Player of the Year: Aquille Carr
The key to any successful act is keeping the audience wanting more. Though he’s young, Aquille Carr has already figured that out.
After a breakout campaign in 2010-11, Carr again memorized the local boys’ basketball scene. For the second straight season, the 5-foot-7 guard is Varsity Sports Network’s Player of the Year.
Carr, a junior, averaged 23.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds at Patterson, which captured the Class 3A state championship, a first for the Kane Street school. A year ago, Carr laid dejectedly on the floor at Comcast Center after Patterson lost the Class 4A title game to North Point from southern Maryland.
“When I lost it last year, I knew that I was going to come back [to the championship],” said Carr, whose rallied past Thomas Stone for the state title. “I dedicated my whole season to coming back here. I worked harder than the next person to try and get it done.”
It was Carr who led the Clippers (21-7) past then two-defending 3A state champ Milford Mill Academy in the North Region title game, scoring 31 points including a steal and dunk on Miller guard Katrell Myers that sent most of the audience packed inside Milford’s gymnasium into a frenzy. His ability to score as well as create with his small frame made Carr one of Baltimore’s most known sports personalities.
Carr, who has given a verbal commitment to play for Seton Hall University in 2013, is arguably the first Baltimore prep superstar of the 21st century with his YouTube highlights totaling more than more 5 million views. He was given the nickname “Crime Stopper,” for the crime rate in the eastern portion of the city supposedly decreasing while his games took place.
He was the subject of a feature story in GQ Magazine and CNN recently aired a documentary about him. Last summer, an Italian professional team offered Carr a contract after he participated in an U-19 international tournament.
Despite the numerous articles and videos, Carr is an unique talent. St. Benedict’s coach Mark Taylor was impressed after Carr put up 38 points against his nationally-ranked squad in January.
“Very quick. Very agile. Extremely athletic,” said Taylor. “The thing that impressed me the most was his shot. He was able to get his shot off and it’s a big-time shot. He is size challenged.
He’s only 5-7, if that, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to grow much more. I’ll tell you what, though, he’s exciting to watch.”
Carr recently transferred to St. Patrick’s in New Jersey to work on several core courses he’ll need to graduate next year. He has said he plans to return to Baltimore for his senior season. Carr is 10 points shy of reaching the 2,000 career point plateau.
Coach of the Year: Diego Jones, Dunbar
Twenty years after helping Dunbar to a mythical national championship, Jones guided the east Baltimore power back atop the area rankings. Jones is Varsity Sports Network’s Coach of the Year for the 2011-12 season.
After winning back-to-back Class 1A state championships, there were whispers among the fervent followers of Dunbar’s program that returning atop the Baltimore City league was the expectation in 2011-12. For the first time since 2004, the Poets were city champs, dethroning last season’s champ Patterson for the Division I title.
Dunbar knocked off the then-No. 1 Clippers in January to claim the area’s No. 1 ranking and a 13-0 start. The Poets dropped three of their next five decisions.
“We just continued to work and motivate the kids,” said Jones. “We told them the season wasn’t over; we still got a chance to accomplish all the goals we set for ourselves from the beginning of the season. Our goal was never to go undefeated.”
The Poets (24-3), who finished No. 1 in the area for the first time since the end of the 2000-01 campaign, went unbeaten in their final nine games including a 60-36 victory over New Town for the Class 1A state title game at Comcast Center. It was Dunbar’s 14th state championship, tying it with Allegany from western Maryland for most all-time.
An all-Met guard, Jones was a complimentary player on the 1991-92 29-0 Dunbar squad that was fueled by the trio of Keith Booth, who went on to star at the University of Maryland, Donta’ Bright, who led UMass to the men’s Final Four in 1996 and Michael Lloyd. Jones saw the 2011-12 collection sparked by the senior trio of Aaron Parham, Evan Singletary and Donte Pretlow, who recently committed to play for Morgan State next season.
“Evan was the new kid [in 2009] and Aaron and Donte have been with me for four years and loyal to the program,” said Jones. “They knew what I expected and what it would take to win.”
Jones, who won got his 100th win in the state finals, is one of three coaches to win at least three state titles at Dunbar. It’s been a special school year so far Jones, whose son Cyrus, was the area’s No. 1 football player at Gilman School this past fall and will play for national champion Alabama this fall.