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Northeast’s Jaylin Albury shined to earn Capital Gazette boys basketball Player of Year honor

Northeast senior guard Jaylin Albury is the Capital Gazette boys basketball Player of the Year.
Northeast senior guard Jaylin Albury is the Capital Gazette boys basketball Player of the Year. (Paul W. Gillespie)

It has been an historic year for the Northeast boys basketball team — one loaded with firsts, records, and, at the end, a postponed Class 3A state semifinal contest with Baltimore Poly.

Along the way, players accomplished milestones, such as senior forward Darrell Sheppard eclipsing the school record for points scored in a game with 40 against Old Mill, surpassing the 39 put up by John McKinley in 1987.

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No player, however, did more from start to finish than Jaylin Albury, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior guard who averaged 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 4.1 steals per game to earn the honor of 2019-20 Capital Gazette boys basketball Player of the Year. Albury, who played in all 26 games for Northeast, will have his name in the record books for more than just having the school record for career assists (411). He’s the only player in program history to earn the prestigious honor.

Northeast, which had never defeated Annapolis before doing so to win its first ever county championship game, has developed many first team All-County selections, such as the aforementioned McKinley along with Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Famer Azizuddin Abdur-Ra’oof, Uwone Jackson, Gene Pleyo and Steve Strauss.

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"Just to be mentioned with those guys is amazing,” Albury said.

None of those guys accomplished what Albury did, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest players to ever come out of the Pasadena school.

“I thought I would be in the conversation, but I think what really helped me was the playoff run,” Albury said when asked about being the county’s top player. “After all the home games here, I think that really pushed me forward. At the beginning of the season, I thought I would be definitely in the running. I’m just shocked and happy that I received this award. It is an honor to be Player of the Year for Anne Arundel County.”

That playoff run separated Albury from the pack.

After a 58-38 trouncing of Easton in the Class 3A South Region II semifinal, where he managed 18 points and 11 assists, the Eagles’ leader delivered another 18 points against Kent Island. His final field goal, after a defensive steal on a trap by Trent McNeill got the ball into Albury’s hands with the clock winding down, the calm and collected senior dribbled from foul line to foul line, where he stopped and sank a 15-footer with two seconds left to lift Northeast to a 58-56 win over the Buccaneers to win the first region title in 37 years.

Against Wilde Lake in the Class 3A quarterfinals, in which Northeast managed a 68-60 victory, Albury put Northeast and the raucous crowd at the packed gymnasium on his back. He went off for a career-high 33 points (25 in the second and third quarters combined), six rebounds, six assists and four steals to send Northeast to its first trip to College Park since the 1983 team that featured future Terrapin football player Abdur-Ra’oof.

Eagles coach Roger O’Dea said it’s “a great feeling” that Albury is the Player of the Year.

Northeast senior Jaylin Albury is the 2019-20 Capital Gazette boys basketball Player of the Year.
Northeast senior Jaylin Albury is the 2019-20 Capital Gazette boys basketball Player of the Year. (Paul W. Gillespie)

"I’ve seen this kid play for the last seven or eight years and he just keeps getting more special each day,” O’Dea said. “It’s great to get the special recognition, especially at a program like Northeast where we’ve been fighting to get some recognition and publicity over the last 10 years or so since I’ve been here.”

Albury’s assist-to-turnover ratio was plus-2.3, which is used to evaluate the ball control and ball-handling skills of a player. Albury delivered 2.3 passes that led to a score for every one turnover he committed (167 assists to 71 turnovers).

One area that Albury excelled in this season was on the defensive side of the court, where he grabbed 141 rebounds, recorded 63 deflections and notched 14 blocked shots, all while committing just 51 fouls. In the 781 minutes he played, Albury was a plus-343, meaning his team outscored its opponent by that many points when he was on the floor. He scored 105 points in transition and had 132 points off turnovers.

Albury’s persistence led him to 48 second-chance points and, despite his size, scored 192 points in the paint. He made 124 free throws out of 157 attempts for a 79 percent average. With the high number of points scored, Albury made just 21 3-pointers out of 81 attempts (25.9 percent), meaning he wasn’t one to come down the court and just gun from outside.

