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July 30, 2010

Weekly recruiting roundup

One of the top surprise players at the Fab 48 tournament in Las Vegas last weekend is apparently hearing from the Maryland coaching staff.

ESPN.com's Joel Francisco called Antwan Space, a 6-foot-7, 180-pound small forward from DeSoto, Texas, a "prototypical wing who can do a little bit of everything on the court."

He has a long, lean frame that oozes potential and a feathery touch from the outside. His stroke is effortless out to 22 feet, but it's not as consistent when he has to shoot it off the bounce because he has a tendency to drift. In addition to his shooting, he even posted up and dropped in a nice-looking jump hook. ... He has Gonzaga, Maryland, Texas A&M, and FIU tracking his talents.

Rivals.com's Jerry Meyer was also impressed with Space's game.

He is a crafty four man with a deadly stroke from behind the arc. Although he is not a great athlete, he has a feel for the game, plays with energy and is guaranteed to stretch the defense.

• UM forward target Maurice Harkless powered the New York Panthers to the Desert Duel title in Phoenix.

His greatest asset is his ability to finish in transition where he displays top shelf body control around the basket. With his quick second jump, he is also a dangerous offensive rebounder. Throw in a reliable three-point stroke, and you have a high level wing prospect who has upside to boot.

The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy this week conducted a Q&A with Harkless.

SN: Who have you heard from at this point, since it opened up?

MH: There's a lot of new schools, actually. I heard from Kansas, Louisville, Florida, Maryland, Memphis, Florida State, Miami, St. John's, Rutgers. There's a lot of others. Cincinnati.

• ESPN.com's Reggie Rankin was impressed by Terps small forward target Bernard Sullivan at the AAU Super Showcase in Orlando.

The 6-8 forward impacts the game in a variety of ways and scores the ball both inside and out. He has a very efficient post game with his back to the basket and a soft shooting touch with range to the 3-point line.

• Norcom (Va.) small forward Dorian Finney-Smith also caught the attention of scouts in Orlando.

He blocked shots with his length, rebounded like a madman, and hit a shot or two from the outside as well. Beyond that for a player his size he can really handle the ball. Now Finney-Smith did it all in spurts, and he needs to be more consistent with it, but the talent was certainly on display, though not every possession.

• Landon forward Darion Atkins was a standout performer at the Super Showcase.

Darion Atkins listed offers from Wake Forest, Penn, VCU, George Mason, George Washington, Maryland, and Boston College. Also he is hearing from Georgetown, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Virginia Tech.

• Maryland women's point guard commitment Lexie Brown fared well at the Basketball on the Bayou AAU tournament in New Orleans, leading Georgia Ice to the championship.

Depending on your sport of choice, the Ice's most famous player by association is either Kaela Davis, daughter of Ice coach and former NBA All-Star Antonio Davis, or Taryn Griffey, daughter of former baseball slugger Ken Griffey Jr. But on Sunday it was all about Lexie Brown, the daughter of former NBA player Dee Brown, who scored 14 points, most of them with her textbook jump shot.

Football recruiting

• Maryland's newest recruit, Felix Varela (Fla.) safety Undray Clark, spoke to Rivals.com Wednesday about his commitment.

Clark also had offers from Duke and Minnesota and was very close to adding an offer from Wake Forest to his list but Clark wasn’t willing to wait any longer and ended the process.

“My opportunities were closing so I had to choose quick,” he said. “I’m excited and I’m ready to play now.”

• Owings Mills offensive tackle and Terps target Donovan Smith picked up an offer from another ACC school.

“I’m definitely considering North Carolina. The time I was there they showed me a lot of love. I spent three hours there and had time with Coach Pittman. He looked at my tape and we bonded.”

• Several Maryland targets cracked the Super Southeast 120 list from the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register.

118. C.J. Uzomah, QB/TE, Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett (6-5, 230). Super-sized QB threw for 1,723 yards and 14 TDs in '09; projected by some as a TE. Has offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, LSU, Maryland, Miami, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Tennessee and others.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 11:10 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Weekly recruiting roundup
        

July 29, 2010

Digital Harbor's Justin Jackson makes his choice

justin-jackson-rams.jpg Justin Jackson was all set to stay in Baltimore for college until a Division II program in Ohio extended a late scholarship offer earlier this month.

Digital Harbor’s star point guard planned on visiting the Urbana University campus before deciding between the Blue Knights and a preferred walk-on opportunity at Morgan State. But ultimately, Jackson never took the trip to Ohio.

“I was just talking to my family and they said that Morgan looks like a good choice because they’ve got the [financial aid] situation straight, so it’s good,” Jackson said. “… [The Morgan coaches] basically thought I was going there from Jump Street, so they were just happy to have me on the board. I talked to my assistant coach and I’ll be playing there my first year.”

Jackson’s been a well-known name throughout the city basketball scene for the past several years, culminating with the 2008-09 high school season when he and older brother George Jackson guided the Rams to the Class 1A state championship. Jackson looked the part of a Division I prospect, but things didn’t go quite as planned after the initial buzz about his game.

“Basically, a lot of people were saying I didn’t have the hunger since my 11th-grade year because that’s when my brother and I really blew up and the whole city basically knew us,” Jackson said. “But then summer ball played a part in it, too. I did good playing for the Baltimore Stars in the summer, but I really [didn’t] get a lot of college looks from that. That’s because I didn’t really go off and play to my fullest potential when scouts were in town looking. But in the last few months, a lot of colleges were hearing about me, seeing me and just wanting me. But I definitely did fall after my junior year. I guess I got laidback and playing lackadaisical. We were still winning, but I wasn’t giving people 30 a game. I was just satisfied with winning. But now I’ve got the fire back and I’m back on the top of the radar.”

A big part of Jackson’s return to that aforementioned radar took place earlier this month during the Baltimore Summer League at Loyola’s Reitz Arena. The 6-foot, 175-pounder more than held his own against players from Morgan, Coppin State, Towson, Loyola, UMBC and other college programs.

“That really boosted my confidence because my whole thing was going there and adjusting and playing to my hardest potential and seeing what I needed to work on,” Jackson said. “Playing against DI players, that’s real tough. So I was basically going up against them to see what I needed to work on and see what I needed to improve. But I was pretty shocked myself when I just gave them the business, getting assists, holding my own on defense and making some big plays. So that basically helped. And that got my confidence boosted a lot.”

Plans for the rest of Jackson’s summer include playing pickup, working out and moving into the Morgan State dorms next month. While he’ll be a walk-on at Morgan, Jackson hopes to crack the defending MEAC-champion Bears’ rotation. Regardless of how his freshman year plays out, Jackson’s excited to stay in Baltimore and team with guys he grew up admiring.

“Some guys, they’re ahead of me by about four years because I’m just coming out of high school,” Jackson said. “I just remember being younger and they were seniors in high school. That’s crazy. So it should be good. It looks like I was in middle school and they were seniors in high school. It’s like Danny Smith, I remember looking up to him at Woodlawn. And Kevin [Thompson], I remember him at Walbrook. I thought, ‘Man, these guys are pretty good.’ … So I knew a couple guys from Maryland, watching them growing up and now I get a chance to play with them.”

Baltimore Sun photo of Justin Jackson by Amy Davis / Jan. 16, 2009

Posted by Matt Bracken at 11:42 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

July 28, 2010

Maryland lands Fla. safety Undray Clark

Two years ago, Matt Dixon landed the head football coaching job at Felix Varela High in Miami, took one look at his team and knew he had an athletic prospect with potential in defensive back Undray Clark.

“I knew he was a good athlete, but I didn’t know what he could do on the football field,” Dixon said. “After the first couple of games, I knew he was a special football player. He’s fast, he’s real good at reading defenses and he’s a very aggressive tackler. But he plays that way on both sides of the football. He caught passes for touchdowns, he returned kicks and blocked punts. He’s just an overall athlete.”

The Maryland coaching staff discovered Clark, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound safety, shortly after the new year and offered him a scholarship in February. Clark also considered scholarship offers from Duke, Louisville and Minnesota, but last week offered his commitment to the Terps. The Maryland staff accepted that pledge Wednesday.

“They were my first offer, so from the get-go, I liked them,” Clark said. “ … [The Maryland coaches] just told me that they were happy [I committed] and excited for me.”

Dixon has used Clark’s talents on the football field in almost every way imaginable. Clark, who runs a 4.5 40, is a defensive back, wide receiver and valuable special teams performer for the Vipers. That versatility, Dixon said, might have stood out to Terps coaches more than anything else.

“They liked the fact that he could pretty much do everything,” Dixon said. “You can put him at safety, but if you need a corner, you can put him there, too. And he can do special teams. He can also play receiver. He can pretty much do everything.”

Said Clark: “It’s a rare occurrence [when I leave the field]. I get taken off when I’m tired, but that’s it.”

Looking back, Clark said his visit to College Park clinched his commitment to the Terps. He liked his future teammates, bonded with defensive coordinator Don Brown, learned he could have an opportunity to play right away and was wowed by the university’s business program.

With a chance to end the recruiting process before his senior year began, Clark jumped at the opportunity to play for Maryland -- and focus on what he does best.

“I didn’t want to play the season thinking about recruiting,” Clark said. “We’ve got practice next week for the fall season.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 7:49 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Q&A with UMBC coach Randy Monroe

randymonroeumbc2010.jpg
For UMBC coach Randy Monroe, the Retrievers’ nightmarish 2009-10 season is a thing of the past.

Two years after UMBC earned its first NCAA tournament berth in the program’s history, the Retrievers labored through a 4-26 season. Since then, four players have left Catonsville and Monroe has added three recruits in their place.

Matt Conway, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound forward from Sarasota, Fla., Chase Plummer, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound forward from Elizabeth, N.J., and Travis King, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound guard from New Haven, Conn., who will use his final year of eligibility at UMBC after earning three letters at George Washington, make up the Retrievers’ 2010 recruiting class.

Monroe spoke with Recruiting Report recently about the Retrievers’ new additions.

What are your overall thoughts on this three-man class?

I’m excited about the guys we have coming in: Matt Conway, Travis King and Chase Plummer. Conway played at St. Thomas More (in Connecticut) and is a very good 3-point shooter. His understanding of the game is very good. He goes to the glass, plays hard and he’s a good defender. It doesn’t matter what the defensive assignment is. You put him on him, and he’s very, very capable of guarding the other team’s best player and he does a good overall job.

Matt Spadafora has graduated, and you had to deal with a few premature departures in Chauncey Gilliam, Shawn Grant and Robbie Jackson. Gilliam has said he’s going to Akron and Grant is headed to a junior college in California, but what were the reasons behind Jackson’s exit?

Jackson’s issues were just academic issues that he wasn’t doing his part. As a result, we hold our guys accountable. They have to do their part academically and athletically.

Were you able to address those losses in this class?

No, because I believe in the group of guys we have coming back, and I think the guys we have coming in are going to be very good players. I think they understand what it takes to be successful. They work hard, they’ve come from good programs, and I think they understand the sacrifices you have to make in order to not only be a good player, but to have a good team. I’m not saying that they’re not going to go through their share of ups and downs, because that’s part of the college experience as well. That’s part of being a basketball player – knowing where your niche is and how you’re going to improve, and that’s a big part of it. These guys will be going through those learning experiences, with the exception of Travis King. But for both Matt and Chase, this is all new to them. If they continue to work and maintain their work ethic, they’ll be able to have some very good experiences at the collegiate level.

