Chris Cheeks, Wilson High School's senior guard, is perhaps the Interhigh's best-kept secret.
His 24.3-point average is third best in the area, but he doesn't receive nearly the attention accorded Cardozo's Earl Moore or Spingarn's Sherman Douglas -- both guards -- the area's Nos. 1 and 2 scorers.
"The only reason Chris isn't receiving media attention or a lot of exposure is because we are not raising any hell," said Wilson Coach Bill Powell. "If we were undefeated and ranked high in the polls, Chris would probably be labeled the best in the area."
A two-year starter and the team's captain, Cheeks, who averaged just under 16 points a game last year, has scored 30 or more points four times this season and three times he has recorded a triple-double -- double figures in points, rebounds and assists.
His quiet style of play has also led Wilson to five straight victories, keeping it in contention for the eight-team league tournament playoffs. Wilson is in sixth place with a 6-6 league record, 9-9 overall.
So why is he underrated, or at least underheralded?
Part of the reason stems from his quiet, unassuming personality. Some players lead by talking; Cheeks prefer to let his actions speak for themselves. He's not uncooperative, just more comfortable away from the limelight, playing the game rather than talking about it.
"He's is one of the most unselfish players in the league," said Powell. "He is not flamboyant, he just goes out there every game and does the same excellent, consistent job. He'll give you a fancy dunk now and then, and a between-the-legs dribble, but that's not really his style.
"His performance this season doesn't surprise me. What he's doing now isn't anything new."
Although Cheeks helped the Tigers to their first league title in 17 years last winter, he still did not receive much media attention.
"Winning the league title was the biggest thing in history to happen at the school" said the assistant coach, Ronald Jenkins. "And Cheeks' performance was just outstanding."
Even his finest performances last season (33 points against Spingarn in the league title game and 18 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots in a overtime loss to Carroll in the city title consolation game at Maryland's Cole Field House) went unnoticed.
"Joe (Burnie, all-Met) was the man last year, and everyone labeled him 'Mr. Wilson,'" said Powell. "He was the leading scorer in the league (22.6), had the best jump shot I've ever seen, and could do things with the basketball that were amazing. This left little room for anyone on the team to receive any kind of exposure."
But this season, Cheeks has the green light.
"He's running the plays that I designed for Burnie last year, only he's more effective because I can use him at guard, forward, and center," said Powell. "He's our free-lancing player."
Perhaps that term "free lancer" can be best defined by the play Wilson runs called the "Flash Pattern" where Cheeks starts out as a center playing the low post, and then comes off a pick to play outside and and pops in the jump shot from the free throw line.
Another play, Cheeks' favorite, is the "Isolation." Against Ballou last Thursday, Cheeks, who scored a team-high 24 points in the Tigers' 83-74 victory, was called on to run the play at least eight times.
"They call a lot of plays for him because of his size and strength," said Ballou's guard Jamie Hines. "On the isolation play, he has the option to do whatever he wants. And when a player with his inside leaping abilities and outside shooting accuracy has that option, it makes him a big threat."
"I have a lot of responsibilities and I've accepted the role Coach Powell has given me," said Cheeks, who is being recruited by American University, Wake Forest and the University of Miami. "But I'm not the only player on this team that's producing." Cheeks, who sufferred a sprained ankle injury two weeks ago, but sat out only one game, watched from the sidelines as his team, led by sophomore guard Ronnie Holt (21 points) and senior guard Poopie James (19 points), defeated Theodore Roosevelt, 63-56.
"It's nice to have players that can fill the void when injuries occur," said Powell. "We played (Roosevelt) as if we never had him on the squad. Maybe he is a hidden star. But I'll tell you one thing, if there is a tough game, or a tough situation, or a big challenge, and I need a player I can count on, Cheeks is my guy."