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The D.C. area boys’ and girls’ basketball players to watch this winter


The basketball talent in the D.C. area is so bountiful that each winter season brings about a new set of local stars. When top players graduate, it leaves room for replacements to make their own legacies. There is rarely an ebb of high-major prospects in this area.

This year’s list of 16 intriguing and important players contains sophomores, juniors and seniors from both public and private schools across D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

2021-22 All-Met girls’ basketball team

Girls’ players to watch

Layla Burton, G, So., Parkdale

Burton generated plenty of buzz with the Panthers last winter, earning All-Met honorable mention in her freshman season by averaging 17 points per game. Back for her sophomore year, she will be one of the most feared players in Prince George’s County.

Jadyn Donovan, G, Sr., Sidwell Friends

The Sidwell Friends Quakers emerged as a world-beating force last winter, winning three championships and earning the No. 1 spot in both local and national rankings. The Quakers exhibited impressive balance, but All-Met Player of the Year Kiki Rice was the senior leader that held things together. With Rice now at UCLA, Donovan, a Duke commit, will step into a leadership role.

Madisen McDaniel, G, Jr., Bishop McNamara

On a team filled with talent, McDaniel is poised for a breakout year at point guard. A touted prospect out of middle school, McDaniel missed the end of her freshman year and the first seven games of her sophomore year with an ACL injury. Now fully healthy and coming off a strong summer, she’s expected to be a key contributor for a program that consistently contends in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.

Riley Nelson, G, Sr., Bullis

Nelson made a name for herself the last two seasons as one of the best public school basketball players in the D.C. area. Now, the Maryland commit has taken her talents to the Independent School League, where she will look to boost Bullis into the conference’s elite.

Amourie Porter, G, Sr., Glen Burnie

The combo guard averaged 17.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.1 steals en route to being named Anne Arundel County player of the year. Despite missing her sophomore season because of coronavirus cancellations, she enters the season just 196 points away from 1,000 — a career mark she is likely to reach considering she scored 432 points her junior year.

Alana Powell, G, Sr., Osbourn Park

After two straight losses in the Virginia Class 6 state finals, the Yellowjackets have demons to exorcise. Powell, imposing in every facet of the game, will be central in their title pursuit and gives the deep roster as good a chance as any in Northern Virginia.

Laila Reynolds, G, Sr., Shabach Christian

Reynolds will be the face of Coach Sam Caldwell’s first team at Shabach Christian Academy, a new program out of Prince George’s County. The skilled guard, who played for Caldwell at New Hope Academy and made the move with her coach this offseason, recently signed with Florida.

Delaney Thomas, F, Sr., St. John’s

Perhaps the most skilled post player in the area, Thomas has played a big role for the Cadets since her freshman season. Now a senior leader, the Duke commit will lead a St. John’s team that grew stronger as last season went on and ended the winter with a surprising and defiant win in the WCAC championship.

2021-22 All-Met boys’ basketball team

Ezekiel Avit, F, Sr., Churchill

Avit starred a season ago for a Churchill team that won its county and region before falling in the Maryland 4A final. He averaged 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks per game. The forward also starred at wide receiver for the Bulldogs in the fall and is committed to play football at the University of Maryland.

Caden Diggs, G, Jr., Bullis

A 6-foot-7 guard, Diggs is sure to pose plenty of matchup problems in the Interstate Athletic Conference. A transfer from St. Albans, Diggs has enough versatility and athleticism to make him Division I material and make Bullis a true title contender in a deep, talent-rich conference.

DeShawn Harris-Smith, G, Sr., Paul VI

A known commodity for Paul VI since his freshman season, Harris-Smith headlines a stacked Panthers roster. A gritty wing who can also bring up the ball, Harris-Smith recently signed with Maryland. His future now set, he can focus on leading the Panthers in their defense of the WCAC title.

Greg Jones, F, Sr., Hayfield

After a 32-0 season and Virginia Class 6 state championship last winter, the do-it-all American University commit returns as the heartbeat of a reloaded Hawks team with expectations to repeat.

High school hoops is back, and holy Hayfield-Patriot!

Nyk Lewis, G, So., Gonzaga

Over the years, Gonzaga has seen a parade of talented seniors step up to lead the Eagles in one season after another. This year’s squad has a few talented upperclassmen, but Lewis, a sophomore, has local coaches and college recruiters buzzing. The shifty point guard has already received offers from Maryland and Virginia Tech, among other schools.

Malik Mack, G, Sr., St. John’s

As the senior point guard on a talented Cadets team, Mack will be handed plenty of responsibility. It’s nothing new for the gritty Harvard commit, who came back from major injury early in his high school career and has turned himself into one of the most respected ballhandlers in the WCAC.

The sophomore has the potential to be one of the best public school players in the area. The dynamic, 6-6 wing impressed as a freshman and already has scholarship offers from Georgetown, Illinois and Virginia Tech.

Caleb Williams, F, Jr., Sidwell Friends

Any local basketball fans who were unfamiliar with Williams before last year’s D.C. State Athletic Association championship surely learned his name when he scored the buzzer-beating, game-winning putback to give the Quakers a title. With the bar set high for this experienced Sidwell team, Williams’s development will be an important part of its success.

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