But just getting back to the point about losing Jackson and losing Gilliam and also Shawn Grant, obviously you don’t like to lose players, but things happen. If you look across the board this year, there were well over 300 players who transferred. So it’s just a part of what happens, unfortunately. Guys move on. But we certainly wish them well in their departures, and at the same time, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a good program here and have a good basketball team here at UMBC.

How did you discover Conway and what does he bring to the table?

We saw Matt at St. Thomas More in Connecticut, where he went to prep school. It’s a very good prep school and the coach there, Jere Quinn, does an outstanding job. What Matt brings to the table for us is his ability to score both inside and outside. He has nice offensive moves around the basket and is a good outside shooter. He rebounds and he also brings a defensive presence to the floor as well. He’s kind of a tough matchup because he can go inside and he can go outside.

Plummer didn’t put up big numbers, but he was playing on a team with Kyrie Irving and Mike Gilchrist. Do you expect him to play a similar complimentary role? What are your expectations of him?

Now Chase was really a handyman for St. Pats. He did a lot of dirty work for St. Pats and he’s a team player, a total team player who I think can definitely have a very good career on the college level. He’s well schooled on the game of basketball. He came from a very good program as well in St. Pats. He had some very good games his senior year. The game that comes to mind for me that Chase played well in was against Oak Hill Academy, a nationally televised game. He played extremely well against one of the best programs in the country. The thing about Chase is that he’s got a good basketball IQ, is a very good passer and he grabs rebounds. I think he can be an even better rebounder. He’s exceptionally strong. I don’t think he realizes how strong he is. But he’s very, very strong and he’s got nice touch for a big guy. I think like Matt, Chase will be able to contribute and do some things inside and out.

How did the recruitment of King develop, and how much will his GW experience benefit the team?

Well without question, Travis’ experience along with the experience of Justin Fry, who sat out last year and is a senior, and having Chris De La Rosa, who’s also an experienced player, I think that helps us immensely. Travis knows what it takes to be successful and when I’m talking about successful, I’m not just talking about winning, though winning’s a big part of that. But I always say that you have to be able to do a lot of other things that lead up to winning. I think Travis brings those intangibles to the table. His leadership abilities are impeccable. He’s very positive and he also works hard on top of that. Guys will be able to feed off his energy and his passion. And he’s a winner. I just remember in high school, watching him play and watching him get after it. We also tried recruiting him out of high school, but we’re definitely glad to have him now and we’re excited about his being on our team, and also bringing that leadership quality that we feel is going to be very, very important for us.

Jamar Wertz obviously was redshirted last year as was Fry. Will they play big roles this year?

Yes, without question. Justin , once again, he’s a gamer, too. He played in our championship game in 2008 and was an integral part of our success there, and he was an integral part of us going back in ’09. So he definitely knows what it takes to be successful in the collegiate level. He can share those experiences with the guys that are coming in, with Matt Conway and Chase Plummer. He can also share those experiences with the guys who played for us last year as freshmen and let them know. He’s certainly been a big influence on Jamar Wertz, as they sat out together last year. That’s very beneficial for us and our program. I look back at Justin when he came in as a freshman, and he was very quiet and you could hardly get two words out of him. Now, just being able to sit out from his injury last year and be able to see a lot of things on the floor and in the locker room, I think that gave him a different perception on the whole scope of college basketball and how we do things here at UMBC. I think he always understood that, but he got a chance to see it from the side of being on the bench and seeing certain things on the floor. I think it was an eye-opener for his development, not only as a player but as a young man as well.

With Jamar, he can score the basketball. He’s got uncanny moves to the basket, he’s got a nice shot and he’s a gamer. He’s got that basketball savvy, so to speak. It doesn’t seem like he’s rattled that much. He goes out and he plays. He’s a competitor. His high school team won the state championship his senior year in Suffolk, Va., at King’s Fork High School. He was an integral part to that. He was also on the team as a freshman and sophomore when they were struggling. Junior year they progressed and senior year they won a championship. So he understands what it’s all about and what it takes to be good, and how hard you have to work to have a good team. For him to sit out last year, it just gave him a chance to grow physically and also mentally. I thought it was a big step in the right direction.

What kind of expectations do you have for the season and which players are you really going to count on to realize those expectations?

Well obviously our expectation is all about progression. I can sit here and tell you that the expectation is to win the [America East] championship and go to the NCAA tournament. Yeah, those things are big and they’re valuable and they’re important. We don’t want to deviate from that. But once again, I just think about wanting to see the growth of Chris De La Rosa from sophomore year to junior year. I think he’ll be a tremendous point guard for us. You want to see Nick Groce develop from his freshman year to his sophomore year. And obviously, Brian Neller, who’s had a good spring, you want to see those guys get better. That’s what I’m looking at – how much better guys have gotten from freshman year to sophomore year, from sophomore year to junior year. That is the telltale sign which leads to a good program.

My expectation of these guys is all about progression. How good are you going to be and how many sacrifices are you going to make this summer? We’re going to bring those kids back and we’re going to put it all together for the good of our entire team. I’m looking forward to us showing progression. To me, that’s what it’s all about -- how we can progress and get better from the first half of the year to the second half of the year, and the second half going into the postseason. To me, the other stuff will take care of itself.

Recruits today just witnessed the 4-26 year, but you’re not that far removed from the NCAA tournament. How do you think recruits reconcile those highs and lows?

Here’s the thing I always talk to guys about: it’s players that make things happen. You look at the Dukes and the Kentuckys and the Marylands. Well, if they don’t have good players, they don’t have good programs. It’s just that simple. They have tradition, obviously, but we’ve developed a tradition here at UMBC. That’s what I let the young people know that, yeah, we struggled last year, that’s obvious. But I’m not making excuses and I certainly take the blame for it. But when you bring in seven new guys, five are freshmen and two are transfers, a couple things have to take place. You have to learn how to play together, so you’re talking about cohesion, and the cohesiveness is so important now. You have to coach that nowadays. Years ago it would take care of itself. But you really have to monitor how guys are playing well with one another, and that’s big. That’s big in the corporate world as well. Getting players to understand their roles, getting players to understand how to play together [is crucial]. What you did in high school is not good enough now for the college level. You have to forget about what you did in high school to a degree, in order to move forward. And I think sometimes it takes new players a year or sometimes two years to understand that before they can kind of settle in and understand what the college experience is about.

As a coach, you can tell them, a prospective student, how it’s going to be different all you want. But they’re still giving you a stare and a look that says, ‘OK Coach, you’re pulling my leg.’ But then they go through the year and they’re playing with juniors and seniors. It’s a step up two levels. Now you need to be stronger mentally and physically. So they have to deal with that. Sometimes that can take away your confidence level. You’ve been this player with a lot of success and all of a sudden, things aren’t going as expected. You’re coming on to the college level and guys are really playing you close and not allowing you to get that shot. Players can second-guess themselves in everything going on around him. Sometimes it takes a while to get that player back, get his confidence back. That’s the whole part of going through the process. When I look back at last year, I would say this about our players: they didn’t give up. Yeah, it may not have shown up record-wise, but it showed in a lot of areas, which made me feel good as opposed to players on the court just getting in and getting up. But what they did do was gain a valuable learning experience. They learned how hard you have to work on this level to compete.

2008 Baltimore Sun photo of Randy Monroe

Posted by Matt Bracken at 11:09 AM | | Comments (2)
        

July 27, 2010

Memory of Crowder propels Baltimore Elite to title

john-crowder.jpg A championship was on the line and a host of Division I college basketball coaches were looking on from the stands, but Daquan Cook couldn’t help but glance in the direction of his Nike Baltimore Elite teammates on the sideline.

Cook, a rising junior from Digital Harbor, had guided Nike Baltimore Elite’s 16-and-under team to the championship game of the Super Showcase AAU tournament Sunday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. While the 6-foot-1 point guard was focused on the game, the No. 15 jersey draped over a chair on Nike Baltimore Elite’s bench continually caught his eye.

“It was in my mind all the time,” Cook said. “I couldn’t stop looking at the bench, to be honest with you.”

The No. 15 jersey for NBE had belonged to John Crowder, the 6-foot-8 power forward from Mount Carmel who was shot and killed July 5 in Northeast Baltimore. Cook said Crowder’s memory served as motivation all weekend long for him and his NBE teammates, who toughed out a 58-57 win over All-Ohio Red on Sunday for the Super Showcase title.

“We just turned it on for this tournament,” said Cook, who led NBE with 22 points and five steals on Sunday. “Other tournaments, we came up short. But we wanted to make sure we won this one … because we were playing for a purpose. We lost one of our teammates in a tragic way. So that motivated us to win this tournament.”

Cook, Glenelg Country forward Isaiah Miles (12 points, 11 rebounds), City power forward Charles Tapper (10 points, eight rebounds) and John Carroll guard Ronald Scott (14 points) filled up the stat sheet for NBE, while Douglass guard Davon Vinnie came up with a crucial steal with less than a minute remaining to seal the win. Dunbar small forward Jamel Artis, Calvert Hall forward Julian Davis, McDonogh forward Kayel Locke and Centennial point guard Keonte Potts also contributed to NBE’s championship.

“The first thing [you notice] is they know how to play basketball. As simple and stupid as that sounds, it means a lot when you have kids who know how to play,” said Rivals.com recruiting analyst Brian Snow. “They always play together and they always play hard. … Isaiah Miles, when he walks in the gym, people are going to be flipping through their books wondering, ‘Who is that kid?’ Daquan is a point guard, so it’s not quite the same look test as a big guy or a wing. But on the court, they sure know what they’re doing.”

NBE coach Darrell Corbett is no stranger to success on the AAU circuit. He guided Team Melo squads featuring Sean Mosley (Maryland), Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech) and Donte Greene (Sacramento Kings) to national championships earlier this decade. Memories of this 16-and-under team’s title, however, will resonate for years to come.

“As a team, they were together the night before [Crowder died] because it was Fourth of July weekend. They were at the Inner Harbor,” Corbett said. “His death just hit everybody real hard. After he died, we pretty much just dedicated the rest of the season in memory to him. … You still well up [when] you see his jersey on the bench. They just want to pay their respects because John was well liked, not just [by people] in Baltimore, but everyone who knew John.”

Sunday’s title game in Orlando won’t be the last time NBE displays No. 15 on its bench. For Cook and his teammates, remembering Crowder positively is something they always plan to do.

“We call each other a family – the Nike Elite family,” Cook said. “We’ve got good chemistry and we just work together. It’s not like [a team of] individuals. It’s just a whole team. … We knew John would’ve been happy about it. If he was down there with us, he would’ve wanted us to win. So it just felt good.”

Handout photo of John Crowder.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

July 26, 2010

Weekend wrap – Terps targets shine in Vegas

Early hype on LaQuinton Ross faded a bit after the Life Center Academy (N.J.) forward struggled with injuries last summer.

On the AAU circuit this year, however, the 6-foot-8 senior from Jackson, Miss., is back on track. MaxPreps.com reports that Ross was a standout performer at the adidas Super 64 tournament in Las Vegas.

