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'Scoring Machine' Carr Leads Patterson To New Heights


By Keith Mills

Once again the stat sheet was kind to Aquille Carr -- 34 points, a handful of assists and a half-dozen rebounds. And once again his Patterson High teammates were kind to him.

With Myrek Lee-Fowlkes, Rickey Meekins, Karrell Goines and Marcus Woodard providing yet another lift offensively, the Clippers busted open a close game late in the second quarter and rolled to an 88-56 win against Rocky Mount Prep of North Carolina.

"Obviously, Aquille gets a lot of attention, but our other guys have really stepped up," head coach Harry Martin said. "Myrek and Aquille came in here together and have been playing together for what seems like forever. And Rickey has really played well since he came over from Mt. Carmel."

A huge crowd witnessed that Jan. 22 at Coppin State as Patterson capped a perfect weekend at the 15th Basketball Academy mixer. The Clippers beat Milford Mill Jan. 20 and followed that up with their 12th win of the year, a resounding 32-point thumping of the Jaguars.

Carr, Meekins (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Fowlkes (24 points), led the way, turning a 20-20 second-quarter tie into an eight-point halftime lead.

Meekins started the run with a 3-pointer from the right wing and a put-back off a Carr miss. Carr, Patterson's dynamic, 5-foot-7 sophomore guard, scored 58 points against Forest Park Dec. 30 and scored eight straight points midway through the second quarter as Patterson opened a seven-point lead. After Maxton Richardson hit a free throw to cut Patterson's lead to 34-28 with 2:36 left, Fowlkes slammed down a basket from Goines off a perfect screen-and-roll for a 36-28 halftime lead.

"That's a big part of our offense," Martin said of the screen-and-roll. "We can play a half-court offense but we like to get up and down the court."

The Clippers never looked back, scoring 52 second-half points as Martin emptied his bench and Patterson raised its record to 12-1.

"We really feel we can attack any type of defense," said Martin, now in his fifth year as Patterson's head coach. "Aquille is a scoring machine but our other guys have really stepped up. They are playing very well."

***

Martin and Patterson are a perfect fit. Neither may fit the typical Baltimore basketball pedigree, yet both are proving extremely worthy under the sometimes-brutal expectations of the local basketball community. Dunbar, Lake Clifton, Douglass, Edmondson, Southern and City College have dominated the city's basketball scene for the last 40 years, though now the Clippers are the team to beat, after already beating Forest Park, City and Dunbar, and featuring one of the most electrifying players in the state in Aquille Carr.

Martin grew up just a few blocks from Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was one of the only white kids in the neighborhood and the baseball equivalent of a gym rat. The baseball diamonds at nearby Patterson Park became his sanctuary. His bat and glove become his best friends.

"We used to get there in the morning and stay there all day," Martin said. "It was a family thing. We'd play baseball all day long in the summer, football and basketball the rest of the year. We were the only white family in the neighborhood but at that time there was like a code of the city. The older black guys would look after the young kids and we just competed for everything. It definitely helps me now." 

Martin's older brothers, Brian and David, went to Patterson while Martin went to Canton Middle School and then City College, where he played baseball and basketball.
From there it was on to Coppin State, where he played baseball and was, again, a minority, one of the few white students on campus.

He graduated from Coppin with a math degree in 1998 and began looking for a job. After a phone call to then-athletic director Roger Wrenn, who had coached his brothers, he found one at Patterson, where he arrived on campus 13 years ago along with Laura D'Anna, who is still the school's principal.

"Roger Wrenn gets a lot of credit for developing a lot of football coaches in town," said Martin, who is also the head of the school's math department. "Tony Ruocco (Kenwood), Mark Mesaros (Eastern Tech), Keith Robinson (Perry Hall). But he was my mentor as well and I didn't coach football."

But he did coach virtually everything else at Patterson -- boys' and girls' soccer, baseball, girls' basketball, boys' lacrosse and now boys' basketball. Led by Tyrell Crowell, the Clippers went 21-20 during his first two years as head coach and 18-6 two years ago during his third.

"I watched how Roger built his football and baseball programs," said Martin, "and I learned so much from him: his attention to detail, how he handled the kids, how he made the kids feel important."

