Two years ago, after making the decision to transfer from Glenelg Country to Atholton following a disappointing sophomore campaign, Jordan Oates was determined to change the course of his high school basketball career.
Coming home to play alongside his older brother Justin, a senior leader for the Raiders last winter, wasn’t about giving up. It was about starting fresh.
“In my head, I felt like I needed to prove that I was better than I had shown when I was at Glenelg Country. By the second half of my sophomore year, I wasn’t really playing at all,” Oates said. “So when I came to Atholton, I set my mind on making a difference. I definitely wasn’t coming here thinking it was going to be easier or whatever. ... I was just determined to do everything I could to help change the program and make a mark.”
It’s safe to say Oates accomplished his mission.
Last winter, he averaged a double-double as a key piece on an Atholton team that won the program’s first county title since 2014. Then this season, as a senior captain himself, Oates took the next step by helping lead the program to its first region championship since 2009 thanks to a historic individual season.
He led the county in scoring (461 points, 17.7 average), rebounding (368 rebounds, 14.2 average) and 3-point shots made (66) — setting an Atholton program record for total rebounds and threes in a season. For his efforts, he has been named the Howard County boys basketball Player of the Year.
“The stats he put up last year on what was a very deep team spoke for themselves, but I think Jordan realized pretty early that for us to be successful again this season his role was going to have to be completely different. We needed him to become the face of the program,” Atholton coach Jared Albert said. “I think as the season went on he embraced that and grew into it. The jump that he took as a player was unbelievable and he leaves behind an unbelievable legacy. From both an individual and team perspective, he did it all in his two years here.”
Oates is the first Atholton player to be named the county’s top player since Tyrone Allmond earned the distinction in 1996.
The road to being named the county’s best wasn’t a straightforward one, though.
That sophomore season at Glenelg Country started promising enough, with Oates scoring 19 points in a season-opening win over Chapelgate. But things slowly deteriorated from there and from January on he only scored a combined 12 points the rest of the season.
The move to Atholton, a program Oates was familiar with after attending camps at the school growing up and then watching his brother play, seemed to reinvigorate him. But even Albert wasn’t quite sure how special of a player he was getting.
“From what I heard, he was pegged as mainly a perimeter player. Basically a shooter who could provide a little scoring. But man, he proved very quickly to be so much more than that,” Albert said.
With a solid 6-foot-4 frame, Oates proved more than willing to mix it up on the interior when needed. He excelled at out-jumping and out-muscling bigger players for rebounds and ended up as one of only two public-school players in Howard County to average a double double (10.2 points and 10.7 rebounds) during the 2018-19 season.
That proved to be just the appetizer for a tantalizing senior year.
He more than doubled his total points (215 to 461) and 3-pointers (29 to 66) from his junior season, while also posting the most total rebounds (368) by an Atholton player in a single season. He led Howard County in all three categories.
For good measure, he also finished second in the county in blocks with 45 (1.7 average).
Yet, for all the numbers he produced, Oates says it took a gut-check moment in December to help him realize what he had to do. In back-to-back losses against Oakland Mills and Glen Burnie, he scored a combined 19 points — what would end up being his lowest two-game stretch all season.
Albert called his senior leader in for a sit-down conversation.
“He basically brought me into his office and asked what my goal was for this season, and I told him I wanted to be Player of the Year. He basically told me if I wanted that I needed to start playing with more confidence and taking more leadership,” Oates said. “In my head, I think I knew everything he was saying, but it wasn’t until after that conversation that it all clicked.”
Oates responded by scoring 14 or more points in the next eight games, including a pair of double-doubles while leading Atholton to the holiday tournament title at Paint Branch and earning himself MVP honors.
Just as important as the season progressed was all the little things he did outside of scoring that helped Atholton win 11 of its last 12 games on the way to earning a spot in the state semifinals.
“As teams began doing everything they could to try and take the ball out of his hands, Jordan really embraced doing all those other things — getting rebounds, assists, steals and blocks — that made us a better basketball team,” Albert said.
Albert adds that during the playoffs, he saw something else develop in Oates.
“Unlike his brother Justin, Jordan has always been a quiet leader … almost no emotion when he’s on the court. But late this season, as we got into playoffs, there was a fire and drive in him that I had never seen before,” Albert said. “It was like something inside of him let loose and he exploded, which is something I think the guys really rallied around.”
Oates said the transformation surprised even him.
“I have no idea where that came from, but maybe it was just the whole win or go home thing being the end of my senior year,” he said. “All those emotions, they just came out. I was yelling after I made shots … that’s definitely not something I do.”
Oates ended up registering a double-double in all four of the Raiders’ playoff victories, including three efforts of more than 20 points and over 15 rebounds. While the postseason run was cut short prematurely by the cancellation of the state final four due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, he said he has no regrets.
“Sure, it would have been nice to get a chance to finish things out on the court, but it takes nothing away from what we did,” Oates said. “I was able to cross off all the boxes I had on my list, both individually and as a team, here at Atholton. I feel like everything happened for a reason and I’m grateful for my entire experience here.”
