Skinny kid goes in, star emerges from Poets' Booth Player of the Year


In 1989, he was a skinny freshman in glasses, full of potential. The next year, he displayed maturity under pressure for one of nation's top teams and was rewarded with a spot on The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro squad.

His junior season was spent doing the dirty work under the boards while Michael Lloyd and Donta Bright received the accolades for a national championship squad.

Accepting different roles has been easy for Dunbar's Keith Booth, The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

And his final season was no different. Except this time, there was plenty of attention to go with the new role.

The lone returning starter, Booth carried the Poets and was treated like a star on one of the nation's top high school basketball teams.

As he did off the court, Booth handled pressure with an effortless grace, leading the Poets in scoring with 21.3 points a game and averaging 9.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists. More important, he kept a young Poets squad together as it matured.

For a third straight season, Dunbar was No. 1 in the area, and for the first time will be adding a state Class 1A championship banner to its gymnasium.

"It wasn't really pressure," he said. "I called it going out on the court and carrying that pride on your shoulder called 'Dunbar Pride' in the community. Dunbar has a great tradition of players and winning."

Now 6 feet 7 and a solid 210 pounds, Booth looks like the prototypical high school power forward or center, but versatility is what sets Booth apart. He can rebound and score in the paint. He can bring up the ball and help set up the offense. He can find the open man under double- and triple-teams.

"Consistency is what he has given for the previous three years," Dunbar coach Pete Pompey said. "What he had to do for us this year for this team that had no experience outside of him was incredible. People don't really realize how he withheld his game and did things for us in helping bring the other kids along."

Some of the awards for Booth this season include second-team Parade magazine All-America and McDonald's All-America selections, following in the steps of Dunbar's All-Americans of last season, Bright and Lloyd.

Bright, now at the University of Massachusetts and sitting out as a Proposition 48 freshman, was shy and unassuming, letting his play on the court speak for him. Lloyd, who was the leading scorer in at San Jacinto College, a two-year school, was a showman and a talker.

Booth appreciates the attention for his hard work, but, at times, it was difficult being the No. 1 high school basketball player in the state.

"There were some times that it was hard being Keith Booth," he said. "But I realize now in order to be a great player, you have to accept the attention that comes with it."

Booth will participate in the McDonald's All-America game April 4 in Memphis, Tenn., and the Capital Classic on April 8 at Cole Field House. Then he will sign a letter of intent to play for the University of Maryland.

Where, once again, he'll be accepting another role.

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