Baltimore Catholic League’s best to collide with District in basketball mixer Saturday at UMBC
by Derek Toney
One of the greatest events in Baltimore high school basketball history will be rebooted, kind of, Saturday.
The inaugural Charm City Challenge takes place at UMBC’s Retriever Activities Center (The RAC). The event feature teams from the Baltimore and Washington Catholic leagues, both regarded among the best in the nation.
Four games, featuring the league’s defending champs, will tip off at 2 p.m. Reigning BCL champ Mount St. Joseph will take on St. John’s College (D.C.), ranked sixth in the District region by the Washington Post.
Gonzaga, ranked fifth in D.C. and defending Washington Catholic champ plays St. Frances Academy in the nightcap. Mount Carmel, which reached the BCL and MIAA A final last season, takes on Bishop McNamara in the opening match.
Bill Spotts, who promoted the Charm City Classic, considered the nation’s best boys’ basketball tournament during its run from 1992 to 1998, said the winning league will receive the Savage/Wootten Trophy. It’s named in honor of two of the country’s most revered coaches, DeMatha Catholic’s Morgan Wootten and Jerry Savage of Loyola Blakefield.
Savage, who passed away in 2015, helped start the BCL. He coached the Dons to 607 wins and four BCL titles from 1968 to 2003 and served as athletic director from 1974 to 2003.
Wootten, won 1,274 games, 33 WCAC championships and five mythical national titles from 1956 to 2002. He’s the first high school coach inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
All four games Saturday will be available live at truesitesports.com. Proceeds from the games will go to Charm City Charities, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of youth through academic support, athletic training, life skills development, physical and emotional wellness and mentorship.
CHARM CITY CHALLENGE
When: Saturday Dec. 2
Where: RAC Arena, UMBC
Bishop McNamara vs. Mount Carmel
Time: 2 p.m.
Outlook: Mount Carmel (2-0 in 2017-18) hopes to build off last season’s run to the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League Tournament final. Jordan Jones will be one of the top performers in the MIAA A and BCL this season.
Rasheed Brown, a transfer from Baltimore City powerhouse Lake Clifton, should help pick up the scoring slack with all-MIAA/BCL first-teamer Terry Nolan (George Washington) graduated. The Cougars will have a bevy of veteran guards with William Miller, Mehki Howard and Dwight Felton.
“We’re fortunate to return five seniors and bringing in Brown. We’ll be able to compete,” said Mount Carmel Hakeem Hibbert. “They’re starting to believe in the program and the process.”
After going 9-22 last winter, McNamara is hoping for improvement this winter. The Prince George’s County school suffered a blow when University of Maryland commits, 6-9 twin brothers Makhi and Makhel Williams, left for Florida’s Montverde Academy during the summer.
Brandon Joyner is lone full-time returning starter back and Garrett Kirkland logged quality minutes last winter. Nigel Marshall and Ibn Williams, transfers from now-defunct New Jersey power St. Anthony’s, will have an impact.
“We’re going to be athletic. We’re going to use our guards and our quickness to overcome some of our height differences,” said McNamara coach Marty Keithline. “I’m really excited about getting back to being a pressing, energetic kind of team.”
St. Mary’s Ryken vs. John Carroll School
Time: 3:45 p.m.
Outlook: The Patriots (2-1), who won the BCL Tournament crown in 2016, should be in the title hunt this season. The Harford County school has one of the best backcourts in the nation with Immanuel Quickley, Montez Mathis and Nigel Haughton.
Quickley, an University of Kentucky commit, is regarded as one of the Top 10 best players in the nation, and Mathis will play for Rutgers next season. Haughton was the most consistent backcourt performer as Quickley and Mathis missed time with injuries and illness last season.
Quickley, who’s recovering from mononucleosis, will not play Saturday. Three transfers, Brandon Craig, Rob Goyena and Yavuz Gultekin, will help John Carroll this season. Zito says Gultekin, a 6-7 junior, has already attracted several Division I offers.
