Happy 62nd birthday to DeMatha great Adrian Dantley

Adrian Dantley
While at Dematha, Adrian Dantley was a three-time All-Met selection and helped lead the Stags to four straight No. 1 rankings in the Washington area.

It was a cold winter morning in December of 1969. Schools were on break, with teachers and coaches like DeMatha’s Morgan Wootten happy for a respite from their responsibilities.

This particular morning, Wootten heard a knock on the door of his Hyattsville home. He went to answer it and discovered ninth-grader Adrian Dantley standing on his doorstep. Dantley, then an up-and-coming star for the Stags, wanted to borrow the keys to the DeMatha gym, so he could squeeze in a workout.

Continue reading Happy 62nd birthday to DeMatha great Adrian Dantley

Local product Palmer finds winter in Nebraska to his liking

It’s rare that someone would prefer winter in Lincoln, Nebraska to winter in Miami.

But it worked out for James Palmer, Jr.

Palmerpic
James Palmer, Jr, who played at Henry Wise and St. John’s, is one of the main reasons Nebraska is battling for an NCAA Tournament bid as March approaches

Palmer, an Upper Marlboro native and former standout at St. John’s and Henry A. Wise, started his college career at the University of Miami. The 6-foot-6 wing played sparingly there, averaging about 12 minutes and three points per game for the Hurricanes.

With prospects for playing time looking bleak, Palmer opted to transfer to Nebraska. There, coach Tim Miles has shown a knack for landing transfers from big-time schools like Terran Petteway (Texas Tech), Walter Pitchford (Florida) and Andrew White (Kansas). All flourished at Nebraska and later pursued professional basketball careers of one kind or another.

“Those guys left a trail for me to follow,” Palmer told the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star. “That shows a good example of Nebraska getting good transfer players and really developing them.”

Continue reading Local product Palmer finds winter in Nebraska to his liking

50 years ago, Northwestern’s Fox played a game to remember

Harold Fox
Harold Fox, a three-time All-Met selection from Northwestern High School, played his college ball at Jacksonville.

Was it the greatest single-game performance in the history of D.C. area high school basketball?

It just might be.

Fifty years ago this week, Harold Fox, a 6-foot-1 guard at Northwestern High School, pumped in 64 points in a wild 103-87 victory over Oxon Hill. Fox, a senior, connected on 29 of 44 shots, pouring in 28 points in the final quarter – 41 in the second half.

At the time, only one local high school player had ever scored more in a game –­ Mount Vernon’s Marty Lentz, who erupted for 74 points against Stuart during the 1960-61 season.

In terms of points, Fox’s game would have to rank among the best. But he didn’t limit himself to just scoring that night. According to The Washington Post account of the game, Fox was credited with 15 rebounds and 13 assists as well. Continue reading 50 years ago, Northwestern’s Fox played a game to remember

50 years ago Carr drives Mackin over DeMatha

Austin Carr headshot

By 1967, legendary coach Morgan Wootten had firmly established DeMatha as the premier high school basketball program in the Washington area.

Taking over the top spot after the Archbishop Carroll dynasty had run its course, the Stags reigned as the best team in the area for the next half-dozen years, and even garnered national attention following their upset of New York’s Power Memorial and superstar Lew Alcindor in 1965.

Austin Carr headshot
Austin Carr

Throughout that period, league rival Mackin also established itself as one of the best programs around. During a five-season run, from 1961-66, the Trojans – then coached by Paul Furlong – ran up a record of 133-33.

That would be an admirable showing against any level of competition. It was even more impressive considering now-closed Mackin competed in the Washington Catholic League against the likes of DeMatha, Carroll and St. John’s. Then, as now, the league featured some of the best high school basketball around.

But as good as Mackin was during that stretch, it could never unseat DeMatha. The Stags won the league title every year from 1961-66 and would win it again every year from 1968-76.

But 50 years ago this week, Mackin was finally able to knock DeMatha from the top of the league standings and the top of the local high school basketball rankings.

DeMatha didn’t lose often. On the rare occasions the Stags did lose, it took an oustanding player, or team, or circumstance to beat them.

