Obama is seeking inaugural City title
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Second-best isn't an option in the mind of Obama's DeAndre Byrd.
For him, it's championship or bust.
"We are the team to beat [in the City League] this year," said Byrd, a 5-foot-8 senior guard. "The 'ship is ours this year. I understand how good everyone else is, but this year, it's all ours."
Despite usually being one of the shortest players on the court, Byrd, a shooting guard, is the second leading scorer on the team at 16 points per game after pacing the Eagles as a junior last season.
Junior forward D.J. Porter, the team's tallest player at 6-5, is the top scorer, averaging about 20 per contest. He also leads in rebounding (7.8) and steals (3.2) and averages 3.2 assists a game.
His father, Darelle, Sr., was the last City League player to take the court for the University of Pittsburgh (1988-91) until DeJuan Blair arrived in 2007. He also was Duquesne's head coach for three seasons in the 1990s.
The younger Porter said he's made many strides to be a top-caliber player. He said his father's guidance has been a key toward him achieving that.
"There are some days in which my dad trains me and pushes me as if I'm already a Division-I player," said Porter, who has attracted interest from West Virginia, Ohio University and Arkansas-Little Rock. "It's caused me to get bigger and stronger. It's really fine-tuned my skills and helped me to be more successful."
The Eagles (12-2, 5-1) rebounded from a 72-69 loss to East End rival Westinghouse last Friday to rout Carrick, 91-41 Tuesday. Porter said that his team gave a "lackadaisical" performance against Westinghouse. Obama holds a one-game lead for first place in the City League standings.
"We pride ourselves as a team in playing our hardest at all times," he said. "We let a 20-point lead go and it was clear that we were not playing our best. That's something that we're not going to be able to let happen in the future."
Porter is the only underclassman in Obama's starting lineup. But Byrd acknowledged two fellow seniors for their key contributions.
"There's six [seniors] in total on the team," Byrd said. "Ted Bell unselfishly made a move from point guard to small forward, knowing that he's undersized. Also, Dorian Bose has risen to the occasion and has taken Ted's spot. He's worked really hard for us this year."
Byrd noted that Bell made the switch to forward although he's only 5-9.
With the postseason looming -- Obama's final regular-season game is a rematch at Westinghouse on Feb. 11 -- the Eagles would love nothing more than to avenge the 82-63 loss to the defending City champs, Allderdice, which occurred last February in the league tournament semifinal round.
"It's still pretty fresh in our minds," Byrd said. "And it's definitely motivating us, this year. We know how talented they've been in the past, but we're just convinced that we're better than everyone [in the City] this year. This is Obama's year and there isn't a doubt in our minds about that."
The Dragons (5-9, 3-3), who went on to win their third league title in a row last season, were hit hard by graduation and are tied with Perry Traditional Academy for fourth place in the six-team conference.
Obama will play just one more non-league opponent in Uniontown on Feb. 9. Otherwise, the Eagles will take a final tour around the City League to complete their 19-game regular-season schedule.
First Published January 25, 2013 12:00 am