As the games got bigger, so did Albury. Despite early-season losses to Arundel, Southern and Annapolis in which he scored 12, 11 and 15 points, respectively, he put up 25 in the last loss the Eagles would suffer, a 67-64 overtime defeat to Broadneck in which he netted the last two baskets that sent the game to the extra period and also tallied all nine points for his team in the additional frame.

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Then came his playoff run that came to a sudden halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Minutes before the team was to board the bus headed to the the University of Maryland, the Eagles learned that the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association had postponed the basketball semifinals and finals until further notice.

Albury said he was motivated this season after being snubbed by the coaches on their All-County team a year ago.

“After receiving a call from coach O’Dea last March telling me that I didn’t make any of the coaches’ All-County teams really upset me. I thought I should have made one of the teams, if not first team,” Albury admitted. “After that, I just used that to motivate me. I had a chip on my shoulder. Every single time we played against a county team, I thought about them not voting for me last year or you didn’t give me enough votes to get there. When I came in this year, that was my goal — definitely get on that first team. I did it successfully and I added a couple things to it with the county and regional championships.”

It wasn’t all just Albury that catapulted Northeast to where it was, as Sheppard did his fair share. A double-double machine, the 6-foot-4 Sheppard was a force underneath with gritty 6-5 junior Stephen Haley and 6-2 junior Travis Smoot, along with junior point guard McNeill.

Albury, though, was the straw that stirred the drink.

“Playing with Jaylin pushed me to work hard and be a better player,” Sheppard said. “He is hardworking and humble. You couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”

After the Kent Island game, McNeill was grinning ear-to-ear like a cat that just ate the canary after pick-pocketing the Kent Island ball-handler before Albury made the game-winner.

“Playing with Jaylin just made the game a lot easier. The way he set everybody else up just made the team play better as a whole,” said backcourt partner McNeill a week after the postponement was declared. “He encouraged me to go harder, seeing the way he set the tone.”

One of the biggest fans of Northeast this season was Abdur-Ra’oof, who was there to witness the student section which made a makeshift ESPN banner at a table along the sideline, manned by faux announcers with headsets calling the game.

“He has very good poise and he sees the game so well. He gets his teammates involved and he will take control when he needs to,” Abdur-Ra’oof said. “He’s just done a great job of controlling tempo and knowing when to take the right shot at the right time. He is no doubt one of the best to come out of the school and it is awesome for someone like myself to see him have such a great season. I was definitely cheering him on.”

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Albury was primed for stardom dating back to when he was 6 or 7 years old. His father Chris coached him in AAU basketball for six years and was an assistant under O’Dea this season.

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“You could see that he had something extra in him. His engine, there was something a little bit extra,” Chris Albury said. “Coaching him at that age — not because he was my son — it was because there was something going on with this kid that made him a notch higher than the other kids he was competing against.

“Because of his experience, playing so long, having great coaches from Patrick Smith starting in AAU, Keith Williams and coach O’Dea, just the guidance that he’s had. He is not a difficult kid to coach,” the elder Albury continued. "You tell him what you need done and what needs to be worked on. So it didn’t surprise me because I’d always tell him, ‘You put in the work and good things will happen for you.’ He didn’t shy away from the work.”

Albury, who scored in double-figures in 24 of 26 games, has a younger brother, Cameron, that will attend Northeast in the fall as a freshman. Jaylin said he hopes Cameron might be next in line to wear his No. 0.

Albury finished his career just shy of the 1,000-point plateau at 950 points. He pulled down 356 rebounds (86 offensive, 270 defensive), the school record of 411 assists (5.5 per game) and 201 steals (2.7 per game) in 75 games played. He has not yet decided on where he wants to take his talents at the next level.

