While Dion Wiley was blowing up on the AAU circuit with Team Takeover last summer, Potomac (Md.) Coach Renard Johnson’s phone was blowing up with messages warning him to keep a close eye on his prized junior guard.
“I heard all kinds of rumors about coaches talking to him that, in the end, I think Dion had transferred to 10 different private schools,” Johnson said with a laugh. “My response to them was, ‘If you don’t want anybody to want your girlfriend, get an ugly girlfriend,’ meaning if a kid’s good, of course other coaches are going to want him.”
In recent years, the courting process has become more extensive at private schools, which possess many of the area’s top players and hold five of the top seven spots in The Post’s preseason poll. Yet for a select few like Wiley and Suitland senior guard Roddy Peters, remaining with their local public school hasn’t stopped them from garnering plenty of national attention.
In November, Peters, who is ranked No. 45 in his class by ESPN, turned down the likes of Georgetown, Kansas and UCLA to sign with Maryland. Meantime, Wiley has seen a slew of ACC and Big East coaches walk into the Potomac gym to see him play during the past year. He currently holds offers from Georgetown, Maryland and Virginia and has garnered heavy interest from several other ACC and Big East schools.
Just how different their recruitment or prep careers would be on the private circuit is anybody’s guess, but it’s a thought that Peters and Wiley rarely have entertained.
“I had all kinds of schools talk to me — Montrose Christian, Oak Hill,” said Peters, who averaged 25 points and seven assists last season. “I considered it for a little bit, but I didn’t see any good reason to leave and I wanted to stay around the people I grew up with.”
“It wasn’t that difficult for me because when I visited the schools, I could tell it wasn’t for me,” said Wiley, whose brother Da’von is a senior at Bishop Ireton. “Now I look forward to playing the private schools and showing them that public schools aren’t terrible like a lot of people think.”
Wiley proved this much in his sophomore season. Blessed with a soft outside touch, the 6-foot-4 guard/forward averaged nearly 20 points per game in helping the Wolverines improve their win total by 15 games and reach the Maryland 3A South region final.
“Coming into last year, no one knew who Dion Wiley was, but we created a system that let him flourish where, by December, everyone knew who Dion was at Potomac,” Johnson said. “After that, the attention and opportunities came, so hopefully that counts for something with him and others who come through here in the future.”
Suitland Coach George McClure has had multiple coaches mention the positive effect that Peters’s public-school success has had on their players’ outlook. Still, he knows that for every Peters or Wiley, there are a handful of other elite athletes who see private school as the optimal route.
“Roddy is a rarity these days,” McClure said. “When I was coaching at C.H. Flowers about four years ago, I had a sophomore tell me right before the season that he had decided to go to prep school. It was pretty devastating and it opened my eyes to the fact that it was always a possibility. With Roddy, it was a possibility, but he’s a pretty loyal kid and we do all we can to help him reach his goals on and off the court.”
However, there are still some goals that remain out of reach for public school athletes, says Riverdale Baptist Coach Louis Wilson. For instance, the Crusaders’ national schedule means more potential for playing top-flight programs, which in turn draws more college recruiters to the stands, granting the wide exposure that all players desire in this age of heavily scrutinized rankings and televised games.
“Every student-athlete has different motives, but I’m a believer that the competition is more fierce in the private sector and it gives players a chance to show they can perform at the upper echelon with other top players around them,” said Wilson, who welcomed Broad Run senior transfer and George Washington University recruit Nigel Johnson to his program this past summer. “Kids want to go where they have an opportunity to be seen on a national level.”
For Peters and Wiley, that’s where AAU competition comes into play. While Wiley starred for Team Takeover this past summer, Peters was making a name for himself with DC Assault. The Suitland senior then proceeded to turn heads at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, where he held his own against several higher-ranked guards. As a result, Peters returned to Suitland with the attention and heavy recruitment that had once eluded him.
“AAU has taken over, really, and that gave me all the exposure I needed,” Peters said. “I played against good players every night and made a point to hold my own. I’m not saying it’s bad to go private, but it’s all about where you’re most comfortable, and for me that was at public school.”