Expectations are higher than ever for Men's Basketball
by Joshua Crockett '10, Managing Editor
Expectations are higher than ever for the Men's Varsity Basketball program this year. After starting off the season with a #30 national ranking and three division one commits in Talib Zanna, Rashad Whack and Lawrence Smith, the Mustangs are definitely in the mix for a 2009 WCAC championship. Coach Keithline says "It is good recognition, but ulitimately we want to be ranked after the season."
Talib Zanna is putting together a brilliant third season as a third year starter for the Mustangs. His junior year he averaged 15.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, 1.5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He was named to the Prince George's County 1st Team and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference 2nd team. Talib finished the season as the division leader in blocks. These achievments gained him the attention of many division one schools. He ultimately verbally decided to attend the University of Pittsburgh under Head Coach Jamie Dixon.When asked how he felt about his college decision he said, "I feel good. That was my favorite school and I like the way they play." He has shown no signs of slowing down and the Mustangs will need a standout performance night in and night out from the future Pittsburg Panther.
Not to be outdone, Rashad Whack, George Mason commit, entered the season with his fair share of accomplishments. This also is his third season on playing for coach Keithline. As a junior, Rashad averaged 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He was named to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference 2nd team as well as All Prince George's County 2nd Team. . Rashad also finished in the Top 10 of the Washington Metropolitan Area in 3-Point field goals made with 54. This year he has continued his dominance of the WCAC scoring his 1,000th career point in a close six point loss to the Stags of Dematha.
Out of all these standout players many are saying that this will be the year senior Lawrence Smith, a North Carolina A&T commit, will emerge as a premiere forward/guard in the league. Many think that he has not shined as much as he should have in his time as a Mustang. However, playing along side nationally known players in Rashad and Talib has allowed him to develop as a player at his own pace. This development has payed huge dividends for the Mustangs on both ends of the floor. His coming out party could not have come at a better time, due to the void that will be temporarily left by senior Trask Ivey who went down with an ACL tear this summer. This is Lawrence's third year on varsity and he is determined to make sure that his third season is nothing less than a charm. First he would have to endure have the rehabilitation of his surgically repaired knee. When asked how this process was going, he said "Good. I just started fully practicing last Saturday (November 29th). When does he predict he will be back? His prediction was the traveling Christmas tournament they will participate in December 29th through the 31st.Coach Keithline says that he is proud of his speedy recovery. This speedy recovery was made and he has jumped right back into the flow of things. Throughout the season he is taking all of the necessary precautions to be in tip top condition for their run to the WCAC championship.
As far as the supporting cast goes, Junior Brandon Coleman is more than capable of holding down the Power Forward and Center positions. Coleman brings a defensive presence when he steps on the floor and has caught the eye of many division I basketball programs. On the offensive side of the floor Coleman has become a high flyer, posterizing many of his opposition down in the post. Along with practicing with Talib, a highflyer in his own right, Coleman says that alumni Mark Hill (NC A&T) and Durant Adams (Bowie State University) encouraged him to step his game up this year. Stepping up is what he has done and every team in the league will be forced to beware his shot blocking and high rising ability at all times. He will have many college decision after a career season on the gridiron where he received Division I football interest from all around the ACC. When asked about his expectations, he said "I expect a very physical and competitive season with senior leadership. I'm not really an offensive guy -- I like defense."
Senior Brendan Brazillio is an extremely crafty guard that is seeing alot of playing time this year. His high risk high reward style often mesmerizes the crowd. Along with standout seniors the mustangs have many instrumental juniors and even sophomores on the varsity roster. Senior Ryan Washington has plenty of help at the point guard position in Marcus Pilgrim '10 and sophomore transfer Ibn Muhhamed. All three of these point guards have seen significant minutes and each bring an interesting flavor to the court.
Washington had the opportunity to gaurd and learn from Mark Hill '08 last year. This year he will be able to impart the many lessons he received last year. Pilgrim made the varsity roster last year but opted to develop his skills down on the J.V. level under coach Gordon Clark. He always gave the varsity a hard time when the two teams played each other during intergrated practices. Many people do not know too much about Muhhamed. He played J.V. as a freshman last year at Oconnel.What do some of his teammates think of him? Marcus says, "Ibn is a playmaker and a great ball handler. He is a very mature varsity player." Coleman said "Ibn has a lot of potential. He reminds me a lot of Mark Hill and I look forward to playing with him." Ibn said " I love the program, the coaches, and the players." Another sophomore transfer has captured the respect of his team mates: guard Tyler Shippe has made his mark on the team. When interviewing players, the first thing said about the Our Lady of Good Counsel transfer guard was that he was a sharp shooter. Keithline said "He is a difficult gaurd to defend."
The Mustang roster is filled with enthusiastic student athletes. As far as end of the season predictions every player has their eyes on the WCAC title and the City Title. Zanna told reporters at Digital Sports, "We going to be like the Celtics." The Boston Celtics won the 2008 NBA championship. Time will only tell if this team can get past the top teams in the conference to capture the 2009 conference title.
By Bishop McNamara HS |
December 17, 2008; 9:32 PM ET
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