He also hit the coaching-clinic circuit: Maryland's Gary Williams, Villanova's Jay Wright, Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon and the Washington Wizards' Flip Saunders. Martin listened and learned and soaked up everything he could, replacing Larry Alexander as the varsity coach five years ago.

"They were 2-17 the year before," said Martin, "so when we took over there were no expectations.

That changed when a 5-foot-5 freshman from east Baltimore arrived at Patterson and the Clippers began beating teams by 20 points and playing before jammed-packed crowds.

"Aquille sort of fell into our lap," said Martin. "He actually grew up just a couple of blocks from where I did, so I was aware of him. Everyone was aware of him. But everyone thought he was going to go to Dunbar."

Nowhere was that more obvious than the opening scene of Poet Pride, the 2009 documentary that chronicled the storied history of Dunbar's vaunted basketball program, put together by former Poet teammates Tommy Polley and David Manigault. 

"In the opening scene of that movie," said Harry Martin, "there's a kid dribbling a basketball in an alley -- it's Aquille Carr.

Carr never made it to Dunbar, Lake Clifton, St. Frances, Calvert Hall, St. Paul's, or any other private or public school. Instead, during the summer of 2009, he enrolled at Patterson, the alma mater of his father, Alan Carr Sr.

"Alan and his son Alan Jr. were very good athletes," said Martin. "Sometimes Aquille and his father and brother will play together even play three-on-three tournaments together."

Because of some academic issues, Carr arrived at Patterson last year as a 16-year-old freshman with an impressive basketball IQ and the rare ability to dominate games. Lee-Fowlkes, a teammate of Carr's on the Team Mello AAU team, showed up with him.

Aquille also arrived with the reputation of being a trouble-maker, which Martin says has been totally blown out of proportion. In fact, Martin would like to set the record straight on that and a variety of things.

"It has been a piece of cake handling Aquille," said Martin. "Maybe it's because we're from the same neighborhood and he knows a little about what I went through there as well, but I've never had a major problem. Like most kids, he's done some things you have to crack down on, but the one time we did his father was there to take care of that."

And then there's his age.

"A lot of people think he only has one more year with us," Martin said, "but he has two. He's 17 and his birthday is September 28th, which means he won't turn 19 until after the Sept. 1st cutoff in two years. He's also doing well in school. He carries a 2.5 GPA and he's serious about it." 

And he's obviously serious about basketball. But how good is he?

As Martin said, he's a scoring machine. Because of his size a lot of local fans want to compare him to Muggsy Bogues, the 5-foot-3 point guard for the great Dunbar teams of the early 1980s, who played 15 years in the NBA and won a world championship with the U.S. national team, though that comparison may not be fair to Aquille.

Bogues was simply one of the most dominant players to ever come out of the area, both offensively with the ball and defensively with his uncanny instincts and quickness. Bogues was impossible to press either in a zone or man-to-man and simply made everyone around him better.

"ESPN listed Aquille as one of the top five point guards in the country," Martin said, "but he has an attack-first mentality."

A more deserving comparison is Carr to Shawnta Rogers, Lake Clifton's incomparable 5-foot-4 point guard during the mid-'90s, who teamed with Kevin Norris to lead the Lakers to the their first state championship and went on to a standout career at George Washington University, or 5-foot-6 Dwayne Wood, Dunbar's electrifying point guard during the late 1970s.

Like Rogers, Carr is a major weapon with the ball, who can score anywhere on the court. He's absolutely lethal on the wing or baseline and can split most double-teams, while Martin gives him a lot of freedom to take some risks on defense.

Against Rocky Mount he scored pretty much every way possible -- long-range jumpers, fast-break layups, driving floaters, driving layups, layups off steals and free throws. The difference between scoring 20 points per game or 30 is usually the number of free throws attempted. Carr gets to the foul line on an average of 10 to 15 times per game.

"He can pass when he wants to, but he is a scorer," Martin said, "The interesting thing as well is that he's been to a lot of camps now and he's played against some of the best players in the county and he's scored on them too."

He needs to keep scoring if Patterson hopes to end the season with its first state championship. And so will Meekins and Fowlkes, who like Carr, also have two more years to play at Patterson. Both have quietly put together strong seasons and both will play big roles in how far Patterson goes during the postseason.

Until then, Martin, Carr and the Clippers will try to keep rolling to the Baltimore City championship game.

Posted Jan. 24, 2011