In the first week of March in 1967, Mackin had at least two of the three factors in their favor. Star guard Autin Carr scored 21 points (including the 2,000th of his pep career) as Mackin downed DeMatha, 54-48, on the night of March 3, 1967.

It was, by all accounts, the biggest regular-season high school game of the year, and mabe the biggest locally since the DeMatha-Power clash two years before. To accommodate the huge crowd expected, the game was moved to Cole Field House at the University of Maryland, where a throng of 8,500 gathered to watch the show.

They saw a classic. DeMatha led by nine (16-7) early in the game, but the margin remained within three points for much of the game, with neither team able to gain much of an edge. Mackin’s Richie Ford hit a basket early in the fourth quarter to give the Trojans the lead for good at 42-41. The previous three baskets in the game resulted in the lead switching hands – that’s how close it was.

Austin Carr #34 at Notre Dame
Austin Carr at Notre Dame

Carr, who had been hot early, but quiet in the middle, delivered at the end. He sank six consecutive free throws in the last two minutes to clinch the game, the league titles and the area’s No.1 ranking for the Trojans.

Carr was as prolific a scorer as any local high school has ever produced. He went on to an All-American career at Notre Dame and was a first-round draft choice in the NBA. But he had lots of help, too. Mackin had a great distributor and defensive player at the point in Sterling Savoy, a talented big man in 6-foot-8 Garland Williams, and another reliable offensive option in Richie Ford. Carr and Williams earned All-Met recognition in the Washington Star for the 1966-67 season; Carr and Savoy were picked for the Washington Post squad. Ford was chosen for All-Met honors the next season.

It had been a long time coming for Mackin. The Trojans had won the first regular-season game between the two powerful teams a little more than a month before. Carr scored 21 points in that first triumph, including a key three-point play with 2:10 left, to lead Mackin to a 55-49 victory over 2,500 fans at Fort Myer across the river in Virginia.

That victory was Mackin’s first over DeMatha in 10 years. The league title was the school’s first – and only – as a member of the Catholic League/Metro Conference. And, it was the only time DeMatha failed to win the crown in that ultra-competitive league between 1961 and 1976.

After Mackin’s second victory over the Stags in ‘67, Furlong made so secret about what his focus had been that season – and in fact his entire coaching career at Mackin up to that point.

“Trying to reach the level Morgan (Wootten) hs established at DeMatha has helped us,” he said. “DeMatha has pride – they’ve had it for a long time – and now we have it.”

Make 2017 a Banner Year for Adrian Branch

The University of Maryland athletic department announced this week that it will unveil a banner honoring former basketball coach Lefty Driesell before the Feb. 11 home game against Ohio State.

The move is long overdue. Driesell put Maryland on the college basketball map in the 1970s, raising the program to the point where it could compete against the best.

adrian-branch
Adrian Branch

Now that the athletic department has addressed this oversight, I’ve got another suggestion. How about school officials also raise a banner for ex-player Adrian Branch?

In the early 1980s, Branch helped Driesell accumulate 82 victories from 1981-85, a healthy chunk of the 348 wins Driesell amassed during his 17 years in College Park.

It’s not like Branch isn’t deserving. He’s the only 2,000-point scorer in school history whose jersey number doesn’t hang from the ceiling.

Continue reading Make 2017 a Banner Year for Adrian Branch

DeMatha’s Fultz a fabulous freshman

marquelle-fultzThe new college basketball season is still taking shape. As a result, it’s difficult to draw many definitive conclusions based on what’s happened so far. After all, preseason No.1 Duke has already lost once; perennial power Michigan State has lost three times.

One of the few certainties in this still-young season is this: Upper Marlboro native and DeMatha grad Markelle Fultz is playing as well as any freshman in the country. Through the first five games of his college career at the University of Washington, Fultz is averaging 25.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game.

Continue reading DeMatha’s Fultz a fabulous freshman

Gene Doan, a basketball architect

Gene_Doane

When Gene Doane was a young man, he thought he might become an architect or an engineer.

“I always had an interest in designing things,” he once said.

