Defending state champ Engineers are No. 1 in VSN’s Boys Basketball Preseason Top 20


Rahim Ali (front), Brandon Murray and Justin Lewis are back for back for three-time defending Class 3A state Poly. The Engineers are No. 1 in VSN’s Boys Basketball Preseason Top 20.

by Derek Toney
 
Poly High made history to end the 2018-19 boys basketball season. The Engineers have another milestone with their first No. 1 preseason ranking in VSN’s Boys’ Basketball Top 20 poll.
 
The Baltimore City school became the first to win three consecutive Class 3A state championships, running through the field last season at the University of Maryland. With four Division I prospects in Marquette University recruit Justin Lewis, Rahim Ali, Brandon Murray and Ian Wallace, Poly should easily made it a “four-peat” come March. 
 
The 3A state final four may be a cakewalk for the Engineers, who will be sharpened by a non-league schedule including USA Today’s preseason No. 2 IMG Academy from Florida and a highly anticipated match with St. Frances Academy. Then, there’s the Baltimore City League where defending state champs Lake Clifton and Patterson and talented City College and Mervo await.
 
History, however, will be against Poly in VSN’s 10th Preseason Boys Basketball Poll. Only Calvert Hall College (2014-15) began and ended the season at No. 1.
 
St. Frances Academy, last year’s preseason No. 1, is second. The Panthers are the favorite to repeat as MIAA A Conference champions. The East Baltimore school look to join Loyola Blakefield, led by legendary coach Jerry Savage and players Tony Guy and Pete Budko (1975-1978), Calvert Hall’s early 1980s national powerhouse squads featuring Duane Ferrell and “Pop” Tugman and coach Mark Amatucci and the late 1990s St. Frances squads, led by Mark Karcher and coach William Wells, to win three consecutive Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championships.
 
No. 3 Mount St. Joseph, up-and-coming Glenelg Country School and McDonogh School will try to derail St. Frances in the MIAA A. The Gaels are the Panthers’ biggest obstacle in the BCL. The MIAA B Conference will be wide open with two-time champ Gerstell Academy in the A. 
 
Broadneck reached its first state final last season and will be the favorite in Anne Arundel County. Annapolis, Meade and last season’s league champ Old Mill, will challenge the Bruins.
 
New Town and Dulaney are Baltimore County’s best with preseason VSN Top 10 rankings. The Lions reached the 4A state semifinals last season nearly upending eventual state champ Eleanor Roosevelt from Prince George’s County. 
 
The Titans and Dulaney will battle in Division I where Milford Mill Academy looks to bounce back and Parkville is a team on the rise. Franklin reached the county final last season as Division II champ, and should contend with Woodlawn and Randallstown this season.  
 
Atholton won the Howard County title last season before league rival Mount Hebron sent the Raiders home early in the 3A East Region playoffs. The Raiders enter the new season as the favorite, but several teams with young and promising talent will make things tough.
 
Century and Liberty will again battle for the Carroll County Athletic League title, but Westminster could be a dark horse. After winning the UCBAC Susquehanna title and reaching the 1A elite eight, Havre de Grace moves to the Chesapeake where it will challenge C. Milton Wright. 
 
Here is the entire 2019-20 VSN Boys’ Basketball Preseason Top 20:

VSN BOYS BASKETBALL PRESEASON TOP 20 POLL

1. POLY ENGINEERS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #3

Final 2018-19 record: 22-5

Player to watch: Justin Lewis, Sr., forward

In the paint: With four starters back, led by Marquette University-bound Lewis, the Engineers are overwhelming favorite to win fourth straight Class 3A state championship. Veteran tough-as-nails point guard Raheem Ali, shooting guard Brandon Murray and 6-foot-6 Ian Wallace are Division I prospects, and 6-8 freshman Kwame Evans Jr. will be an impact player. Poly will have to navigate through a daunting non-league schedule and even tougher Baltimore City league slate.

2.  ST. FRANCES ACADEMY PANTHERS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #3

Final 2018-19 record: 36-7

Player to watch: Adrian Baldwin, Sr., guard

In the paint: The Panthers are primed to 3-peat as Baltimore Catholic League Tournament champions and claim a second straight MIAA A Conference title with Baldwin, the area’s top point guard who’s headed to Virginia Commonwealth. South Alabama recruit Jamal West and all-do guard Jordan Toles, who will play football and basketball at LSU, gives the East Baltimore school one of most dynamic trios in the Mid-Atlantic region.

3. MOUNT SAINT JOSEPH GAELS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #3

Final 2018-19 record: 31-8

Player to watch: Tyler Brelsford, Sr., guard

In the paint: The Gaels will be again a tough out in MIAA A and Baltimore Catholic League with George Washington commit Brelsford and Fairfield recruit Jason Edokyapi, a talented 6-6 forward, building on a strong offseason.

