Catonsville girls basketball coach Mike Mohler and the players that were on the Comets’ state championship team last March were not the only state champions on the court between a boys and girls practice at Catonsville High last week.
While the girls were going through layup drills, new Catonsville boys basketball coach Teron Owens was lecturing to his team after practice.
Owens, who took over for Matt Fannon, is not just a former player who graduated from Catonsville High in 1992 — he also played on the state championship team 25 years ago.
The 1992 Comets joined the 1928 boys team as the only basketball state champions.
Owens had two of his finest efforts in the final two games of that state championship season.
In the state semifinals, he had 31 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and four assists in a 72-46 win over Duval.
In the win over Potomac in the state championship game, Owens scored 17 points and had 12 rebounds and four assists as the Comets rallied from an 8-point deficit in the final 2:26 for a 70-69 victory.
Owens would like the under-sized 2017-18 Comets to adopt some of the same qualities of that state title team.
“Our theme this year is attitude is everything,” said Owens, who doesn’t have to remind his players about the state championship team. “When they look up there [state championship banner] and they see 1992, I don’t have to say much.”
Unlike that Catonsville team, which lost in 1991 in the state finals, this year’s squad has very little varsity experience and they may have some growing pains after eight seniors graduated from last year’s 16-8 squad that lost to Dulaney in the sectional semifinals.
“It [winning] is not going to be a quick thing, it’s going to be a process and one thing we have to learn to do is enjoy that process,” Owens said.
The only returning players back from last season are seniors Shawn Wagstaff (6-feet, 2 inches), Amori Guadeloupe (6-3) and Mark Chambers (6-3).
Guadeloupe is coming off meniscus surgery on his knee.
All three veterans, as well as the other 10 players on the roster, are listed as guards, since the Comets have no natural power forward or center.
Owens isn’t overly concerned about the height disadvantage that his team will face in most games this season.
“That’s where the heart and the passion has to come through,” Owens said. “I tell my players, ‘If you go along and you hear what I’m saying, just capture my heart.’ ”
Senior captain Wagstaff has captured his heart and 6-4 sophomore Kelvin Spruill has as well.
“He [Spruill] is going to be a special one in three years because he works hard, he listens and he picks up things quickly,” said Owens, after a practice in which Spruill left the court after breaking his finger.
Owens is familiar with Spruill and the other nine first-year varsity players because they all played for him on the Catonsville JV, which he coached the past three years.
One of them is his son, Caleb Owens.
The 6-3 junior just started playing basketball in the ninth grade.
“He really improved from the 9th to the 10th grade,” Owens said.
Deonta Dunlap (6-3) was the leading scorer on last year’s JV squad that came up one game short of playing in the Baltimore County championship game.
“He’s one of our top shooters in the program,” Owens said. “I think he has a great chance to get into college at a small Division 1 level or high Division II level. I’m real excited about him.”
Dunlap is not the only Comet who is a danger shooting from the perimeter.
Chambers and juniors Jalen Jones (6-1), Will Caldwell and Ben Hall (6-0) and sophomore Mark Brady (5-11) are outside threats.
“We have guys who can hit shots,” said Owens, who played college basketball at Loyola University and got his first coaching gig as an assistant to former coach Jim Rhoads at Catonsville High.
Owens, who is in his fifth year as a behavior specialist at Catonsville High, expects his athletes to be able to wear down opponents by being in better shape.
“We are going to use our depth and we are going to use our speed and be aggressive on defense,” said Owens, who plans to use an entire roster, which also includes senior James Davis (5-8) and juniors Andrew McInerney (6-2) and Tiree Holmes (6-2).
“We are pushing these kids where they’ve never been pushed before,” said Owens, who had the team running hills at nearby Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville and on the track during the pre-season.
Don’t expect the starting lineup and substitution patterns to be the same every game.
“We are going to put them in spots where they are going to be successful and make some decisions,” Owens said.
That was the formula Catonsville coach Art Gamzon used for his 24-2 state championship team in 1992.
Owens, who played point guard, shooting guard and power forward, was listed at 6-feet, 3 inches on the 1992 state championship team and he was one inch taller than James Lewis, who could also play multiple positions and was a nightmare matchup.
Both were All-County first team selections and could take over a game from any position on the floor.
“How did we win those games?” Owens asked. “We played smart and that’s what we have to bring to this program, playing intelligent and understanding playing to who we are, and play according to who we are, and we will shock Baltimore County.”
Catonsville opens the season on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at home against Oakland Mills at 5:30 p.m. The Comets will also host Mount Hebron on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m.