Named to the All-County first team:

Craig Pratt, Annapolis, senior, guard

Annapolis shooting guard Craig Pratt (23), shown driving to the basket against Wise in the Class 4A state quarterfinals, led his team in both scoring and assists while ranking second in rebounding.
Annapolis shooting guard Craig Pratt (23), shown driving to the basket against Wise in the Class 4A state quarterfinals, led his team in both scoring and assists while ranking second in rebounding. (Terrance Williams/Capital Gazette)

Pratt played a prominent role in leading Annapolis to the regular season county championship and 21-5 overall record. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound shooting guard led the Panthers in scoring and assists, averaging 18.2 points and 4.1 helpers. He ranked among the team leaders with seven rebounds per game.

Pratt exploded for a season-high 30 points against South River and netted 27 versus Kent County. He averaged 20 points in three playoff games. Pratt concluded his career by scoring 24 points in a loss to Wise in the Class 4A state quarterfinals but intends to play college basketball. He is considering offers from Albright, Eastern, Lebanon Valley, St. Mary’s and Salisbury.

“Craig is very smart, unselfish basketball player that did all the little things to win games,” Annapolis coach Dan Smalley said. “Craig was a great leader for us all around and was a key piece in our team’s success. He was a great scorer who could also lock down the opponent’s best player when asked to do so. Craig did so many things that did not show up in the stat sheet such as taking charges and even more importantly, leading by example.”

Eric Sondberg, South River, senior, forward

South River forward Eric Sondberg led Anne Arundel County in scoring average with 22.7 points per game and ranked among the leaders with a rebounding average of 10.7. The 6-foot-6, 185-pounder, who has signed with Lafayette, ranks third in program history with 1,073 career points.
South River forward Eric Sondberg led Anne Arundel County in scoring average with 22.7 points per game and ranked among the leaders with a rebounding average of 10.7. The 6-foot-6, 185-pounder, who has signed with Lafayette, ranks third in program history with 1,073 career points. (Terrance Williams For The capital/Capital Gazette)

Sondberg led Anne Arundel County in scoring average with 22.7 points per game and ranked among the leaders with a rebounding average of 10.7. The crafty forward was also a playmaker for the Seahawks and dished off 4.5 assists per game.

The 6-foot-6, 185-pounder poured in a season-high 37 points and also snared 13 rebounds to spark an 85-78 victory over Annapolis. The Lafayette signee surpassed the 1,000-point plateau in that contest and ranks third in program history with 1,073 career points despite missing 10 games as a senior.

“Eric is one of those players that teaches you more than you can teach him. His everyday genuine passion for the work and sacrifice that is required to get better individually and as a team is off the charts,” South River coach Darren Hall said. “Eric never takes days off and his drive to be successful has created a standard in our program that hopefully will last a long time. I am excited to watch Eric attack the next challenge of his basketball journey at Lafayette.”

T.J. Speight, Meade, junior, guard

Junior guard T.J. Speight scored in double figures in 22 of 24 games, erupting for a career-high 40 points to lead an upset of top-seeded North County in the Class 4A East Region I semifinals.
Junior guard T.J. Speight scored in double figures in 22 of 24 games, erupting for a career-high 40 points to lead an upset of top-seeded North County in the Class 4A East Region I semifinals. (Courtesy Photo)

Speight ranked second in Anne Arundel County with a scoring average of 20.6 points, many of which came from the free throw line. The 5-foot-11, 155-pounder took the ball strong to the basket and wound up attempting 221 free throws and making 176 (80 percent). Speight also amassed 95 rebounds (4.0 average), 62 assists (2.6) and 47 steals (2.0).

He scored in double figures in 22 of 24 games, erupting for a career-high 40 points to lead an upset of top-seeded North County in the Class 4A East Region I semifinals. He also scored 38 points versus Old Mill and 30 against Glen Burnie.

“TJ Speight is the definition of a student-athlete and a winner. He’s a throwback kid by carrying a 3.3 grade point average while excelling at three sports (also football, track and field),” Meade coach Mike Glick said. “Our staff couldn’t be prouder of how he bought in and embraced being a leader and a great teammate. TJ is a great representative of our school community and is loved and respected throughout our building. One of the c players I’ve been blessed to coach in my 32 years.”

