Street & Smith's, USA Today and The Associated Press say Dunbar is the country's No. 1 high school basketball team. But in a season in which many of the area's perennial contenders are rebuilding, Southern, Walbrook and Cardinal Gibbons are primed make the Poets prove they are No. 1 in the Baltimore area.
The season begins tomorrow.
The Poets appear awesome, with three potential high school All-Americans, Donta Bright, Michael Lloyd and Keith Booth, but local coaches aren't conceding.
"I think, on any given day, anybody can be beat," said Walbrook coach Gus Herrington. "It depends on how much a team works together and really goes after them [Dunbar]."
Dunbar will open against Blackhawk High of Beaver Falls, Pa., at 7 tomorrow night at the Bergman Cambria County War Memorial Invitational Tournament in Johnstown, Pa.
The Poets also will participate in tournaments this month in St. Louis, Honolulu and Myrtle Beach, S.C. In January, they will play in a tournament in Erie, Pa., and in the Charm City Classic at Towson State, Jan. 17-18, before turning their full attention to the defense of their Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference title.
Dunbar and Southern are the teams to beat in the A Conference, but Walbrook and Gibbons will challenge.
Edmondson, which lost to Carver in last year's B Conference final, is favored to unseat the two-time defending champions this season, but Carver, along with McDonogh and Douglass, will offer the Redskins their toughest competition.
Severn returns experience from last year's team, which finished second in one division of the MSA C Conference, so look for the Admirals to set the pace, but perennial contenders Boys' Latin and St. Paul's won't be far behind.
In Anne Arundel County's 4A League, Annapolis, Broadneck, Old Mill, Severna Park and Meade are contenders. Southern is the favorite in the 3A-2A league.
Aberdeen gets the nod in Harford County, and Oakland Mills should win its fifth straight Howard County title. South Carroll and Westminster are the top teams in Carroll County but are dark horses in the Central Maryland Conference.
Here is a look at the preseason top 20, with last season's records in parentheses.
1 Dunbar (27-1)
* Donta Bright (16 points per game, 12 rebounds per game), Michael Lloyd (21 ppg, 10.1 assists per game) and Keith Booth (15 ppg, 8 rpg, 3 apg) should live up to their billings, but coach Pete Pompey says that if the Poets are going to finish the season No. 1 in the country, those three will need help. In the backcourt, help should come from 6-1 senior Cyrus Jones, the first guard off the bench last season, and 5-9 senior Paul Banks, a reserve last season. The Poets expect help up front from 6-4 senior Ahmed Childs, 6-3 sophomore Michael Cooper, 6-3 junior Yashida King and 6-7 sophomore Alexander Mobley. Mobley, a standout on last season's championship junior varsity and the younger brother of former Lake Clifton standout Thomas Jordan, is key because, if he can fit in at center, the Poets can move Bright from center to his more natural position at forward.
2 Southern (17-7)
* If Dunbar is No. 1 in the country, then this team belongs somewhere in the top 20. Southern returns six regulars from last season's team, which finished No. 2. Kwame Evans, a 6-6 senior guard, is one of the country's top recruits, along with 6-8 junior center Abdul Brown. Swingman Derrick Watkins (6-5), Kevin Simpson (6-5) and Tyrone Smith (6-4) give the Bulldogs an athletic lineup that can't be matched by many teams. Damon Cason, a 6-1 sophomore point guard who was an understudy to his brother David last season, is probably the key. The Bulldogs have even more talent with 6-7 sophomore Ronnie Thomas, a transfer from Walbrook.
3 Walbrook (11-7)
* The Warriors are loaded with talent, size and experience and could offer a serious challenge to Dunbar and Southern. Coach Gus Herrington's team should be led by 6-7 senior forward Jermaine Porter, who averaged 15 points and seven rebounds last season. Forward Shamar Bass (12 ppg, 9 rpg) and point guard Sean Evans (10 ppg, 5 apg) also started last season. Andre Rafus, a 6-7 junior, gives the Warriors added height, along with 6-7 Joe Wilson, a reserve last season. Antwan Wingo (5-11) transferred from St. Frances. The Warriors are back home for the first time in three years, now that asbestos removal is completed at the Walbrook Junction campus. Eric Carroll, a talented guard who also transferred from St. Frances, is ineligible.
