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The legend of hoops in the DMV

By Jack Margaros
@JackMargaros

The District, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area has long been the epicenter for some of the best high school basketball in the nation. It consistently features the best players and teams across the country. 

That talent has translated to college and even the NBA.

Kevin Durant, arguably the most accomplished player to come out of the DMV, is from Suitland, MD and was one of the top ranked players at Montrose Christian his senior year in 2006. 

Carmelo Anthony grew up in western Baltimore and attended Towson Catholic before transferring to Oak Hill Academy — a perennial powerhouse in southern Virginia. 

Jeff Green and Michael Beasley were each born in Cheverly, MD. Green played college hoops at nearby Georgetown, whereas Beasley bounced around several high schools in Maryland before eventually getting drafted No. 2 overall in the 2008 NBA Draft. 

“We recognize from all levels of basketball the D.C. area provides a lot of talent,” DeMatha Catholic head coach Mike Jones said. “Look at all the guys in the NBA from our area. Look at the college basketball teams filled with DMV players.”

In the latest ESPN Top 25 high school rankings, six teams listed reside in the DMV area. DeMatha is ranked the highest, coming in at No. 5. Ever since high school basketball has risen in popularity to a national scale, the DMV has been well represented and respected among the basketball community. 

“It’s the best basketball in the country,” Dematha small forward Earl Timberlake (No. 30 in ESPN’s Top 100 for the class of 2020) said. “You can look at the numbers. Numbers don’t lie.”

Dematha has long acted as the poster child for high school basketball dominance. It not only cultivates outstanding individual players, but has routinely found itself among the top tier of high school basketball teams. Jones had some big shoes to fill when he took over for Morgan Wootten. 

Wootten, a Hall of Fame coach, had never endured a losing season in 46 years and won five national titles and 22 D.C. championships. 

In 1965, DeMatha took on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcidnor) and Power Memorial, who was in the midst of a 71-game winning streak. In what’s considered one of the more iconic high school basketball games to date, Wootten and DeMatha took down Power Memorial. 

He is credited with putting DeMatha on the map, as a basketball and athletic program, and establishing a tradition of excellence throughout the DMV. 

“I’ve known DMV basketball my whole life and it just keeps getting better and better,” DeMatha forward Hunter Dickinson said. “Somehow we just always have a lot of talent around us and we just love competing against each other.”

Jones took over in 2002 and has followed suit ever since. In his 18th season at the helm, he owns a 484-118 all-time record. He’s won nine Washington Catholic Athletic Conference regular season titles and four Maryland Private School Tournament championships while seeing six former players reach the NBA.

DeMatha’s Earl Timberlake Jr. with a drive in the teams game at the Spalding Hoophall Classic. (Photo Courtesy of Evan Wheaton)

Although, Jones had never coached a player quite like Dickinson — a 7 foot, 1 inch center who transferred to DeMatha from Rock Creek Christian before his sophomore season.

“That’s part of the reason why I came here,” Dickinson said. “I wanted to be the next one. There’s definitely a standard of excellence when you walk around Dematha. Wherever you are, (people) always know that’s DeMatha from Maryland.”

It doesn’t stop with DeMatha. St. John’s College, St. Frances Academy, Paul VI High School, and Gonzaga College are all nationally recognized DMV squads. 

“Our talent is so widespread around I think a lot of teams get to get a sense of what DMV basketball is like. I think it’s pretty well dispersed so that no team is too stacked. I think everybody is pretty even,” Dickinson said. We don’t all come together at one school. Everybody stays and tries to win at their own school.”

Dickinson and Timberlake have combined to create one of the most exciting front courts in the country. It was on display on Saturday night at the Spalding Hoophall Classic presented by Eastbay. 

Timberlake had 24 points, 11 rebounds and three assists while Dickinson finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks in a 57-49 victory. Timberlake jolted the Blake Arena crowd with emphatic dunks, while Dickinson bullied his way to buckets in the post. 

“They’ve been around so long it’s like we’re cherishing every moment we get with them now because we know they’ll be gone soon,” Jones said. “For two winners, two champions, the way that they’ve represented themselves and their families, it’s a lot of pressure on us as coaches to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure they end their careers at Dematha the right way.”

Dickinson and Timberlake are the latest wave of seemingly nonstop DMV talent, and they’re looking to add to the legacy. 

“It’s something that we take pride in and something we know every time we go out, whoever we play against is going to recognize that they’re playing a D.C. area team and come at us a little bit,” Jones said. “There’s places all over, but we feel like we’re the best and we enjoy having opportunities to prove it.”

Photos Courtesy of Gabby Guerard and Evan Wheaton

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