Oxon Hill's Butler Raises His Game

Everyone knows about Oxon Hill All-Met senior center Michael Sweetney, who has committed verbally to play basketball for Georgetown. And most basketball followers are aware of Richard Little, the Clippers' talented senior point guard. Few know about Lamar Butler Jr., a 6-foot-1 junior who will be counted on to produce this winter.

Butler scored a game-high 18 points Friday, including a pair of critical baskets midway through the second half, to lead Oxon Hill to a 62-54 comeback victory over Coolidge in the teams' final regular season game in the Kenner League.

Butler's three-pointer from the right wing gave Oxon Hill a 50-48 lead. On the Clippers' next possession, Butler made a mid-range jumper and Oxon Hill pulled away. After trailing 48-31, the Clippers went on a 29-2 run. They finished the regular season 8-2 and in second place. The playoffs started Monday with four quarterfinal games.

Butler "can shoot it; I think he is one of the better juniors in this area, he and Philip Goss," Oxon Hill Coach Billy Lanier said. "Butler has a great combination in that he is a shooter that is a scorer. That's rare."

While the tandem of Sweetney and Little gives the Clippers talented players at the game's two most important positions, the emergence of Butler--whose father, Lamar, is an Oxon Hill assistant coach--and Goss gives reason to believe the Clippers are poised for another successful season. They have lost in the state final each of the past two seasons.

"I think [Butler] is having a great summer," Lanier said. "He's going to have to score more for us next year than he did last year [when Butler averaged eight points per game]. I think he is feeling more comfortable on the varsity level. It is a major jump. But he understands what we want from him and he is getting it done."

As for Sweetney, his stock has continued to rise this summer. Despite his Georgetown commitment, other college coaches keep raving about his play. Upon leaving the gym after Oxon Hill's 69-63 victory over Carroll in the semifinals of the Reebok League at High Point, one college coach said, "I'm telling you, there aren't five better [high school] players in the country."

Gwynn Park Enjoys Abundant Prospects

Steve Matthews knows there are going to be some unhappy faces this fall when he hands out uniforms for the Gwynn Park boys basketball team. The Yellow Jackets have all but two players returning from last season's team that lost in the Maryland 3A championship game, and their junior varsity finished 20-0. Making the numbers crunch even a little tighter, Gwynn Park has added 6-3 forward Patrick Harper, a junior transfer from Grace Brethren.

"He's got a good chance" to start, Matthews said. "We've got a lot of talent, but he's got a good chance."

The Yellow Jackets' talent starts with 6-9 center Sharrod Ford and guard Charles Ford (no relation), both seniors. Matthews said Seth Mitchell, Steve Washington and Kellen Pruitt have also played well. Gwynn Park finished 5-4 in the Falconers League at Largo (with three one-point losses) and 6-4 in the Kenner League at Georgetown.

The summer "has had a lot of growth in it," Matthews said. "We're doing the things we need to do, having fun and hitting the weight room. They have the right mentality."

DeMatha Recharges With New Talent

With nearly all of the high school summer basketball leagues completed, coaches are reassessing their teams. Perhaps no team made more significant strides this summer than DeMatha's boys, annually one of the Washington area's best but in the position of rebuilding--or reloading, depending on one's perspective.

The Stags lost All-Met standouts Keith Bogans (Kentucky) and Joe Forte (North Carolina), but have a talented cast of newcomers to go along with juniors Billy Edelin, a guard, and Jordan Collins, a center. Edelin was the most impressive player in last week's 71-60 victory over Oxon Hill in the championship game of the Reebok League. In three playoff games, Edelin consistently drove to the basket and displayed a nifty running shot.

What makes Edelin more dangerous is the emergence of sophomore Warren Williams. He and classmate Travis Garrison, a 6-4 forward, were on DeMatha's junior varsity team last season; this season, they likely will be in the starting lineup. Seniors Robin Wentt, a 6-5 forward, and Vince Bartozzi, a 5-11 guard, also have shown improvement, helping the Stags also win the title in the Ban the Brick League at St. Albans.

"We've come together," Edelin said. "A lot of guys didn't get to be seen behind Keith and Joe. Now they are able to step up and play. . . . We don't have any drop-dead talent like Keith and Joe, but I know we still have good coaches and good players."

CAPTION: Oxon Hill's Lamar Butler Jr. angles in during Friday's Kenner League game against Coolidge.