4 Cardinal Gibbons (24-10)
* Gibbons is the team to beat in the Catholic League and the Crusaders also will contend in the MSA A Conference. Two starters return from last season -- 5-10 senior guard Quintin Moody and 6-1 senior guard/forward Damon Fleary -- and Chuckie Lee, a 6-2 senior forward who sat out last season with a knee injury also is back. Moody (17.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is one of the area's top five players. The Cardinals suffered a blow when senior forward Eugene Marshall, an All-Metro football running back, decided to sit out this season to work on his studies. Marshall would have been unable to play in Catholic League games, because he had used up his four years of eligibility. Troy Green, a 6-1 junior, moves up from a 23-2 JV.
5 Annapolis (21-4)
* The Panthers will carry seven sophomores, but this may not be quite the down year that some predict. Coach John Brady still has leadership and senior experience in 6-5 guard Rob Wooster (15.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg), one of the area's top recruits and best three-point shooters. He is joined by fellow seniors Marvin Brown (6-1 forward), Josh Gannon (6-2 guard) and Tim Howell (6-2 forward). Point guard Lozonnah James and forward Wendell Williams, both 6-2 juniors, played often last year.
6 Lake Clifton (14-6)
* The Lakers are small and lack experience, but don't count them out. Coach Charlie Moore has a group of hustlers led by 5-8 junior Kevin Norris, the first guard off the bench last season. Anthony Lang, a 6-2 senior forward, is the only starter back and the only big man with experience. Freshman Shawnta Rogers (5-0) and Ronald Byrd (6-2) will play a lot. The Lakers are looking for help inside from newcomers Terrence Payne, a 6-5 sophomore up from the JV, and Anthony Wright, a 6-4 junior transfer from City.
7 St. Frances (20-8)
* Starters Antwan Wingo and Eric Carroll transferred to Walbrook, but the Panthers, who won the Catholic League regular-season title last season, should be OK. A key will be the development of powerful center Mike Smith, a 6-7 senior with talent. Guard Phil Dixon, a 6-0 senior, is one of the area's best three-point shooters. A host of varsity reserves from last season -- Orlando Ranson (6-2), Corey Drumgold (5-8), Jason Morgan (6-5) and Terry Brogden (6-2) -- also are ready to step in. Two 6-3 transfers -- Tony Massenburg (Mount St. Joseph) and Patrick Johnson (Overlea) also are expected to contribute.
8 Towson Catholic (8-19)
* The Owls have one of the area's best players in 6-7 senior center Tony Bishop (17 ppg, 7.9 rpg) who already has signed with South Alabama. Coach Mike Daniels is expecting good things from guard Sydney Johnson, a 6-3 senior transfer from Minnesota. The Owls have to survive a tough early schedule that includes nationally ranked DeMatha, Simon Gratz and Harker Prep.
9 Edmondson (13-5)
* Three starters return for the Redskins, who finished second to Carver in the MSA B Conference last season. Maurice Blanding, a 6-4 junior forward averaged 20 points and 13 rebounds and Randolph Edison, a 5-7 sophomore point guard, averaged 16 points and six assists. Devin Ross, a 6-1 senior guard, also spent some time as a starter last season. Eddie Rivers, a 6-2 sophomore forward, moves up from the JV, where he led that team to a second-place finish behind Carver.
10 Oakland Mills (17-8)
* Oakland Mills is the team to beat in Howard County, as the Scorpions shoot for their fifth straight county title. Coach Dave Appleby will emphasize a power game with returning 6-5 senior center Marc Terry, who averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds, and 6-4 senior forward Gregg Washington, who averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds. Wade McHargue, a 6-7 junior center, is up from JV. Senior transfers Michael Phillips (6-2) and John Hilliard (5-11) will fill what would have been a weakness at the guard position.
11 Carver (14-4)
* Four players return for the two-time defending MSA B Conference champions, led by 6-4 senior center Rodney Black and 6-3 forward Mike Richardson. The Bears will be inexperienced at guard. Coach Durce Jackson says defense again will be their forte. Carver is 28-6 during the past two seasons.
12 Catonsville (25-1)
* Though Catonsville graduated three key starters, Gamzon says they have enough returning talent to make another run at the state playoffs. Returning are 5-8 point guard Travis Jerrell, 6-1 shooting guard Robby Reich and forwards Teron Owens (6-2) and James Lewis (6-2). Gamzon said this year's team may try to slow the ball -- quite a change from last season's run-and-gun attack.
