St. Frances senior Jamal West seamlessly fit into the Panthers boys basketball program the very first day he stepped on the court last year as a junior.
This season, the 6-foot-5 forward’s presence has been even more profound.
Bringing consistency, leadership, dominant skills and a contagious will to win, West has averaged 16 points and nine rebounds per game in leading the No. 1 Panthers to a 33-3 mark as they prepare to defend their Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League championships.
His outstanding play was recognized on Monday afternoon when he was named the BCL’s Jerry Savage Player of the Year at the league’s annual awards luncheon at Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, my coaches and family. They definitely pushed me to get this and helped me along the way. They helped me become a better leader,” West said.
St. Frances coach Nick Myles said West is the most dominant post player he has coached in his nine seasons with the program. On Sunday, the team was given the day off to go watch the St. Frances girls claim their fifth straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference crown, but that didn’t stop West from going to the gym after the game.
“No surprise at all. That shows the determination, the want to win and accomplish great things,” Myles said. “For Jamal, it hasn’t been about individual [awards], it’s been about championships. That’s all he’s ever talked about all year and for a kid to be so selfless to become Most Valuable Player is something special."
Joining West on the All-BCL first team is teammate Adrian “Ace” Baldwin, as well as Mount Saint Joseph’s Tyler Brelsford and Jason Edokpayi; Loyola Blakefield’s Mitchell Fischer; Archbishop Spalding’s Cameron Whitmore and John Carroll’s Tyson Commander.
Making a successful return to Spalding, Josh Pratt was named the O. Ray Mullis Coach of the Year. The veteran coach inherited a team that went 6-22 last year and was able to quickly turn things around.
“It’s very rewarding,” said Pratt, who also was named BCL’s Coach of the Year in the 2007-08 season during his four-year stint at Towson Catholic. “The kids have really bought in to what we’re doing. This is always a great end of the year banquet to acknowledge all the great players not only in our program, but the other schools, and it’s always nice to be reminded of the tradition of the Baltimore Catholic League.”
Edokpayi, a senior forward, was named the Cokey Robertson Most Improved Player of the Year. And St. Frances senior forward Julian Reese was recognized as the Mark Amatucci Defensive Player of the Year.
The selections were based on voting by league coaches and officials, and selected media members.
Each team selected a player as recipient of the Dave Kropfelder "Never, Never Quit" Award: N’Kobe Turner, Archbishop Spalding; Ryan Sand, Calvert Hall; Bryce Meads, John Carroll; Rece Gardner, Loyola Blakefield; Kobe Edwards, Mount Carmel; Cameron Sapienza, Mount Saint Joseph; Elijah Davis, St. Frances; and Christian Longerbeam, St. Maria Goretti.
The BCL Tournament opens Feb. 26, with quarterfinals held at the home of the higher seeds. The remainder of the tournament will take place at Loyola Maryland, with the semifinals set for Feb. 28 (5 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and the championship game at 1 p.m. on March 1.
First up for many of the teams is the MIAA A Conference playoffs, which start Tuesday. St. Frances and Gilman earned the top seeds after winning their respective divisions.
BCL second team
Ausar Crawley, Mount Saint Joseph
Deon Perry, Mount Carmel
Mike Williams, Calvert Hall
Matt Rogers, St. Maria Goretti
Briggs McClain, St. Maria Goretti
Jalen Bryant, John Carroll
Honorable mention: Julian Reese, St. Frances; Khyrie Staten, St. Frances; Cam Smith, Loyola Blakefied; Jordan Moore, Loyola Blakefield; Cesar Tchilombo, John Carroll; C.J. Scott, Archbiship Spalding; Tyheil Peterson, Archbishop Spalding; Sarmartine Bogues, Calvert Hall; Toby Nnadozie, Mount Carmel