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2019-20 Baltimore-area high school boys basketball preseason Top 15 poll

Poly's Brandon Murray goes up for a dunk following a turnover by C. Milton Wright during the MPSSAA Class 3A boys basketball semifinal game at University of Maryland.
Poly's Brandon Murray goes up for a dunk following a turnover by C. Milton Wright during the MPSSAA Class 3A boys basketball semifinal game at University of Maryland. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The Top 15

1. Poly

Coach: Sam Brand

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Last season: 22-5, No. 2

Postseason: Class 3A champion

Outlook: The Engineers have a deep roster that checks off all the boxes as they seek a fourth straight state championship. With four starters and seven of their top eight players back from last season, led by All-Metro point guard Rahim Ali and All-Metro forwards Justin Lewis and Brandon Murray, they have a group that has been able to grind through plenty of wins together. Reinforcements also arrived. Watch out for freshman forward Kwame Evans Jr., who promises to be one of the area’s top newcomers and could break into the starting lineup. Sophomore center Adam Walden, a St. Frances transfer, is another addition that will provide valuable minutes.

2. St. Frances

Coach: Nick Myles

Last season: 38-6, No. 3

Postseason: MIAA A and BCL champion

Outlook: The key pieces from last year’s championship team are back — led by All-Metro Player of the Year point guard Adrian “Ace” Baldwin — and a couple talented transfers have the Panthers in position to bring home more hardware. Baldwin controls the tempo and takes over big games. All-Metro forward Jamal West dominates inside and forward Jordan Toles brings versatile two-way play. All three are seniors. Adding to the mix is forward Julian Reese (New Town) and guard Byron Ireland (Annapolis). With their leadership, size and skills, and championship experience, the Panthers go into the season as clear front-runners in the MIAA and BCL.

3. Mount Saint Joseph

Coach: Pat Clatchey

Last season: 27-11, No. 4

Postseason: MIAA A finalist; BCL semifinalist

Outlook: There’s a quality mix of experienced talent and newcomers to put the Gaels in the championship mix. The guard tandem of Ausar Crawley and Tyler Brelsford is the starting point. They play smart and tough at both ends to set a positive tone. Forward Jason Edokpayi and guard Antonio Hamlin will also play vital roles. Javonte Brown, a transfer center from Canada, did not return and his imposing size will be missed. The Gaels need some players from last year’s JV team to make the jump to provide some depth. With the expected fine guard play keying the offensive end, the Gaels are putting a priority on defense and rebounding.

4. Glenelg Country

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Coach: Garrett O’Donnell

Last season: 21-9, No. 15

Postseason: MIAA A quarterfinalist

Outlook: A team to keep close eye on is Glenelg Country, which brings back four starters, momentum from winning the Maryland Independent Schools Tournament championship and adds a gifted transfer from Saint Maria Goretti in sophomore guard Noah Batchelor. The Dragons are balanced across the board, with senior point guard Noah Charles and fellow returnees Jarod Robinson, Jordan Brathwaite and Igor Yoka-Bratasz all averaging eight or more points last season. They take a hit with graduated center Chase Paar now playing at George Washington, but his younger brother, Cole, will help fill the void left inside. At 6 feet 5, Batchelor is an emerging sophomore who can play multiple positions and shoots the ball well.

5. Lake Clifton

Coach: Herman “Tree” Harried

Last season: 24-4, No. 6

Postseason: Class 1A champion

Outlook: A new senior backcourt with championship mettle of returnee Michael Gray and Zaccheus Blackwell, a transfer from 2A champ Patterson, provides the Lakers with a dynamic starting point as they look to capture a third straight state crown. The two All-Metro second-team picks bring similar qualities with the ability to run the floor, hit big shots, find teammates and play tough defense to set a positive tone. Along with Gray, forward Zevon Hughes is the Lakers’ only other returning starter and he’ll take on a bigger role this season with senior transfer Jalen Morris (Joppatowne) a welcome addition. With their defense always keeping them close, the Lakers should be able to close out wins by having Gray and Blackwell take over the fourth quarter.

6. New Town

Coach: Derek Wise

Last season: 20-2, No. 7

Postseason: Class 2A North semifinalist

Outlook: Five players return from last year’s Baltimore County championship team, giving the Titans a quality starting point as they look to build on last season’s success. Senior All Metro guard/forward Andrew Mills brings a versatile game and the knack to do whatever is needed to produce wins. Junior Martaz Robinson is a prototype point guard who keeps the ideal tempo with smart decisions with the ball. Fellow guard Kyree Johnson will be another key with his energy at both ends. Not as big as years past, the Titans will rely even more on their pressure defense and will consistently be on the run to generate fast points. Some newcomers will need to emerge to provide bench depth.

7. McDonogh

Coach: TJ Jordan

Last season: 19-10, not ranked

Postseason: MIAA A semifinalist

Outlook: Regarding the team’s roster, there’s good new and more good news. The Eagles have five experienced returnees, each of whom started at some point last season, with small forward Jared Billups, point guard Everett Cooper and forward Curtis Jacobs the leaders and catalysts. Preston Howard and Dani Dennis-Sutton are primed to take on expanded roles this season. A handful of newcomers — including three promising freshmen — are battling hard to earn minutes, which gives the Eagles depth and versatility. A tough playoff loss to Mount Saint Joseph last season has been used as a motivation.