13 Milford Mill (15-5)
* The rumors that talented 6-7 sophomore center Norman Nolan was transferring to Dunbar or DeMatha were just that -- rumors. Nolan, one of the area's most dominating inside players last season, averaged 16.3 points and an area-leading 15.0 rebounds. After growing 2 inches during the off-season, he again will be the focal point of the Millers offense. Complementing the sophomore will be 6-2 senior forward Kevin English, 5-11 shooting guard Chianti Stansbury, 5-9 junior Carl Schattall and 5-10 sophomore Kenny Bostic, a transfer from Towson Catholic.
14 Aberdeen (18-6)
* The Eagles have the top backcourt combination in Harford County, in 5-7 senior Demont Blackmon and 5-8 senior Demetrius Harris. Blackmon, who averaged 12.3 points and nearly five assists, is the most explosive player in Harford County. Harris averaged 6.7 points and five assists. Senior center Richard Johnson (6-6) should add balance inside.
15 Calvert Hall (8-18)
* The Cardinals have experience, with five regulars back from last season. The Cardinals will compete with a running game, using their quickness and versatility. Chris Wilson, a 6-6 junior, who averaged 10 points last season, is the top returnee. Point guard Greg Metrinko (5-9) averaged four assists and 6-4 forward Luther Alexander averaged eight rebounds.
16 Woodlawn (15-8)
* They may not have height, but the Woodlawn Warriors make up for that with a balanced scoring attack. Woodlawn, a regional semifinalist a season ago, returns five seniors, including a trio of playmakers in 5-11 point guard Sean Monroe, 5-11 forward Trent Thomas and 6-0 guard Damontre Owens. Each possesses quickness and a knack for hitting the outside shot. Last year, the Warriors defense allowed a little more than 50 points a game.
17 Loyola (20-13)
* Only one regular is back for the Dons, but in a season in which only Gibbons seems to be a solid contender in the Catholic League, Loyola could improve on last season's fourth-place finish. Steve Kraning, a 6-6 senior forward, started 13 of 32 games last season and averaged 9.6 points. He led the Dons in three-point field goals with 36. Junior guard Warren Parker (5-10) and junior forward Jerry Hunt (6-3) were varsity reserves last season who could start this season. Wes Unseld Jr., a 6-3 junior forward, will make his debut on the varsity this season.
18 Broadneck (20-5)
* The Bruins return their top scorer, 6-1 forward Jeff Vincent (13.5 ppg), and top rebounder, 6-3 forward Matt Weimer (8.2 rpg). Also back is 6-0 guard Maurice Washington, who averaged 12.2 points in the last nine games. All are seniors. The Bruins will be quicker than in the past, but will still play a control-pace game.
19 McDonogh (11-11)
* The Eagles may be the dark horse in the B Conference. Six players return, led by the senior backcourt of Ayinde Stewart and Todd Borz. They will have size in the frontcourt with 6-8 senior Matt Harley, but they lack experience.
20 Severna Park (7-10)
* The Falcons return nine players, including four starters from a team that improved dramatically toward the end of last season. The biggest gun is 6-5 senior guard Scott Brown (16.6 ppg), who will team with 6-3 senior Craig Dorsey (a transfer from Arundel) in the backcourt. The veteran front line includes 6-6 senior center Rich Riffle and 6-5 senior forward Gerald Cager.
The 10 best
Player. . . . . . . School. . . . . Hgt. . . Yr. . . Pos. Tony Bishop. . . . . . . Tow. Catholic . 6-7. . . Sr. . . F/C
Keith Booth. . . . . . . Dunbar. . . . . 6-7. . . Jr. . . F
Donta Bright . . . . . . Dunbar. . . . . 6-6. . . Sr. . . C/F
Kwame Evans. . . . . . . Southern-B. . . 6-6. . . Sr. . . G/F
Michael Lloyd. . . . . . Dunbar. . . . . 6-2. . . Sr. . . G
Quintin Moody. . . . . . Gibbons . . . . 5-10 . . Sr. . . G
Norman Nolan . . . . . . Milford Mill. . 6-7. . . So. . .C/F
Jermaine Porter. . . . . Walbrook. . . . 6-7. . . Sr. . . F
Albert Smith . . . . . . Dulaney . . . . 6-3. . . Sr. . . F
Rob Wooster. . . . . . . Annapolis . . . 6-5. . . Sr. . . G
50 others to watch
L Player. . . . . . . . School. . . . . Hgt. . . Yr. . . Pos.
