Defending Baltimore Catholic League champ St. Frances headlines VSN’s Boys Basketball Preseason Top 20


by Derek Toney
 
After winning its record eighth Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship last season, St. Frances Academy is No. 1 in the VSN Boys’ Basketball preseason Top 20.
 
The east Baltimore school, which finished No. 1 in the final VSN Top 20 poll last season, won an area-best 36 games after a losing mark (16-18) in 2016-17. The Panthers have a deep roster back this season, led by Adrian Baldwin, who nabbed BCL Tourney’s Most Valuable Player honors as a sophomore.
 
Defending Baltimore City Division I and Class 3A state champ Poly, Patterson, Mount St. Joseph and Dulaney make up the rest of the Top 5. The Gaels will challenge St. Frances in the MIAA A Conference and BCL while Patterson looks to dethrone Poly in the Baltimore City League’s Division I.
 
With a veteran roster and several new additions, Dulaney is the odds-on favorite in the Baltimore County. New Town, Milford Mill and Woodlawn will be major obstacles for Dulaney. 
 
C. Milton Wright (UCBAC Chesapeake), Liberty (Carroll County Athletic League) Oakland Mills (Howard County) start as the favorite in their respective leagues. Gerstell Academy and Park School will try to continue their reign in the MIAA B and C league, respectively. 
 
Pictured above: With Craig Williams (front) also known as “Let Me At Em,” St. Frances Academy’s Adrian Baldwin (left), Rajier Jones, Jordan Toles, Jason Murphy and Jamal West are ready to challenge for the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League crowns in 2018-19. The Panthers are No. 1 in the VSN Boys’ Basketball preseason Top 20.
 
 
Here is the entire 2018-19 VSN Boys’ Basketball Preseason Top 20::

VSN BOYS BASKETBALL PRESEASON TOP 20 POLL

1.  ST. FRANCES ACADEMY PANTHERS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #1

Final 2017-18 record: 36-7

Player to watch: Adrian Baldwin, Jr., guard

In the paint: The Panthers look to repeat as Baltimore Catholic League Tournament champions and claim a second MIAA A Conference in three seasons with Baldwin, arguably the area’s top point guard. Jason Murphy, Chicago State commit Rajier Jones, and Jordan Toles are returning veterans and Dunbar transfer Jamal West adds interior scoring and rebounding.

 

2. POLY ENGINEERS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #4

Final 2017-18 record: 22-6

Player to watch: Justin Lewis, Jr., forward

In the paint: With Lewis, one of the country’s best juniors, and veteran guard Rakeem Ali leading charge, Poly seeks to become first program to win three straight Class 3A state titles.

3. PATTERSON CLIPPERS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Final 2017-18 record: 10-14

Player to watch: Marvin Price, Sr., guard 

In the paint: After spending part of last season at West Virginia’s Huntington Prep, Price is back and the Clippers have other solid pieces in place to challenge Poly for supremacy in Baltimore City.

 

4. MOUNT SAINT JOSEPH GAELS

Final 2017-17 VSN Top 20 rank: #3

Final 2017-18 record: 31-8

Player to watch: James Bishop, Sr., guard

In the paint: The Gaels look to contend again in MIAA A and Baltimore Catholic League with LSU commit Bishop guiding a young roster.

 

5. DULANEY LIONS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Final 2017-18 record: 18-6

Player to watch: Che Evans, Jr., forward

In the paint: Lions are primed for championship breakthrough in Baltimore County with talented and experienced roster.

6. BOYS’ LATIN SCHOOL LAKERS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #5

Final 2017-18 record: 25-7

Player to watch: Cameron Spencer, Sr., guard

In the paint: Lakers ready to show last season’s MIAA A final run wasn’t a fluke with Loyola recruit Spencer leading charge.

 

7. NEW TOWN TITANS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Final 2017-18 record: 17-8

Player to watch: Martaz Robinson, Jr., guard

In the paint: Titans ready to challenge for Baltimore County and Class 2A state crown as Derrick Wise, a longtime assistant under now-retired Mike Daniel, has the reigns.

8. GILMAN SCHOOL GREYHOUNDS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Final 2017-18 record: 25-7

Player to watch:  Jalen Rucker, Sr., guard

In the paint: Greyhounds have blend of experience, led by Army commit Rucker, and promising young talent to challenge in MIAA A. 

9. LAKE CLIFTON LAKERS 

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #11

Final 2017-18 record: 22-5

Player to watch: Michael Gray, Jr., guard

In the paint: Lakers are set to defend 2A state title and challenge in Baltimore City with two of the city league’s best in Gray and senior Armon Harried. 

 

10. CITY COLLEGE KNIGHTS 

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #17

Final 2017-18 record: 15-5

Player to watch: Darrius Tilghman, So., guard

In the paint: After surprising 2017-18 season and addition of several transfers, Knights will be in thick of Baltimore City Division I title chase. 

 

11. DUNBAR POETS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #6

Final 2017-18 record: 26-3

Player to watch: Malik McCormick, Sr., guard

In the paint: Despite losing significant firepower in Da’Shawn Phillip (graduated; now at Mount Zion Prep) and Jamal West (transferred to St. Frances Academy), defending 1A state champ Poets will rely on stable of guards, led by McCormick and junior Davonta Ayers, for another title run.

12. OLD MILL PATRIOTS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #12

Final 2017-18 record: 22-5

Player to watch: Daevone Johnson, Sr., guard 

In the paint: Patriots look to three-peat in Anne Arundel County and get back to Comcast Center for 4A state final four.

13. ST. VINCENT PALLOTTI PANTHERS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #9

Final 2017-18 record: 23-11

Player to watch: Gilbert Otoo, Sr., forward

In the paint: Panthers look to be a tough out again in MIAA A.

 

14. MCDONOGH SCHOOL EAGLES

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked 

Final 2017-18 record: 14-15

Player to watch: Drew Green, Sr., guard

In the paint: Eagles hope promising young talent will mature in time for MIAA A postseason berth come February.

15. GERSTELL ACADEMY FALCONS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #10

Final 2017-18 record: 20-10

Player to watch: Anthony Carpenter, Sr., guard

In the paint: Falcons look to go back-to-back as MIAA B Conference champs.

16. OAKLAND MILLS SCORPIONS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #20

Final 2017-18 record: 18-6

Player to watch: Daeshawn Eaton, Sr., guard

In the paint: Scorpions get the nod as Howard County’s best after nabbing share of crown last season. 

17. MILFORD MILL ACADEMY MILLERS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #7

Final 2017-18 record: 21-4

Player to watch: Jermaine Goodwyn, Sr., guard

In the paint: After heartbreaking loss in 3A state final and missing opportunity at Baltimore County title, Millers look for redemption with Goodwyn and senior post Darius Woods back. 

 

18. ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL CRUSADERS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #16

Final 2017-18 record: 21-10

Player to watch: Ziggy Reid, Sr., forward

In the paint: New coach Phil Hahn has one of the area’s top frontcourts with Reid and Troy Barthelme as Crusaders look to challenge Gerstell Academy in MIAA B.

19. C. MILTON WRIGHT MUSTANGS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #19

Final 2017-18 record: 20-5

Player to watch: Quincy Haughton, Sr., guard

In the paint: The Mustangs will again be the team to beat in UCBAC Chesapeake.

20. LIBERTY LIONS

Final 2017-18 VSN Top 20 rank: #20

Final 2017-18 record: 20-4

Player to watch: Tristan Kent, Sr., center

In the paint: Lions are team to beat in Carroll County with league’s top player last season in Kent leading title defense.