8. Edmondson

Coach: Darnell Dantzler

Last season: 22-4, No. 5

Postseason: Class 2A North finalist

Outlook: With quality pieces coming from different sources — returnees, transfers and JV call-ups — the Red Storm are primed to put together another strong season. Guards Eontae Nelson and Tre’Shawn Lewis are returning starters that set a tough, winning tone at both ends with Daniel Frink another key piece. Transfer Tavon Hartz (National Academy Foundation) provides a big scoring boost, and some underclassmen from last year’s Baltimore City runner-up JV team are ready for the next level. Last season, each of Edmondson’s losses came against state champions (three to 2A Patterson and one to 3A Poly) and they also beat a state champ in 1A Lake Clifton. Edmondson drops down to 1A this season.

9. Dulaney

Coach: Matt Lochte

Last season: 22-4, No. 9

Postseason: Class 4A semifinalist

Outlook: The Lions made their first state tournament appearance since 1977 and they want more in a bid to bring home the program’s first title. They have a do-everything point guard in All-Metro junior Ryan Conway, who can take over games. Senior forward Cameron Byers provides inside scoring, rebounding and an imposing presence down low with junior guard Jaylin Webster another quality piece. The Lions like to play fast, with pressure on defense and scoring in transition, and expect to go deep in their bench to stay fresh. When the pace slows against the tougher competition, Conway will be relied upon even more to pull out wins.

10. Broadneck

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Coach: John Williams

Last season: 21-6, No. 10

Postseason: Class 4A finalist

Outlook: The Bruins made program history when they played in their first state championship game last season, and Williams has seen it create an added level of commitment. With eight returning players — Logan Vican, Andrew Rose and Brendan Davis providing the core — the Bruins are the favorites in Anne Arundel County with a fine opportunity at another extended playoff run. Solid defense will once again be the team’s forte and the Bruins will look to take advantage of their quality size offensively with the 6-9 Vican bringing a versatile inside-outside game to lead the way. Staying grounded with the same daily hard work will be vital to continued success.

11. Mervo

Coach: Deron Harding

Last season: 10-13, not ranked

Postseason: Class 4A North quarterfinalist

Outlook: Great news for the Mustangs is bad news for the rest of Baltimore City. Senior Will Thomas is back from the foot injury that cost him last season and is playing with bounce and confidence. The 6-5 small forward is one of the area’s most talented and versatile players and he has a strong cast around him. Point guard Demonee Carter, a four-year starter, will join Mount Carmel transfer Teon Rushing to give the Mustangs smart and tough backcourt play. Senior Elijah Rantin, a 6-10 forward/center, is a valuable presence down low at both ends. With the return of Thomas, the addition of Rushing and much of the group having played three and four years together, the Mustangs are determined to make this their year.

12. Milford Mill

Coach: Ryan Smith

Last season: 12-10, not ranked

Postseason: 3A North quarterfinalist

Outlook: After an uncharacteristic early playoff exit, the Millers added a floor general in point guard Sammy Scott (City), size and big-game experience in center Detwan Montague (St. Frances) and versatility in guard/forward Andrew Rheubottom (Pikesville) to go with returning guard Jermaine Goodwyn and some quality depth. As they find their way on offense in half-court sets, they’ll lean heavily on their tough defense to help generate points in transition. The Millers look to be right back in the Baltimore County mix with defending county champ New Town and Dulaney the other early favorites.

13. Havre de Grace

Coach: Brian Eberhardt

Last season: 23-1, not ranked

Postseason: Class 1A East finalist

Outlook: The Warriors have a season’s worth of excellence to build on from last year, minus its final 40 seconds, which will provide motivation. Four starters, led by do-everything junior Marlon Lewis, and nine players in all return from a team that came seconds from a state tournament appearance. Josiah Scott, Gary Gibson and Quentin Ware join Lewis as starters and TJ Turner is another key cog for the Warriors, who plan to wear down teams with dogged defense and a smooth transition game. Tied against visiting Crisfield with 40 seconds left in last year’s region title game, the Warriors were outscored 6-0.

14. City

Coach: Omarr Smith

Last season: 13-9, not ranked

Postseason: Class 3A South quarterfinalist

Outlook: With a talented roster full of transfers last season, the Knights showed glimpses but never reached their full potential. With more continuity and lessons learned, they want more this season. They return three starters in point guard Karell Booker, shooting guard Dominick Carrington and forward/center Clarence Obiajulu to provide a solid base. Gerstell transfer Ahmad Harrison, also a point guard, joins Booker and Carrington, and Smith has been impressed with how they have fed off one another. Obiajulu and Parkville transfer Kevin Kulu, a 6-7 forward, provides strong inside play and rebounding. After falling to three-time defending state champion Poly by one point in the region playoffs last season, the Knights believe they’re close.

15. Patterson

Coach: Harry Martin

Last season: 25-3, No. 1

Postseason: Class 2A champion

Outlook: With no starters back from last year’s team that won Baltimore City and state crowns, the Clippers will be a continued work in progress. Two sophomores — wing John Thomas, one of three returnees, and center Nutrell Artis — have shown promise, and how quickly they reach their potential will largely determine the team’s success. With 80% of the roster underclassmen, forward Joe Jones and guard Liz Nunez — the team’s lone senior returnees — will be leaned on for steady play and leadership. Junior guard Alex Ferrer, a transfer from Cristo Rey, adds scoring. With their tough, disciplined defense a given based on their successful track record, the Clippers could surprise if they find their way on offense.

Others considered: Atholton (17-5, not ranked); Ben Franklin (17-7, not ranked); Gilman (10-20, not ranked); John Carroll (5-25, not ranked); Loyola Blakefield (20-12, not ranked)

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