"Ohio State has been on me really hard. Maryland, West Virginia, Baylor have been in there, too," Ross said. "I'll probably narrow it down at the end of the summer to my top five."

Ross also caught the attention of Rivals.com analyst Jerry Meyer.

Also at 6-foot-8, Ross has one of the better shooting strokes in his class. Friday he drove the ball hard to the basket and repeatedly got to the free throw line. He is developing into a face up four man who will have the ability to both stretch the defense and also make plays in the middle of the floor.

• Terps small forward target Maurice Harkless was a standout performer at the Fab 48 tournament in Las Vegas.

Now, this is the Harkless that we were told about by our New York area contacts. Looking the part of a high level prospect, the 6-foot-7 wing did a little bit of everything. He handled the ball, got others involved, made some shots and got to the rim. His mentor/adviser Nate Blue listed Maryland, Florida, St. John's, Arizona, Miami, Memphis, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Virginia, Florida State and Connecticut as schools that are involved.

Harkless' adviser, Nate Blue, gave Adam Zagoria a list of coaches who watched the former UConn commitment in Las Vegas.

“Bill Self, Gary Williams, Mick Cronin, Steve Lavin, Billy Donovan, Kevin Willard, Josh Pastner, Mike Rice have all come to his games,” Blue said, rattling off a litany of high-profile Division 1 coaches.

A trip to College Park could be in the works for Harkless next month.

Recruiting continues to pick up for Harkless, who has been compared to Trevor Ariza and JaRon Rush by some college coaches. Blue said Kansas called on Friday and that there are plans to visit Connecticut, Maryland and either Cincinnati or Florida sometime in August.

• Maryland shooting guard target Jabari Brown guided the Drew Gooden Soldiers to an 86-66 win over the Iowa Barnstormers in the Fab 48 championship game. The Oakland, Calif., native was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Rivals.com ranks Brown, a 6-foot-4-inch guard, among the top 15 players in the class of 2011. He scored 15 points to carry the Soldiers to a 43-31 halftime lead.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 8:20 AM | | Comments (0)
        

July 23, 2010

Weekly recruiting roundup

Earlier this month Maryland lost Boyd Anderson (Fla.) linebacker commitment Shaun Ward to Texas A&M. On Thursday, the Terps lost another recruit from the Sunshine State.

Dillard (Fla.) cornerback Allen Ramsey, whose first scholarship offer came from Maryland, will now suit up for one of the Terps' ACC rivals.

[Ramsey] has committed to Wake Forest after decommitting from Maryland, according to ESPN Recruiting. Florida State, Minnesota and Rutgers have also offered. Wake Forest now has eight commitments.

• The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chip Towers thinks Good Counsel cornerback Blake Countess could be a recruiting battle between three ACC schools.

Meanwhile, cornerback Blake Countess, a four-star prospect from Owings Mill, Md., visited [Georgia] Tech earlier this week. The Jackets are expected to be in a battle with Maryland and Virginia for Countess.

• Terps targets Travis Hughes, a linebacker from Kempsville (Va.), and Demetrious Nicholson, a defensive back from Bayside (Va.), were picked to compete in the Champion Gridiron Kings event in Florida.

Nicholson has 15 offers from Boston College, Clemson, Connecticut, Duke, East Carolina, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Rutgers, Stanford, Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

Hughes' father, Tony, spoke to Rivals.com this week about Travis' recruitment.

“In the second week of August we’re going to Clemson on the 14th for two days,” he said. “We’d like to get back up to Tech and back to Maryland of course. Virginia and North Carolina may slide in there with visits as well.

Basketball recruiting

• Rivals.com has updates from the AAU circuit in Las Vegas on Terps targets LaQuinton Ross, Norvell Pelle and Deuce Bello.

Bello has been working hard to improve his ball handling and it shows. He gets to the rim almost at will and has been concentrating more on making the right play than trying to make the highlight play. He's getting stronger and was good for a nice outing on Thursday. He listed Baylor, Louisville, Maryland, Miami, Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest and Florida State.

• Montrose Christian junior wing Justin Anderson recently updated his recruitment for Northstar Basketball.

Anderson said that Maryland (offer), Duke, North Carolina, Oklahoma (offer), and Texas (offer) are the primary ones recruiting him. In addition, he noted that Villanova, Kentucky, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Virginia are involved.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 10:09 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Weekly recruiting roundup
        

July 22, 2010

Calvert Hall DB Adrian Amos has many options

adrian-amos-cardinals.jpg Donald Davis still remembers the 5-foot-4, 145-pound quarterback for the Overlea youth football program flying down the field and leaving a trail of defenders in his wake.

The Calvert Hall coach thought he might have found his quarterback of the future, but that pint-sized youth player eventually grew into a 6-foot, 198-pound defensive back. Adrian Amos, a rising senior for the Cardinals, is now one of the most heavily recruited football prospects in Baltimore.

“Physically, he’s grown leaps and bounds,” Davis said. “Coming in he was a kid that had a great skill set. He tore it up in youth football. He was small, but he was a football player. His ball skills are outstanding and he’s been very flexible and willing to learn. He was a quick, athletic, undersized QB. Then he morphed into something totally different.”

Amos played quarterback – and some slot receiver – for Calvert Hall’s junior varsity as a freshman. But Davis approached Amos with a position switch before his sophomore year.

“People still ask me today why I don’t play quarterback for Calvert Hall,” Amos said. “But I found something I was better at. The team [doesn’t] really need me at quarterback. But a lot of people knew me from rec. When I came to Calvert Hall, going into my freshman year, I played a lot of offense. Coach told me that if I wanted to play varsity sophomore year, I’d have to play DB. So I changed what I usually played, learned DB and I earned a starting spot my sophomore year.”

Amos intercepted six passes as a sophomore, but was still an unknown prospect to college recruiters. That changed during his junior year, as he grew into his current size and earned an invite to the U.S. Army All-American Game junior combine in San Antonio. Davis said college coaches were impressed by his toughness.

“He’s physical. That’s really what jumps out to guys on film, is how physical of a DB he is,” Davis said. “A lot of DBs aren’t as physical. They rely on speed, they can run or they’ve got nice ball skills. He’s a kid who has great ball skills who will come down and lower the boom.”

Amos’ summer has been spent traveling up and down the East Coast for camps and combines. He’s made appearances at Connecticut, Maryland, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Temple, Virginia and West Virginia. The Huskies, Owls and Mountaineers, respectively, have offered scholarships based on Amos’ camp performances.

“I basically like all the places that have offered me so far,” Amos said. “But UConn stood out when I went to their school. I basically like everything about it. … I know [freshman quarterback] Leon Kinnard [Loyola] that goes to UConn. And with West Virginia, I played against [sophomore running back-wide receiver] Tavon Austin [Dunbar] and [sophomore safety] Terence Garvin [Loyola].”

UConn and West Virginia are recruiting Amos as a free safety, while South Carolina, Temple and Boston College – which Amos will visit later this summer – are recruiting him as a cornerback. The Huskies coaches have told Amos he “might be able to compete for a spot” as a freshman.

Amos plans on taking his official visits this fall, and doesn’t expect to make a decision until after his senior season.

“[Recruiting is] enjoyable. Sometimes it gets tiring, going to all these camps this summer, but it’s good,” Amos said. “I’m getting a lot of [interest] and I’m going to college for free now. It’s worth it.”

Baltimore Sun photo of Adrian Amos (2) by Jed Kirschbaum / Nov. 29, 2009

Posted by Matt Bracken at 1:24 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

July 21, 2010

Arundel's Brandon Belt makes his choice

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For at least one year of college, Brandon Belt will be playing basketball close to home.

The 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Arundel has accepted a scholarship from Baltimore City Community College and is already enrolled in classes. Belt, a second-team All-Anne Arundel County selection as a senior, picked the Panthers over offers from Division II programs Gannon (Pa.) and Pace (N.Y.).

“I’m just glad that it’s over,” Belt said. “That was a long process, and I’m ready to start the work for the upcoming season.”

Belt, who transferred to Arundel from Southern before his senior year, averaged 14.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists for the Wildcats (18-4).

“Overall, he’s a very good athlete, just with his strength and his leaping ability,” said BCCC coach Terry Maczko. “He can get the basketball and just overpower people because he’s so strong. He’s got an advantage on a lot of guys who are freshmen in college from a strength perspective.”

Belt is fully qualified academically, meaning that he could transfer to a Division I school after his freshman year with the Panthers.

“I didn’t want to go to Division II,” Belt said. “After this year I think I can be a Division I player. That’s why I wanted to come to BCCC. Plus, they won the [Maryland] JUCO championship last year. ... They said if I come in and work hard, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t get playing time.”

Maczko said Belt will “absolutely” challenge for a starting role as a freshman. The BCCC coach is supportive of Belt’s wishes to transfer to a Div. I program – if he lands the right offer – after a year.

“It’s pretty nice because you get a feel for the whole college thing,” Belt said. “When I get to a university next year, I’ll already know what it’s about and be prepared. So I’ll be a step ahead of some people just coming in. ... [But] I’m just looking forward to coming in and working hard and earning my spot."

Baltimore Sun photo of Brandon Belt by Gene Sweeney Jr. / Jan. 8, 2010

Posted by Matt Bracken at 10:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

July 20, 2010

Q&A with Navy coach Billy Lange

Billy Lange will have no shortage of young talent to work with this season.

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The Navy men's basketball coach last week introduced the Mids' seven-man freshmen class.

The seven new Midshipmen, who have already begun their plebe summer, are: J.J. Avila, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound forward from McAllen, Texas; Jacob Liebert, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard from Alamo, Calif.; James Loupos, a 6-foot-6, 185-pound forward from Skillman, N.J.; Isaiah Roberts, a 6-foot-2, 165-pound guard from Pennsauken, N.J.; Jared Roberts, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound guard from Pennsauken, N.J.; Brennan Wyatt, a 5-foot-9, 154-pound point guard; and Thurgood Wynn, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound guard from Bethesda.

Avila averaged 21.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.6 steals as a senior and was ranked the No. 34 player in Texas by TexasHoops.com. Liebert, who completed a prep year at New Hampton Prep (N.H.), is the son of former Navy player Carl Liebert, who played on the Mids' NCAA tournament teams with David Robinson. Loupas was a three-time captain who averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds as a senior. The Roberts twins led Woodbury High to state championships in basketball, football and track. Scout.com analyst Dave Telep called Wyatt "one of the best floor leaders in North Carolina, a pass-first point guard and a dangerous penetrator." Wynn, an All-Interstate Athletic Conference selection, formed a potent backcourt for Georgetown Prep with Markel Starks, a Hoyas recruit.

Lange spoke with Recruiting Report last week about Navy's 2010 recruiting class.

Last year we talked about your five-man class. Only one guy (Alex Newsome) remains from that group. With that in mind, talk a little bit about this seven-man class and how it all came together.

Yeah, I think we had some things last year that were beyond the control of anybody that led to some attrition. Luckily for us, my assistants did a great job of just constantly being involved with great players who were invested in coming here. Even when we thought we’d lose guys, and we’d never want them to leave, but we followed up real quickly and were prepared for that. It’s a little similar to last year in that we’re bringing back a nucleus of guys, but I think this group has an opportunity to play right away. But we still have great leadership in the upper class. We still have a little bit of experience they’ll provide.

