Player of the Year: Tevon Saddler, St. Frances Academy (click here for interview)
After a difficult indoctrination, Saddler emerged as one of the area’s elite performers this winter. The guard is Varsity Sports Network’s Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-5 senior averaged 19 points and seven rebounds for the MIAA A Conference champion Panthers , who held VSN’s No. 1 spot for most of the season. It was a complete reversal for St. Frances which underachieved the season before with a talented roster.
“We had the most talent last year but we didn’t play together,” said Saddler, who transferred from Aberdeen. “Everybody knew their role and things just clicked.”
“He took what happened last season and saw the light,” said Panthers coach Nick Myles. “He was a completely different kid.”
Myles, who took over the program at the beginning of preseason practice for the 2011-12 campaign after the school abruptly parted ways with Mark Karcher, said Saddler was the first player he met with after the tumultuous season.
“He asked me what I was going to do was going to stay or leave. I told him I trusted him,” Saddler said. “I never thought about leaving. I got everything I need at St. Frances.”
Saddler did whatever was needed, from playing either guard position to playing in the post. The Panthers won an area-best 33 games including the MIAA A and Baltimore Catholic League regular season crown.
Saddler had his way against BCL Tournament champ Mount St. Joseph, which battled the Panthers for No. 1 most of the winter. He had 85 points as St. Frances won all four matches.
A first-team all-BCL selection, Saddler made the all-tournament squad at Montverde Academy Invitational in Florida and player of the game honors at the Brandon Jennings Invitational in Milwaukee. He will play for the University of North Carolina-Greensboro next season.
Saddler’s older brother, Devon, a former standout at Aberdeen, is starring at the University of Delaware. Tevon is the third St. Frances player to earn consensus Player of the Year honors, joining Karcher and Sean Mosley.
Karcher, a two-time Sun All-Met player of the Year in the mid-1990s and Baltimore Catholic League Hall of Famer, is regarded as one of the best players in Baltimore prep history. Mosley, who graduated from St. Frances in 2008, went on to star at the University of Maryland and is currently playing professionally in Poland.
Coach of the Year: Darnell Dantzler, Edmondson (click here for interview)
A former player and assistant coach at legendary powerhouse Dunbar, winning was the norm for Dantzler. He knew it wouldn’t be as easy when came to Edmondson six seasons ago.
But Dantzler patiently built a winning foundation and finally reached championship heights this past season. Dantzler is Varsity Sports Network’s Coach of the Year.
The Red Storm (22-5) won their first state championship, outlasting Wicomico for the Class 2A crown. In the state semifinals, Edmondson needed two overtimes to vanquished Frederick County’s Oakdale.
It was a fitting conclusion for the west Baltimore school after four years of bitter postseason disappointments. Last season, Edmondson lost to Lake Clifton in the North Region finals after being blown out by Digital Harbor in the 2011 North finals.
In 2010 and 2009, the Red Storm lost to City College in the region finals. Each of those teams went on to win the state championship.
One reporter jokingly called them the Buffalo Bills of Baltimore basketball. Edmondson lost twice in overtime to Dunbar, including the City league Division I finals, blowing leads late in regulation.
“They said we were underachievers,” said Dantzler, who led the Red Storm to the city title in 2010. “All the heartbreaking losses simply prepared for down the stretch. The kids just played as hard as they could.”
Dantzler credited his senior veterans Darius Walker, Isaiah Tripp, Darius Hubbard, Jaquan Smith and Patterson transfer Myrek Fowkles, for their resilience. The Edmondson state title is the first by the west Baltimore school since now-defunct Walbrook won the 2005 Class 4A crown.
When he arrived at the Athol Avenue school, Dantzler instilled a defensive-minded attitude, taught to him as a player by legendary city recreation coaches Bucky Lee (Cecil Kirk) and Henry “Sarge” Powell (Madison). Before then, football dominated the athletic landscape at Edmondson.
“It’s about playing with heart and playing with guts,” said Dantzler. “The kids brought into the philosophy and we were able to turn the program around.”
Dantzler said he was more proud of Edmondson winning the Sportmanship Award at the state tournament. It’s the first time a Baltimore City school has received the honor.
“The support of our school and community spoke volumes of the type of season we had,” added . The kids didn’t get down on each other and they just played together.”
Dantzler, a 1991 Dunbar graduate who was an assistant along with current Poets coach Diego Jones under Eric “Smiley” Lee for five seasons at the east Baltimore school, is 130-35 at Edmondson.