One team which has transformed its program during the past four years has been the Dundalk High School boys' varsity basketball team. Three seasons ago, the Owls won three games. After a seven-win campaign two years ago, the team exploded in 2014 for 17 wins, the most in their program's history.
The team's success on the court was enough to earn them the No. 1 overall seed in their section for the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association state tournament. The Owls lost a close contest to Edgewood of Harford County during the sectional final, falling one game short of making the regional final.
This year's squad looks like it could surpass last season's success. Dundalk is currently 11-2 and has victories against Baltimore County foes like Perry Hall, Chesapeake and Pikesville. One player who has played at a high level for Dundalk this year has been guard Kenyan Southers. A senior and multi-year captain, Southers has evolved into one of the more well-rounded players in the area. He also seems to have saved his best season for his final one, averaging 12.8 points, 4.9 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game so far. Standing at 6-foot-1, Southers has a lot of height for point guard, a role he has thrived in since being moved to that position during his junior season. Last year, he earned honorable mention for the All-Baltimore County team after a strong individual campaign.
Southers has already been accepted to college on a strictly academic front, but he is still looking at a few collegiate situations where he could also play basketball. He spoke with PressBox about the tough early years of his career at Dundalk, how he loves high-pressure situations on the court and about how this season's team is the best-rounded squad he has played on during his time at Dundalk.
PRESSBOX: What are your earliest memories of playing basketball at Dundalk?
KENYAN SOUTHERS: My earliest memories of playing basketball at Dundalk involve losing. At a young age, people don't understand losing as much. It is harder to comprehend. As you get older, you learn to be able to accept defeat and use it to learn how to win. So when I think of my early days of Dundalk, I think of losing, but all those losses helped us build our program up into what it is today.
PB: Who was your sports idol growing up?
KS: One of the players I always looked up to was Tracy McGrady. I always liked his style of play -- very smooth. And he also seemed like a quiet guy, which I liked because I've never been a big showboat on the basketball court. He was my idol growing up and he still is currently.
PB: What is your favorite part about playing basketball?
KS: My favorite part is living in the big moment. I feel like my team calls on me a lot in big moments. Last year, I won a big game against Hereford for us by coming through in the clutch. I just think when it's crunch time, you show your true identity about who you are, and also what your team as a whole is like. So I like those big, critical moments. I think it brings out great character from everyone on my team.
PB: What do you guys do to get fired up and focused before a game?
KS: We normally all have our headphones plugged in listening to whatever music gets us focused. But my preparation starts the day before the game. I prepare myself well, make sure I get a good night sleep and turn off my phone so I don't get distracted. It helps me set my goals for where I want them to be the following night, so preparation for me begins the day before.
PB: Last year, Dundalk recorded the most wins in school history and was the No. 1 seed in your section for the state playoffs. Your team lost in the sectional final. Talk about last season and what you learned from it.
KS: Last year was definitely a new beginning for me since I was playing point guard, but it was also a new beginning for the team. It was a great year. We had a lot of big wins, especially against Dulaney, who our program had not beaten in a long time. It was definitely another year where we saw progress of our program going in the right direction. It definitely hurt to have our season end when it did because we thought we could do better, but I took both the good and the bad from it. Hopefully that will help us do better in the playoffs this year.
PB: How has the season been thus far and what is the biggest difference between this year's team and last year's team?
KS: Well, we don't have all the players that we had last year. Since I've been here, it seems like we've always had a young team, but we don't this year. It kind of feels like it is our time now. The biggest difference between last year's team and this year's team is role players. We had Malik Winston join our team this year, and we have two new centers. That's big for us because we had never had a center before. Now, we have two of them. It changes our game a lot. Now we go down low a lot more, which helps us spread the floor. This year, it feels like we have the complete package in our team, which is the first time I've had that since I've been at Dundalk.
PB: Looking ahead, what are your personal goals, and what are your goals for your team?
KS: I've accomplished one of my goals already, which is to be accepted to college. On the basketball front, I want to do better, play better than I did last year. On the team front, we really feel like we have a good enough team this year to make something happen in the playoffs. Our goal as a team is to make it down to College Park [Maryland] for the state finals.
PB: Do you enjoy the added responsibility of being a captain and what kind of leader are you?
KS: I definitely take the captain role seriously and take it head on. I've always thought that people will follow their leader, so it is important to lead by example. I definitely try to stay as calm as possible in tough situations cause that will make my team more calm. I talk to them before every game. If you ever watch us play, I always clap and I'm always in the middle of our circle trying to give them a couple words of wisdom, and to make sure they know that no matter what happens in the game, we're still a family.
PB: Being a senior, your time at Dundalk High School will end soon. What do you think you will take away from being a member of the basketball team?
KS: It's so tough because there are so many great moments and things to choose from. Something I will really take away, I think, is my relationship with my coaches. I have never had coaches like them before. They've always been there for me, and they always push me to crazy limits, which I thought I couldn't get to. It's great to have coaches who you know really care for you. It's hard to find that. The other big person has been my teammate Chris Thomas. We've played together since middle school, every single year, so to go through everything with him and the bond we've formed is something I will always appreciate and associate with Dundalk basketball.
PB: What do you hope to study in college?
KS: I want to go for a criminal justice major and turn that into either being a homicide detective or being in the FBI. It is something I have always wanted to do, something that can make a positive change in our community. Having a chance to help people and save people's lives so that appeals to me. My aunt is a policewoman, so it sort of runs in my family as well. That is always something I have wanted to do.