Boys' Latin basketball coach Cliff Rees recently had a pleasant flashback.
When he looked into the stands prior to his game in early January at McDonogh, he saw Laker graduates Blair Brooks and Patrick Spencer, who played on last year's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference championship squad.
"They were there to see the game, and I wanted to go over and give them a hug and a uniform, and say, 'Let's suit up guys. Let's go,' " Rees said.
Rees could surely use Brooks and Spencer, along with ex-Laker and dominant big man Kodye Pugh, who transferred to Blair Academy in New Jersey in July.
If the trio was still around, the Lakers might not be struggling as much in its first season in the highly competitive MIAA A Conference.
Rees, who played college basketball at the Naval Academy with former NBA star David Robinson, worries that his squad could go winless in the league, considering it is 0-8 at the midway point of conference play.
And that hurts, especially knowing that Boys' Latin is talented enough to have won six non-conference games since mid-December.
"Hopefully, we will get our first win," he said. "But (going winless) is an absolute possibility."
How tough has the team's league schedule been?
Boys' Latin has faced seven teams in The Baltimore Sun's boys high school basketball rankings, including St. Frances, Mount St. Joseph, John Carroll, McDonogh, Glenelg Country, Calvert Hall and St. Vincent Pallotti.
"There haven't been any surprises," Rees said, whose teams have produced a combined 46-11 record the past two seasons in the B Conference. "These are the top teams in the state. It's a great opportunity for the kids. It's not hard to get the kids excited to go up against the Mount St. Joe's and John Carroll's and know every night out, they can prove what kinds of players they can be."
Even in defeat, BL boasts talented backcourt players in sophomore combo guard Jaylin Andrews and junior point guard Brandon Bradsher, both of whom are having standout seasons.
Rees said he expects both players, who are averaging 15 points per game, to play in college.
Bradsher's best game of the season came in a seven-point loss to McDonogh on Jan. 4, finishing a rebound shy of a triple-double (17 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds).
"He's got such a load on his shoulders with our young team," Rees said of a squad that only has two seniors on the roster. "He's just been fantastic. He gets us in our offense, handles pressure and the ball really well. I also need him to score. I need that balance from him — and he can do it."
Andrews provides the versatility that Rees loves, playing inside or outside while rebounding like a forward.
"He's had a terrific season and is our first or second leading rebounder," Rees said. "He's in a role, where he's had to do a little bit of it all. He's been our backup point guard and has played anywhere from the point guard spot to the power forward spot."
Boys' Latin lacks the height to match up with the A's Conference best inside players, such as Mount St. Joseph's Jalen Smith (6-feet-8), McDonogh's Bruce Moore (6-8) or Calvert Hall's Justin Gorham (6-7), a Towson University signee.
By contrast, the Lakers start sophomore center Kenny Lewis (6-2) and senior forward power forward Michael Morsberger (6-2).
Junior forward Graham Easton (6-3) and sophomore forward Christian Griffin (6-4) provide depth.
Lewis seems to have the toughest job on the team. He averages eight points and seven rebounds and he's earned a ton of praise from Rees.
"He gives up plenty of size," the coach said. "That's for sure. But he just plays hard and with a lot of heart."
Gilman coach Owen Daly said the struggles of Boys' Latin in the first half of the season has made them stronger.
The Greyhounds beat BL by three points in early December and played them again Jan. 13.
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"His team is scrapping and playing in a lot of close games," Daly said. "Cliff wants them to compete against the highest level teams and gain mental toughness and resiliency from doing that. Having the fight against the top competition will ultimately be good for them as a program."