Ultimately, he was diverted from such pursuits. Basketball was in his blood, so instead he became a coach – a builder of successful high school basketball programs, an architect of winning teams.

Doane, who passed away last month at the age of 82, was one of the most successful coaches in Montgomery County – back when Montgomery County basketball was at its peak. From 1971-79, county schools won a dozen state titles. It took them another 30 years to win their next 12.

Doane compiled a 441-113 record and won with three programs – Sherwood in the 1960s, Blair in the 1970s and Seneca Valley during a half-dozen years there in the 1980s.

He won a pair of state championships at Blair, in 1975 and 1977. His success there is what he was most famous for locally. The ’75 team, which finished 23-2, probably set the standard for excellence among Montgomery County basketball teams.

“They were unreal,” marveled Mel Laughner, who coached at Sherwood at the time and led that school to a state title in 1979.

Doane probably could have stayed at Blair forever and won a few more titles – that was home to him, after all – his alma mater. But he grew restless if he stayed anyplace too long. He was constantly looking for another project to work on. To him, the real satisfaction in coaching was building something.

“I liked to get to a high school, put it on top and stay there for a couple of years and go on to another one,” he said. “It’s fun to do that. I never stayed at a school more than nine years.

“I liked challenges. I loved going to a school, building from scratch and making a winner.”

That’s what he did. He guided Sherwood to the state semifinals in 1965 – that school’s first-ever appearance in the state tournament. Then came the two Class AA state titles at Blair. At Seneca Valley, he took over the program at a football-crazy school in 1978. By 1981-82, he had the Screaming Eagles 23-1 and was named “Coach of the Year” in the metropolitan area by The Washington Post.

He did this by being fiery, meticulous and leaving nothing to chance. No matter where he coached, he went the extra mile. At every stop, he watched junior high games, met with kids and adults in the community, tried to place his team in a strong summer league and started basketball camps.

He was just as detail-oriented when it came to practices and games. He constantly drilled his players – he always thought other coaches did too much scrimmaging – breaking the game down into its component parts so that players could understand and execute what he wanted.

One day, when legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith came by a Blair workout on a recruiting trip,he was heard to say as he was leaving the gym, “Now that’s how you run a practice.”

“He wasn’t a coach, he was a teacher,” said Cedric Boatman, one of the stars on that ’75 Blair team. “What made him so good was his preparation. The reason Coach Doane’s teams won so much was because we were so prepared in practice.”

Doane delighted in the intricacies of in-game strategy as well. Someone like Springbrook’s John Barrett would adjust to something Doane was doing, and Doane would have to counter it.

“I think the main joy he got out of coaching – aside from the relationships he had with us – was figuring out how to counteract things and figuring out how to make things work with the pieces he had,” said Brian Magid, the shooting star of the ’75 Blair team.

Doane found plenty of challenging opponents in the county coaching ranks back then. From 1977-79, for example, county teams won eight of the 12 state championships contested in four Maryland classes. At one point in the late 1970s, there were eight county coaches working the sidelines who had won at least one state championship.

There was Barrett at archrival Springbrook, Laughner at Sherwood, Jim Conner at Rockville, Dale Miller at B-CC and Wootton, Tom George at Woodward, Hank Galotta at Paint Branch and Les Lombardi at Churchill – all of whom won state titles for the county during the 1970s.

“The coaches they had then – they worked at the game,” Doane once said. “They knew the game, so you had to be good to beat them.”

His players and his colleagues could always appreciate the passion he brought to coaching. To the public at large, however, he could sometimes come off like a madman. No one was more animated on the sidelines and often the only thing louder than his sportcoat was his voice as he yelled at his players. Maryland’s Gary Williams wouldn’t be an inappropriate comparison in that respect.

But his players came to understand – although maybe not always in the moment – what Doane was trying to do.

“If I can say this in the most affectionate way, he was a taskmaster,” said Willis Wilson, who played on the ’77 Blair team and later became a college coach himself. “He was very driven and very detailed. He always used to say, ‘There’s a method to my madness.’ He was always going to keep the heat on his players and his teams to really reach down and find their best.”