St. Frances’ Baldwin captures VSN’s boys basketball Player of Year honor; Poly’s Brand is top coach
It was another banner season for Baltimore basketball. City programs Lake Clifton, Patterson and Poly captured state public championships while St. Frances Academy won the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League Tournament championships.
Adrian Baldwin was the driving force behind St. Frances’ championship double. The junior guard is VSN’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Sam Brand guided Poly to a historic championship season. The 9th-year leader is VSN’s Coach of the Year.
Please enjoy our honorees’ stories below and the video interviews we did with them.
2018-19 VSN BOYS BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
ST. FRANCES ACADEMY
“ACE” IN THE CLUTCH
2018-19 VSN Boys Basketball Player of the Year Adrian Baldwin pushed St. Frances to another championship run
by Derek Toney
Adrian Baldwin was again the proverbial straw that stirred the area’s best private school squad. The junior point guard is Varsity Sports Network’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
The 6-foot lefty point, nicknamed Ace, averaged 14 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals for St. Frances (36-7 overall), which swept the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League postseason. The East Baltimore school was the first team to claim the MIAA A and BCL tourney crowns since 2015 (Calvert Hall).
Baldwin, who assumed the leadership mantle from Elijah Epps (Bowie State University), helped promote a team-first mentality on a deep and talented St. Frances roster.
“He’s a team guy. He loves to get teammates involve first and he’ll be there in the end,” said Panthers coach Nick Myles. “One of the best competitors I’ve ever been around. He loves to win.”
Baldwin played his best in the Panthers’ biggest games. He had 28 points and six assists in St. Frances’ victory over Mount St. Joseph in the MIAA A final.
In the BCL Tournament final, Baldwin hit a pull-up 3-pointer as time expired, giving the Panthers a 71-68 victory over St. Maria Goretti. Baldwin was named tourney MVP for the second straight season.
Baldwin relishes taking the big shot.
“Big time players make big-time plays, I think I’m a big-time player,” said Baldwin, whose 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation lifted St. Frances past Tennessee’s Memphis East and the nation’s top-ranked senior James Wiseman at the Chic-fil-A Classic in South Carolina. “In order for us to win, I need the ball in my hands.”
“He lives for the moment,” said Myles.
A two-time All-MIAA A selection, Baldwin became the sixth player to win consecutive BCL Tournament MVP honors. Baldwin recently gave a verbal commitment to Virginia Commonwealth University.
2018-19 VSN BOYS BASKETBALL COACH OF THE YEAR
2018-19 VSN Boys Basketball Coach of the Year Sam Brand has alma-mater Poly on unprecedented run
by Derek Toney
Sam Brand continued leading Poly High basketball to new heights. Brand is Varsity Sports Network’s Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
The Engineers (22-5 overall) became the first program to win three consecutive Class 3A state championships. Poly joins Dunbar, Lake Clifton, Patterson and Southern (now Digital Harbor) as Baltimore City programs with 3 or more state championships.
Long an afterthought in basketball, Poly (No. 2 in VSN’s final Top 20) is arguably the city’s top program.
“We willed it into existence,” said Brand, a former Poly standout who starred and coach at Morgan State University. “The school already provided an elite academic tradition. It just had no basketball one.”
Poly, which won its first city title in 2016 (won again in 2018), was the favorite entering the 2018-19 campaign. The Engineers lost to eventual city champ and No. 1 Patterson in overtime, costing them a spot in the city final.
Poly, which blew a 16-point fourth quarter advantage, lost one game the remainder of the season. The Engineers defeated MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League champion St. Frances Academy, BCL Tournament finalist St. Maria Goretti and 1A state champ Lake Clifton during the season.
Brand said senior Amani Walker and juniors Rahim Ali and Justin Lewis emerged as leaders for an underclass-dominated roster.
“From the players to the parents, we believe in each other,” said Brand. “Our slogan is true character is revealed in adversity.”
Brand credited assistants Anthony Fitzgerald, Kenny Wood, Mike Turner, Larry Tucker and Teyon Crudup. Fitzgerald, Crudup, Wood and Turner are Poly graduates.
Since 2012, the Engineers have won three state titles, two city titles and reached four state Final Fours. In nine seasons, Brand is 159-68.