Looking ahead, Oates is headed to play at Salisbury University next year — a Division III program that has posted a winning record seven of the last eight years.
“Salisbury is not only getting a tremendous basketball player, but a tremendous person,” Albert said. “I’m just glad that he found his way back to us and was able to finish his high school career on such a high note. He’s been a program changer and, especially considering he was only here for two years, very few people can say that.”
Named to the All-County first team are (all selections based on voting by Howard County coaches):
Noah Batchelor, Glenelg Country, sophomore
Transferring into the program from St. Maria Goretti, the 6-foot-6 small forward wasted little time announcing himself as a force to be reckoned with. He scored 23 points in a season-opening win over Bishop O’Connell and never slowed down on the way to averaging a team-high 13.5 points per game playing against some of the state’s top players in the MIAA A Conference.
Batchelor ended up scoring over 20 points on six occasions, displaying an ability to score all over the floor. He proved himself particularly dangerous from beyond the 3-point arc, hitting 62 total triples on the season. He knocked down six 3-pointers in a one-point win over Archbishop Spalding, including a buzzer-beating shot that sent the game to overtime. He also hit the game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to defeat Seton Hall Prep at the Governor’s Challenge in December.
“There are a lot of shot taker at every level of basketball, but shot makers are the ones that stand out. Noah is a shot maker,” Glenelg Country coach Garrett O’Donnell said. “When defense would help off of him, he would make them pay with a dagger three from anywhere beyond the arc.”
He is already receiving extremely high level Division I college interest, including offers this past winter from Maryland, Georgetown and Memphis.
Barry Evans, Oakland Mills, junior
Possessing the skill set of a guard in a forward’s body, the 6-foot-6 Evans took the leap into superstar territory this winter. After averaging just 4.2 points a game and posting no double-digit scoring efforts as a sophomore on varsity, Evans scored 11 or more points in all but two games this season.
He set a new career high with 25 points in a win over Atholton and finished the year averaging 15.7 points per game. He also finished among the top 10 players in the county in rebounds (8.7 average), assists (3.6), steals (2.3) and blocks (1.4).
Further showcasing his versatility, he also made 27 threes and often was tasked with guarding the opposing team’s top scoring threat regardless of position.
“He grew leaps and bounds from his sophomore campaign, not only in stature, but also as a leader and basketball player,” Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne said. “His height, combined with his unique skill set, made him a nightmare matchup. He played all five positions for us on the court and his basketball IQ is high. But it was his on-the-ball defense in the latter half of the season that truly elevated his game.”
Cooper Haberern, Howard, junior
Transferring into the Lions’ program after a relatively quiet sophomore campaign (5.4 ppg) at Long Reach, Haberern quickly established himself as the leader of a rejuvenated Howard team this winter. As the Lions opened the year with eight wins in their first 11 games, following up a 1-15 county season, he started an individual string of 14 straight games scoring in double figures.
Included along the way was a career-high 26 points in a match-up against his former teammates at Long Reach in January. Overall, he scored fewer than 10 points only three times all year and his final scoring average of 16.9 points per game was fourth best in Howard County.
He was particularly dangerous from 3-point range — hitting 42 shots from behind the arc — and at the foul line (77.8 percent). And, for good measure, he tied for the league lead with an average of 3.0 steals per game.
“Cooper was able to make such a quick transition to our team because he has a very high basketball IQ and is very coachable. He also plays AAU with some of the guys on our team, so that also helped,” Howard coach Seth Willingham said. “Everyone has the green light as long as it is within what we are trying to do on offense, and his style of play just fits with what we do. We all had confidence in him.”
Bobby Hill, Reservoir, junior
For a Gators’ program that captured its first county championship this winter, Hill was the man in the middle of it all both literally and figuratively. Transferring into the school from Dematha, the 6-foot-6 forward was a dominating presence both offensively and defensively from the very beginning.
Hill scored 17 or more points in each of the team’s first six games and ended up scoring under 10 points on just three occasions all season. His 27 points in a road win over Gilman finished as a season high. While he thrived down low, he also boasted a dynamic mid-range game to go along with nine made 3-pointers. When teams sent him to the foul line, he shot just over 75 percent (81-107). He also wasn’t afraid to get his teammates involved when defenses sent double teams, averaging 3.2 assists per game.
But perhaps his greatest strength was the way he cleaned things up defensively, grabbing 13.3 rebounds per game and blocking a county-best 91 shots (3.8 average).
“As a transfer, Bobby not only found his identity on this team, but became this team’s identity,” Reservoir coach Ian Pope said. “Because he went to middle school with most of the other players on the team, his return made for a comfortable pairing. Bobby not only led us in points and rebounds, but became a constant game changer with his ability to pass, which consistently found open teammates for shots, and his ability to protect the rim.”
Nick Marshall, River Hill, junior
While a knee injury sidetracked his season in mid-December and cost him seven games, Marshall returned to the court and displayed the kind of playmaking ability that few in the area possess. And, while River Hill struggled out of the gate to a 4-7 record, once Marshall came back the team played some of its best basketball and finished 8-5 the rest of the way.
