UPPER MARLBORO – Last season, the Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. boys’ basketball team came into the state 4A semifinal game against Quince Orchard with a record of 20-0 and were the favorites to go on to the state championship.
With the game too close for comfort in the fourth quarter, the Cougars nailed a three-pointer that ended up being the nail in the coffin for the Pumas’ quest to perfection. The Pumas first loss halted their goal of obtaining a state championship.
After a near perfect season, Wise now has to rebuild with an entirely different team.
Wise lost six players from its 20-1 team and has only three players returning. Of those six players, the Pumas lost their “Fantastic Four,” who were their top scorers last season.
Michael Speight was the team’s leading scorer at 18.6 points per game and could do anything on the floor. Brandon Howell was a crucial part of the team’s offense and was a knockdown shooter. Darron Barnes did the dirty work by averaging 11 rebounds per game and had a scoring touch around the rim as well. Brent Pegram was a jack of all trades on offense and defense, with 12.3 points, seven assists and nearly four steals a game.
With the team losing out on roughly 59 points per game and a set of defensive players, can a remodeled Wise team repeat the same regular season like it did last year? Sherwyn Devonish thinks this team is still a force to be reckoned with.
For the past three seasons, Devonish started with the Bladensburg Mustangs. This season, Devonish, a transfer, will enter his senior year playing for Wise.
“The hardest part about switching teams was deciding to leave Bladensburg because I had so much loyalty for that school, but I had to do what was best for me and my career,” said Devonish, who averaged 13 points per game with the Mustangs.
Devonish can back up his words with his play on the court. His best attributes include his speed and his ability to create shots – not just for himself – but also for teammates. Devonish has added the three-point shot to his repertoire and is also great at taking charges and sacrificing his body for his team.
“My role on this team is similar to Kyrie Irving, which is being a leader on and off the court,” Devonish said. “I want to be that anchor on the court to lock down the best player in stretches of the game, put my team on my back, and also get my teammates some nice looks to put them in situations to succeed. My goal is to bring this team back to the promise land once again and win.”
Head Coach Rob Garner knows the team took a big hit with the loss of the seniors, but has a lot of faith in Devonish.
“Sherwyn will have an immediate impact on our team,” Garner said. “He’s a big-time leader and will make us a contender. He’s a very tough kid, excellent ball handler and makes great decisions. I think he has the best midrange pull-up game in the DMV. His three-point shot has improved drastically, and this year he’s our sniper with the ball in his hands.”
Adjustments are essential to how successful Wise will be this season. With nine new players coming to a team that was one win away from the state championship game, Garner knows this season will not be easy.
“The team chemistry and cohesiveness, it’s hard to draw up a plan for that,” Garner said. “The amount of success I have had in the past never has been based on a quick fix. We are very talented, yet trying to get these guys together to build that chemistry.
“They’re not going to work as hard. They’re not going to do the things that require extra on the basketball court until they build the camaraderie and the trust in one another off the floor.”
Terrence Gibbons was on the team last season and will have an increased role this year. He averaged 4.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, and plans to not only step up his game but also be a leader to the newcomers.
“Last season, I told myself I had one more year to prove everybody wrong,” Gibbons said. “So, this year is a statement year, a comeback year from what happened last year.
“I know what it took to get to the state championship game. So, I know how to push my teammates.”
Junior guard Fred Crowell was not on the team last season, but wants to play a role on this year’s team. Crowell feels he can take the place of the guards.
“I think I’m good at controlling the game,” Crowell said. “I control the pace of the game on offense and defense. We can improve our defense, but some good attributes we have are that we know how to run the floor good, and we can be fast in our transitions.”
Despite having an entirely different team, the goal of winning a championship is still there, and Garner knows his team is talented enough to get there.
“We’re going to compete because we want to win everything,” Garner said. “Everything that’s available for us to win, we want to win. Every game, everything that has a championship tagged to it, and we want to play in those games.”