One of the most important things for us is, just over the last couple of years, we’ve lost guys like Greg Sprink who was a prolific scorer and had a great career here, Kaleo Kina who was a great player for us, Adam Teague who was a great shooter, Clif Colbert and then Chris Harris. So we had a lot of guys for a good three-season period that provided a lot of minutes on the perimeter. We’ve been very perimeter-focused, so it was very important for us to get a little bit bigger last summer, regardless of last year’s group. We had a need to add some perimeter players, and I feel like we really did that. Towards the end of the year, when we looked down the line, he thought we needed to get some frontcourt players to provide us some immediate help. We really feel like we did that, especially getting J.J. Avila.

Avila’s a guy who put up big numbers in Texas and had some other Division I options. What are your thoughts on him?

Well, he’s one of the best passers that we’ve ever had here. He’s just unique in terms of a big man we’ve had, but his passing ability is part of his game [that stands out]. We’re really excited about him. He’s a good rebounder, a phenomenal outlet passer, a physical kid who just has a high IQ for the game. He weighed in at about 242 at the start of summer. He’s typically not a guy we’ve been able to get. We’ve brought in some quality guys like Mark Veazey and Alex Newsome, but J.J., from a physical standpoint, is just ready-made for college. It’s just a matter of him getting used to the intensity of Division I basketball.

Wynn is an in-state guy who excelled against some tough competition. Is he an instant impact guy?

Yeah, we saw Thurgood as a senior, and man, he just continues to get better and better. We thought we've had great success developing a certain kind of player, and he was that kind of type. But I think he’s more developed at this stage than I thought he would be when he originally committed. He’s gotten a lot better since last year.

Is he sort of a combo guard?

He’s more of a combo wing. Our 2s and 3s would be sort of interchangeable. They’re the same kind of player. When I think of combo guard, I think of someone who can fill in in a pinch and play the point guard. That wouldn’t be how I would project Thurgood. That’s just not where we project him. He’s more like a 2-guard or a wing for us.

You’re a Jersey guy and have landed three recruits from the state in this class. Talk about Loupos and the Roberts twins and how your ties to the state helped you with them.

James was a guy we targeted midway through his junior year. He’s a player we personally spent a lot of time on, evaluating him in high school and on his summer team. The more we got to know about him and his leadership skills in the basketball program and in the school community, he was a must get for us. Him being from New Jersey, it definitely helped us. He’s from central Jersey, so we’ve got the Sixers, he’s an Eagles fan and there was a lot to connect with him. But we think really highly of James. He was a guy that was really sought after and he was a great recruit for us.

With Jared and Isaiah Roberts, those two guys grew up playing where I’m from. They’re just tremendous athletes and great competitors. These are guys that own state championships in basketball, track and football. They’re phenomenal athletes and phenomenal competitors. They have an old man’s IQ for the game of basketball.

How important were your ties to the state in landing those three guys?

It’s great. In the end, honestly, the most important thing is to get great players and great guys. But I spent 20-plus years in that area. We’re in a situation at Navy where you can’t rely on any one area, but being able to get kids from a place where there are high school and AAU coaches that I trust, and I know what they’ve been through, it was important. When we’re recruiting a new kid, we want them to be a good fit at the institution as much as we do in the program. We look at guys that can be great officers and great players. We have to be comfortable with their character more than where they’re from. But I think it’s a win-win for everyone. Honestly, that’s why I don’t sweat it when a guy wants to leave here. Shoot, we lost Trey Stanton here a couple years ago. He was probably the best recruit we’ve brought in. He transferred home [to Rice], goes to Conference USA and has had a couple tremendous seasons there. But not everyone is cut out for the Naval Academy.

With the Roberts twins, we’re just making sure we’re bringing in quality guys all the time. We don’t get to see these kids all that much with NCAA rules. There are only so many times you can evaluate them and we can only have them on campus so many times. So you want guys who are all about our institution and what it stands for. You really want to know a kid before you bring him here. A guy like Thurgood in our backyard, the Jersey kids, to get those type of references, it’s huge for us.

Is Wyatt the heir apparent to O.J. Avworo at point guard?

I think they’ll play together. His shooting is so fantastic that those guys will play together. Brennan, to me, he’s just good. I don’t know what else to say. His shooting, his passing, his competitiveness, his poise in late-game situations – all of those things to me are really important. I’m not just going say that this guy starts at the point or backs up O.J. or is the heir apparent. Our plan right now is for those guys to play minutes together.

Liebert’s a legacy recruit that you would expect to be in for the long haul. What kind of player is he?

The funny thing is Jacob started coming to camps as a freshman in high school, so we’ve seen his development the whole time. The kid has gotten so much better. He’s changed his body and developed an outside game. So with Jacob, it’s great to have a legacy recruit, but we’re holding him to a high standard here. We think he can help us. When that is, we don’t know. But he’s continuing to progress and we think he’s a guy that’s going to help this team in many ways.

You lose Chris Harris, but before that you lost Kina and before that was Sprink. You always seem to find another go-to guy and next year you have four starters back. Who do you see making up some of that lost production?

I think again, the common thought by just looking at our situation and basing it off who has been successful in scoring, then you’d have to say Jordan Sugars. I’m telling you as the coach that I’m hoping it doesn’t get to [having just one main scorer]. That was never the plan. I’m not upset that we have guys you could count on to make big shots. But I really want to see our team play develop into what I’ve always preached, and kind of be a team that has maybe three or four guys that can do that. I think Mark Veazey can definitely help and contribute in a big way. O.J. should’ve been an all-conference player last year, even if he didn’t get the votes. He led our league in assists and was double figures in scoring. If you looking at it based on last season and the type of player that’s been a scorer, you’d have to say it’s going to be Sugars. But our emphasis since the season’s end was that we’ve got to have unbelievable balance, unbelievable team players and unbelievable ball sharing. Somebody’s going to be the leading scorer, but we’d like to see much more balance across the board.

Which freshman do you see making an immediate impact?

Wyatt, Loupas and J.J. were pretty big scorers in high school. But I watched Isaiah Roberts score 30 points in a high school game. They all have the ability to do that. But all of our guys will contribute more in our offense that’s all about sharing the wealth. In no way am I implying that other teams were selfish. They weren’t. We still had teams that shared the ball. But we just want all our guys to be confident to do their thing within a team framework.

Are you pleased with where the program is at this point?

Yeah, I feel great. I look at last season, and nobody on our team or staff was really happy [with the final record], but we were dealt a lot of adversity. With one week left in the regular season we were tied for first place. Then we just had a bad seven days, and in the Patriot League, that can go a long way. So I feel great. We’re the second winningest team in our league the last two years. We want to win the regular season, we want to win our conference tournament and we want to go to the NCAA tournament. So I feel really good with where we’re at.

2006 Baltimore Sun photo of Billy Lange

Posted by Matt Bracken at 10:31 AM | | Comments (0)
        

July 19, 2010

Weekend wrap – Terps look at D.C. prospects

Led by several players with interest from Maryland, the Washington-based Team Takeover AAU team claimed the Peach Jam title Friday in North Augusta, S.C.

DeMatha junior guard James Robinson, St. John's (D.C.) senior shooting guard Julian DeBose and Landon senior forward Darion Atkins were among Team Takeover's notable standouts, according to NBE Basketball Report.

Darion Atkins said he has offers from George Washington, George Mason, Wake Forest, Maryland, VCU and Pennsylvania, with interest from Georgetown, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Xavier. The 6-foot-8 Landon (Md.) forward plans on visiting Syracuse in the next week, and also wants to take a second trip to Wake Forest. Atkins said his top three at this point would be Wake Forest, Georgetown and Florida State.

• After his play at the Peach Jam, Terps shooting guard target Jabari Brown picked up an offer from Kansas.

Jabari Brown, a 6-5 senior shooting guard from Oakland (Calif.) High, on Friday received a scholarship offer from KU, Brown told Rivals.com. Brown, who is the No. 13-rated player in the Class of 2011, also is considering Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, UConn, California, Arizona and others.

• FlagrantFouls.com gave a scout's take on several Canadian players at the West Virginia Jam Fest, including Maryland junior center target Sim Bhullar.

He has unbelievable hands, soft touch around the rim, is a great area rebounder, makes terrific outlet passes, and can also pass out of the post. This week, Sim once again did a better job changing ends than he did the last time I saw him. He gets faster and smoother running the floor every tournament I take in. He was faster at King James than he was at Pitt Jam Fest. He changed ends better at Pangos than he did at King James. This week, he looked to have taken another leap in regards to his conditioning.

• Atlantic Christian (N.J.) forward Luke Piotrowski, who drew some Maryland interest in the spring, didn't list the Terps in this interview with ZagsBlog.com.

Cincinnati joined in on his recruitment recently as Cronin watched him play. With a list of “Arizona State, Arizona, Oregon, Stanford, Boston, Boston College, Wake Forest, Florida and Georgia Tech,” Piotrowski has his options. Luke loves the ACC but is evaluating all schools closely.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 8:14 AM | | Comments (0)
        

July 16, 2010

Weekly recruiting roundup

Jabari Brown didn't waste any time this week in establishing himself as one of the top prospects in the country for the class of 2011.

The Oakland, Calif., shooting guard got off to a hot start in front of a host of high-major coaches on Day 1 of the Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C.

As usual, he burned up the nets from deep but it was what he did off the dribble, as a passer and as a defender. There's no fluff to his game and he's a kid who is about his business and nothing else when he hits the floor. Cal's Mike Montgomery and and Maryland's Gary Williams watched his move. Word is Kansas may be looking to make a move so it wasn't a surprise to see Bill Self tailing him closely. Washington's Raphael Chillious, among others, was on the trail as well.

FlagrantFouls.com's Alex Schwartz thought Brown was the catalyst in the Drew Gooden Soldiers' dominating performance against Wisconsin Playground Elite on the first day of the Peach Jam.

An elite 2011 prospect, Brown had over twice as many points as any other player on the court with 32 (12/21 FG, 1/3 3P, 7/8 FT) as well as 8 rebounds. Johnson is a special player due to the fact that he is an elite sharpshooter who also possesses phenomenal athletic ability. A strong, sturdy two with a quality handle, Brown was one of the top three performers I saw.

Brown told Adam Zagoria that his recruitment is "still pretty open."

He listed UConn, Oregon State, Washington State, Washington, Kansas, Cal, Maryland, Wake Forest, Georgetown, Arizona State, Stanford and Georgia Tech.

Brown told KentuckySportsRadio.com that he'd like to hear from the Wildcats.

As of now, Kentucky is not showing much interest towards Brown. “I haven’t heard from them (Kentucky) yet but hopefully they contact me,” he said. “Hopefully they call me sometime in July because I would be very interested.”

• Terps forward target Desmond Hubert could be close to narrowing his list.

Hubert listed Pittsburgh, Villanova, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Georgetown, Georgia Tech and Maryland.

• Phog.net, a Kansas fan site, reports that Terps small forward target Dorian Finney-Smith was watched by members of the Jayhawks' staff at the Peach Jam.

Finney-Smith was tracked by Kansas coaches all day, including assistants Kurtis Townsend and Joe Dooley. The long, lanky small forward did everything for Boo at some point or another – he ran the point, he rebounded, he hits 3s, he defended. While he doesn’t have the outrageous athleticism that 2012 teammate Justin Anderson possesses, but he certainly has a high-major skill package.

