Scrap the scouting report, because no matter what strategy has been concocted, Eleanor Roosevelt High School boys basketball senior Malachi Alexander will probably find a way to beat it.
“I could show you the scouting report and obviously it didn’t work,” Potomac High School coach Renard Johnson said after Feb. 20’s county championship game. “That’s one of those things where, once he gets rolling, it’s just hard to stop him. He can play. He can play basketball.”
Aside from Eleanor Roosevelt coach Brendan O’Connell, if there’s another coach in the state that Alexander will have left a lasting impression upon, it’s Johnson. In the closing seconds of the Prince George’s County championship contest, in which Roosevelt matched up with Potomac, Alexander became the owner of what O’Connell said “might be the best finish in the history of — I’m sure the history of Roosevelt — maybe the history of this game or the best finish in basketball.”
With the game tied 67-67 and time waning, Alexander beat Potomac freshman Randall Broddie on a backdoor cut and Jesse Ason hit him with a bounce pass. He took two steps, jumped, and threw down a vicious right-handed dunk over Dion Wiley at the buzzer for the win and the county championship.
“I was thinking to dunk it before the play even started,” Alexander said afterward. “I was making the decision between one hand and two hand.”
Said O’Connell, “I thought he had a layup. I thought that was going to win it for us. He finished it with an exclamation point.”
Yes, Alexander can get to the rim. But that hardly begins to scratch the surface of his basketball skillset. Easily the most surprising weapon in the Holy Cross recruit’s arsenal is his ability to knock down a 3-pointer. There aren’t many at any level, much less high school, that stand 6-foot-7 and can stretch the defense beyond the perimeter.
Yet Alexander does it. He hit a trio of 3-pointers in a 63-62 win against Henry A. Wise, another three against Bowie, two on DuVal, three more on Bladensburg, and has at least one in seven games this season.
It was a skill he honed over the summer, after his Amateur Athletic Union coach told him that he needed to expand upon the ways he can score.
“He was always telling me that I got to be able to learn how to ball at the next level,” Alexander said. “So I just started stepping out, working on my 3-point game, my outside game.”
And again, that hardly begins to scratch the surface. After point guard Emmanuel Matey dished out a school-record 15 assists in a convincing rout of DuVal on Jan. 28, O’Connell was asked where the ball-handling duties would fall if Matey were tired or mired by foul trouble.
His answer: Alexander. Obviously.
“That’s no joke. If [Matey] can’t bring it up, Malachi is going to bring it up,” O’Connell said after the DuVal game. “He can bring it up. He’s that good.”
Now the curtain is finally beginning to be pulled back a little on Alexander’s game. His penchant for the deep ball forces teams to sacrifice size for quickness in choosing defenders, which allows him to excel in the post. With his deceivingly controlled ball-handling, he can take men off the dribble, no matter their size or speed.
When it all comes together, it goes a little something like the end of the county championship did.
“I like to be able to do whatever the teams need me to do,” he said. “I don’t really care about [being underrated], I just want to do whatever the team needs — rebounds, points, assists, whatever. The rating doesn’t mean much to me, it’s just motivation, really. There’s nothing to it.
“I want to be an all-around good player. I don’t see myself as an all inside player or an all outside player. I want to be able to be whatever is needed. In order to do that, I got to work on all skills necessary.”
The coaches at Holy Cross have told Alexander that he’ll be playing the majority of his minutes on the wing, where he’ll have to take his defenders off the dribble more time than not. His ball handling will have to be improved, they said, but they already have Bullis stud Anthony Thompson, the Bulldog point guard who recently led his team to back-to-back Interstate Athletic Conference titles and a perfect conference regular season, to take the brunt of the ball-handling duties.
The two have played together before, back in the grade-school AAU days, before Alexander was hanging from rims and Thompson was carving up the IAC.
“We just got to keep working,” Thompson said. “We’ve played together before so it’s nothing new. As soon as the year’s over we’re going up together. Workouts start in June.”