“I think Nick watching from the side for those few weeks gave him a different perspective and when he came back he played at a very good pace. He became that game-changer who took pressure off everyone else,” River Hill coach Matt Graves said. “When we needed a basket, he knew how to create for himself, either scoring or getting to the free throw line. When he got into his comfort zone, it was incredibly difficult for opposing defenses to slow him down.”
Marshall posted seven games of 20 or more points this winter, including a career-high 29 points against Marriotts Ridge, on the way to the county’s second-best scoring average of 17.2 points per game. He hit 27 3-pointers and shot 71.8 percent from the foul line, while also finishing among the top 10 in the county in steals per game (2.5 average).
Now a two-time All-County selection, Marshall is garnering significant Division I college interest that already includes offers in the last year from Loyola and Howard Universities.
John Miller, Marriotts Ridge, junior
After showing glimpses of star potential during the second half of last year, Miller took the next step this winter as the unquestioned leader of a young Marriotts Ridge team that produced one of the best seasons in program history. With Miller scoring in double figures in every contest but two on his way to an average of 17.1 points per game, the Mustangs went 16-7 — achieving the third-most victories in program history.
Displaying a deft shooting touch, a quick release and a savvy array of one-on-one moves, Miller scored in a variety of ways. He made 38 3-pointers and shot 75 percent from the foul line on the season, going for a career-high 30 points in a win over Long Reach. He was at his best late in the season, scoring 21 or more points in four of the team’s final six games and 24 in a victory over county-champion Reservoir.
He also ranked among the top 10 in the county in rebounds (6.9 average), assists (4.8) and blocks (1.1).
“John is a coach on the floor, echoing the coaches words and helping execute our game plan on the court. He wasn’t always the leading scorer, but knew what he had to do and when to do it both offensively and defensively,” Marriotts Ridge coach Tim Brady said. “He’ll shut down your best player and still score points and create plays. He is a role model and leader for our young team.”
Joey Sedlacko, Centennial, senior
A model of consistency, Sedlacko was the versatile and steady presence on a nightly basis for an Eagles team that featured a balanced attack. He scored in double figures in all but four games on the way to an average of 15.1 points per game for a team that ended up tied for second place in the county standings.
“Joey has been consistent from the point he first set foot in the building, averaging between 14 and 15 points every year regardless of whether he was on JV or varsity. Being able to count on him each and every game, as a coach it makes your job so much easier,” Centennial coach Chris Sanders said. “And while the numbers have stayed relatively the same, I really thought he became so much more than just a jump shooter this year. He could finish with both hands in traffic, became a better ball handler and his versatility as both a scorer and defender allowed us to create some match up problems. Defensively, he could guard every position on the floor.”
Sedlacko went for a season-high 23 points on two occasions — victories over Annapolis and Atholton. In addition to scoring average, he also finished among the top 10 in the county in assists (4.1 average) and free-throw percentage (79.7).
Second Team All-County
Bryson Baker, Centennial, junior guard. Finished second on the Eagles in scoring (11.4 points per game), hitting 32 3-pointers, making 75.5 percent of his foul shots, to go along with a county-leading three steals a game. He scored a career-high 27 points in a win over Oakland Mills and 25 in a playoff victory over Marriotts Ridge.
Jordan Brathwaite, Glenelg Country, senior forward. Finished third on the Dragons in scoring (9.4 ppg) as a starter on the interior. The team went 9-3 when he scored in double figures. Brathwaite posted a season-high 23 points in a win over Gerstell. He also had a handful of double-doubles, including a 15-point and 22-rebound effort against John Carroll in early February.
Raymond Brown, Atholton, senior guard. Finished as the second-leading scorer (12.8 ppg) for the region-champion Raiders, including a stretch of 13 straight games scoring in double figures to close the regular season into the playoffs. Brown registered a career-high 24 points in a win over Centennial. He made 24 3-pointers on the season and added an average of 2.2 assists per game.
DJ Hopkins, Oakland Mills, senior guard. He finished as one of only three county players to score over 13 points a game (13.7) and also average more than four assists (4.2). Hopkins, who hit 50 3-pointers on the season, had the highest single-game scoring total of any player in the county this season with 36 points in an overtime win against Glenelg.
Jaylen Manning, Reservoir, senior guard. Led the county in assists per game (5.3), while also finishing as the third leading scorer on the Gators (10.6 ppg). He made 21 3-point shots and also averaged 2.2 steals per game. Manning scored a career-high 21 points in a win over Wilde Lake in January.
Marcus Mitchell, Wilde Lake, senior guard. Finished the season averaging 13.5 points per game — second-best on the team — while also averaging 3.2 assists and making 71.7 percent of his foul shots. He scored a season-high 23 points in wins over Oakland Mills and Manchester Valley. Mitchell closed the season with six straight games scoring 12 or more points, helping lead the Wildecats to the 3A East Region I title.
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Truth Norton, Oakland Mills, senior guard. Finished sixth in the county in scoring (16.3 ppg) and one stretch where he scored 28 or more points in five straight games. Included in the run was a career-high 32 points in a win over Dundalk. Overall, he finished with three games of 30 or more points — the most of any county player — and made 33 3-pointers on the season.