ESPN.com's Michael LaPlante also came away with a positive impression of Finney-Smith.

Boo Williams' combo forward Dorian Finney-Smith (Portsmouth, Va./I.C. Norcom) had his moments on Wednesday. He is a long athlete who scored 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and caused havoc on defense.

Football recruiting

Tyran Rice, the high school coach of Terps running back commitment Brandon Ross, spoke to the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal about a proposal that would bar college coaches from offering scholarships before July 1 of the summer before his or her senior year.

"In Brandon's case," Rice said Wednesday, "it's a relief he knows where he's going to school. It allows him to concentrate on schoolwork, concentrate on football and enjoy senior year. If this goes into effect, I think that you would have a lot of indecision by a lot of kids and I don't think that's a good thing."

• Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln defensive end Ishaq Williams is staying busy this summer.

Williams, a 17-year-old Clinton Hill native, has already visited Penn State, Syracuse (his parents’ alma mater), Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Maryland, and Miami. He plans to visit Notre Dame on Aug. 5, his father Shaun said; take a trip down south to see Alabama, Florida, and Miami again the second week of August; and go out west for USC, UCLA, and Stanford the following week.

• Harrisonburg (Va.) offensive lineman Landon Turner has committed to North Carolina.

He chose UNC over offers from UVA, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, LSU, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, and Stanford.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 8:43 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Weekly recruiting roundup
        

July 15, 2010

Decision looms for Digital Harbor's Justin Jackson

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College classes start relatively soon for the class of 2010, but Justin Jackson still has a choice to make.

The former Digital Harbor combo guard, fresh off a successful set of performances at the inaugural Baltimore Summer League at Loyola, was all set to join Morgan State’s basketball team as a preferred walk-on. Jackson said he received a financial aid package from the university and an invitation to suit up for the defending MEAC-champion Bears.

Last week, however, Jackson caught the attention of the Urbana (Ohio) University coaching staff at a workout at the Park School. Jackson said a scholarship was offered, as well as a request to visit the university, located about 45 miles outside of Columbus, Ohio.

“They asked me if I possibly wanted to visit, and I said, ‘Yeah,’” Jackson said. “I’m going to check them out on their website and try to take a visit, then I’ll give them my transcript and all that stuff. It’s a little process. Just as soon as I visit there, then I’ll make my final decision. In like a week or two.”

Urbana transitioned from the NAIA level to Division II play in 2008. The Blue Knights finished 14-13 last season.

If Jackson decides to take Morgan’s walk-on offer, he could have a chance to renew a sibling rivalry. His older brother, George Jackson, recently completed his freshman season at Coppin State. The brothers teamed with Davon Usher (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) to lead Digital Harbor to the Class 1A state title in 2009.

“[George is] healing from a knee injury, so we’re still waiting to see if he’ll play up there next year,” Jackson said. “[But] it’s going to be real competitive, especially if I get in at the same time as he gets in. We’re going to have to stick each other and play our hearts out.”

Jackson, 6 feet, 175 pounds, averaged about 18 points, five assists and four rebounds for the Rams as a senior.

“I had a good season,” Jackson said. “[I] didn’t get a chance to win that state championship again, but I got a ring my junior year.”

Baltimore Sun photo of Justin Jackson by Amy Davis / Jan. 16, 2009

Posted by Matt Bracken at 11:27 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

July 14, 2010

Dunbar's Corey Spence on a comeback tour

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Here’s what Corey Spence remembers about that late-November night: leaving a party, hopping into the passenger’s seat of his friend’s car, waking up in the hospital.

Spence, Dunbar’s senior point guard, had fallen asleep on the drive from Baltimore County back into the city. Sometime after that, near the county line on Pulaski Highway, the car crashed into a utility pole. Spence said he woke up for a second, then blacked out almost immediately.

“When I got to the hospital, when I first arrived, my father asked the doctor [about my condition],” Spence said. “And he was like, ‘It’s a 50-50 chance.’ If I made it through the first night, I’d be good.”

Spence awoke the next morning with a chipped bone in his pelvis, internal bleeding, several bruises, a cut on his liver, a cut on his kidney and a contusion of the heart. His friend, the driver, suffered bruised ribs. The doctors said Spence’s muscular 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame was crucial for his survival.

While Spence lay in his hospital bed and entertained hundreds of visitors – family, friends, coaches and Poets legend Sam Cassell, among others – thoughts of survival turned to dreams of basketball.

“I had asked the coaches and doctor if I was going to play again,” Spence said. “He said, ‘Yes, but it’s going to take a lot of work.’ So after I got out, I did what I had to do to get back on the basketball court.”

The first step in Spence’s recovery was regaining his strength. Down to just 130 pounds, Spence started working out with Dunbar football coach Lawrence Smith, who tailored a weight-training and nutritional program to meet Spence’s needs. About a month after Spence was released from the hospital, he was ready to reclaim his role as Dunbar’s starting point guard.

“By the time we played City and Lake Clifton, I was 100 percent,” Spence said. “Those were actually my best games. Against Lake Clifton I had 21, and against City I had 16.”

With Spence back in the lineup, Dunbar cruised to Comcast Center. The Poets topped Owings Mills in the Class 1A championship game for their 12th state title.

“I was very fortunate because that was our first championship in about five years,” said Spence, who averaged about 12 points and eight assists. “We’ve been playing to win a championship since ninth-grade year. But we came along and actually won it, so it feels good.”

Spence graduated from Dunbar in June with his college plans still in flux. The car accident was a setback both athletically and academically, as Spence came up just short of NCAA qualifying standards. Soon after it became clear Division I basketball wouldn’t be an option for Spence this year, his mother started researching prep schools. She eventually stumbled upon Bridgton Academy in Maine, and after a few discussions with the coaches, Spence signed on to play for the Wolverines.

“I just came back from visiting three weeks ago,” Spence said. “It’s cool. The whole town revolves around the school, really. It’s basically, you go there for a year, do what you need to do and get [to college].”

Spence, who’s playing with D.C. Assault on the AAU circuit this summer, said he has garnered interest from Bucknell, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Emory, Howard, Loyola, Mount St. Mary’s, Northeastern, Rhode Island, Stony Brook, Tulsa and Vermont.

Spence hopes to pick up more scholarship offers before he leaves for Maine next month. While he’s focused on basketball this summer, he remains grateful to everyone who aided his improbable comeback.

“It was real difficult. It was just like everything was mental,” Spence said. “I had lost a lot of weight, lost my speed. So it was real hard. But I was surprised I came back as early as I did. ... It just makes me think that I’m blessed. I was really blessed to make it through that day.”

Baltimore Sun photo of Corey Spence by Karl Merton Ferron / March 12, 2010

Posted by Matt Bracken at 1:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

July 13, 2010

Poly's Donovan Riley getting an early start

donovan-riley-poly.jpg The way Donovan Riley sees it, he’s getting a one-year head start on his recruitment.

The rising junior defensive back from Poly has spent his summer vacation touring the East Coast, attending football camps at Connecticut, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Temple and Villanova, with stops at Virginia and Old Dominion on tap.

At most of those camps, Riley has been among the youngest participants, going head-to-head against some of the top senior prospects in the country.

“That’s what all the coaches are telling me at the camps – that I’m way ahead of the game,” Riley said. “It’s really been fun competing against the guys. It’s like we’re all on the same level. In some cases, I’m getting the best of them, but it’s been really fun.”

The 5-foot-11, 188-pound Riley saw action at cornerback, safety, wide receiver and punt returner for Poly as a junior, helping the Engineers to a 9-2 record, including an overtime win over rival City. Riley scored three touchdowns and intercepted three passes on the season.

After football ended, Riley turned his attention to track, but still found time to plan his summer tour. Riley sought the advice of his father, Reginald Riley, and a few senior friends on Good Counsel’s football team.

“They basically told me what to do. They told me to attend senior prospect camps to get exposure,” Riley said. “My dad and I sat down and we mapped it out, the different schools that I wanted to visit and wanted to go to. And we spent a lot of time on the road. We spent time bonding.”

Two camp experiences stand out above the rest for Riley thus far. At Maryland, Riley said he received extra attention from defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Don Brown. At Pittsburgh, Riley had a chance to work with secondary coach Jeff Hafley. The Terps and Panthers are a couple of early favorites in Riley’s recruitment.

“I actually have three schools, but I just want a school that’s going to prepare me academically as well as athletically,” Riley said. “But I do like the University of Maryland, I do like Pitt and I do like Rutgers. ODU is my sleeper.”

When he’s not showcasing himself for college coaches, Riley is training in Baltimore. He suited up for Poly in a 7-on-7 tournament at St. Paul’s last weekend, helping the Engineers to the championship. He’s preparing for his trip to Virginia and relishing all that he has already experienced this summer, one year ahead of schedule.

“It’s been a very rewarding experience,” Riley said. “I’ve heard a lot from the coaches at the next level. They’ve taught me a lot as far as hard work, mental toughness and extra effort. I’ve learned a lot and it’s been a great experience.”

Handout photo

Posted by Matt Bracken at 8:18 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

July 12, 2010

Weekend wrap – Faust does it again

Another week, another set of glowing scouting reports on Nick Faust.

The City shooting guard -- who's considering offers from Villanova, Maryland, Tennessee, Penn State, UNLV, Oregon State, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Marquette and Virginia -- took part in the King City Classic in Cleveland late last week, earning rave reviews from Scout.com's Dave Telep.

He’s got the feel of a kid who will push for Top 25 status. He’s hungry and smoking hot. We left Thursday night after seeing a barrage of 3s. Early Friday morning the only noticeable change was that LeBron was in South Beach. His past two days displayed his range, overall game and significant month-to-month improvement.

• Telep was also impressed this weekend by Maryland center target Adjehi Baru.

There is no “off” button with this guy. Everything is done at 100 percent. We caught him in a mismatch game and he grabbed 20 rebounds. He was the best player we saw on Saturday. Baru grabs every rebound he should and half of the ones he has no chance at. He goes at such a pace that I’m not sure he could do it for 32 minutes in a college game but I’d like to see him try.

• The stock of Terps small forward target Maurice Harkless is rising after his performance at the Hoop Group Elite Camp.

Entering the week, Harkless, who decommited from the University of Connecticut on June 21, had a list of suitors such as Rutgers, St. John’s, Maryland, Xavier and Memphis. Syracuse and Temple were added to the list. One coach told Nate Blue, Harkless’ advisor, he could be an NBA draft pick after next year if not for the rule prohibiting players from going straight to the league.

• Maryland remains in the hunt for forward LaQuinton Ross, according to NBE Basketball Report.

The 6-foot-8 Mississippi native who plays at Life Center Academy (N.J.) has offers from West Virginia, Syracuse, Baylor, Connecticut, Mississippi, Maryland and Memphis. He plans on visiting Syracuse, Ohio State, West Virginia and Maryland. “I want to narrow it to a top five by the end of the summer,” Ross said.

• For an extensive breakdown of Maryland's recruiting plans this summer, check out InsideMDSports.com's Guide to July.

• The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal took a look at incoming recruiting classes of six ACC programs, including Maryland.

