Hammond High School senior Quinton Burton is hurting Howard County basketball opposition in every conceivable way.

The Bears' 6-foot-5 senior forward is averaging 26.3 points, 18.8 rebounds, four blocked shots and four assists per game. Earlier this year, Burton scored 37 points and pulled down 10 rebounds against division rival Mount Hebron.

According to Bears Coach Jack Burke, Burton is explosive, yet deceptive.

"He's got such a deceptive first step," said Burke. "He seems to just lope down the court and you think he's going one-quarter speed, and then he takes that first step and he's by you before you know what has happened."

Burke and his players both say the Bears had more individual talent last season when they finished 9-11, but this year's 10-3 record (4-2 in Howard County), is a tribute to a more "defined team concept."

"This year the players know what their roles are," said Burke. "Last year there were more stars, and everyone was just shooting. This year the expectations for each player are much clearer."

This concept has helped improve Burton's game. As a junior, he averaged 21 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and three assists a game.

Everyone played for themselves last year," said Burton. "This year we're a team, and that makes a big difference."

That difference was evident to Mount Hebron Coach Chuck Monninger, who tried using a 2-3 zone to shut down Burton's dominating inside game. After his team was beaten, 61-52, Monninger said, "They shot the eyes out of our zone. Next time I'll try using man-to-man."

"Burton is really a fine team player," said Monninger. "He's a leader, and the other players really follow his example." And his shooting? "We thought if we took away his inside game, we could limit him," said Monninger. "But he really impressed us with his perimeter shooting. I didn't know he was that good from the outside."

Burton says he sees a lot of "gimmick" defenses. "Teams try to use the box-and-one or box-and-two type stuff to limit me, but that just makes me play harder."

Burke says Burton's work ethic is what "really separates him from other players."

"He's a real gym rat," said Burke. "He loves to play the game, and he plays it all the time. He's not a loud rah-rah type, but he certainly leads by example.

"Most players, when they score 27 points or dominate a game, you know they are there. I mean they do it loudly," said Burke. "The amazing thing about Quinton is that he controls the game so quietly, so smoothly. He just plays error-free basketball. It doesn't matter whether we're up five or down 15, he's just as intense."

Burton hopes that intensity will work for him when he begins playing for Providence next year. He has given the school an oral commitment.

I saw him in summer camp, and he is perfect for our style of play," said Providence Coach Rick Pitino. "He can run, press and shoot. He fits our style like a glove."

Pitino said he didn't see any glaring weaknesses in Burton's game. "You're talking about one of the premier high school players in the game," he said. "There will certainly be things he'll have to learn, but there isn't any reason he shouldn't have a great career here."

Burke sees Burton in a similar role played as that played by Georgetown's David Wingate.

"He's the same type of player as Wingate," said Burke. "He can go inside. And with that slashing quickness, he's able to bury the 15-footer. I don't see why he can't reach the level of Wingate at Providence."