For Anthony Higgs, it appeared to be just another normal day early during his freshman year of high school.
Higgs was playing pickup basketball games with his classmates on the outdoor basketball courts at Perry Hall High School. Higgs wasn't just participating in the games, though; he was dominating them despite the fact he wasn't the most experienced player. Easily being the tallest kid on the court at 6-foot-4 definitely helped, however.
That quickly changed when a boy Higgs didn't know, who also was 6-foot-4, came to the court, and the two decided to play one-on-one.
"He came in and blew me out," Higgs said. "I think it was 13-2. He absolutely tore me apart. It was a wakeup call for me that I had to get better. We did immediately hit it off, though, and I remember thinking that if we ever played on the same team together we could do something special."
That first instinct was correct. Higgs and the other boy, Laquill Hardnett, haven't just thrived together on the court; now as seniors at Perry Hall High School, they've created a legacy together that few tandems can match at the high school level.
Hardnett and Higgs spent their freshman year improving their games while playing JV before getting called up for the postseason. The duo made varsity as sophomores and proceeded to guide Perry Hall through its best two years of basketball in its history. During Hardnett's and Higgs's first two years on Perry Hall's varsity team, the Gators went 47-5.
Along the way, Perry Hall won a pair Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association 4A North regional titles. Last year was particularly exciting, as the Gators also won the Baltimore County crown and the MPSSAA 4A state championship. Before Hardnett and Higgs joined varsity, Perry Hall had never won a postseason championship of any kind.
"They know where they're going to be all the time, and it really comes from playing together so much," Perry Hall head coach George Panageotou said. "After four years of playing together, they just have fantastic chemistry. What's great about Laquill and Anthony, though, is they're as good as they are because of each other. Both were pretty raw when they got to high school, but getting to go against a really talented player who's their size every day in practice has definitely made them better."
Finding a contemporary that's their size would've been difficult if they didn't have each other -- Hardnett now stands at 6-foot-9, while Higgs is 6-foot-8. Though both players are classified as forwards because of their height, both have guard capabilities to go with their rebounding and blocking skills.
Higgs is a sensational shooter who can hit shots from 24 feet away from the basket, while Hardnett plays like a point guard, utilizing his excellent ball-handling and vision to make sublime passes to find the open man. Both are also excellent athletes who are capable of getting up and down the floor in Perry Hall's transition game.
Last season, Higgs averaged 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, while Hardnett contributed 12.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and four assists. While some highly touted players might struggle with having a teammate who also gets a lot of attention, Hardnett and Higgs haven't had any issues sharing the spotlight.
"It's definitely easier to get noticed by colleges when you have a 6-foot-8 shooting guard on your team," Hardnett said. "Coaches are going to come in the gym to see him. That's helped both of us a lot during the recruiting process -- having each other."
When the duo played together on the Nike national summer circuit this past summer, their already high stock with college programs continued to rise. As recruiting began to intensify for both, each would use the other as a sounding board for what was going on in their individual process.
In fact, Higgs said how Hardnett reacted after Higgs told him he was close to committing to the University of Mississippi was a factor in his decision to become a Rebel.
"Laquill loved how Ole Miss recruited me," Higgs said. "He told me I was dumb if I didn't go there. That was one of the things that solidified my decision to commit there, because I know Laquill has never misled me on anything."
Hardnett is yet to make a decision on where he wants to play in college, though he's currently being recruited by a host of schools, including St. Bonaventure, Cincinnati, Kansas State, Buffalo and Murray State. He hopes to have his list of schools narrowed to three by the end of February.
Before the two go to college, though, they still have one more season to play for the Gators. Both want to finish their careers with another state championship, though it'll be trickier this year since Perry Hall graduated eight players from last year's team.
When the duo graduates later this year and goes off to separate colleges, Panageotou doesn't expect Hardnett and Higgs to lose touch. The two are extremely close away from the court, and both plan to watch each other play in college as much as they can.
They have even started thinking about sharing the court in college someday.
"We've already started talking about hoping to play against each other in March Madness," Hardnett said. "Hopefully we could get everyone from Perry Hall to come out for it -- that would be pretty cool if it happened."
Photo Credit: Wick Eisenberg/PressBox
Issue 241: January / February 2018
Originally published Jan. 19, 2018