Inside the Program: Obama Academy boys basketball


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Building a program can be a long and arduous task, one routinely filled with shortcomings and the expected growing pains. In its second year of existence, however, Obama Academy has a boys basketball team that is bringing about a new kind of change to the City League. After going 12-2 in league play last year and finishing just behind 13-1 Allderdice, the Eagles are second to none this season (14-2, 7-1). Obama has won 13 of its past 14 and has yet to lose consecutive games. As for the biggest differences between the school's inaugural year and its current one? "We play much better defense and we can score way better and we're way faster," guard D.J. Porter said. The Eagles have an explosive offense, averaging 74.6 points per game, 10 points better than the second-best mark in the City League (Brashear). With just three games left in its regular season, here's a closer look at the prohibitive City League favorite:

STAR POWER

It usually goes without saying that a team's leading scorer is a crucial component, but for Obama, it has been a tandem that has helped lead it this season -- the combination of Porter and guard DeAndre Byrd. The two both average more than 15 points per game, making them two the three City League players to do so (Robert Bailey of Westinghouse is the other). Porter entered the week averaging a team-high 18.2 points, with Byrd at 15.9. For the Eagles, it has been a scoring duo unmatched among its peers.

"It has been real important because toward the end of the game, me and him usually have the ball in our hands," Porter said.

A STRONG LINEAGE

Though Porter has had an excellent season as a junior, someone with his last name succeeding in the Pittsburgh basketball ranks is nothing new. Porter's father, Darelle, was a standout at Perry Traditional Academy before playing at Pitt, making him the last City League player to play for the Panthers until DeJuan Blair arrived from Schenley in 2007. The elder Porter later became the men's basketball coach at Duquesne, where he compiled a 23-64 record from 1998-2001.

LEANING ON EXPERIENCE

It's no secret in basketball, particularly at the high school level, that experience is a valuable asset, and it's a reality that has helped Obama this season. Of the 14 players on the Eagles roster, there are seven seniors and seven juniors.

WINNING WITH EASE

Winning games is impressive enough, but there is something to be said for doing so decisively. Of Obama's 14 wins, 11 were decided by double digits and six came by 20 or more points.

COMING TOGETHER

As might be expected at an entirely new school, Obama's roster features players from several schools forced to close in recent years, such as Schenley and Peabody. Getting players from different backgrounds to come together as a team proved difficult at first, according to D.J. Porter, but since then, as the results indicate, it has been a successful task.

"At the beginning it was [awkward] because it was the first time we started playing together," Porter said. "Once we started playing together, we just started jelling."

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Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com


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