About this time last year, Quadree Smith sat in a Comcast Center seat watching Potomac flounder to an 84-55 loss against Milford Mill in the Maryland 3A state championship game.
“I was present. That was not a good [game],” Smith said.
Reclassified from 3A to 2A, embarrassed by last year’s stumble and boasting a plethora of talent even before Smith joined them from Paul VI in mid-January, the Wolverines (23-4) are heading back to Comcast to face Patterson on Friday in the Maryland 2A state semifinals.
Officially, the No. 11 Wolverines have lost four games since the title game last year — to 3A/2A/1A rivals Douglass and Largo and to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference powers St. John’s and O’Connell. But while other teams struggle to beat Potomac, senior guard Dion Wiley says the Wolverines’ starters are often pushed hardest by familiar faces every day at practice.
“We always lose to our second team,” Wiley said. “We scrimmage them; they always beat us. Our second team would be a good team in our league. They make us better.”
Smith, the starting center; Wiley; guard Randall Broddie; forward Dayjar Dickson; and forward Anthony Smith make up the Wolverines’ starting five. All of them are coveted recruits with Broddie (with offers from Miami, DePaul and Southern Methodist), Quadree Smith (more than 10 offers) and Wiley (committed to Maryland) likely headed for major Division I programs.
But limited minutes don’t equate to limited talent at Potomac as role players like Emil Neugent, Keiron Howard, Jerry Sharpe, Daris Lawson and David Rose always — as Smith put it — “give us a good bump” in practice.
“Those guys can play,” said Potomac Coach Johnson, who admitted he can’t let the two groups play for more than 15 minutes at a time before the scrimmage begins to resemble a physical playoff game. “We had the second team mimic Patterson, and I know our guys will say, ‘Wait a minute. Our guys are just as good as these guys.’ ”
But if depth provides luxuries in training, it also creates a tough juggle for Johnson, who says balancing playing time, showcasing potential recruits, maximizing talent and sharing the ball — all difficult even before Smith’s midseason arrival — got even trickier when one of the area’s best big men ambled into his gym.
“Having Dion as my wife and Broddie as my mistress, then bringing in another mistress midseason? It may look good on the outside, but that’s a lot for one man to handle,” Johnson said with a laugh, explaining that he struggles to find minutes and scoring opportunities for all those on his roster, bench or starters.
But Johnson said Smith’s “ridiculous basketball IQ” allowed him to learn all of Potomac’s offensive sets and defenses in two days. It helped that Smith was no stranger to his new Potomac teammates when he transferred: He had gone to Stoddert Middle School with Broddie, played on Team Takeover with Wiley and played for D.C. Assault with Dickson.
Smith has scored in double-digits in 11 of 13 games with the Wolverines, who averaged 76 points in 12 games before his arrival and have averaged 83 points in 14 games since. Potomac is 12-2 and turned in three 100-point showings in that span — the latest of which came in an emphatic dismantling of Oakland Mills in the 2A South region final when all the pieces of the Wolverines’ talented roster seemed to find their optimal roles.
“Oh, man everything was clicking on all cylinders. I mean, I finally saw all 14 cylinders clicking,” Johnson said. “I’m just hoping we can keep that up for a few more days.”