Mount St. Joseph’s Smith repeats as VSN’s Boys’ Basketball Player of Year; St. Frances’ Myles and Rees of Boys’ Latin share top coach honor
by Derek Toney
Jalen Smith more than lived up to the hype bestowed him as a Mount St. Joseph High freshman four years. For the second consecutive year, Smith is Varsity Sports Network’s Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year.
Cliff Rees directed Boys’ Latin School to arguably its finest campaign. Nick Myles restored St. Frances Academy’s standing as one of the area’s elite programs.
Myles and Rees are Co-Coaches of the Year.
See below for our award profiles on each.
2017-18 PLAYER OF THE YEAR
MOUNT ST. JOSEPH
Smith cemented his place as one of the area’s best post players in recent memory. The senior is Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-10 forward averaged 23 points, 12.5 rebounds and three blocks for the No. 3 Gaels (31-8), who reached a third consecutive Baltimore Catholic League Tournament final. Smith became the first player since former two-time All-Met Player of the Year and BCL Hall of Famer Mark Karcher to go back-to-back as BCL Player of the Year.
Smith, a McDonald’s All-American, is also the first to be named VSN’s top boys’ hoops performer in back-to-back seasons.
Going from a gangly freshman four years ago to a elite five-star prospect, Smith has stayed humble.
“He’s a coach’s dream – a very talented player, terrific student and never a discipline problem,” said Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey. “Jalen can score inside and out. He rebounds the ball; he blocks shots. He impacts the game on both ends of the floor.”
“I really didn’t have to do much in my first three years, but being a senior leader, I knew I had to put the team on my back and lead them the best I could,” said Smith.
Arguably Smith’s signature moment came in the regular season finale in February against John Carroll School and fellow McDonald’s All-American and University of Kentucky recruit Immanuel Quickley, Smith recorded 32 points, 23 rebounds and seven blocks in a 78-71 victory over the eventual MIAA A champ Patriots.
Smith finished with 2,122 points for his four-year varsity career. The Gaels went 118-30 with four league regular season and tournament championships in that stretch.
Smith, the first player to win BCL Defensive and Overall Player of the Year honors in his junior campaign, repeated this season as Gatorade’s Maryland Player of the Year. He will play for the University of Maryland next season.
2017-18 CO-COACH OF THE YEAR
ST. FRANCES ACADEMY
Myles guided St. Frances to a major turnaround this season. The eighth-year coach is Co-Coach of the Year.
After a rare losing season at the east Baltimore school in 2016-17, St. Frances won an area-best 36 games (most by a local squad since Mount St. Joseph went 38-1 in 2005-06) and finished No. 1 in the final VSN Top 20. The Panthers won their first Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championship since 2008.
With a mix of young talent and steady veteran leadership, Myles was able to reestablish a winning attitude.
“It was a very talented group, but they were unselfish,” said Myles. “They wanted to win a championship.”
St. Frances defeated six teams in the final VSN Top 20, including Baltimore City Division I champ and Class 3A state champ Poly and MIAA B champ Gerstell Academy. The Panthers also defeated Illinois 3A state champ Morgan Park, North Carolina Independent 2A state titlist Carmel Christian and 3A public state semifinalist Providence Day.
After losing in the MIAA A semifinals, St. Frances regrouped in the BCL Tournament, routing MIAA A champ and then-No. 1 John Carroll School in the semifinals. Trailing double digits in the second half, the Panthers rallied past Mount St. Joseph for their record eighth tourney crown.
“When we came back in June, we put a plan in place to be successful,” said Myles, who was assisted by Dwayne Allen, Damon Fisher, Michael Hawthorne, Kenneth Taylor, Bernie Vaughn and Aaron Williams. “We stuck with it the whole year.”
A graduate of Dunbar High and Bowie State University, Myles was an assistant under legendary coach William Wells and his successor, BCL Hall of Famer Mark Karcher. Myles is 160-66 in six seasons.
2017-18 CO-COACH OF THE YEAR
BOYS’ LATIN SCHOOL
Rees and Boys’ Latin had their finest season in the area’s toughest league. The seventh-year coach is Co-Coach of the Year.
The Lakers went 25-7 and reached their first MIAA A Conference championship game. After a furious rally late in regulation, Boys’ Latin lost to John Carroll School in overtime.
Four years ago, the Lakers moved into the A league from the B, but standout forward Kodye Pugh (now at Stanford University) left the school before their first season in the A. BL had a rough indoctrination (finished 9-19), but gradually improved each season.
“I think we have the most special group that I’ve ever been around,” said Rees, whose team started 7-0 this season (went 19-12 in 2016-17). “We might not be the best top-to-bottom but these guys just fight and they love each other and play for each other. We’re far from perfect but they battled ’til the end.”
After two double-digit losses to John Carroll during the regular season, the Lakers wiped out an 11-point deficit (took the lead briefly) in the final four minutes to force overtime in the MIAA A final. John Carroll regrouped in the extra session for a 58-50 victory.
Boys’ Latin knocked off then-No. 1 St. Frances Academy in the semifinal round. The 25 wins are second-most in program history.
“It’s not necessary about building our basketball program, it’s about representing Boys’ Latin,” said Rees, who was assisted by Jimmy Morrissey. “All these guys didn’t come to BL for basketball, they came because we’re Boys’ Latin. That’s what these guys embodied.”
A former standout at Mount Hebron, Rees starred alongside Hall of Famer David Robinson on the Naval Academy’s NCAA Tournament squad of the late 1980s. He’s 129-72 in seven seasons at Boys’ Latin.