Over the past couple decades in Anne Arundel county, baseball and lacrosse have produced the most college opportunities for male athletes, but basketball is on a fast break.
A mecca of high school basketball, the county is not, but the quality of play and the number of division I prospects is growing.
The county is not ready to supplant Baltimore and D.C. as a hotbed of talent, but its male athletes are starting to see basketball as a vehicle to college.
"The talent has been distributed more throughout the county," said Annapolis veteran coach John Brady. "More kids are playing in summer leagues because the county coaches are encouraging them."
Annapolis has two 6-foot-7 division I prospects playing inside in Germaine "Boo" Diggs and Brian Barber.
Diggs, last season's county Player of the Year, has drawn serious interest from Georgetown and James Madison, but may need to attend a junior college for academic reasons.
Barber has signed to play at Towson State and Broadneck's 6-5 swing man, John Williams has received an appointment to the Naval Academy and will play for the Mids.
There are a host of other players around the county who have drawn Division I interest, or may if they can qualify academically. Some of them might have to play on the junior college level first before showing up at a bigger school.
Some of the top ones include: 6-7 junior forward Tony Smith, Annapolis; guards Jamell Miller and Joe Parker, Arundel; 6-4 forward Lenny Holmes, Glen Burnie; guard-forward Randolph Rooks, North County; junior guard Dennard Melton and senior forwards Jeff Hatch (6-8) and Winston Johnson (6-5), Severn; guard Todd Poorman, Severna Park; forward Eddie Tippet, Southern; and junior forward Max Yokono, Spalding's foreign exchange student.
Melton has been getting letters since his freshman year for basketball and football. After just two years of varsity basketball, the 6-foot Melton is only 20 points away from the school record for career points (1,490) set by John Vereen.
"Dennard gets a garbage bag full of mail practically every day," said Severn coach Tank Duckett. "Hatch will probably end up at one of the service academies and there has been more than passing interest in Winston [Johnson]."
Yokono, a 6-7, 220-pounder from Cameroon, proved to be a bonus for new coach Tony Martin. Martin found out after he landed the job that Yokono had enrolled.
"Max has an injured knee right now, but will be back in January, " said Martin. "He's been invited to the Nike All-American camp this July in Indianapolis and he's legitimate."
Georgetown is more than interested in Yokono staying in the states after high school, but until then the big guy could lead the Cavaliers to new heights. His presence may elevate not only Spalding's program, but the entire county.
Martin, who led the Mount St. Joseph JV to a 26-0 record last year for his fourth title in four years, coached four years at Cardinal Gibbons under late Crusaders coaching legend Ray Mullis before moving to the Mount.
Well aware of the exposure the Baltimore Catholic League gets, Martin convinced the Spalding administration to let his Cavs jump from the C Conference to the Catholic League next season. Spalding will play in the varsity and JV Catholic League tournaments at the end of this year.
Martin managed to add Calvert Hall, Loyola and Dunbar to this year's 31-game schedule. With an impressive group of freshmen led by guard Tremaine Robinson, the Cavaliers future is bright.
It could be ditto for the county as a whole as the top local teams line up to play the Cavs. In the past, teams like Annapolis, Arundel, Broadneck, Meade and Southern considered Spalding either a waste of time or too small in terms of playoff points.
Now with the open tournament, the bigger schools might want to play Spalding if the Cavs fulfill their promise under Martin. It could be good for everybody as the county moves from quantity to quality.
Pub Date: 12/03/96