YOU KNOW A GUY is upper echelon when he can miss one-third of his team's games and still earn major honors.
So it is with Roman Catholic High's Maalik Wayns, bound for Villanova next year but first headed to Miami to play next Wednesday in the McDonald's All-American Game.
With all due respect to the other first-team members, Wayns, a 6-1 point guard with abundant skills and savvy, along with a relentless approach, is our Player of the Year in connection with the 2008-09 Daily News All-City Team.
A torn meniscus in his right knee, requiring surgery, sidelined Wayns for nine games. If not for the injury, most agree the Cahillites would have made strong bids for Catholic League, District 12 and state titles.
Wayns scored 317 points in 18 games for a 17.6 average. He also achieved norms of 5.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 3.4 steals. His career produced 1,151 points; he also earned first-team honors in '08.
Thumbnail sketches of the other first-teamers:
* Jesse "Booge" Morgan, Olney: This transfer from Prep Charter was often sensational while leading the Trojans to a 19-3 overall record and the Public A regular-season crown. Scored 556 points in 20 games for a 27.8 clip. Also averaged 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals. Finished with 1,157 career points. Plans to attend prep school.
* Denzel Yard, Franklin Learning Center: Carried an incredibly heavy load in cut-your-heart-out fashion for a PL finalist. This lefty, a Siena signee, scored 507 points in 26 games (19.5) and accounted for 41 percent of the Bobcats' markers in seven postseason games while remaining a consummate team player. Also averaged seven rebounds, 6.5 assists, four steals and two blocks. Tallied 1,031 career points.
* Tyrone Garland, John Bartram: The lone junior in the group led the city in overall scoring (26 games, 750 points, 28.8 average) while showing a dizzying array of moves, and finishes. His hairstyle and competitive spirit lead some to call him "Braidheart." Paced the Braves (18-7) into the second round of the state playoffs. Averaged 4.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 4.0 steals. Already receiving national recruiting interest. Boasts 1,510 career points.
* Sam Prescott, Imhotep Charter: Used a strong offseason to earn a scholarship from Marist, then made all-variety big plays again and again while showing how wise that school's coaches had been. Known as "Speed Racer" due to his full-throttle approach. Scored 546 points in 32 games for a 17.1 average.
Andre Noble, Imhotep