Washington Looks Sharp at the Point
Area Boasts an Elite Group of Guards
Saturday, February 28, 2009; Page E08
It was 4 1/2 years ago when they first made each other's acquaintance. It came at a summer camp for top basketball prospects, and Tyler Thornton had already heard of Kendall Marshall, once touted as the nation's best fifth-grade player.
"That was the first time I met him personally," Thornton said. "But he was always the big talk around the area."
Marshall is now a junior at O'Connell in Arlington and has committed to play his college ball at North Carolina. Thornton, who plays at Washington Catholic Athletic Conference rival Gonzaga, has committed to Duke. The two headline the area's stacked junior class of guards, with at least four having already committed to elite national programs. In addition to Marshall and Thornton, Georgetown Prep's Markel Starks has committed to Georgetown and DeMatha's Josh Selby is bound for Tennessee.
"If you look at the area, there are elite players. Period," DeMatha Coach Mike Jones said, noting that one of his former players, Bryon Allen, is now a junior point guard at basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy and has committed to play for West Virginia. "You have that whole crew [of juniors] growing up together. Luck of the draw, there was bound to be a year where some are the same size and play the same position."
Marshall and Thornton have grown to be friends, often calling or texting each other to discuss their games. This weekend, they'll be able to chat face to face when the WCAC quarterfinals start tomorrow at Gallaudet.
Selby, DeMatha's leading scorer at 16.3 points per game, has missed the third-ranked Stags' past 12 games after being suspended on Jan. 23 for a violation of team rules and will not play again this season. "He wasn't able to fulfill all of the requirements that would get him off of team suspension," DeMatha Principal Dan McMahon said.
Selby's absence, however, has only revealed how deep the talent pool is. Since he was suspended, the Stags (25-3) have lost just once and earned the top seed in the WCAC tournament, thanks in part to the play of sophomore guard Quinn Cook. Cook was the star in DeMatha's nationally televised 64-53 victory at O'Connell on Feb. 17, further establishing himself as a high-caliber college prospect.
Gonzaga junior Cedrick Lindsay is also enjoying a breakout season that has put him on the map for college recruiters, with Temple assistant Dave Duke stopping by earlier this week. St. John's is led by sophomore guard Chris Martin.
There also are a few relatively new juniors making their mark on courts around the Beltway. Top-ranked Montrose Christian added elite junior guard Terrence Ross from Portland, Ore., this season, while junior guard Ayobeji Egbeyemi, an arrival from Nigeria, has emerged as a top player for ninth-ranked National Christian.
But what makes this group special, according to many, is the crop of point guards. While Thornton and Marshall have known each other the longest, it didn't take long for them to get acquainted with Starks and Selby. The four are regulars on the summer travel team and camp circuits and Marshall, Thornton and Selby all play in the WCAC.
"There's no secrets," Marshall said. "We all know what we do well. It's a matter of execution and who gets a win. We're all unique. We have different tendencies and skills. Josh is ultra-athletic. He finishes at the rim and has a swagger to his game not many people have. Markel is a great scorer who gets his team the ball. Tyler is just a winner, a great defender who makes big plays down the stretch. I do a great job setting up my teammates and leading my team."
And while they play the same position, they excel in different areas. Thornton, who averages 14.5 points and five assists, is the tough defender and savvy court leader for sixth-ranked Gonzaga. Marshall is the smooth pass-first distributor who has improved his jump shot and leads fifth-ranked O'Connell in scoring at 13.6 points per game. Starks is a pure scorer, averaging 22 points, 8.5 assists and 5 rebounds for the Little Hoyas of the Interstate Athletic Conference. Selby is regarded as an athletic freak with an imposing attitude.
"The common denominator with the four of them is they're all winners," Gonzaga Coach Steve Turner said. "But they all beat you in different ways."
And they have been winning games for quite some time. Together, their four teams entered this week with a combined record of 88-21. And while all have the benefit of playing with talented teammates -- all four teams spent much of the season ranked in The Post's top 10 -- no one doubts their abilities.
"It's just great for the area when you can have four guys that talented, that some consider in the top 20 in the country and definitely in the top 10 point guards in the country," Georgetown Prep Coach Dwayne Bryant said. "It says a lot about basketball in this area."