Isaiah Washington, Alize Johnson, Omar Little and Kyle Datres all play basketball at schools separated by just five miles. They have been part of outstanding rivalries and have fought over bragging rights throughout their scholastic careers.
Now they are on the same team. Whoever is ruling the courts at Short Park or Memorial Park might want to clear off. This new Greater Williamsport team is tough to beat. Friday, they continued shining a light on this area as all four earned Associated Press all-state honors.
Williamsport's Washington and Neumann's Johnson earned first-team honors in Class AAAA and A, respectively. Loyalsock's Little and Datres were second- and third-team Class AA selections.
"This says a lot about the talent around here," Little said. "Alize is in the gym with us sometimes and Isaiah is going to Penn State. People don't see it but we are always in the gym working hard."
Washington is the second straight Williamsport player to be a first teamer following Jahad Thomas. The 6-foot-3 guard was the only starter back from that 2013 team and was a marked man all year. Every opponent Williamsport faced geared its defense toward stopping Washington and he faced constant double-teaming.
Through it all, Washington averaged a career-best 21.6 points per game while leading Williamsport to the District 2-4 final. The Millionaires progressed throughout the season and Washington was the main reason why, providing strong defense and passing while also carrying the scoring load.
"It's humbling. It definitely reveals your character. It shows me, not only am I an OK basketball player, but I have to have the character to go with it. It showed me to persevere and be a leader to those guys," Washington said. "It's relieving to actually be able to get recognized for being good. I've worked hard since I was a freshman and it's kind of a joy to see the hard work actually pay off."
Look at nearly every major career category at Williamsport and Washington can be found near the top. Only two players have ever scored more points than Washington (1,453) in a program that goes back more than 100 years. He was a part of two district champions and helped revive the program after two straight five-win seasons. Williamsport repeated as district champions and twice reached the state tournament in his sophomore and junior seasons.
The 21.6 points Washington averaged this season were the most by a Millionaire since Darrell Blackman 11 years ago. He joins Blackman, Thomas and Chevy Troutman as 21st century first-team selections and has carved out quite a niche in Williamsport lore. The journey continues at Penn State next winter.
"This whole year one main thing I wanted to take out of it other than winning was to grow as much as possible to get ready for playing in the Big 10" Washington said. "I'm thrilled. I can't wait to get up there."
Some day, Washington and Johnson might cross paths as Neumann's all-stater is still mulling his Division I options. Like Washington, Johnson ended his scholastic career in impressive fashion, putting together one of the most dominant seasons in program history. The senior forward averaged 24.3 points, more than 16 rebounds and five assists per game while helping the Knights go 30-1 and reach the state's Final 4 for the first time in 42 years.
Johnson was nearly impossible to defend at times, hurting teams with his versatility. Double team him and Johnson set his teammates up for high-percentage shots. Play him 1-on-1 and Johnson overwhelmed defenders. Back off Johnson and he could drain 3-pointers. A player who started his career as a 5-9 point guard ended it as a 6-5 force who became Neumann's inaugural first team all-state selection.
"I knew that was something that I wanted to get. Every day in practice and even off the court I just strived to reach that goal," Johnson said. "I realize there are lot of great players in Single A and to be up there with them is a great honor."
Johnson was sensational in the postseason and recorded double-doubles in all nine games while helping Neumann capture the Heartland Conference championship and repeat as district champions. He also became a consummate leader, making his teammates better and helping Neumann break the program-record for wins in a season.
Neumann went from winning two games when Johnson was a freshman to reaching the state's second round or higher in each of the last three seasons. The Knights increased their win total each season and Johnson was instrumental, setting a new standard.
"I made a lot of progress. Ninth grade was pretty hard for me but I just kept working over the summer and in 10th grade had players like Mike Wenner, Jordan (Cole) and Tyree (Vidal) help me get where I'm at now and I've helped myself, too. It's been a long journey and it's paid off."
Like Johnson, one could often find Little toiling away last summer. Little was a key starter on a HAC-II football champion last fall, but basketball is his passion. Getting better drives him.
"As soon as season ended I was back in the gym. I was in there every day. Every day in the summer it was sun light to sun down," Little said. "He (dad and former Williamsport standout Omar Little Sr.) wakes me up at 6 to get me to the court every day. He pushed me, talked to me every game and was my right hand all year."
Little (978 career points) made his all-state debut after averaging 16.1 points per game, providing excellent defense and again elevating his performance in the postseason. The junior guard averaged 21.3 points in seven playoff games and helped Loyalsock win 25 games for a second straight year while reaching the state tournament's second round for a second straight year.
Datres also helped make that happen and earned his second straight all-state selection. The junior point guard is closing in on Loyalsock's all-time assist record and helps make the Lancers go. He averaged 7.2 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game while providing stifling defense. A coach on the court, Datres sees things many do not and had 10 assists at least six times, including 11 in a state playoff win over District 3 champion Trinity.
"Both team captains getting all-state is a blessing," Little said. "Kyle meant a lot to the team. He controls the court. Without Kyle we would not have had as much success as we did."