Washington’s Ralph Harvey Jr. attacks the basket against King Drew. Photo by Ken Brooks
There was nothing new about winning the Marine League considering it was the third consecutive title for Washington Prep boys basketball (20-10), (12-0), which dominated the league. Nor would it be breaking news if they advance to the City Section final four since they have been there and done that the last two seasons. What is different, is an increased level of expectation for the 2012 edition of the Generals heading into the post season.
The head General, coach Leonard Johnson, is not all that excited about the recent marginal success. His optimism is rooted in the tangible opportunity to walk away with this year's Division I trophy. Johnson whole heartedly concurs with the growing opinion that the Westchester/Fairfax/Taft grip over the section is loosening.
“We’re the new kids on the block. Our team has been just as consistent as the big three and can match up with anybody. We can play fast or slow, inside and outside, and we’re deeper than most teams. Winning the championship comes down to who has the strongest bench”, Johnson said.
Washington was a projected favorite during the summer but “fell off the wagon” according to their coach. With 10 new players on the team, the staff (including two new coaches) had to construct a system that fit what is measured as their biggest varsity roster (nine players listed from 6-4 to 6-8). The roster includes two returning award-winning seniors: Ralph Harvey, Jr. (2011 All-City) and transfer Isaiah Hicks (All-Southern Section). During the growing pains of getting familiar with each other, they dropped 10 games before league play. That was more than a Washington team had ever lost in an entire season under Johnson.
However, as they swept through the league, the squad gradually jelled and peaked at the perfect time. It has evolved into what the coach calls his best team ever. For Johnson, who disregards any value placed on rankings or seedings, that is good enough to win it all.
“It took us 30 games to jell,” he said. “Now we’re just as good as anybody in the City. We‘ll be there again (the final four), but our goal is to win the City title and nothing less.”
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