Forget about the diminutive stature, or the fact that he doesn't play at a school with a national reputation for basketball greatness.Aquille Carr
of Patterson (Baltimore, Md.)
is a superstar in the making.
MaxPreps.com's National Freshman of the Year last season, the 5-foot-7 Carr has taken his game to a new level as a sophomore.
"He has got used to the high school environment," said Patterson head coach Harry Martin, also head of the school's math department. "He's maturing faster than I expected him to.
"Everybody in Baltimore wants to see him. We are in discussions to move some of our upcoming games to local colleges (due to overcrowding concerns at Patterson's gym)."
Carr's most recent outing was a gem. It came in the final of the Bill Miller Christmas Classic as Patterson routed Forest Park (Baltimore)
103-71. According to Martin, Carr connected on 19 of 24 field goal attempts – including 7 of 10 from beyond the 3-point arc – and 12 of 15 free throw attempts to finish with a career-high 57 points.
"It's amazing," Martin said. "And he never, ever gets his shot blocked."
The Baltimore Sun called Carr's 2009-10 campaign "one of the finest freshman seasons ever in area" after he posted 25.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.3 steals per game en route to National Freshman of the Year honors.
Carr made it clear Dec. 21 against two-time defending Class 2A state champion City College (Baltimore)
that there would be no sophomore slump. In a charged atmosphere, Carr went for 38 points and outshined Maryland-bound guard Nick Faust
. The undersized guard's output included 15 points in the final quarter.
That victory may have a legitimized Patterson as a state title contender.
"We should definitely be in the mix," said Martin, who pointed to Springbrook (Silver Spring)
as the favorite in Maryland's Class 4A.
Patterson, who will head to New York City for a game against Cardozo (Oakland Gardens, N.Y.)
at the Big Apple Basketball Invitational Jan. 15, is also getting a major contribution from another sophomore – 6-4 guard Myrek Fowlkes
, who is averaging around 19 points per game and carries a B+ average in the classroom according to Martin.Mentor steps up in Tennessee
Bob Krizancic is in his 18th season as head coach at Mentor (Ohio)
and is nearing 300 wins at the school. His Cardinals play arguably the most entertaining brand of basketball in Ohio and have consistently pushed deep in the state's Division I state playoffs.
Cardinal basketball is big in Mentor – located about 25 miles northeast of Cleveland along the shores of Lake Erie – but the program may have expanded its fan base after a successful trip to Bristol, Tenn., for the Arby's Classic.
"A lot of teams look at us and they kind of chuckle," Cardinal guard Collin Barth
told TriCities.com. "They're like, 'Where's your varsity team?' Then we show up and we play our game. We have four terrific guards. I think our guards are probably the top backcourt in the state."
Mentor beat Dobyns-Bennett (Kingsport, Tenn.)
, Mill Creek (Hoschton, Ga.)
and Southwind (Memphis, Tenn.)
at the Classic to take third place, averaging 83.6 points per game in those victories and hanging 96 on the scoreboard against Southwind and 6-9 sophomore star Jonathan Williams
. The only loss in the Volunteer State came in overtime to Columbia (Decatur, Ga.)
, the Peach State's defending Class AAA state champions and a team that gave national No. 3 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.)
its toughest game of the season in a 66-64 loss.
"We've played at the Surf N' Slam in San Diego, Arizona and a tournament in Utah, but this was the best four games for us in a tournament by far," Krizancic said. "It was a great tournament for us. Having six days together to get closer and compete, that was our whole goal."
The Cardinals' are led by the coach's kid – 5-11 senior guard Cole Krizancic
, who is headed to play at Division II Ashland University. Cole is pouring in 24.1 points per game and earned MVP honors at the Arby's Classic. He is just the second player in the history of the event to earn top billing despite not playing for the first-place team.
"Coaching him has been good, but he had a tough time with it early on," Coach Krizancic said. "We had to learn separation of father and coach. It's helped that he's started since his freshman year and we've had success. All the kids that played on his travel teams and pee-wee teams are his teammates now, and I've known them since first or second grade."
Cole scored 38 points in the season-opener against
and topped the 40-point mark twice as a junior.
He isn't alone when it comes to putting up big numbers, however. Six-foot-one junior guard Justin Fritts
is posting 23.9 points per game, while 5-10 senior Barth tacks on 16.3 per outing.
As a team, Mentor is averaging 87 points per game on the season and is 7-1 heading into weekend games with Shaker Heights
and St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron)
(LeBron James' alma mater).
"We're extremely sound fundamentally but simple," Krizancic said. "We press, run and we score a lot."
Cardinal fans are hoping that philosophy results in yet another big playoff run.Weekend watch
A pair of showcase events highlight this weekend's slate. The Seven Cities Roundball Classic in Portsmouth, Va., features three nationally-ranked teams, including a showdown between No. 6 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
and No. 15 Norcom (Portsmouth, Va.)
In Wheeling, W.Va., No. 9 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.)
is the headliner of a loaded lineup that features teams from the District of Columbia, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
Check back tomorrow for a full preview of both events.