Maryland might also get immediate help from Berend Weijs, a 6-10 power forward from Amsterdam who attended Harcum Community College in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Weijs blocked a school-record 119 shots last season and averaged 5.5 rebounds. He'll have two seasons of eligibility.

Weijs was recently honored for his success in the classroom.

Harcum College women's basketball player Gabrielle Moore and men's players C.J. Scott and Berend Weijs were named NJCAA Academic All-Americas for the 2009-10 year.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 10:15 AM | | Comments (4)
        

July 9, 2010

Weekly recruiting roundup

Maurice Harkless' reintroduction to the recruiting process has gotten off to a seemingly ideal start.

The 6-foot-6 small forward from Queens, N.Y., who withdrew his commitment to Connecticut last month, spent the past week at the Hoop Group's annual elite camp in Reading, Pa., earning Most Outstanding Player honors for his efforts.

This week he picked up additional offers from DePaul and South Florida, to go with Memphis, Rutgers, St. John’s, Maryland, Arizona and Xavier. “He’s the best player here and he’s one of the better ones I’ve seen in a [while], he’s got it,” former Syracuse star John Wallace told [Harkless' adviser Nate] Blue.

• City shooting guard Nick Faust has impressed Rivals.com analyst Jerry Meyer at the King City Classic in Cleveland.

Although he doesn't have the reputation yet of some of his counterparts, Faust has been the most impressive performer of all the shooting guards in the camp. In a John Jenkins like fashion, Faust drains deep shots with his unorthodox release. But he has also attacked off the dribble and finished with authority at the rim. His length as a shooting guard also gives him an edge defensively.

LaQuinton Ross, a 6-foot-8 small forward at Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J., was named a top performer at the LeBron James Skills Academy by MaxPreps.com.

The long and lanky swingman, often plagued with injury, delivered on his much talked-about potential. He used his size and mobility to score inside-and-out and more importantly, he defended the perimeter. Maryland, Ohio State and West Virginia are following him.

• Oakland, Calif., shooting guard and Terps target Jabari Brown caught the eye of ESPN.com's Reggie Rankin at the LeBron James Skills Academy.

Brown is one of the best shooters in the Class of 2011, and during drills, he did a great job of reading dribble penetration and moving to the open area to deliver his smooth jumper. Brown also looked good shooting off screens and pulling up for midrange jumpers at high speeds. The opposing defense needs to know where Brown is at all times because he can hit multiple jumpers, make a strong move off the dribble or finish above the rim with a clear path.

• Maryland target Justin Anderson, a Montrose Christian wing, is playing for Team USA in the FIBA Under-17 World Basketball Championships in Germany.

"It was crazy, you have a drunk guy in front of you and behind you everywhere you walked. They're throwing beer, they're throwing water. When they scored, oh my God, it felt like a war going on," said Anderson, a rising junior at Montrose Christian, of the atmosphere in downtown Hamburg during Germany's soccer win on July 3.

• Penn Wood (Pa.) small forward Aaron Brown, who drew some Maryland interest, is headed to the Big East.

Brown, who last season averaged 19.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.1 assists, orally committed to West Virginia in a phone call Saturday to assistant Billy Hahn. He later spoke to head coach Bob Huggins.

Football recruiting

Brian Farley, an offensive tackle from San Diego, has made recent camp appearances at Maryland, San Diego State and UCLA.

Farley, a 6-foot-8, 289-pound prospect, has a lot of family connections in the Maryland area and so the Terrapins remain a favorite for him. He spent time there in recent weeks and said that school still stands out most. Maryland remains his lone offer.

• Terps target Kevin Miller, a defensive end from Delran, N.J., picked up an offer from Rutgers.

Rutgers is the sixth school to offer Miller, with the first five being Akron, Maryland, UCF, West Virginia, and most recently before the Scarlet Knights, Temple.

• Phil Kornblut reports that Maryland is in the top group for Valdosta, Ga., cornerback Geraldo Orta, who recently withdrew his commitment to Clemson.

He plans to take all five of his official visits with Clemson, Tennessee, USC and Maryland to be four of them. He has been to Mississippi State and South Florida for camps and has no other camps or visits planned. Orta said Clemson is still out front with him but he's going to wait until Signing Day on a decision.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 12:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Weekly recruiting roundup
        

July 8, 2010

Homecoming for Towson Catholic grad Bastfield

larry-bastfield-morgan.jpg Three years ago Larry Bastfield couldn’t wait to get away from home for college. Today, the former Towson Catholic standout couldn’t be happier to be back.

A second-team Baltimore Sun All-Metro selection in 2008, Bastfield signed with Toledo in the fall of 2007 and completed his sophomore season with the Rockets in the spring. When Toledo coach Gene Cross left the university in March, however, Bastfield decided to head home to Baltimore and finish out his college career at Morgan State.

“It’s for the better,” said Bastfield, who is already taking classes this summer at Morgan. “It really hit me when I came home. I was really ready to come back when I was in Toledo. I was ready for a better situation and ready for the next step.”

Bastfield’s college career got off to a rocky start before he had even enrolled at Toledo. Stan Joplin, the longtime Rockets coach who recruited him, was fired after the 2007-08 season. Bastfield stuck with his commitment and played two years for Cross.

Those two years were crucial for the development of Bastfield, who started 32 games as a sophomore and 16 as a freshman. Toledo, however, reached record lows during that time, finishing 7-25 in the 2008-09 season and 4-28 in 2009-10.

“It was pretty tough. We were just losing a lot,” Bastfield said. “There was one time last year we lost 17 games in a row. It was just pretty tough. I kept working hard, but I’m glad now that I’m playing for a winning program.”

Bastfield joins a Morgan team fresh off its second straight NCAA tournament appearance. The defending MEAC tournament and regular-season champion Bears lost Reggie Holmes to graduation, leaving an open spot in the backcourt.

“[Morgan coach Todd Bozeman] just told me that he needs a point guard to run his team,” Bastfield said. “He’s got everything he needs but a point guard to run his ballclub. He said that I could do that. I agree with him. It’s just a good situation when you look at it in basketball terms and academic terms.”

A communications major, Bastfield said picking Morgan was more about the academic opportunities rather than just returning home to play. Granted, he’s happy to be back, but much more went into his decision besides location.

On the court, Bastfield’s excited to join a roster that includes several familiar faces from his childhood, including former Team Melo teammate Aric Brooks (St. Frances). Bastfield doesn’t regret going to Toledo and appreciates the adversity he faced, but now he’s looking forward to the second chapter of his college career.

“It kind of feels like a lot of people in Baltimore are really happy I’m coming home to play. It feels like I’m back in high school days, back in Baltimore playing ball,” Bastfield said. “So I just want to keep Morgan in the same place – a winning program, NCAA tournament, MEAC championship, just keep the program going and keep it on the rise.”

Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox / March 4, 2008

Posted by Matt Bracken at 12:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

July 7, 2010

Q&A: Len Elmore talks iHoops, Terps

A restful summer vacation probably isn't in the cards for Len Elmore. len-elmore-ihoops-1.jpg

The Terps legend and ESPN college basketball analyst is staying busy this summer as a member of Maryland's athletic director search committee in addition to attending to his duties as the Chief Executive Officer of iHoops, a for-profit entity with the following goals:

The mission of iHoops is to establish a structure and develop programs to improve the quality of youth basketball in America in order to enhance the athletic, educational, and social experience of the participants.

Elmore, who has served as iHoops' CEO since May, spoke with Recruiting Report recently about his goals for the organization, AAU basketball, education, Terps basketball and more.

How did you first get involved with iHoops and what made its mission attractive to you?

Elmore: First of all, the main thing we’re talking about is the value of education and the opportunities presented by participating in the game. [We’re talking about] how important college is and the holistic development of young student-athletes. Those are things I’ve been advocating for since I got any type of public visibility. How could I not? I’m a beneficiary of all that. One thing I tell these kids is that young people keep telling me education is one thing, but if you’ve got a chance to be an NBA player, you don’t need education. But my point is, why can’t you do both? I was once in that position and I was able to do both. That’s really what it all comes down to.

There were a couple of hoops summits that were called by the NCAA and the NBA, including the shoe companies. There were a lot of prominent figures in the game of basketball. Ultimately iHoops was formed as a result of the discussion during those meetings, and I was on the board. Then when Kevin Weiberg left to do work as Chief Operating Officer of the Pac-10, I was kind of drafted to do the job by several of our board members. And how could I say no? When you asked what makes it attractive, anytime you talk about the development of young people – and the mission of iHoops is to establish structure, develop stronger programs overall and enhance young peoples’ athletic experience through the game of basketball – you’ve got to be on board with that.

When you look at pre-collegiate basketball, you know that system has a lot of problems, [including] people complaining about the summer period where they think the travel-team coaches have too much unaccounted power, where recruiting problems occur. You want to be able to help be part of the solution, not part of the problem. iHoops, including our group called First Team, we’re focused on improving the quality of youth basketball. Also, we want the players to understand the importance and value of education – the fact that you can do both. That should allow them to make better and more informed decisions, know what they have to do to be eligible and how to become better players. It’s about valuing the game and how certain life skills can be learned through participation. With all the key stakeholders, whether it’s the players, parents, coaches, even event operators, we want to improve the structure for pre-collegiate hoops.

We have a program that’s going to improve the instruction and fundamentals on how to coach the game. We’re going to have a continuing education program online. We have partnerships with the AAU, with USA Basketball, with the National Federation of State High School Associations. All of those are key stakeholders. They have the influence of legions of coaches and officials. We want to essentially impart these things to them and ultimately experience a tipping point that tips in the favor of health, awareness and safety to our young people that are playing the game.

Is one of iHoops’ goals to lessen the amount of influence AAU plays in basketball recruiting?

Not necessarily lessen. Look, the problem is that AAU gets unfairly tarred with the label that they’re the evil empire. Sure, there are AAU coaches who commit certain transgressions, but there are coaches outside of AAU that create the same kinds of problems. In fact, we are partnered with a number of AAU coaches. Bobby Dodd and Boo Williams have done a tremendous job. We need help in corralling the renegades, if you will. We’re not saying they can’t have influence if they’re the right kind of coach that adheres to the values we’re talking about. But when they have undue influence and take away the influence of the parents, when they do things outside the balance of propriety that tips the scale, then yes, we certainly want to be able to do something about that.

The best way to combat [undue influence] is better education for the parents – what they should be expecting and what they should be doing. And we need to have certification for these coaches. Parents and kids ought to know who the coaches are. … We may have the ability entrusted in us to lay down some best practices.

Nike and Adidas are obviously the two major players on the AAU circuit, but they’re also founding partners of iHoops. How significant is their involvement in iHoops’ mission?

Well, obviously we are a for-profit entity. That model was chosen by both the NBA and the NCAA. So from that, we have to be able to generate revenue. We do that through sponsors interested in our winning program. Nike and adidas are two of the largest partners. Certainly, both of those companies recognize that pre-collegiate basketball is, in many ways, broken. To their credit, they’re trying to help reverse the trend, so to speak. Just being associated with them wields enough bully-pulpit power to be able to start communicating and helping institutional change at events and among the grassroots community. There are programs now that do a lot of skills teaching and skills development. I think going forward we’ll find ways to collaborate in events.

