Darren Lucas-White admits to being a little hesitant about switching high schools last year. The rising junior was going from Forestville, a public magnet that permanently closed its doors last year, to Fairmont Heights, a small school with similar struggles on the basketball court.
Then a funny thing happened. The merger between two boys’ basketball teams accustomed to losing started winning.
“At Forestville it just seemed like everybody was playing their own role,” Lucas-White said, “but at Fairmont it seemed like everybody is on the same chord.”
At 10-5, Fairmont Heights is off to its best start since 2006. The Hornets’ signature victory to date came last Friday against Largo, a traditional Prince George’s County power inclined to empty its bench during blowout wins against Fairmont Heights in recent years.
The newfound success in Capitol Heights this winter stems largely from Lucas-White’s arrival. Forestville’s top scorer as a sophomore last season, he quickly established himself as the Hornets’ most dynamic ballhandler at preseason open gyms, prompting Fairmont Heights Coach Chuck Henry to make a change.
Henry bumped his new 6-foot-2 fireball from two-guard to point guard, a shift that has paid dividends. Lucas-White’s scoring numbers have risen even as he has used his assertive style to dictate the Hornets’ run-and-gun attack and distribute to teammates. In a 102-99 loss to Potomac (Md.) on Jan. 27, Lucas-White recorded 32 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.
Lucas-White’s seamless chemistry with fellow junior Kimani Benjamin has proved particularly vital to the Hornets this season. An explosive 6-3 holdover from last year’s team at Fairmont Heights, Benjamin is finding more room to operate around the rim as his new teammate sucks up defenses’ attention on dribble penetration.
“It makes my job easier,” Lucas-White said. “If I miss, he’s right there to rebound.”
With Fairmont Heights set to move to a new building a mile up the road in Cheverly, next year, the Hornets are enjoying the final days of their unique home-court advantage. Fairmont Heights’ decaying gym is so rickety that Henry’s team sees an uncommon motive for its full-court press: dead spots.
“Sometimes when we’re pressing somebody, they’ll catch it in the corner and dribble,” Henry said, “and it may not bounce back up to you.”
Henry, a former Forestville standout himself, doesn’t let his Fairmont Heights squad dwell on the shortcomings of recent history. He tells them about the seven state championships the program has produced since its founding in 1950, and with his top four scorers all returning next season, he believes an eighth could lie in wait.
“We’re trying to revive that bit of history and build something greater for the future,” Henry said.
Points scored in the fourth quarter of the Potomac boys’ basketball team’s 102-99 win over Fairmont Heights on Jan. 27. Five players eclipsed 20 points in the shootout, topped by Darren Lucas-White’s 32 for Fairmont Heights.
Kanu drilled a school-record 10 three-pointers on 13 attempts on his way to 30 points in Friday’s 83-47 romp over Laurel.
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