Logan Vican, Broadneck, senior, forward

Logan Vican Vican ranks fifth in Broadneck boys’ basketball history with 1,046 points and 632 rebounds. The 6-foot-9 forward finished with 103 career blocked shots.
Logan Vican Vican ranks fifth in Broadneck boys’ basketball history with 1,046 points and 632 rebounds. The 6-foot-9 forward finished with 103 career blocked shots. (Terrance Williams / For The Capital)

Vican was a force inside while leading the Bruins in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots this season. The 6-foot-9 pivot averaged 19.5 points and 9.2 rebounds with 40 blocked shots. He scored a season-high 30 points versus Old Mill and totaled 15 double-doubles this season.

The four-year varsity letterman has not settled on a college destination but is seriously considering Clarion and George Washington. Vican ranks fifth all-time in Broadneck boys’ basketball history with 1,046 points and 632 rebounds, and he finished with 103 career blocked shots.

“Logan has been the cornerstone of our program for the past four years. He is a complete player who has improved every year,” Broadneck coach John Williams said. “Most importantly, Logan was a great teammate who epitomized the ‘Bruin Way.’ He will be remembered as a selfless leader who, along with his teammates, had one of the greatest back-to-back seasons in school history.”

Cam Whitmore, Archbishop Spalding, sophomore, forward

Spalding Sophomore swingman Cam Whitmore was named first team All-Baltimore Catholic League and first team All-MIAA A Conference.
Spalding Sophomore swingman Cam Whitmore was named first team All-Baltimore Catholic League and first team All-MIAA A Conference. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun)

Whitmore emerged as one of the top players in the Baltimore-metro area and was the catalyst of Spalding’s turnaround season. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound swingman led the Cavaliers in scoring and rebounding with averages of 15.2 points and 10.7 boards. His all-around ability also produced 2.8 blocks, 2.3 steals and 1.5 assists per game.

Whitmore’s talent was on full display during an upset of top-seeded Gilman in the MIAA A Conference playoffs, as he scored a season-high 34 points on a mixture of jump shots and strong moves to the basket. Whitmore, who is already being recruited by major Division I colleges, was also a strong on-ball defender. He was named first team All-Baltimore Catholic League and first team All-MIAA A Conference.

“It was a pleasure to coach Cam because he really bought into what we were preaching every day in practice. It’s tough when a new coach comes in and young players have to adjust to a different philosophy and culture,” Spalding first-year coach Josh Pratt said. “We asked Cam to do many things on the court, such as defend smaller guards and post players. I’m very proud of Cam and feel his future is very bright.”

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O’Meech Wilson, North County, junior, guard

O'Meech Wilson (10), pulling up for a jumper in the lane against Annapolis, averaged a double-double with 18.2 points and 11.6 rebounds. He scored a season-high 26 points against Severna Park and hauled down 20 rebounds twice.
O'Meech Wilson (10), pulling up for a jumper in the lane against Annapolis, averaged a double-double with 18.2 points and 11.6 rebounds. He scored a season-high 26 points against Severna Park and hauled down 20 rebounds twice. (Terrance Williams/Capital Gazette)

Wilson was the catalyst of a turnaround season for the Knights, who finished 16-6 after going 4-19 last season. The versatile 6-foot-4, 180-pounder averaged a double-double with 18.2 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. He impacted the game in all areas, averaging 2.3 assists and 2.6 steals.

Wilson scored a season-high 26 points against Severna Park and netted 20 or more on seven other occasions. He hauled down 20 rebounds twice during the season, doing so in the two games against B&A Boulevard rival Glen Burnie. One of Wilson’s best all-around games came when he scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds versus Arundel, one of 14 double-doubles he posted.

“O’Meech is a special talent because he never allowed a moment or mistake to define the man he is becoming. He is the type of player who believes in demanding excellence from himself and accepting new challenges,” North County coach Trumaine Johnson said. “O’Meech stepped into a leadership role this year, setting an example on and off the court. He has been a great teammate with his encouragement but, above all, he has been a team-first type of player.”

