Derek Young, Kevon Moore, and Nick DeSouza will be playing guard for Archbishop Spalding's basketball team this winter, and their task is a challenging one: Replace three Division I-bound graduates -- point guard Justin Castleberry (Bucknell), shooting guard Marquis Dixon (Loyola College) and forward Lawrence Dixon (Holy Cross) -- who contributed roughly 45 points per game.
But Spalding fans have reason to smile. Two years removed from the Rudy Gay-led season in which they won the MIAA championship and made the Baltimore Catholic League title game, the Cavaliers' backcourt, judging from their play in two leagues this summer, is in fine shape.
Spalding is undefeated in the Anne Arundel Recreation and Parks Senior League, played on the outdoor courts at Lake Waterford Park, and seem likely to win the championship when it is contested next Tuesday. In the more competitive ScholasticScout.com league, played indoors in the District, Spalding is holding its own against some of the Washington area's top-ranked squads. The team is 5-5 and made this week's playoffs.
"If we learn to rebound the basketball, we're going to be a championship team," Coach Mike Glick confidently told his players following last weekend's 79-54 ScholasticScout victory over Hayfield. Moments earlier, in the same postgame huddle, assistant coach Ralph Burley drove home a point about defense and about not becoming complacent.
"When we get a chance to put somebody away, let's do it. We can't play down to the competition," said Burley, who, with assistant Sean Whalen, is coaching the team in the summer league with Glick observing.
Young, 17, a 6-1 senior who started at small forward last season and is making the transition to point guard, is the centerpiece of the offense. His smooth stroke from outside and a tireless determination after missed shots led to 26 points in the Hayfield game. He hit four three-pointers and was 10 for 14 from the field.
"A lot of people are going to underestimate us [because of the graduating seniors], but I think we're going to surprise some people," said Young, the team captain and a Capitol Heights resident. "The way we defend and attack the glass on offense. We [the guards] might be a little undersized, but all of us play hard. That'll take us far."
Whalen called the 15-year-old Moore, who is 6-2, one of the best sophomore guards in the area. He plays AAU basketball for Triple Threat in the national U-15 and U-16 division and will start at shooting guard this winter. But it is his first year on varsity; he led the junior varsity last winter, averaging about 15 points per game.
Moore scored 10 points in the Hayfield victory, including finishing a fast break off a pass from DeSouza and taking a nifty, no-look, fake-shot pass from Young down low and converting two points. His long arms and sizable reach will be assets for Spalding. A basketball player since age 4, he has seen his outside shot improve recently.
"Since I came here [to Spalding], individual work between me and the coaches has made my shot better," said Moore, a Bowie resident. Moving up to varsity, Moore said, will "be a challenge but I'm ready for that challenge."
DeSouza, 16, also of Bowie, will back up Young at point guard. It is also his first year on varsity. On several occasions in last week's victory over Severn at Lake Waterford, DeSouza adeptly ran the break and made accurate passes leading to points. He also scored 12 first-half points, including two three-pointers, and finished with 18 points.
"I think [the passing] is something I work on. Once you develop a skill you get better at what you do," said DeSouza.
"I also get to learn a lot from this guy each and every day," he added, motioning to Young. "People sleep on Derek, but he's one of the best point guards in this area. If somebody did go down, I think I'll be fully prepared."