Jimmy Ball, North Point boys’ basketball coach, sat behind a table in the media room at the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center flanked by four of his nine seniors.
The players’ heads drooped after a 61-58 Maryland 4A state semifinal loss to Eleanor Roosevelt on March 14, but Ball, speaking as much to the fidgeting players as the assembled reporters, vowed not to let the disappointing ending taint his view of the season or their careers.
Relying on an all-senior starting lineup this season, the Eagles made their third straight state tournament appearance in just their sixth season of varsity competition, a run that included the 2011 state title. All five starters are expected to play in college next season, a group led by Siena-bound All-Met Marquis Wright.
Ball, meantime, has begun to look ahead to a future without them. The Eagles kickoff summer league play in DeMatha’s BSN Sports Elite Hoops Summer League on Friday against St. John’s, a squad loaded with Division I prospects.
“Those guys set the foundation for our program, defining our style of play and what North Point basketball is,” said Ball, whose team beat the host Stags in the final last year to win the inaugural DeMatha summer league title. “It’s exciting to see if this group can play that way or do we have to adjust it a little bit? The summer league will show us where we are and where we need to go.”
Many of the returning varsity players had the opportunity to play significant minutes for a squad that averaged nearly 93 points per game with an average margin of victory of more than 37 points, but junior Ochae Dejene was the lone non-senior to make a start last season and that only happened twice, according to Ball. North Point’s top six scorers were all seniors.
The coach began holding voluntary conditioning workouts after the players returned from spring break last month. The Eagles will attend five team camps this summer, hoping to boost chemistry and gain the players valuable exposure. Last season at this time, Wright was the only player receiving significant college interest, Ball said.
“We’re going to be young,” Ball said. “We’re going to make some mistakes. Hopefully, we make the mistakes, learn from them and then move on.”
As for the class of players set to graduate Tuesday, Wright leaves the school as its most decorated player. The Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year had signed with Loyola before flipping to Siena to follow Coach Jimmy Patsos.
Leading scorer Matt Bonds (St. Michael’s) and three-year Naim Muhammad (Shepherd) both landed at Division II schools, while late-blooming point guard Anthony Williams will play at Division III Rhode Island College.
Daylin Davis offered an oral commitment to Washington Adventist earlier this month but has not signed, according to Ball. He’s still weighing his options and could end up at the Takoma Park school but also is considering Pfeiffer University (N.C.) and Keystone College (Pa.).
Davis, a 6-foot-4 forward, lacks offensive polish, but he played a valuable role protecting the rim for the Eagles. Ball said he continues to grow into his potential on the court.
“If he gets to the right school and develops,” Ball said, “he could be a nice asset to a program.”