Like Jamal Brown, last season's leader for five-time state champion Dunbar, Dontaz Dean is big, strong, muscular and can be extremely scrappy and intimidating in the paint.
Coach Lynn Badham said he even slips up frequently and calls Dean "Jamal every so often."
However, that is where the similarities end between the two powerfully constructed 6-foot-7 centers, Badham said.
Where Brown "was a fiery player who liked to dunk just about everything," according to Badham, Dean is "cool as ice, and would just as soon put it in off the glass or sink a free throw."
Call him Dunbar's Big Chill.
"Since rec ball, I've always been a role player," said Dean, 18. "I was always the team's second, third or fourth option, so I was kind of laid back, go with the flow, whatever happens, happens.
"But this year, it's completely different. It's my first year being the team's No. 1 option. "Coach [Badham] is always telling me I've got to step it up, do the dirty work or whatever it takes. And whether it's blocking a shot, playing defense or taking it to the hole, that's all I've tried to do."
Dean seemingly has done it all for the No. 2-ranked Poets (19-3), who will play in the Baltimore City championship game against Southwestern tomorrow at Walbrook High School (3: 45 p.m.).
Dean is averaging 17 points, 12 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.1 blocks, and has proved to be a marksman with his 78 percent free throw shooting. In one recent game, Dean was a blistering 19-for-22 from the line.
"That's a part of my game I worked really hard on for this season -- that and rebounding," Dean said. "I feel really comfortable under the basket, and if I get fouled, I feel comfortable at the line. But I'd like to do a better job on the outside and with ball-handling."
Veterans Arnold Bowie and Leonard Ferguson, 6 feet and 6-2, respectively, have been perfect complements to Dean.
Add spectacular senior LaFonte Johnson, a transfer from Towson Catholic, and 6-5 junior forward Pierre Tucker, and the Poets are a formidable team.
"Dontaz works really well with the rest of the players on the team, and they respect him," said Badham. He added that Tucker "idolizes" Dean, who has "taken Pierre under his wing."
"One game, Dontaz fouled out and I had to put in a freshman, Renaldo Dickerson," Badham recalled. "Dontaz could have gotten upset, but he came right to the bench and told the kid, 'It's all right, you can handle it.' The rest of the game, he's cheering for his teammates."
There is one area where "The Beast" in the 210-pound Dean escapes: the football field.
"Dontaz is aggressive with great quickness, and he's got the biggest hands I've seen since my college days when our quarterback could wrap his hands around the ball," Badham said of Dean, who was a tight end/defensive end for Dunbar last fall. "And he can hit when he wants to. I mean, really light you up. If he didn't have a basketball career, he sure could play football."
A junior, Dean said he is likely to follow Brown's example and attend a prep school next season.
An All-Metro selection last season, Brown opted for Maine Central, where he is an honor roll student and is considering a number of scholarship offers, including one from Pittsburgh.
Like Brown, Dean has attracted the interests of several Division I programs, including Virginia Commonwealth, St. Joseph's, Villanova, Miami, UMass, Rutgers and Cincinnati.
Asked about his desire to attend a prep school rather than go directly to Division I, Dean answers with -- what else? -- a cool head.
"I want to play in college, but I feel it's more important, right now, to learn what it takes to play on that level," said Dean, who made his decision after discussions with Badham, his grandfather, James Dean, and his parents, Kim Dean and Tony McMillion.
Dean credits his grandfather for his chiseled features, saying "he's always getting on me to lift weights." He does, faithfully, four times a week.
"Maturity-wise, there's a different work ethic in the college game. You're playing against grown men. Academics are different," Dean said.
"I want to experience what it's like being away from home and go through that kind of pressure in a different situation than Dunbar. I want to make sure I have a better understanding of what the adjustment to the next level is all about."
Pub Date: 2/23/99