Potomac High School (Dumfries, VA)
Classification: Class 5, Region D
2017-18 Record: 18-8, Cardinal District Champions
Once stepping foot into the gymnasium at Potomac High School, one may quickly notice the many banners that recognize achievements of the men’s basketball team. I remember being a senior in high school back during 2014 when I read online about the Panthers winning the 5A state title. Two years later, with a team that went through some early growing pains, they took home the state crown once again. In all, the program has collected three state titles; more than any other Prince William County (PWC) high school boys or girls basketball team. In addition, the Panthers have racked up 11 regional and 19 conference/district championships. With those accolades and the history of talent (there’s an impressive mural honoring the all-time 1,000 point-scorers in the gym), I always considered Potomac as a basketball powerhouse in the Northern Virginia region. The success speaks for itself. This past season, the Panthers once again found themselves relying on players with a lack of experience; several freshmen played a big role on the 2017 team. With the graduation of all-district performers, Nick Pullum (first team) and Jaylen Williams (first team/player of the year), head coach Keith Honore realizes the underclassmen will have to step into even bigger roles for these upcoming months to keep up the winning tradition in PWC.
“Practice Good Habits!”
Honore reiterated the above-statement to his team more than anything else during my visit. The coaching staff does an impeccable job of holding the players accountable whenever they step foot on the court. Honore, especially, seems to greatly value consistent effort and focus within practice/workouts, which then translates to games in the future. We’ve all heard the famous quote, “practice makes perfect.” I’m sure Honore would agree with the statement, or even take it a step further to acknowledge how “PERFECT practice makes perfect.” I respected his emphasis on reaction time, facing the basket before making decisions, knowing spacing, eye contact with teammates before making passes, and more. It’s honestly no wonder why the program has garnered such success over the years. I also liked how the coaches challenged the players to ‘think a play ahead.’ Obviously, moments will happen when an attempted structured play falls apart; Honore wants to ensure all his players will know how to make counter-decisions, using basketball IQ. Along with the teaching, Potomac’s coaches also see this time together with the team as valuable in establishing a competitive atmosphere at all times. Whenever two players tied in a drill (Ex. making the most shots in five-spot shooting), he would have them duel in a quick 1v1 match; whoever scored first ultimately won the drill). I honestly have never seen that before and enjoyed it greatly; a tactic most coaches may want to keep in mind. Honore doesn’t hesitate to admit that he may show some tough love to his players at times. Nevertheless, it all has a purpose to show he truly desires for all of them to reach their fullest potential. Developing a mindset of “this is how it’s done and how I need to do it” now will serve even greater purpose in the following months.
What the Panthers may lack in height, they definitely make up for in athleticism. Personally, this doesn’t come as a surprise. It seems like every season the program places impressive athletes on the hardwood. This most likely stems from the daily work put in the weight room and speed conditioning. I can see the team hurting others with how fast they can get paint touches and move the ball. Honore should find himself able to rotate in units with collective athleticism, one after another. At some point, opposing teams will become gassed. Trying to keep up with the Panthers’ fast style of play certainly comes with a challenge. For the first 1/3 of their workout, I noticed the squad solely focusing on finishing around the rim. The players have good body control and finesse that should help them score near the cylinder at a high rate. With their quickness, backdoor cuts against opponents playing aggressive defense should also fall in the Panthers’ favor. Right now, I don’t see the squad holding the ‘live or die by the 3’ mentality. Still, they have some good shooters who can get hot from outside of the arc.
Who to Look For:
*All are varsity returners.
Jakhari Taylor ‘19
One of the few seniors on the roster, many eyes will center on Taylor, who enjoyed a stellar junior season in which he picked up second team all-district honors. The 6’0” shooting guard provides a lot for the team with his hustle, distribution, rebounding, and scoring all on display night in and night out. He has exceptional instincts and a great motor that combine to make him a defensive presence. When he gets the ball, especially near the corner, Taylor excels in getting to the rim and drawing fouls or completing three-point plays. His ability to slash his way to the paint area and play swarming defense somewhat reminds me of a young Victor Oladipo. I expect him to build upon his junior campaign to become one of the top guards in the district for his final season wearing the blue.
Davion Morris ‘20
At 6’6,” Morris stands as one of the tallest players for the Panthers. His strength and quick leap makes him a great finisher around the rim, usually with some authority in throwing down two-handed jams. The team will rely on a big jump from him now as an upperclassmen to become an interior force on both ends. I liked Morris’ energy that never wavered throughout my visit. As a varsity member since his first year of high school, he has an advantage of knowing the winning tradition of the program and how to teach younger guys who may struggle. If he continues to bring a consistent focus and work ethic to the gym every day, I don’t see anything stopping him from replacing the role that Pullum had as a senior forward last year. The college size is already there. However, at 6’6,” he must recognize that his perimeter skills will need to see a boost in order for him to truly succeed at a future high-level program after graduation.
Tyrell Harris ‘21
The 6’4” versatile wing will most likely have fans abuzz with the solid production he showed last year as a freshman, averaging six points and four rebounds per outing. The upside of Harris remains high. He gives the Panthers much versatility at his size: makes shots, defends, rebounds, finds others, and finishes strongly. His feel for the game opens my eyes wider when I trace back to remember he’s only heading into his second high school season. With Potomac’s top two scorers (Williams and Pullum) from last season gone, I expect Harris to become one of the main offensive threats moving forward. Having already picked up an offer from High Point, dating back to last fall, his recruitment should see a significant increase if he keeps working on his agility and ball-handling.
Caleb Satchell ‘21
Another face in the 2021 returners, I have a feeling Satchell will benefit mostly from his pure toughness alone. He’s arguably the most hard-nosed player within the roster; it doesn’t matter the drill, expect the 6’0” guard to give it his all. Satchell also possesses great quickness and sneaky strength for his size. Once he decides to just put the ball on the floor, I can see him giving others trouble in trying to stop his penetration without fouling. I didn’t get to see his free throw efficiency but he definitely has potential to make a living at the line. He can make perimeter shots but doesn’t appear to have as much faith compared to his attacking mindset. With his demeanor, however, I expect his all-around game to keep improving dramatically and result in Satchell emerging as a feared guard within the district for the incoming years.
Anthony Jackson ‘21
Jackson returns as one of the team’s top shooters, an area where he can help them greatly. The 6’0” sophomore has an effortless and quick release, along with elevation off of the ground. Sometimes, he may tend to settle a bit too much for his shot; I think he has other capabilities as well that can make him an all-around scorer. Jackson’s wingspan and footwork can make him a reliable ‘3 & D’ guy if that’s what his role becomes at some point during his career. Similar to his backcourt mate, Satchell, his eyes have a clear focus whenever he takes the court; something teams especially need from shooters. Putting on more muscle and developing some go-to moves should act as his next main areas of focus.
Whenever the odds may appear against them, we can always count on Potomac to persevere, especially evidenced by last year’s group of new faces and inexperience. After winning the 2018 Cardinal District championship, the Panthers just missed a berth to the state tournament; something I’m confident they have their eyes set on going into this season. With some returning experience and a passionate coaching staff, I expect the winning ways to continue for the renowned program. The amount of young talent/promise should give fans a likewise feeling. More banners may soon be hung in the school gymnasium.
The Panthers are out for blood… Blue Blood!