Spalding Coach Mike Glick grew nostalgic as he watched his boys' basketball team post a convincing 47-37 victory over Arundel in the championship game of the Anne Arundel Recreation and Parks summer league last week at Severna Park Middle School.
"It's like I'm watching the team we had in 2002," Glick said. "I think this year's team plays so well together like that team did. We really didn't have a lot of stars on that team, but the intensity that team had and the way it played defense is very similar to this one."
If this year's squad is going to live up to Glick's comparison, it must win the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference tournament title this winter. That's a lofty goal for a squad that lost its top three scorers to graduation.
Justin Castleberry (Bucknell), Marquis Sullivan (Loyola) and Lawrence Dixon (Holy Cross) have departed, but since Glick took over at Spalding in 1999, he has turned the private school into a factory that produces college basketball players at an impressive rate. Including Kyle Snowden (Villanova), Landy Thompson (Mount St. Mary's), Will Bowers (Maryland) and Rudy Gay (Connecticut), Glick has sent a dozen Cavaliers to Division I colleges.
"We know the history of our team," said senior center Danny Quinn. "This summer, Rudy Gay came to our camp and you can learn a lot from someone who could be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft next year. We know how we need to play to get looks from colleges."
Glick is confident that his number of college-bound players will grow this winter as long as Quinn and standout senior Derek Young, who is switching from shooting guard to point guard, continue to make major strides as they did this summer.
Glick is optimistic about his team's chances in the MIAA this winter because this is one of his most balanced teams. Senior forwards Matt Cassilly and Daniel Palumbo are more athletes than basketball players, and sophomore guards Kavon Moore and Nick DeSouza are poised for breakthrough years in their first varsity seasons.
"We don't really have any dominant players this year, but we don't have any bad players," said Young, who scored a game-high 15 points against Arundel. "This summer has been more of a learning experience than anything else because we have a new team. But as the summer went on, I could feel the camaraderie on the court."
Spalding concluded its summer 17-6 as it went 6-6 in the Scholastic Scout Summer League at St. Albans and 11-0 in the Anne Arundel Recreation and Parks league. But the underlying story wasn't the number of wins. It was the manner in which they were earned.
Spalding traditionally thrives in a half-court game, methodically picking apart opponents with screens and cuts to get the ball to its top players, who then exploit size mismatches.
But this summer, Spalding's games resembled track meets. Players sprinted toward the basket as Young orchestrated the fast break. And the Cavaliers attacked opponents with a stifling man-to-man defense instead of using their traditional array of zones, which can be susceptible to perimeter shooting.
"Our first game of the summer we lost to McNamara by 35 points, and I was a little worried," Young said. "But with the way we are playing now, we're really playing to our strengths, and everyone feels a whole lot better."