4. LAKE CLIFTON LAKERS 

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #9

Final 2018-19 record: 24-4

Player to watch: Michael Gray, Sr., guard

In the paint: The Lakers will again challenge for Baltimore City title and a third straight state championship with one of the area’s best guards in Gray, who will have several transfers ready to help, including former Patterson guard Zac Blackwell.

5. GLENELG COUNTRY SCHOOL DRAGONS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #12

Final 2018-19 record: 20-10

Player to watch: Jordan Brathwaite, Sr., forward

In the paint: After turnaround campaign last winter, Glenelg Country may be ready for MIAA A Conference title push with St. Maria Goretti transfer Noah Batchelor, one of the nation’s top sophomores, joining improving Brathwaite and senior point guard Noah Charles.

6. MCDONOGH SCHOOL EAGLES

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #10

Final 2018-19 record: 20-10

Player to watch: Everett Cooper, Jr., guard

In the paint: With a year of maturity and MIAA A semifinal last season, Eagles hope to take next step this season. 

7. EDMONDSON RED STORM

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #4

Final 2018-19 record: 22-4

Player to watch: Tre’Shawn Lewis, Sr., guard 

In the paint: The Red Storm, whose four losses last season came against state champs Patterson (three) and Poly, will be in middle of another dogged Baltimore City title race this winter.

8. NEW TOWN TITANS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #6

Final 2018-19 record: 20-2

Player to watch: Martaz Robinson, Sr., guard

In the paint: Titans look to repeat in Baltimore County with Delaware State-bound Robinson and talented forward Andrew Mills leading way.

9. CITY COLLEGE KNIGHTS 

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Final 2018-19 record: 13-10

Player to watch: Dominique Carrington, Sr., guard

In the paint: After winning Grind Summer League title and adding several transfers including junior guard Ahmad Harrison (Gerstell Academy), City have pieces to challenge for Baltimore City championship.

10. DULANEY LIONS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #8

Final 2018-19 record: 22-4

Player to watch: Ryan Conway, Jr., guard

In the paint: With two of area’s best in Conway and senior forward Cam Byers, Lions look to challenge New Town for Baltimore County title and take care of unfinished business in Class 4A state final four at University of Maryland.

11. MERVO MUSTANGS 

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked 

Final 2018-19 record: 10-13

Player to watch: Will Thomas, Sr., forward

In the paint: With Thomas back from ACL injury to go with talented post Elijah Rantin and St. Frances Academy transfer Carlos Alexander, Mervo has foundation to challenge for Baltimore City title.

12. BROADNECK BRUINS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #13

Final 2018-19 record: 23-5

Player to watch: Logan Vican, Sr., forward

In the paint: After historic run to Class 4A state final last season, Bruins are team to beat in Anne Arundel County.

13. LOYOLA BLAKEFIELD DONS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #11

Final 2018-19 record: 20-13

Player to watch: Matt Fischer, Sr., forward

In the paint: After making first MIAA A postseason in a decade last winter, Loyola is primed for repeat with one of the area’s best in 6-7 Fischer.

14. PATTERSON CLIPPERS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #1

Final 2018-19 record: 25-3

Player to watch: John Thomas, sophomore, guard

In the paint: Despite graduating nucleus from last season’s Class 2A state and Baltimore City championship squad, Clippers should be tough out again in city league.

15. MILFORD MILL ACADEMY

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Final 2018-19 record: 10-13

Player to watch: Jermaine Goodwyn, Sr., guard

In the paint: Millers look to get back into Baltimore County championship conversation with Goodwyn and 6-7 St. Frances Academy transfer Detwan Montague. 

 

16. ATHOLTON RAIDERS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #19

Final 2018-19 record: 19-3

Player to watch: Jordan Oates, Sr., forward

In the paint: The Raiders get early nod to repeat in a balanced Howard County league.

 

17. HAVRE DE GRACE WARRIORS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #19

Final 2018-19 record: 23-1

Player to watch: Marlon Lewis, Jr., guard/forward

In the paint: With Lewis, arguably the top player in UCBAC, Havre de Grace hopes to finish job and reach Class 1A state final four. 

18. PARKVILLE KNIGHTS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Final 2018-19 record: 17-6

Player to watch: Jordan Strickland, Sr., forward

In the paint: The Knights could be a dark horse in Baltimore County title race with City College transfer Darius Tilghman joining Strickland and senior guard John Godinez.

19. C. MILTON WRIGHT MUSTANGS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: #16

Final 2018-19 record: 20-6

Player to watch: Corey Patterson, Sr., center

In the paint: The Mustangs look to repeat in UCBAC Chesapeake and reach 3A state final four for fourth time in six seasons.

20. DUNBAR POETS

Final 2018-19 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Final 2018-19 record: 16-9

Players to watch: Jeremiah Stevenson, Jr., guard; Rynell Bert, So., guard

In the paint: It’s a new era on Orleans Street as former Poet and University of Maryland star Keith Booth tries to return alma-mater back among Baltimore City’s elite.