Ravon Austin . . . . . . Old Mill. . . . 5-11 . . Sr. . . G
Shamar Bass. . . . . . . Walbrook. . . . 6-2. . . Sr. . . F
Albert Battle. . . . . . Douglass. . . . 6-8. . . Sr. . . C
Damian Biggs . . . . . . Centennial. . . 6-3. . . Jr. . . F
Rodney Black . . . . . . Carver. . . . . 6-4. . . Sr. . . C
Demont Blackmon. . . . . Aberdeen. . . . 5-7. . . Sr. . . G
Maurice Blanding . . . . Edmondson . . . 6-4. . . Jr. . . F
Todd Borz. . . . . . . . McDonogh. . . . 5-11 . . Sr. . . G
Rob Bouse St.. . . . . . Paul's. . . . . 5-9. . . Sr. . . G
Abdul Brown. . . . . . . Southern-B. . . 6-8. . . Jr. . . C
Marvin Brown . . . . . . Annapolis . . . 6-1. . . Sr. . . F
Scott Brown. . . . . . . Severna Park. . 6-5. . . Sr. . . G
Damon Cason. . . . . . . Southern-B. . . 6-1. . . So. . . G
Steve Chaires. . . . . . Fallston. . . . 6-0. . . Sr. . . G
Ira Crawley. . . . . . . Wilde Lake. . . 6-5. . . Sr. . . C
Phil Dixon St. . . . . . Frances . . . . 6-0. . . Sr. . . G
Mike Downs South . . . . Carroll . . . . 6-5. . . Sr. . . F
Randolph Edison. . . . . Edmondson . . . 5-7. . . So. . . G
Sean Evans . . . . . . . Walbrook. . . . 5-11 . . Sr. . . G
Frank Hardin . . . . . . Patterson . . . 6-6. . . Sr. . . C
Demetrius Harris . . . . Aberdeen. . . . 5-8. . . Sr. . . G
Bernard Hopkins. . . . . Overlea . . . . 6-6. . . Sr. . . F
Sydney Johnson . . . . . Tow. Catholic . 6-3. . . Sr. . . G
Cyrus Jones. . . . . . . Dunbar. . . . . 6-1. . . Sr. . . G
Steve Kraning. . . . . . Loyola. . . . . 6-6. . . Sr. . . F
Joe Kreit. . . . . . . . F.S. Key. . . . 6-1. . . Sr. . . F
Anthony Lang . . . . . . Lake Clifton. . 6-2. . . Sr. . . F
Chuckie Lee. . . . . . . Gibbons . . . . 6-2. . . Sr. . . F
Keith McArthur . . . . . Randallstown. . 6-4. . . Sr. . . F
Sean Monroe. . . . . . . Woodlawn. . . . 5-11 . . Sr. . . G
Kevin Norris . . . . . . Lake Clifton. . 5-8. . . Jr. . . G
Gene Pleyo . . . . . . . Northeast . . . 6-1. . . Sr. . . G
Mike Richardson. . . . . Carver. . . . . 6-3. . . Sr. . . F
Tom Saunders . . . . . . Boys' Latin . . 5-9. . . Jr. . . F
Jeff Servidio. . . . . . Mt. St. Joseph. 6-2. . . Sr. . . F/G
Mike Smith . . . . . . . St. Frances . . 6-7. . . Sr. . . C
Ayinde Stewart . . . . . McDonogh. . . . 5-11 . . Sr. . . G
Marc Terry . . . . . . . Oakland Mills . 6-5. . . Sr. . . C
Brian Van Deusen . . . . Atholton. . . . 6-2. . . Sr. . . G
Wes Van Wambeke. . . . . Ches.-AA. . . . 6-4. . . Sr. . . F
Jeff Vincent . . . . . . Broadneck . . . 6-1. . . Sr. . . F
Rob Vocke. . . . . . . . Parkville . . . 6-4. . . Sr. . . F
Calvin Warfield. . . . . Westminster . . 5-8. . . Sr. . . G
Gregg Washington . . . . Oakland Mills . 6-4. . . Sr. . . F
Derrick Watkins. . . . . Southern-B. . . 6-5. . . Sr. . . G/F
Anthony Wright . . . . . Lake Clifton. . 6-4. . . Jr. . . F
Chris Wilson . . . . . . Calvert Hall. . 6-6. . . Jr. . . F/C
Alan Wise. . . . . . . . Forest Park . . 6-2. . . Sr. . . G
Lawr. Worthington. . . . Edgewood. . . . 6-1. . . Sr. . . F
Ted Wolfe. . . . . . . . Glen Burnie . . 6-2. . . Sr. . . F