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Oakland Mills' Eaton cements legacy as Howard County boys basketball Player of Year

Oakland Mills' Eaton cements legacy as Howard County boys basketball Player of Year
Senior Daeshawn Eaton graduates having scored 1,121 career points, ranking him second on the Oakland Mills' all-time scoring list. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Daeshawn Eaton has heard people call him “one of the best to ever play at Oakland Mills,” many times.

The Scorpions senior has certainly earned the distinction, finishing second on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,121 career points. He’s also one of only six players in Howard County history to compile more than 1,000 points, 400 rebounds and 250 assists.

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But when he himself utters those words in relation to his legacy, there’s still a certain amount of disbelief.

“It’s amazing, it really is. People have told me about all the great Oakland Mills players, so it’s definitely special to be in that group,” Eaton said. “And I guess for me, it goes to show how hard I worked on my craft every day the last few years. It all paid off.”

Considering he played junior varsity his freshman year at Wilde Lake and then again started his sophomore year on JV after transferring to Oakland Mills, Eaton’s road to becoming one of the area’s all-time greats was far from a straight line.

But, for as inconspicuous as the start was, Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne says there’s no denying the impact player that he became by the finish.

“He just really blossomed into a tremendous player and it was fun to watch. He will go down as one of the greatest legends to walk the halls of Oakland Mills High School and that’s incredibly special,” Browne said. “He’s well deserving of all the accolades and it’s a credit to the fact that he brings it every single time he steps on the court, whether it’s practice or a game.”

In his final high school season this winter, Eaton finished among the top two county players in total points (first with 499), steals (first with 83) and assists (second with 114). He helped guide the Scorpions to a 19-6 overall record and an appearance in the 2A South regional title game.

For those efforts as both a leader statistically and as a teammate, he has been named the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier boys basketball Player of the Year.

Looking back at his journey, Eaton says some of those early setbacks of not making varsity — both at Wilde Lake and at Oakland Mills — were the exact kind of fuel he needed.

“My freshman year at Wilde Lake, I kept thinking I was going to get bumped up and it never happened, and then after I transferred again I think I was just in a position where I had to prove myself,” he said. “I knew I didn’t belong on JV, but it was up to me to prove that to everyone else. That was my main motivation.”

By the fourth game of his sophomore season at Oakland Mills, following a game on JV against Glenelg where Eaton came one block away from a quadruple double, Browne said there was no choice but to bring him up.

“Yeah, we realized that we made a mistake pretty quickly on that one,” Browne said. “I think he came off the bench and scored 10 or 12 points his first varsity game and then started every game the rest of the year.”

Eaton ended up averaging 10 points per game as a sophomore, second most for a Scorpions’ team that went 8-16 overall.

The following season he made the jump toward becoming one of the county’s elite offensive players. He finished his junior year as the county’s leading scorer in terms of points per game (16.9) and garnered first-team All-County honors.

But, as it turned out, all the production turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what his final season in the orange and black would yield. Eaton improved his averages in every single category, points (20.0), rebounds (7.1), assists (4.6), steals (3.3) and 3-pointers made (26) this winter.

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He was able to affect the game in so many different ways, according to Browne, but none more important than his ability to make the big play when his team needed it most.

“‘Dae Dae’ was that consistent force for us and, from a coaching perspective, we gave him the freedom to take a game over when the situation called for it,” Browne said. “His ability to get to the rim was unbelievable. We would jokingly call him ‘plastic man’ because of his ability to contort his body in so many different ways and then finish off the glass. He is a very fun player to watch.”

The senior point guard scored in double figures in every game but two, including a career-high 31 points in an early-season win over Catonsville.

Eaton still has not made any decisions in relation to college, but he’s adamant that basketball will be part of his future in some capacity.

“There’s definitely another chapter to be written. I’m just waiting on the right opportunity,” he said.

