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Former Dunbar and Maryland star Keith Booth selected as Poets' next coach

More than 25 years after leaving Dunbar as a McDonald’s All-American, Keith Booth has been selected by the fabled Baltimore high school program as its boys basketball coach, athletic director Dana Johnson said Thursday.

Booth, 44, will succeed Cyrus Jones Sr., who stepped down in April after 12 seasons as the team’s head coach and 16 years at the school. Booth was traveling Thursday and unavailable for comment.

Johnson said that Booth was one of four coaches interviewed, and that his background as a college player and assistant coach at Maryland and Loyola Maryland, as well a short career in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls and a recent stint coaching a local AAU team, put him at the top of the candidate pool.

“The panel thought he would be the best fit, being an alumni, his background with the NBA and on the college level and currently his connection with some of the better AAU programs in the city. Those were some of things that tilted us in his direction,” Johnson said in a telephone interview.

“The biggest thing for us at this time because of his college background, and his knowledge of the NCAA recruiting process, and his knowledge of what coaches are looking for in prospective athletes, we felt that is a big bonus for our players to give them the inside track for what it takes [to play at the next level].”

That he played for Dunbar also resonated with Johnson and those helping her select a new coach.

Booth started all four seasons at Maryland and still holds several school records. After being a third-team All-American as a senior in 1996-97, Booth was selected as the No. 1 draft choice by the reigning world champion Bulls.

An undersized power forward at 6-feet-6 on the college level whose game was built around posting up inside for dunks, layups and free throws (he holds the record for free throws made and attempted), Booth lasted less than three seasons in the NBA.

Booth returned to Maryland as an assistant coach in 2004 and worked under Gary Williams for seven seasons. He went to Loyola, first as the assistant women’s coach and later as an assistant men’s coach under former Maryland assistant Jimmy Patsos and later for G.G. Smith.

Booth took over this spring as the coach of Under Armour’s under-17 team for Team Thrill.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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