In the teary aftermath of Wise’s first and last loss of the season, Coach Rob Garner wove an important truth into an ode to his senior class.
“They’re all going to continue on to go to college,” Garner said following his team’s loss to Quince Orchard on March 9. “And go to college to be student-athletes for free.”
The Pumas won the first 21 games of the season before falling to the Cougars in the semifinals of Maryland’s 4A state playoffs. That run was orchestrated by a core of four seniors: point guard Brent Pegram, shooting guard Brandon Howell, and a pair of do-it-all wings in Michael Speight and Darron Barnes.
Speight, Barnes, Howell and Pegram are all weeding through future options with their Wise careers now behind them. Here are what those look like for each player:
Speight waited until the season was over before sitting down with his family to consider his college decision. During the playoffs, he was looking at offers from Canisius, High Point, James Madison, Towson, Mount St. Mary’s and Radford. He also started receiving interest from Duquesne during his senior season.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard thinks his stock was hurt by a foot injury two years ago. He decided to play in the AAU circuit that summer instead of sitting out, and a lot of college coaches saw him at less than 100 percent. Then he fractured his right wrist during this past summer’s AAU circuit, which hindered him yet again.
“I think that will all work itself out,” Speight said. “I’ve proven over my high school career what kind of player I am.”
He used a diverse offensive skill set to lead the Pumas with 18.4 points per game this season. He’s able to create his own shot at will and has solid touch from the outside. He’s also a savvy ballhandler who can navigate inside — one positive of his wrist injury is that it forced him to work extra hard on his left hand — and can frequently get to the foul line.
Pegram was Wise’s point guard in most situations, but Speight confidently set up the offense whenever teams forced the ball out of Pegram’s hands. Speight thinks, given his “point guard size,” he will need to be more of a ballhandler at the next level.
Barnes has received attention and offers from a handful of Division I programs, but he is “leaning heavily” toward doing a year at a preparatory school before heading to college.
Players normally attend prep school to either sure up their skills or grades, or both, and Barnes wants to use an extra high school season to garner more interest.
“I had an underwhelming year on the [AAU] circuit last year, so I really want to see what can happen to my recruitment if I played with the right organization and played well,” Barnes said. “Also my style of play is popular right now, so that could help my recruitment.”
Barnes is viewed as a big, athletic wing player with polished guard skills. He has not decided which AAU team he will play for this spring and summer, and he has not narrowed down his prep school choices. He has college offers from Manhattan, Towson and Maine and said that Campbell, Radford and Robert Morris would also be in consideration if he were going that route.
He is a 6-foot-6 perimeter scorer who averaged 13.5 points this season and also regularly mixed it up inside. A junior college coach (who saw Barnes play in the state semifinals and asked to remain anonymous) said Barnes’s ability to affect the game without the ball will attract “a lot of mid-major coaches when the time comes for him.”
Right now, it looks as if that time will be during one more high school season.
Like Speight, Pegram was always set on waiting until after the season to nail down the next step of his career.
The 6-foot point guard adopted a more aggressive scoring mindset in his senior season, which amounted to 12 points per game while quarterbacking Garner’s system. Pegram has an offer from Shepherd, a Division II program in West Virginia, and has also been contacted by coaches from Bowie State.
Pegram is a relentless on-ball defender, and one of his most attractive offensive skills is scoring in the flow of the game. A high percentage of his half-court points came on his second or third touch of a given possession, illustrating his ability to facilitate to teammates and hunt scoring opportunities. He also created a lot of chances for himself and others in transition.
Howell plans to go to college next year but isn’t ruling out an alternative option such as prep school.
He is interested in programs such as LIU Brooklyn, Hampton, Old Dominion and Virginia State. He has seen guards of his smaller size — 5 feet 11, 165 pounds — thrive with those teams and is hoping to attract more offers while playing AAU this season. He does not want to reveal his current offers until he makes a final decision, which he hopes will happen in mid-April or shortly thereafter.
This past season, which was his first with Wise after playing for Theodore Roosevelt in D.C., Howell was a reliable spot-up shooter and dogged defender.
“The teams I’ve heard from, they really like the way I move off the ball,” Howell said. “They obviously like the way I can shoot, but they also want to see me handle the ball more. So I am going to work on that a lot in AAU.”