It’s early in your tenure as iHoops CEO, but what are you most proud of thus far? len-elmore-ihoops-2.jpg

The thing I’m most proud of is that we’re starting to communicate. If you look on our site, we recently held the 2010 Skills Challenge. One of our biggest goals is to increase youth participation in the game overall. The Skills Challenge, for kids age 9 to 14, boys and girls, had about 100,000 participants. We’re not talking about the elite player. Certainly, the elite players that are influenced are the focal point of some of those solutions, but overall we’re trying to increase participation. We want to get boys and girls involved in playing the game. Our Skills Challenge, which culminated with championship rounds in all 29 NBA markets, was a huge success. We’re hoping next year that with the value of this, we can double the number [of participants].

I’m most proud that we’ve gotten that kind of involvement. We’ve had some visibility and are starting to get that awareness. Going forward, we’ll have our coaches’ education series online. We want to tackle a continuing education program for officials. We’ve got to get those stakeholders standardized so no one will ever have a doubt about whether a coach is equipped to coach grassroots sports or officials are equipped to officiate high school or [pre-collegiate] games.

Some of the other things we want to do is start being more focused on the fundamental development of players. USA Basketball is another partner of ours. We’re working with them, and are involved with them in San Antonio, participating in a conduct clinic. We have members of our First Team group, a mentoring arm that stays in contact with some elite players from the ninth-grade year to senior year. 365 days a year, they’re available. They talk about life issues as well as basketball issues. There’s a conference held annually, this year it’s in Phoenix the week of Aug. 12-15. We gather these kids in the classroom and they learn life skills, communication skills, how to deal with each other. I’m very proud of that. Our guys are recognized through the grassroots community, because those kids understand how important it is to be part of the First Team. More importantly, our guys don’t want anything from that. They’re not a travel-team coach who’s self-interested in their college choice; not a shoe company trying to get them to wear their shoes. So I’m proud of that, certainly, and we may try to expand it to a virtual First Team, where many benefits that the elite players get, overall participation of players in the game of basketball can avail themselves of. Again, we’re just trying to develop better people within the game of basketball.

On another note, the Maryland basketball team is obviously going to look completely different next year without Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne. What do you expect from the Terps next season?

Well if you look at past Gary [Williams] teams, they’ve always lost solid players here and there. They’re losing three seniors that really powered the team. Replacing them will be a tremendous burden. But they’ve got some promising guys: [Jordan] Williams, [Sean] Mosley … [Cliff] Tucker. They’ve been in big spots. They’ve hit big shots and done terrific things. They’re just going to get better. Then you look at [the incoming class] and add [Adrian] Bowie in the mix, and I think they can be a very competitive team.

One of the things that people need to do is never count them out. No matter how people perceive them to match up against certain opponents, the Gary teams always find a way to, some may say, overachieve. But I think this year you have a Duke team that has stars coming back from a national championship team. North Carolina is a team that has regrouped. On paper, maybe you say Maryland is going to be in the middle of the pack again. But as I said, you can never count them out. That’s not me saying that as a diehard Maryland guy. That’s me saying that as an analyst who’s seen over the years how Gary teams have competed as well as they have. It’s a tribute to the quality of the student-athletes as well as the coaches.

File photos of Len Elmore from 2007 and 1974.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 12:38 PM | | Comments (7)
        

July 6, 2010

Terps lose LB commitment to Aggies

The Maryland football program's 2011 recruiting class shrunk by one prospect Monday.

Shaun Ward, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound outside linebacker from Boyd Anderson High in Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., withdrew his commitment to Maryland on Monday. Hours later, Ward committed to Texas A&M.

The Aggies were one of those schools the 6-foot-2, 240 pound linebacker kept in close contact with, and today the Florida native officially de-committed from Maryland and wasted no time to hop on board with Mike Sherman and the Aggies.

Rivals.com ranks Ward a three-star prospect, the No. 39 outside linebacker nationally and the No. 79 player in Florida.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 2:06 PM | | Comments (7)
        

July 5, 2010

Remembering John Crowder

“Matt, I’ve got some real bad news,” said the man on the other end of the line at 9:30 this morning.

John Crowder, the 6-foot-8, 215-pound power forward who starred at Mount Carmel as a sophomore, had been shot and killed last night.

“This city, man ...” the source said as his voice trailed off.

Crowder was born and raised in East Baltimore, but basketball provided him a ticket out of the area. As an eighth-grader, Crowder moved to Texas to play for God's Academy in Dallas. Soon after he was profiled by the Dallas Morning News.

John was born and raised by his grandmother on Baltimore's gritty east side. His mother died of cancer when he was 2. His father was long gone by then.

It wasn't long before John was running with the wrong crowd. Street life brought only trouble. He can recite a litany of juvenile run-ins with the law. He has witnessed, he says, both older brothers writhing on the ground after being shot in drug deals. One of his best friends was murdered. He was resigned to a similar fate. Few escape Kirk Avenue.

Crowder’s time in Dallas didn’t last long. He returned to Baltimore for his freshman year, which he spent at Towson Catholic. Owls coach Josh Pratt was impressed with Crowder’s play on TC’s junior varsity, and expected big things from him as a sophomore.

When the Archdiocese of Baltimore closed Towson Catholic last summer, however, Crowder was forced to look for another school. He landed at Mount Carmel in Essex, where he quickly emerged as one of the MIAA B Conference’s top talents.

I met Crowder for the first time in April. He played for Team Baltimore at the inaugural Maryland Super 60 Showcase at St. Paul’s, scoring two points in the Class of 2012 contest and 11 in the 2011 game.

“I’m getting letters from Maryland, Virginia Tech, Clemson, St. Joseph’s, a bunch of A-10s and ACC schools,” Crowder said that day. “For me being from Maryland, I liked Maryland growing up and watching Maryland.”

He was a seemingly affable manchild, appreciative of the interview and excited about playing for his cousin and guardian, Brodie Crowder, during the 2012 game. We briefly talked about his time in Dallas, and he said he was happy to be back home in Baltimore.

Crowder was playing for Nike Baltimore Elite this summer and would’ve had the opportunity to impress numerous college coaches during the open period this month. A free college education was undoubtedly in his future.

More details about Crowder’s death will likely surface in the coming days. Condolences go out to family and friends of a promising young player taken far too soon.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 3:54 PM | | Comments (22)
        

Weekend wrap – Terps recruit Mulrooney shines

A quick glance at Rivals.com's star ratings for Maryland's 2011 football recruiting class reveals
Evan Mulrooney to be one of the Terps' lowest-ranked commitments.

After the Wilmington, Del. native's performance at Saturday's BadgerSports Elite 7 on 7 National Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala., however, that status could soon be a thing of the past. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Mulrooney held his own against the nation's best, earning first-team camp honors for his play.

On the offensive interior, Maryland commit Evan Mulrooney holds down the center spot after a strong performance at the BadgerSports Elite Lineman Challenge.

• The Wilmington News Journal checked in this weekend with Maryland's two Delaware commitments: Mulrooney and Brandon Ross, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound running back.

"I gave it all I had [at camp] Sunday and I got offered on Monday," Ross said. "I was kind of surprised."

He must have surprised the Terrapin coaches, all 10 of whom voted to give the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Ross a scholarship.

• Maryland missed out on a legacy recruit Friday when Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) defensive end Connor Wujciak committed to Boston College.

The 6-3, 250-pound defensive end's other finalists included Notre Dame, where his father, Alan, played, and Maryland, where his brother, Alex, will be a senior linebacker this fall. But Wujciak decided that Boston College suited him best after he visited the school last spring and again last weekend.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 9:50 AM | | Comments (3)
        

July 2, 2010

Pa. OT Andrew Zeller talks Terps commitment

Whether it was the hottest, most humid day of summer or the coldest, snowiest day of winter, Andrew Zeller could usually be found in the very same place as a child growing up in Carroll County.

The spacious, tree-lined backyard of Zeller’s Manchester home would often be filled with neighborhood boys playing pickup football for hours each day. Then an elementary-school student, Zeller was the athletic big kid on the field who rooted for Maryland and admired Terps wide receiver and return specialist Steve Suter, a Manchester native.

“[I liked] just getting out there, forgetting about reality and having fun,” Zeller recalled.

Zeller and his family moved to Red Lion, Pa., when he was in middle school, but he never forgot his introduction to football and his childhood allegiance to the Terps. On Thursday, Zeller became a member of his favorite team, committing to Maryland over offers from Duke, Oregon and Rutgers. He was also recruited by Boston College, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

“I just always liked Maryland growing up as a kid, so it was always in the back of my mind,” Zeller said. “Early in the week I kind of had a strong thought of committing. I went down [Thursday] and was there from about 2 to 5, had a great time and got to see more of the campus. I talked with the coaches and made the decision.”

Zeller, a three-star prospect and the No. 22 prospect in Pennsylvania according to Rivals.com, is the 13th known commitment of Maryland’s 2011 class. He’s the fourth offensive lineman to commit to the Terps, joining Ryan Doyle of Wake Forest, N.C., Larry Mazyck of Washington and Evan Mulrooney of Wilmington, Del.

Red Lion coach Pat Conrad said the 6-foot-5, 285-pound Zeller is an athletic, physical lineman who runs a 5.1 40. While Zeller will likely play offensive tackle for the Terps, Conrad said several schools were recruiting him for the D-line.

“He made two plays [last season] that were just phenomenal on the defensive side of the ball,” Conrad said. “The first was a screen play. We put the pressure on the quarterback and then he tracked down the screen in the flat and made the tackle. It was pretty impressive. Then there was a play very close after that, two or three plays after that. They had third-and-1, and Andrew pushed the center back into the fullback and knocked him to a 3-yard loss. His explosiveness as a player just really stood out.”

Zeller played on Red Lion’s junior varsity as a 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore. A major growth spurt over the past year and a half, however, transformed him into a legitimate Division I prospect. Zeller and Conrad sent his film to a number of BCS-level programs after the conclusion of the Lions’ 4-6 season. The response was overwhelming, but Conrad knew early which program stood out in Zeller’s mind.

“I knew he was high on Maryland from the start,” Conrad said. “Maryland was very involved early on. He took a visit down there, an unofficial in the early spring. He just wanted to see how the process played out. He took a trip to camp early in the summer and still had Maryland on top. He just kind of wanted to get the pressure off. Last week, I spoke to him and knew he was getting a little bit weary of the process and the attention. And I just said, ‘Well, if that’s where you want to go, why don’t you go down and just tell them?’ It says a lot about him that he didn’t want to do it in an e-mail. He wanted to do it face to face.”

For Zeller, realizing a childhood dream relieved a good deal of stress, allowing him to focus on senior year.

“It was just a great feeling, committing and just moving on,” Zeller said. “All my friends and teammates are just very happy for me. We just can’t wait until the first kickoff this year.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 11:47 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Weekly recruiting roundup

St. Frances center Greg Lewis has spent all summer traveling the country with Nike Baltimore Elite on the AAU circuit.

Last weekend, the rising senior and Maryland target showed off his game locally at the D.C. Metro Showcase, helping Nike Baltimore Elite to the 17-and-under championship. i95ballerz.com reported on the action.

[Nick] Faust recently received an offer from Maryland, as did Elite teammate, rising senior forward Greg Lewis. The Terps hosted both after they participated in the NBAPA Top 100, an event Lewis enjoyed as he had “more flexibility, they allowed me to play my natural position of power forward instead of center”. He is 6’8”, weighs around 220 pounds and believes Maryland’s flex offense a good fit.

