In a city where hoops reign supreme, three of Alexandrias four high school basketball brigades are getting some recognition for their prowess on the court.
While its not an unprecedented alignment of talent and drive, T.C. Williams has joined their colleagues at Episcopal and St. Stephens and St. Agnes on the Washington Posts weekly power rankings.
Heading back into the season after the holiday break, the undefeated T.C. Titans were ranked No. 18 before beating Chantilly Tuesday night. Across town, a 7-2 Saints squad is ranked No. 12, though Montrose Christian, ranked No. 2 in the region, beat them handily 70-42 Tuesday. The Episcopal Maroon are locked in at No. 5.
The Post sports staff compiles and tweaks the weekly rankings based on a mix of observation, records and opinions among coaching staff.
Warner Moore, an Alexandria Sportsman Club board member and past president of the local group, said the recognition the citys athletes are getting regionally is nothing short of great news.
Were thrilled that Alexandria is getting noticed again with all of our great athletes, he said. Just a couple of years ago, T.C. Williams won a state championship and were thrilled the other schools are doing so well.
But for Kevin McLinton, Saints head coach, finding his squad on the list of teams to watch creates a mixture of excitement and concern. Four years ago, a dominant SSSAS basketball team earned a spot on the Posts power rankings, an honor the program hasnt seen since.
Now that theyre back, its critical to make sure the players dont let the recognition carry them away, McLinton said.
Were excited, especially with the last couple of years, he said. Weve had some rough years. The kids are excited and theyre playing hard, but we know and we tell them its just an opinion. We cant get caught up in where were ranked; we just have to keep playing.
The Saints first two losses came at the hands of Georgias McEachern High School and Floridas Dillard High School during the Kreul Classic, hosted in the Sunshine State between the Christmas and New Years holidays. Coming at the hands of two tough, physical teams, the defeats made for good experience, McLinton said.
The coach credited newcomers Phil Guglielmo and Julius Bradley with the teams extra boost on the court this season. An Annandale native, Guglielmo works the perimeter while Bradley is a rising leader in the program.
Those are two big pieces we were able to get, McLinton said. We meshed them in with the guys we have returning and the kids like each other and get along and work hard together.
At the citys sole public high school, making the Posts rankings is nothing new, though T.C. coach Julian King believes the dismal, scandal-ridden end to the previous years season may have kept the Titans on the outside of the bubble a little longer than usual.
The players and coaching staff dont worry about the rankings, he said, but even if they did, one bad season doesnt mean the decline of a perennial powerhouse. Its a sentiment the coach shares with his players, who spoke openly about the dire predictions for the team before starting the season with seven straight wins.
People have overlooked our program this year, King said. I think we have a pretty good program. We churn out a pretty good team every year for people to think we wouldnt work twice as hard and come back and play this year.
Like McLinton, King recognizes the rankings dont mean much in the heat of a game. When the clock is ticking, hard work, athleticism and dedication take center stage.[Its all about] hard working and not worrying about the rankings, not worrying about some of the fans thoughts, not worrying about what some other teams are doing, he said. Its focusing on the group that we have and were just focusing on getting better every day.