“We’re probably 9-10 deep,” said Zito, whose team beat Mount St. Joseph and lost to St. Frances this week. “We’ll be able to play at the pace we want to play at. We could last year because lack of numbers.”
St. Mary’s Ryken has one of the top guards in the DMV in Wynston Tabbs, a Boston College recruit. Lelan Eackles, son of former NBA veteran Ladell Eackles, is a returning starter.
New St. Mary’s Ryken coach Walter Booth expects transfers Mike Sumner (Prince George’s County’s Oxon Hill) and Servet Kurnaz (Arizona’s Hillcrest Prep) to contribute immediately with Raidell dePree, Chris Greene and Jahmir Young graduated.
“We got a chance to really make some noise as we try to establish a culture and foundation,” said Booth, who was an assistant at St. Mary’s College last season. “We’re going to play an up tempo style…I think I have guys who embrace that style.”
St. John’s College vs. Mount St. Joseph
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Outlook: The Gaels (3-1) have been up-and-down early, but with three starters back and an impressive run of success the last two decades, they will be a force. The Baltimore City school has one of the nation’s top post players in reigning VSN Player of the Year Jalen Smith, an University of Maryland recruit.
Steady veterans Kendall McMillian and Tyree Myers return to lead the backcourt with junior James Bishop, who is attracting major Division I interest following a strong showing on the AAU circuit. Eight letter winners are back for the Gaels, who graduated Darryl Morsell (Maryland) and Nigel Jackson (Wagner) off last winter’s roster.
“We’re probably not as talented as last year, but the cover is not bare either,” said Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey.
St. John’s (25-10 last season) will be a factor in the tough Washington Catholic Athletic Conference this season, led Tre Wood, an University of Massachusetts recruit who was all-WCAC first-team selection last season.
Casey Morsell is arguably the hottest prospect in the DMV’s Class of 2019 after a terrific spring and summer on the AAU circuit. The 6-foot-4 junior combo guard is drawing comparisons to Markell Fultz, a former DeMatha Catholic standout who was the top pick in this year’s NBA Draft after playing one season at the University of Washington.
Richard Nkoju, who will attend Navy, is a solid post performer. Guard Ishmael Leggett played well as a freshman last winter.
“We have a good mix of returning talent and leadership, but five through 10, you’re looking at all freshmen, sophomores and juniors who don’t have much varsity experience,” said St. John’s coach Patrick Behan. “We’ll see how quickly we come along.”
Gonzaga College vs. St. Frances Academy
Time: 7 p.m.
Outlook: Off to a solid start, St. Frances (4-0) gets its first major challenge against last season’s top squad in the District. Sophomore point guard Adrian Baldwin is a star in the making after solid freshman campaign and Jordan Toles is an explosive scorer.
Elijah Epps, a senior captain, returns along with promising junior Rajear Jones. Six-foot-8 Koran Moore, who didn’t play last season, has the potential to be one of the best post players in the DMV.
The Panthers have a wealth of size with Moore, freshman Detwan Montague (6-8) as well wing players Bassirou Diop (6-6) and Rayshod Hooper, a 6-5 transfer from Edgewood.
“We’re really deep. Last year we were young and we’re still young,” said St. Frances coach Nick Myles. “The year going through the gauntlet helped. They know what’s expected.”
Gonzaga (32-5 last season) has won two of the last three Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles. The Eagles were dealt a blow in the fall as senior point guard Prentiss Hubb, a Notre Dame University recruit, tore his ACL and will miss the 2017-18 campaign.
They will be still formidable, led by 6-5 combo guard Myles Dread who will play for Penn State next year. Anwar Gill (6-4 junior guard) and Terrance Williams (6-8 sophomore forward) are among the nation’s elite in their respective class.
Despite not having Hubb, Gonzaga coach Steve Turner expects this season’s squad to adapt.
“We try to get kids to buy into their role…whatever it is, we ask them to try to own it for the betterment of the team,” said Turner. “They sacrifice who they are or what they want to be for the team. We hope to have that again this year.”