• Terps target Bernard Sullivan, a 6-foot-7 forward from Davidson Day (N.C.), impressed SLAM's Aggrey Sam at the Amare Stoudemire Skills Academy.

After impressing at NBPA Camp as a face-up four with wing skills, it was surprising to see Sullivan grouped with the bigs (not an uncommon occurrence, unfortunately; he should have been at the KD camp, refining his perimeter game), but he still used the opportunity to show off his big-time hops, quick and solid footwork, excellent touch and tremendous energy level.

• Rising senior point guard Quinn Cook has decided to transfer from DeMatha to Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.

"I think it's best for him," [DeMatha coach Mike] Jones said of Cook's transfer. "I think he's doing something we all think is going to be good for him. He needs to get away from the area. He's become somewhat of a celebrity here, and some things that were out of his control would have a negative effect."

• The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times reported that South Florida's basketball program avoided serious penalties for a collection of secondary violations, one of which involved a Maryland freshman.

Assistant basketball coach Reggie Hanson was cited for a violation in October. He gave $40 in cash to recruit Pe'Shon Howard for meal reimbursements during an official visit. Recruits can be reimbursed, but coaches can't do it with cash. The penalty was a letter of admonishment.

Football recruiting

Andrew Zeller, a three-star offensive tackle from Red Lion (Pa.) High, committed to Maryland on Thursday.

"It went well," Zeller told the York Dispatch. "I spoke with the coaches and announced to them that I would like to (verbally) commit and they were all very excited to hear that I was finally going to commit."

Check back with Recruiting Report this weekend for more on Zeller's commitment.

• ESPN.com's Jamie Newberg broke down Maryland's 2011 recruiting class, including his take on the Terps' wide receiver haul.

[Marcus] Leak, a three-star prospect from Parkwood High School (Monroe, N.C.), is a big play threat who can get behind the defense and cause problems by getting yards after the catch. Joining him is another receiver from the Tar Heel state -- Nigel King. King (Wakefield/Raleigh, N.C.) is bigger (6-3/200) and more physical than Leak and great in the air. With receiver being a big need for this offense, Maryland is off to a very good start with this duo.

• St. John's (D.C.) defensive tackle Kevin McReynolds updated Rivals.com this week on his lengthy list of suitors.

“It’s kind of a soft top 14,” he said. “The list includes Oregon, Arkansas, North Carolina, UCLA, Mississippi State, Auburn, Texas Tech, Ohio State, Illinois, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, East Carolina, Maryland and Kansas State.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 11:19 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Weekly recruiting roundup
        

July 1, 2010

Q&A with Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos

Jimmy Patsos thinks back to Loyola’s 2009-10 season and shakes his head.

Two key injuries, Patsos says, prevented the Greyhounds from having their fourth winning season in his sixth year on the job. This season, however, Patsos thinks a veteran crew and four promising newcomers could return Loyola to its winning ways.

Patsos will welcome three freshmen to the Greyhounds’ roster this season: Dylon Cormier, a 6-foot-2 point guard from Cardinal Gibbons, Justin Drummond, a 6-foot-4 wing from Riverdale Baptist, and Pierson Williams, a 6-foot-5 wing from Taft High in Los Angeles. Loyola also adds Erik Etherly, a 6-foot-7 sophomore power forward who sat out last year after transferring from Northeastern.

Patsos spoke with Recruiting Report last week about Loyola’s 2010 recruiting class.

jimmy-patsos-loyola.jpg

Cormier’s a guy you landed early who proceeded to have an All-Metro season. What do you like about him and what did you see from him as a senior?

I got him early because Greg Manning found him early. He’s got Greg Manning following him, and we watch the [Baltimore] Catholic League all the time. But you could tell. He was a scoring point guard. He wasn’t getting much help from his team, and there are good coaches in that league, but he was still scoring. I love the family. His mother has done a tremendous job, his stepfather, and his little brother is a player. He’s just the ultimate basketball player. He wants to win. He can score it. He’s a great kid and he wants to step up on the court, which is what you want. He was, at times, the best player in the Baltimore Catholic League.

Cormier said one of the things that attracted him to Loyola was watching you ride your team during a practice. Does he kind of have a personality that mirrors yours in a way?

Yeah, I’ve calmed down, too, but I think he’s going to be the kind of guy that you count on. He’s just as enthusiastic and always encouraging [his teammates]. He’s a high-energy guy and he plays with a lot of flair. You just saw what Greivis Vasquez did with a lot of flair and personality and swagger. It might be a lesser version of that, but he’s got some of that. I like what Greivis did this year. He got them revved up with his type of personality and he made a lot of plays. I like that.

How did Drummond’s senior season turn out, and how beneficial will his earlier prep school experience be for next year?

He did well. He’s a big guard that’s not grown into his body. He played the 4 this year, but he’s young at 17 years old. He’s really smart and he can really score the ball. He’s going to be a good player. It’s going to take him a year to catch up to his size this year, but he’ll eventually be a 2/3.

Is he a guy with a lot of versatility?

I think that’s what he does bring – versatility. He’s going to do a little bit of everything. He can catch and shoot at our level. You’ve got to learn and be ready to score at the speed of our game. Once Justin catches up, that’ll be the difference. But he can do all the little stuff for a guard. He’s a tough player and he gets after it as a defender.

How did you get involved with Williams all the way out in Los Angeles?

I’ve been in L.A. before, from [recruiting] Trevor Ariza to Leon Powe [when I was at Maryland]. We were finalists but didn’t get them. But [Ekene] Ibekwe and [D.J.] Strawberry we got. Ever since then, [I’ve kept up with] Gary McKnight at Mater Dei. At Mater Dei, we talk about kids and we had a scholarship [to give]. [McKnight] talked about Pierson Williams, who had six 3s against them. So I took a look at him. Jordan Farmar was from there, they’re sending a kid to USC for basketball and a bunch of kids [to Div. 1 schools] for football. I saw him, had him visit and had a feeling. He reminds me of Delonte West. He had six 3s in the playoffs against Mater Dei, an extremely well-coached team. He can catch and shoot, and he’s growing. At 6-5, he’s a 3 man.

But I like kids from L.A., and the little things they bring to the table. He’s a good athlete and he’s long. He’s got good upside. He’s a flat-out shooter. That’s what he does. So we got him late. Sometimes a late kid is what you need. He’s a great kid, good personality. He comes from a strong program and he’s a kid I like from L.A.

What did you see from Etherly in the past year and what can be expected of him as a sophomore?

He’s going to be a 4-man at our level. He can run and post up, score from the foul line. He’s tough. He has a little Ron Artest in him to be honest with you. He’s not as big and tough, but he’s like him in a lot of ways. It was a tremendous signing for us. He’s stronger, he’s quicker, and I know he’s happier. His energy level is good and I know he’s going to start for us. That guy’s starting for us. We hoped he would come in and compete for the starting job. But with him and Anthony Winbush, who’s coming off his ACL injury, they’re going to do a lot of things. Winbush didn’t play from January, February on. That really hurt us because he’s our best defensive player. But Etherly and Shane Walker are going to give us a chance to be a much better defensive team. Cormier and [Brian] Rudolph at the point give us versatility. And [Julius] Brooks and Josh Wiegand, who sat out last year, can emerge. Josh is a big guy. He kind of reminds me of Bill Laimbeer. He can make shots.

Talk about your relationship with Jamal Barney and your expectations for him this season.

You look back at some things, and sometimes you make a mountain out of a molehill. That was on him. There was a lot of stuff in his life. He has a child and there were a lot of different things going on that he didn’t handle well. But I know one thing. He knew he wasn’t prepared enough coming into last year. But I know he’s not making that mistake this year. He’s really stepped up. That’s good news. All of our best players are going to play. I’m the head coach, and the substitutions will be dictated by me. I thought we had some issues last year. There was a lot going in our favor but we were one injury away from having a good season. [Brett] Harvey got hurt and was out for a couple weeks and then we lost our best defensive player in Anthony Winbush. That hurt. We were headed in the right direction, but it’s been two years. We can win this year with Barney working and really making an effort right now. It makes me happy. We’ve got young guys that have got to blend. But I’m as excited as I’ve been in a few years to coach this team.

Andre [Collins] was easy to coach. Gerald Brown was such a competitor. Then two years ago, we had minor issues that were my fault. We were working on some quirks. Then with some guys leaving, last year we battled. We beat two NCAA teams in Morgan and Vermont. We were tied with West Virginia at the half and we beat Indiana on the road. Then all of sudden Winbush gets hurt and Harvey goes down. But we competed. We’ve got to take all that and make it happen this year. I get the feeling we’re headed in the right direction. We got a freshman from Baltimore that I think can be a difference maker. I just see it in his eyes. I’m really excited to coach that. I like this team already and it really helps that Cormier is here. He’s a freshman, but I know I like the way he is. Not to take anything away from the other two [freshmen], but he’s what our team needs. He knows what it takes to compete. He’s got that Baltimore competitiveness. I know he’s a player.

The first several years you had an improved record each season, but the past couple years haven’t been quite as smooth. What are your expectations for the coming year?

You always aim for a winning season. That’s our goal this year. It’s very attainable for a couple reasons. We were a couple missed shots and a buzzer-beater away. All I’m saying is we’re right there. You take the injuries away, we were right there [last season]. We’re looking to challenge for the title. Siena was 17-1 in the league and they won an NCAA tournament game and had a player (Kenny Hasbrouck) in the NBA. We have to take advantage of our experience this year. Our league is always good. You have a window at the mid-major level. It’s a roller coaster at this level. We were 1-27 six years ago. I’ve taken some transfers, like Etherly, who could’ve helped out of high school but came back and sat out last year. Josh Wiegand took a year off so Jawann Wright, who helped us, could play. But we’ve got everything lined up. It’s a two-year window with a nice group. We realize that. Sometimes you surprise people early. Then we had some adversity. It was a young team in a really good league. Then you just come up a little short and that’s frustrating.

But we have a good program. We have a great program. We travel and play the best on the road. We have an Under Armour contract. We teach our kids about art and theater. I’ve had three kids get their master’s degrees in six years. We’ve been building the program. We’re on TV. I’m 2-15 in money games. Take those off my record – Duke, N.C. State, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Davidson, Virginia, Boston College [and several others]. You can go down the list. Playing at George Mason -- that game was on MASN. At the school, applications were way up. Is that all me? Of course not. But that’s partly the basketball program. My point is, we had a couple down years, yeah, but we’re looking at the upward part of the roller coaster. We’re ready to climb back up.

Baltimore Sun photo of Jimmy Patsos by Gene Sweeney Jr. / Feb. 26, 2009

Posted by Matt Bracken at 3:52 PM | | Comments (0)
        
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About Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken was a lightly recruited football and tennis prospect out of East Lansing (Mich.) High School in 2001, but spurned all (nonexistent) scholarship offers to attend the University of Michigan. Matt graduated from UM in 2005, earned a master's degree in new media journalism from Northwestern University in 2006, and spent the first 11 months of his career as an online producer / videographer / blogger at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. He has worked at The Baltimore Sun since July 2007, where he currently serves as the deputy sports editor for digital.

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