Agnew’s announcing brings energy, information


Danny Martella

James Agnew picks up the microphone while announcing a RM playoff game.

Ari Fine, Sports Editor

Two laptops sit on a small white folding table at halfcourt. One with a spreadsheet of each team’s roster, listing jersey numbers and name pronunciations. The other controls the sound and special effect system. Rested on the table lies the microphone, and in front of that, a large water bottle. The eyes of James Agnew, behind the table, constantly scan the court. His hand stays close to the microphone, anticipating the blow of a whistle, or the splash of a deep three from junior guard Dante Mayo or senior guard Mackenzie Caldwell-Degnon. For 14 years, Mr. Agnew has been announcing basketball games at RM. His voice is recognizable by all Rocket basketball fanatics, however, what’s not, is the man behind it.

Mr. Agnew teaches both 9th-grade and 12th-grade Honors English at RM. Since his transfer from Winston Churchill HS in 2009, he has been an integral part of the RM basketball community as the announcer at every home game. His announcing career did not start at RM though, but as a teacher at Southern HS in Anne Arundel County.

 “[Southern HS] made an announcement over the PA system that if any students are interested in announcing for our football games, please see the athletic director,” Mr. Agnew said. “Something about it just seemed like a lot of fun. I like sports a lot, and I have a background in theater and acting a little bit, so it’s sort of a performance for me. So I ran down there and said I’ll announce football.”

Along with football, Mr. Agnew announced most sports at Southern during his four years teaching there. When he moved to Montgomery County and started to work at Churchill, there were no opportunities available for him to announce. A year later after his relocation to RM, the basketball game announcer position was vacant, so Mr. Agnew took the opportunity and ran away with it. 

Yet, it wasn’t easy at first for Mr. Agnew. Some things came easy as a basketball fan, but other things like balancing when to talk, and what to say, took some time, and much practice, to learn. “It’s gotten easier to know when to look for what’s happening, to know what signals are going to happen when, and knowing where to look when a foul has been called,” Mr. Agnew said. “But when I first started, I’d heard announcers do it before, and I thought I could do it and it took some years of adjustment.”

Mr. Agnew believes his job as an announcer is to make it easier for fans to watch the game and understand what is playing out on the hardwood. “My job is primarily just to help make sure that I can do whatever I can to make sure that the crowd is engaged with the game,” Mr. Agnew said. At the start, he just did the simple things, such as announcing who scored or committed a foul. Over time, he has added more to his repertoire, finding ways to better inform the team and the crowd. 

“Now, it’s how many fouls they have, how many team fouls they have, and then I started getting into the people coming into the game, people going out of the game, and knowing what to look for when players are going to come in and who they are before they even get to the game,” Mr. Agnew said,  

After almost 20 years as an announcer, Mr. Agnew has slowly been improving his craft. From listening to fellow announcers at professional games and substitute announcing for other schools, he is consistently looking for ways to make the viewing also more enjoyable. “Mr. Agnew is the best basketball announcer in Montgomery County–and it’s not even close,” varsity girls basketball coach Michael Oakes said. “His voice and energy level from behind the microphone have been crucial to our success as a team.”

Armed with a new sound system this year, Mr. Agnew has explored unique ways to be creative as an announcer. When substitute announcing at a Howard University basketball game, Mr. Agnew heard a member of the announcing team using sound effects and thought it was an interesting idea. When he discovered the new system at RM, he was excited to integrate new sounds during games such as coin noise after an RM three-pointer, or the Jeopardy music during a long break in play.

Calling fouls, substitutions, and scores are most important to Mr. Agnew, but he also contributes to the energy and atmosphere within the gym. He starts every game the same way, pumping up the crowd and players with his classic “and the starting lineup, for your Richard Montgomery Rockets.” Whether he means to or not, Mr. Agnew is always more energetic when RM scores, furthering his importance to a school. 

“I feel he brings energy to our team in multiple ways. His enthusiasm while he calls each persons name [during starter introductions] and during the game I feel gets the crowd hype which also gives us more energy during the game,” sophomore varsity guard Khalil Wilson said.