Wood aka “GI Joe” is another assistant that preaches discipline and defensive principles. He locks in on finding ways to prevent players from turning the ball over. On the court, he is big about taking care of the ball and making your opponent uncomfortable with the ball by pressure. Off the court, he is big on body building and being strong. (DP)

Jermaine Wallace aka “Nino Brown” is the team’s academic advisor. He makes sure each student is eligible to play and keeps them on the right track to a 3.0 GPA or higher. He's a guy that you can go to and talk to about just about anything and expect good advice in return. He teaches the players how to manage their time with studying and testing. Mr. Wallace plays a big role in the program off the court. (DP)