All-County First and Second Team and Honorable Mention for the 2017-18 Howard County boys basketball season.
All-County First and Second Team and Honorable Mention for the 2017-18 Howard County boys basketball season. (Chart)

Named to first-team All-County are:

Odell Dickerson, Mt. Hebron, senior

Returning to the Vikings for his final high school season after spending his sophomore and junior seasons playing at Chapelgate, Dickerson announced himself as one of the county’s elite players right away. He scored what ended up being a season-high 35 points in the first game of the year against Long Reach and rarely slowed down.

As a combo guard, he ranked fourth in the county in scoring (19.1 points per game) and eighth in rebounding (7.8 rpg). He also was tied for fourth among public school players with 47 made 3-point shots.

“Odell was just so complete, doing a little bit of everything. And I think the thing that he surprised a lot of people with is how good of a shooter he is,” Mt. Hebron coach Jared Ettinger said. “His athletic ability allowed him to score in so many different ways and I think he exceeded expectations in almost every aspect.”

Dickerson scored 20 or more points on 13 different occasions this winter, helping Mt. Hebron to a winning record (13-12) and a pair of playoff wins for the first time this decade.

Brandon Held, Marriotts Ridge, senior

The Mustangs’ lead guard will go down as one of the greatest players in program history, finishing his career with 1,026 points — joining Robert Davis as Marriotts Ridge’s only 1,000-point scorers. Ever since joining the varsity team as a sophomore, he’s had a nose for the basket. But the ways in which he was able to score the basketball have evolved.

“Every year he’s added a dimension to his game. At first he was just this outside shooter, then he became a shooter who could attack the glass for putbacks and then this year he established himself as someone who could also get to the rim,” coach Tim Brady said. “And when he got to the rim, he could finish and a lot of times it was with a dunk … that’s a piece of his game that he definitely didn’t have a couple years ago.”

Held finished sixth in the county in points per game (17.3) this winter, an average nearly five points higher than his junior season. None of his outings were more impressive than the 30 points he scored during a one-point win over Oakland Mills in early January.

Held added averages of 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists to help round out his impact for a Mustangs’ team that finished 14-9 overall.

A list of the Howard County boys basketball stat leaders in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, free throws and 3-pointers made for the 2018-19 season.
A list of the Howard County boys basketball stat leaders in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, free throws and 3-pointers made for the 2018-19 season.
Micah Henry, Hammond, senior

No county player showcased a bigger jump offensively this winter than Henry, who averaged a league-best 21.3 points per game after averaging just 10.1 points as a junior. He combined with fellow senior guard Jaylen Wiggins, a transfer into the program, to account for more than 70 percent of the Golden Bears’ scoring.

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Henry scored more than 30 points on three occasions, including a season-high 33 in a non-county victory over Southern. In the team’s final regular season game against Marriotts Ridge, he eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career and his 1,018 total points rank him third all-time on the Hammond scoring list.

“He definitely worked on his shooting since coming up to varsity his sophomore year and you could tell by the fact that after hitting just four threes as a sophomore, he hit 22 this year. He’s a gym rat that worked on his game nonstop and turned into an incredibly dangerous scorer,” coach Mike Salapata said. “I think he really embraced being the No. 1 guy, trusting the plays we were running and learning how to adjust to how teams we were guarding him.”

In addition to the scoring, Henry also finished as a team leader in rebounds (5.1 rpg), assists (3.4 apg) and steals (2.0 spg).

Trea Keys, Wilde Lake, senior

The Wildecats’ point guard graduates as a three-time first-team All-County honoree, including being named the Howard County Player of the Year as a sophomore. After seeing a slight dip in his scoring last year (16.0 ppg) for a Wilde Lake team that finished with a record below .500, Keys was back among the elite offensive players in the area this winter, finishing fifth in the county with a scoring average of 17.8 points a game.

His production, along with the emergence of fellow senior Marc Marshall as a second-team All-County performer, helped the Wildecats finish 15-8 overall.

