This is the season’s second edition of The Post’s high school boys’ basketball notebook, which covers the top stories in the Washington, D.C. area. During the season, the notebook will run every Monday.
In this week’s notebook, we cover Friendship Tech, Gaithersburg, DeMatha, Loudoun Valley, Battlefield and Sandy Spring Friends.
No. 19 Friendship Tech is 5-0 behind Malik Miller’s explosive start: During each of No. 19 Friendship Tech’s five victories, Malik Miller has been too busy chasing the ball to worry about chasing statistics.
“A lot of times I don’t even realize how many rebounds I have,” Miller said. “I just keep grabbing ’em.”
But on the box score at the end, even Miller admits his numbers have been incredible. The rangy, 6-foot-3 Morgan State commit is averaging 22.8 points and 23 rebounds per game, and those numbers aren’t just coming against easy competition.
In the team’s most impressive win to date — a 55-53 victory over a No. 6 Riverdale Baptist, which has since defeated No. 7 Wilson, No. 8 Wise and No. 12 Eleanor Roosevelt — Miller hauled in 32 rebounds and scored 21 points.
“The kid just works,” Coach Dwayne Shackleford said. “He has a gift; he has a knack for the ball as far as rebounding. He has a good feel . . . he’s just one of those guys. He never gives up on plays so he’s able to get a lot of those loose balls.”
While it’s easy to gravitate toward Miller’s stats, the Titans are far from a one-man show. Senior Kenneth Tyree, whom Shackleford called “an explosive scorer,” is averaging 22.2 points per game and attracting Division I interest.
“At the end of the game, it’s all depending on who’s going,” said Miller, who has posted a double-double in every game this year. “If he’s going, he gets to take over. If I’m going, then I get to take over.”
That philosophy doesn’t just apply to Miller and Tyree. Freshman Rasheed Dupree has played a critical role this season, including scoring the go-ahead bucket against Riverdale Baptist with eight seconds remaining.
“He’s so small, but he got the heart of a lion,” Miller said of the 5-foot-5 guard. “He’s going to go at whoever, whenever, however. Like he don’t care if they’re bigger than him, stronger than him, he’s just going to play and give it 110 percent every night.”
Both Miller and Shackleford were quick to point out how many different players contribute to the team’s success, and both attributed the team’s undefeated start to the same thing.
“They work hard man,” Shackleford said of the team. “Now they’re just reaping the fruit of their labor.”
“Baby LeBron” and “Baby Durant” lead Gaithersburg to a hot start: What if LeBron James and Kevin Durant — arguably the best players of their generation — were teammates?
In gyms across Montgomery County this season, some are letting themselves dream. Gaithersburg (4-0) is led by freshmen Jao Ituka and Jordan Hawkins, whom Trojans Coach Jeffrey Holda affectionately refers to as “Baby LeBron” and “Baby Durant,” respectively.
“Everyone who sees them play says they remind them of [James and Durant],” Holda said.
On a team without a center, Hawkins is Gaithersburg’s tallest player at 6-foot-4. Holda gushed over the freshman’s shooting form. Hawkins’ long arms have made things difficult for opposing offenses this season.
“His game is so fun to watch,” Holda said.
On defense, the Trojans often turn to the zone trap, aiming to get turnovers and push the tempo in transition. That’s when teammates look for Ituka, whom Holda said benches 240 pounds, to power through defenses and finish strong at the rim. He’s working on his jumper, too, nailing two three-pointers in Gaithersburg’s 76-57 win over Bethesda-Chevy Chase on Friday — and has had success guarding all five positions.
Holda has grown accustomed to private schools raiding some of his top talent, but Gaithersburg seems to have the weapons to compete. The Trojans, who went 8-15 last season, look to keep their undefeated streak alive Monday against Damascus (0-3).
Even with his knee brace, Justin Moore has been a force for No. 1 DeMatha: Justin Moore doesn’t want to look too far ahead.
After all, the junior DeMatha guard is excited about his team’s 5-0 start.
But Moore has January stuck in his mind.
That’s when he expects his doctors will clear him to play without a knee brace, the last visible reminder of the torn left anterior cruciate ligament he suffered last January that cut Moore’s sophomore season short and forced him to miss the past spring and summer on the AAU circuit.
“I know he wants it to be, like, yesterday,” Coach Mike Jones said of Moore’s eagerness to shed the brace. “But he’s pretty doggone good with it on, too.”
While Jones rehabbed, strengthening his hamstring and quadriceps muscles in hopes of preventing a retear, he watched his teammates, taking mental notes of what he wanted to improve upon in his junior year.
It has translated so far. Against St. John’s on Friday, for example, Moore had a steal and ran the floor for a layup, side-stepped a defender more than once and flashed a spin move on his last field goal, finishing with 12 points.
But, he expects more.
“The knee brace kind of restricts me,” Moore said. “Once I get that off, I can move even faster.”
Dominic Peterson haunts Battlefield with a buzzer-beater three: As Loudoun Valley prepared to inbound the ball from beneath its own basket, Battlefield focused on Jordan Miller to protect its one-point lead. With 4.2 seconds left, the senior George Mason commit lined up at the free throw line, faked liked he was stepping back to the top of the key and cut hard to the basket.
The Bobcats cut off the passing lane to Miller and stepped in front of the next cutter. Behind the commotion in the lane, Dominic Peterson drifted from the elbow beyond the three-point line. With a rhythmic catch and shoot, the senior drained the game-winning shot as time expired on a 72-70 win at Handley high school in Winchester.
“Teams are going to make efforts to stop Jordan. We know that. We just have to be ready to step up when that creates openings,” Peterson said. “[Battlefield] bunched up the middle knowing that we only needed a two. So I found the open spot and had the confidence to knock down that shot.”
No. 4 Loudoun Valley (4-0) has now won 18 straight games. For the Bobcats, the last-second loss preceded a reflective bus ride back home to Haymarket. Battlefield (5-3) has faced a tough nonconference schedule with previous losses to No. 19 South Lakes and No. 15 Rock Creek Christian.
“I had some nightmares about that shot,” Battlefield Coach Randall Bills said. “I don’t think there are moral victories but there are teachable moments. On that hour-and-fifteen-minute bus ride back home, we had some nice conversations to make sure everyone’s mind is in the right place. We’ll be ready for the conference.”
Stat of the week
Sandy Spring Friends guard Mikey Parker had a breakout game last Tuesday in the Wildebeests’ 94-29 win over the Model Secondary School for the Deaf.
The senior had 51 points, making 13 of his 16 three-point attempts — both team records set in 2014. With the production, Parker became the third player in school history to surpass 1,000 career points.