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Back in the day, boys basketball was a grown-up game in Baltimore

Back then, we were just a bunch of kid sportswriters covering high school basketball.

Clark Judge was at the Evening Sun, Bernie Miklasz was at the Baltimore News-American, and Bill Glauber, Bryan Burwell and I worked for The Sun.

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Bryan died too young this month in St. Louis, where he had been a much admired sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch since 2002. Bryan taught me the ropes here at The Sun, both of us pioneers in a part of the newspaper business that didn't much care for blacks or women.

We all knew Bryan was going places, and he did. He left The Sun not long after I arrived in 1979 and went on to write columns for USA Today and for papers in Detroit and New York. He also worked in TV, on the HBO show "Inside the NFL."

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We were all going places, in fact.

Bill would be The Sun's London correspondent for seven years. He's covered four wars and eight Olympics. He works in Milwaukee now, covering the raucous politics of Wisconsin.

Bernie has a sports column for the Post-Dispatch, too. Clark went to the West Coast and covered the NFL for CBS Sports. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and he now has his own radio show in New York City. I stayed behind and was eventually asked to write columns, too.

"I'm not surprised by how we all turned out," said Bill. "We were a bunch of rambunctious know-it-alls."

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But we were just a bunch of kid sportswriters covering high school basketball back then, competing ferociously seven days a week for the entire school year and then meeting at the old Burke's Tavern on Friday nights for icy mugs of beer and enormous onion rings.

We covered late winter lacrosse games from the heated front seat of cars, pulled up close to the fields. We stood in the rain covering football games, keeping our own statistics and trying to match names with uniform numbers.

And we were the best of friends.

At most newspapers, covering high school sports would be considered an entry level job, but this was Baltimore in the early 1980s, and the city had the two best high school basketball teams in the country: Calvert Hall and Dunbar. Players Muggsy Bogues, Reggie Williams, David Wingate, Duane Ferrell and Reggie Lewis would go on to be top draft picks in the NBA.

"I remember one time driving some of those guys around in my dad's hideous green Chevy Nova," Bernie said. "Three future NBA players and me."

It was such a different time. Smoking in the newsroom, drunk copy editors and a requirement that we refer to girls playing high school sports as "Miss." Orioles beat writer Lou Hatter told Bill about once covering a public hanging at the jail.

High school games between Calvert Hall and Loyola or Lake Clifton and Dunbar made the front page of the sports section back then, right beside Orioles and Colts headlines. Calvert Hall basketball coach Mark Amatucci said that with four beat writers on his tail all season, pressing him, he felt like he was coaching in the NBA. The school will name the court in his honor Sunday.

The epic triple overtime showdown between Calvert Hall and Dunbar in 1981 in front of 5,000 screaming fans at the Towson Center was more thrilling for us to cover than you can imagine.

Bernie has covered the World Series, Super Bowls and the Olympics, "But the days of covering high schools in Baltimore," he said, "was as much fun as I ever had in this business.

"The teams were great, you had this outsized personalities like Bob Wade and Mark Amatucci. The whole town was just passionate about its high school basketball.

"It is fair to say that experience sharpened our eye for reporting and our edge for competing. We made each other better."

"It was all so vivid," said Bernie. "Non-stop news and non-stop excitement. I remember thinking, 'I can't believe I get to cover this.'"

"I spent seven years of the only life I will ever have covering high schools," said Bill. "And it was terrific."

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at sreimer@baltsun.com and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.

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