“His maturity and experience, along with having that partner in crime this year in Marc, led to him having an outstanding senior season,” Wilde Lake coach Deon Wingfield said. “As a coach, seeing the progression of Trea as a player and the legacy that he was able to build has been incredibly special to watch. He obviously has the skill, but it’s his basketball IQ that I think sets him apart. He evolved as a player, figured out different ways to help the team as a scorer and as a facilitator, and forever left his imprint on this program.”

Keys, who was pulled up to varsity at the end of his freshman season, finishes second on the Wilde Lake all-time scoring list with 1,242 career points. He scored 20 or more points on eight occasions this year, with the Wildecats going 7-1 in those games. He hit 37 threes and shot 84.1 percent from the foul line (106-for-126).

Keys also posted a career-high 3.7 assists per game this winter.

The final standings for Howard County boys basketball during the 2018-19 season.
The final standings for Howard County boys basketball during the 2018-19 season. (chart)
Josh Odunowo, Reservoir, senior

A finalist for Player of the Year honors, Odunowo is a first-team All-County honoree for a second straight season. Few players could take over a game like he could, something that was on full display during the team’s run to the 3A state finals for the first time in program history.

Overall this winter, he improved his scoring to a team-best 15.5 points per game, including six games with 21 or more, and he led the county in rebounding (13.9 rpg) and blocked shots (4.4 bpg). In the Gators’ five postseason games, those numbers were even better — including a 29-point, 23-rebound, five-block performance in the 3A East regional championship game against Northeast.

“That regional final game might be one of the best single performances I have ever witnessed. He refused to let us lose. And I think that game, and the entire playoffs really, showcased just how much he has grown as a player,” Reservoir coach Mike Coughlan said. “The defense, the energy and the effort all comes naturally, but we really challenged him to grow these last two years offensively. So to see how far he came in that area this season, peaking during the playoffs, I was just so incredibly proud of him.”

Coughlan adds that after playing JV as a freshman and sophomore, Odunowo’s work ethic to become one of the program’s all-time greats was second-to-none.

Chase Paar, Glenelg Country, senior

After being hampered early this year with a variety of ailments, including a back injury and the flu, Paar picked up steam by the middle of January and never slowed down. On his way to finishing with a scoring average of 14.5 points per game, he scored 11 or more points in each of his final 13 contests.

The 6-foot-9 George Washington University signee was a true dual threat offensively, capable of scoring both inside and outside, and an imposing presence on the defensive end — averaging 10.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

“The thing about Chase is that he has great hands and that made him a perfect player to run our offense through. I know he likes to shoot the ball, but we worked on getting him comfortable dominating that war zone down in the paint,” Glenelg Country coach Garrett O’Donnell said. “We worked to get him touches on every possession and with his size, strength and vision he was terrific at getting looks for not only himself but his teammates as well.”

O’Donnell said there were lots of standout performances from Paar, but his consistent play during a stretch of three wins in four days at the Maryland Independent Schools Tournament Championship was at the top of the list. In the championship contest, a 69-55 win over Gilman, Paar scored a team-high 23 points.

Casey Parkins, Atholton, senior

On a county-champion Raiders team with plenty of versatility and depth, Parkins established himself as the leader. He averaged 16.7 points per game, which was eighth most among county players.

But just as important as the points was the consistency with which he accumulated them, scoring in double figures in every game but two and going for 13 or more in each of his final 11 games this winter. His season high of 26 points came in a season-opening win over Centennial.

“He put a ton of time in during the offseason to become that top guy for us, going from [11.5] points last year to up around 17 a game this year. He just was absolutely a true scorer that could go and get a bucket when we needed it,” Atholton coach Jared Albert said. “He has a high motor and this year he went from being primarily a perimeter-oriented guy to someone who could really get to the rim. And I think that ability to better read the defense and score in different ways resulted in him being an extremely efficient scorer as well.”

Parkins ended the season with 33 made 3-pointers and also showcased some of his versatility with averages of 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game.

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