By Keith Mills
Any discussion of high school basketball in Baltimore (click here) must include Towson's Gene Shue, an All-American at Maryland in 1953-54 and an NBA coach for 22 years, as well as Charlie Leach, Joe Smothers and Charlie Moore, three of Baltimore’s premier players in the 1950s and '60s. Edmondson's Marvin Webster led Morgan State to the 1974 Division II National Championship and the "Human Eraser" played one year in the ABA and nine years in the NBA.
Dunbar's Dickie Kelly was a playground legend and scoring machine who later played for Paul Baker at Wheeling College in West Virginia, while Dunbar's Tony Brown received college offers from every major college in the country, including UCLA, before he was killed in a domestic dispute in 1972.
Pat McKinley, Brian Matthews and Roger Dickens of City College helped Towson State to national Division II prominence in the 1970s, while Edmondson’s Kenny Sullivan and City's Ronald Smith and George Pinchback did the same at the University of Baltimore.
But there's one name that is at the top of everyone's list as Baltimore's best basketball player ever -- Skip Wise.
"Every time he walked on the court, he knew he was the best player in the gym," said Stacey Fowlkes, a longtime Baltimore hoops fan. "He had unbelievable confidence in his game."
And what a game he had. At 6-foot-2, Wise was big, strong and quick with endless range on a jump shot that was unblockable and unstoppable.
DeMatha found that out at the Baltimore Civic Center in February 1973. Dunbar won as Billy Snowden, Duke Richardson, Timmy Greene, Larry Gibson and Wise outplayed Morgan Wootten's nationally-ranked Stags, led by Adrian Dantley and Billy Langloh.
"That game put Baltimore basketball on the map," said Baltimore director of athletics Bob Wade.
"Skip was really something that day," Loyola coach Jerry Savage said. "He took over the game in the second half."
The rest of Wise's story has been well documented. He left Clemson after his freshman year to sign with the Baltimore Claws of the ABA but the Claws folded. He signed with Golden State but was cut by the Warriors, then arrested and imprisoned for drug possession and distribution.
I never saw Wise play at Dunbar, but like so many local fans I watched him at Clemson. He became the first freshman ever to make first-team All-ACC after averaging 18 points a game. I also saw Wise play in prison, at the Jessup House of Correction in 1988. It was a prison-wide tournament that featured some tremendous talent and Wise's team was from the Maryland Correctional Center in Hagerstown.
Now, Wise works for a local recreation center, still follows local high school basketball and still cherishes his time playing for William “Sugar” Cain at Dunbar.
"Coach was like a father to me," Wise said a few years ago at Dunbar's basketball reunion. "I had a great time playing here. A lot of great memories."
Here are some more players from the 1960s and ’70s who deserve a mention on the Baltimore Basketball honor roll.
Norman Black, Cardinal Gibbons: Rugged forward for Ray Mullis. Went to St. Joseph's in Philadelphia, along with teammate Rob Valderas.
Milt Walker, Mount St. Joe: Named to the first team of 1971 Alhambra tournament, great scorer.
Barry Scroggins, Mount St. Joe: Teammate of Walker’s, attended Morgan State briefly, area Player of the Year in 1971.
Charles Newman, Edmondson: Class of 1973. Joined Smith, Pinchback and Sullivan at UB.
George Luck, Southern: Great scorer, once pumped in 32 against Dunbar in 1972.
Tony Dailey, Southern: Brother of Quintin, undersized forward and a great rebounder. Played football for Army at West Point.
Tony Carter, Forest Park: Quick first step, great jumper and scorer, played at Coppin State.
Derwin Lilly, Walbrook: Great lead guard for the Warriors. Excellent shooter and passer. Went to Virginia State.
Duke Richardson, Billy Snowden, Tim Green, Dunbar: More than complementary players to Wise and Gibson on Cain's Dunbar powerhouse teams of the mid-’70s. Greene was a Junior College All-American at Catonsville.
Morris Cannon, Loyola: Went to Loyola Blakefield and Loyola College, outstanding scorer.
Paul Feeley, Loyola: Also played for Savage at Loyola.
Don Russell, Southern: One of the greatest all-round athletes in area history.
Larry Harrison, Towson Catholic: Played at Wake Forest where he was among the ACC leaders in rebounding in 1977.
Jim Dove, Southern: A major force for coach Tom Albright before playing at New Mexico.
Neil Burns, Andover: A strong post player for coach Dick Hart. Went on to Boston University.
Louis Carter, Arundel: He played football at the University of Maryland and in the NFL, but he was a tremendous basketball player for coach Jerry Mears.
Henry Downs, Annapolis: Led Al Laramore's Panthers to the 1974 Class AA state championship.
Issue 2.4: January 25, 2007