Co-Coach of the Year: Josh Pratt, Archbishop Spalding

Archbishop Spalding boys basketball coach Josh Pratt is the Capital Gazette Co-Coach of the Year after leading the Cavaliers to an 18-12 record a spot in the MIAA Conference tournament semifinals.
Archbishop Spalding boys basketball coach Josh Pratt is the Capital Gazette Co-Coach of the Year after leading the Cavaliers to an 18-12 record a spot in the MIAA Conference tournament semifinals. (Courtesy Photo)

Pratt directed a dramatic turnaround for Spalding, which made a 12-win improvement from last season. This was the first season for Pratt, who implemented a culture change that eradicated a losing mindset that had developed during a four-season stretch that saw the Cavaliers compile a 35-84 record.

Spalding went 6-22 and only won one MIAA A Conference contest during the 2018-19 campaign. This season, Spalding finished 18-12 overall and 11-6 (fourth place) in the conference. The Cavaliers went 8-6 and placed third in the ultra-competitive Baltimore Catholic League.

“When you take over a program there are certain things you need to do. I’m really big on developing personal relationships with all my players,” Pratt said. “I believe my strength as a coach is getting the players to believe in each other and the coaching staff. I was able to sell the seniors in believing in their roles.”

Pratt was named Catholic League Coach of the Year for the second time in his career, having previously earned the honor while at Towson Catholic during the 2009-10 season.

Spalding upset top-seeded Gilman in the MIAA A Conference playoffs, which was one of six victories the Cavaliers notched over schools ranked in the Baltimore Sun poll that also including a 67-56 upset of No. 1 Mount St. Joseph on Feb. 5.

Pratt, 48, previously served as head coach at St. Mary’s, Towson Catholic, Chesapeake Science Point, Chesapeake, Huntingtown and Indian Creek. The Prince George’s County native began his coaching career as an assistant to Mike Glick at Pallotti (1993-99) and Spalding (1999-2004).

Co-Coach of the Year: Roger O’Dea, Northeast

Northeast boys basketball coach Roger O'Dea is the Capital Gazette Co-Coach of the Year after leading the Eagles to the county title and a spot in the Class 3A state semifinals.
Northeast boys basketball coach Roger O'Dea is the Capital Gazette Co-Coach of the Year after leading the Eagles to the county title and a spot in the Class 3A state semifinals. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)

O’Dea established the new school record with 22 wins, surpassing the 19 wins of the 1983-84 team as his team earned a berth to the state semifinals against Baltimore Polytechnic. Northeast defeated Annapolis in the county championship game, marking the first time in program history the team defeated the Panthers, and won the title for the first time in a championship-game format. The region title win was the first since 1983.

His point guard, Jaylin Albury, was named Player of the Year and broke the school’s career record for assists with 411. Darrell Sheppard, a forward, broke the single-game record for points scored with 40.

“It’s a good feeling to be rewarded for a great season. It feels good to see something come together that you put into action five years ago and all the hard work pay off. You feel really good for the kids that bought into it,” said O’Dea, whose team had a nine-game winning streak to end the season. “Each game, I told them if we wanted a county championship and a region championship, and we’re on this mission and we want our name on the gymnasium wall, and be part of history, this is a must-win game. The last five or six games, the kids just got better and better. But me, I got more nervous each game. I didn’t want to let the alumni, the Northeast community or school as a whole down. This season was a magical one and this team was truly a team of destiny.”

O’Dea, 42, previously served as head coach at Edmondson Westside High School in Baltimore for two years before assuming the role at Northeast in 2010-11 season. The 1995 Northeast grad served as an assistant for head coach John Barbour in 2000, as well as the head JV coach for Pete Pompey at Edmondson.

Second Team All-County

Brendan Davis, Broadneck, senior, guard

Malik Carroll, Annapolis, senior, center

Jamison Gaskins, South River, senior, forward

Jacob Goodman, Severna Park, senior, guard

Darrell Sheppard, Northeast, senior, forward

C.J. Scott, Archbishop Spalding, sophomore, forward

Quaadir Spence, Arundel, senior, guard

Marshall Tanz, Key, senior, guard

Khiyon Washington, Southern, senior, guard

Alonzo Wilkes, Chesapeake, senior, forward

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