Daily Press All-Stars: The kids take the basketball Player of the Year prizes

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Think about it this way: When it last happened, no one outside of Illinois had heard of Barack Obama. And the Boston Red Sox remained stuck in their World Series drought.

It was March 2004 when the Daily Press Basketball Players of the Year were announced: Woodside's Calvin Baker for the boys; Bruton's Monique McLean for the girls. They were juniors, and it was the last time the two Players of the Year were underclassmen.

Until now. Introducing Hampton sophomore Anthony Barber and Warwick junior LaQuanda Younger, the 2010-11 Daily Press Players of the Year.

Truthfully, both picks were no-brainers.

Barber led the Peninsula District in scoring at 21 points a game and almost single-handedly carried the Crabbers to the playoffs. He was so steady that he scored between 19 and 29 points in 17 of his 23 games — despite the fact that every opponent was geared to stop him.

Younger led the PD at 20.2 ppg and carried the Raiders to a runner-up finish in the district. She broke the 40-point mark twice, the second time coming against Hampton in the Peninsula District tournament semifinals to clinch a spot in the Eastern Regionals.

He's a 6-foot-1 guard who goes by "Big Cat." She's a 5-9 guard who is called "Q." And like Baker and McLean seven years ago, they'll be back next season to defend their status.

How good are they? Listen to what opposing coaches have to say.

Warwick's Ben Moore on Barber: "When he gets to college, he's going to be that guy who has the ball when there's 10 seconds on the shot clock."

Woodside's Mike Tallon on Younger: "She has become a complete player who has the ability to take over a game. It's very hard to take her out of her game because she can beat you in so many ways."

And listen to what their own coaches say.

Hampton's Walter Brower on Barber: "He has the one thing he needs at this point, and that's dedication. He works hard. A lot of kids say, 'OK, I'm a good player, I've done this and that, and I don't need to work.' But he listens and he works."

Warwick's Vanessa Starks on Younger: "You talk about playing team basketball, she is truly a team player. Even though she scored a lot of points, she gets more enjoyment watching the other players succeed on the court. That's rare. And that's honest."

Barber is the third sophomore to be named Daily Press boys Player of the Year, joining Denbigh's Timmy Smith (1999) and Tabb's Terry Kirby (1987). After averaging 15.5 ppg and making first-team All-Peninsula District as a freshman, Barber blossomed into a star as a sophomore.

No other player on Hampton's roster averaged more than 6.2 points a game. That's not because Barber wouldn't pass, but because there were no other consistent threats. Barber had to carry the load, and every opponent knew it.

"I'd be talking to the other teams before the game," Barber said. "And they'd be like, 'Yeah, we're going to double-team you tonight.'"

Though his shot improved from the 3-point arc, Barber is at his best on the move. Not only can he absorb the contact and finish, he shoots in the high-70-percent range from the free-throw line. He's always been quick, which is how he got his nickname.

"When I was little, I used to move around so much," he said. "Then when I started playing basketball, I was so fast. My sister gave me that nickname, and that's what people started calling me."

Barber says he's unsure how many offers he has, but it's clear who's interested. One of his most eager suitors is Virginia Tech, which sees him as potentially another Malcolm Delaney. Barber was in Blacksburg the night the Hokies upset Duke.

Younger, who has 1,440 points in her career, led the district in scoring for the second time in two years. If you think she was padding her numbers against weaker teams, check this out: She averaged 35 points in five games against Hampton and Heritage.

When the situation called for it, "Q" would take over. In the Peninsula District semifinals, she went 15-of-27 from the field and 10-of-10 from the free throw line. "Just too much Q tonight," Hampton coach Eric Scott said.

That wasn't even her career high. That came on Jan. 5 when she torched Heritage for 45, the most points by a Peninsula District girl since the incomparable La'Keshia Frett dropped 51 on Ferguson in 1993.

But Younger isn't just a scorer. She led Warwick in steals (2.5 per game) and assists (3.1) and was second in rebounds (5.7). In fact, the most emotion she showed against Hampton in the PD semifinals came when her teammates scored.

"That's what pumps me up, when I set up my teammates and they're happy," she said. "I love when my teammates are happy."

She has at least a dozen offers with schools from the Big East, Southeastern Conference and ACC among them.

"I think I'll make my decision at the last moment," she said in February. "If I was a senior right now and I had to choose right now, I wouldn't. It's that hard. I'm just trying to make sure it's the right decision."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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