Anthony Lewis returned from Cocoa Beach, Fla., Saturday night, having coached Cecil-Kirk's under-17 squad to the title in the eight-day, Amateur Athletic Union National Tournament.
Next Wednesday, Lewis and five starters from the under-17 squad -- including All-Metro guard Shawnta Rogers, a Lake Clifton junior -- are going back for more.
This time, they'll join an under-19 cast -- including University of Maryland-bound Dunbar graduate, Keith Booth, The Baltimore Sun's 1992-93 Player of the Year, and All-Metro Lake Clifton graduate Kevin Norris.
"I haven't had both teams on the floor together as a team yet, but the kids' talent would just take over in local games, so we haven't really been tested," said Lewis, four days after coaching what is believed to be Baltimore's first AAU championship team. "We're quick, which is our strength, and we mostly just run by teams."
After a runner-up finish in last year's nationals, this year's squad begins play out of a four- to five-team pool, with the top two places advancing to the playoff brackets.
"Our pool hasn't yet been determined, but it's always traditionally been tough," said Lewis, who expects his most difficult challenge from Memphis, Florida and Michigan. "Last year we were seeded close to the bottom, but we won our pool. We lost the championship to Arkansas, even though we had beaten them to win our pool."
Lewis' assistant is Calvin Dotson, who coached Cecil-Kirk's under-16 team to a 15th-place finish in the July 3-10 nationals in Oklahoma City.
And players like Norris are brimming with confidence, refusing to recognize the pressure from the local community's high expectations.
"Last year, we just beat everybody, so if we're seeded higher this year, there could be even more pressure -- but that'll just make us work harder," said Norris, a 5-foot-8 speedster who is considering a prep school, or San Jacinto (Texas) or Hagerstown junior colleges.
"The players on the team know we have quality and that the key to success is team chemistry," said Lewis, whose game strategy will revolve around Norris and 6-7, 210-pound Booth, a high school All-American.
"Those two working together will be everything. They're very versatile and can really open things up for us," said Lewis, adding that Norris is a returning AAU All-American. "But there's no way I expect them to average the kinds of numbers they did in high school."
Booth's AAU averages of 17 points, 10 boards and four assists per game are slightly lower than his 21.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists at Dunbar, as are Norris' 12 points and six assists below his stats at Lake Clifton.
But the backcourt has plenty of depth, with 5-5 Rogers, who averaged 22 points, seven assists and four steals last week; Lake Clifton's 6-1 swingman Ronald Byrd, who averaged 14 points, six rebounds and three steals and Walbrook's 5-6 Anthony Tyrell, who averaged 12 points, six assists and four steals.
"Tyrell and Norris are both returning from last year's team, so they know what to expect," Lewis said. "We won't be able to sneak up on anybody. But unlike last week, when some teams laughed at us at first, we'll have more height this time."
The under-19 front court already boasts Dunbar's 6-7 Cornell Ward, who averaged 10 points, nine boards and seven blocks, and Southern's 6-4 Danta Williams (14 points, eight boards, three blocks).
Adding the remaining starters from the champion under-17 squad, there is Lake Clifton's 6-7 post-up man Terrance Payne, who last week averaged 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Milford Mill's 6-1 swingman Kenneth Bostic, who averaged 10 points and four rebounds a game.
Guards Antwuan Ransom (St. Frances, 6-2) and Jimmy Moore (Lake Clifton, 5-7) each are scoring in double figures, and Moore averages three assists and three steals.