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October 27, 2010

Former city hoops stars headed to Texas Southern

strong-greene.jpg The paths of Brandon Greene and Omar Strong crossed occasionally throughout their early years of basketball in Baltimore.

Greene (Towson Catholic) and Strong (Douglass) both participated in the 2008 Charm City Challenge, and the pair ran into each other once in awhile at open gyms or workouts.

When Greene and Strong missed NCAA qualifying standards after graduating from high school, both ended up at Cecil College and struck a bond. And when an opportunity to play together for their final two years of college at Texas Southern -- a Division I program in Houston -- presented itself, the Baltimore duo jumped at the chance. Greene and Strong committed to the Tigers earlier this month.

“We were just thinking, two of us [at Cecil could] end up as a package deal,” Greene said. “Me and Omar didn’t realize it was going to be us two. We knew each other before we came to Cecil because we’re both from Baltimore. But me and him got real close my freshman year, and when we both redshirted [last season]. That brought us together even more. Just going on the visit together just made our bond even more, and what we can do at a school like Texas Southern. We talk about it every night.”

Added Strong: “I think it’s going to be really important because I knew Brandon for a very long time. … Me and him are real tight. We bonded with each other, going down to Texas Southern. I’m not going to let him down. I’m thinking it’s going to be [our] show once we get down there. … It’s going to be a good look.”

Greene, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound forward, and Strong, a 5-foot-7 ½, 165-pound guard, were both Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selections as seniors in 2008. Greene averaged 12.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks that year, leading the Owls to their second straight MIAA A Conference championship.

“He had a great senior year,” said Josh Pratt, the former Towson Catholic coach who now leads Pallotti’s girls program. “For him to win the championship after Malcolm [Delaney] and Donte [Greene] left when nobody thought we could do it, that was great. … I just remember Mount St. Joe was 28-2, No. 1 in the Baltimore area, and he’s going against Henry Sims, who’s a 7-footer compared to Brandon, who’s 6-6. And Brandon just put us on his shoulder and really played well that game, along with Vinny [Breckinridge] and Larry [Bastfield] and those guys. But he’s a great kid, and I think fortunately he’s landing in a good program.”

Strong, meanwhile, was a prolific scorer for the Ducks, averaging 22 points, four assists and three steals in leading Douglass to the Class 2A North regional final.

“Looking back, Omar was probably one of the gutsiest kids I’ve ever coached in terms of his tenacity and his will,” said Douglass coach Rodney Coffield. “His tenacity was beyond reproach. … He would come to practice and practice with me, leave and then go to the [YMCA] and shoot another 100 jump shots. So this kid, he just had a will for this game. He loves this game. He loves basketball. It’s kind of paying off for him right now with this opportunity next year at Texas Southern. I think it’s a really good fit for him. I’m excited for him.”

Greene (seven points, seven rebounds per game) and Strong (14 points, three assists) had strong freshmen campaigns for Cecil, but both redshirted last season to shore up their academics. Greene also wanted to fully recover from a nasty concussion he suffered during a summer pickup game.

Both Greene and Strong received plenty of Division I interest outside of Texas Southern. Greene said East Carolina, Hampton, Morgan State, Towson and Western Carolina were involved in his recruitment. Texas Southern, however, stood out from the start.

“I just liked the love that they showed me,” Greene said. “I felt like I was already part of the family when I went down to visit. I just liked the atmosphere, the environment and everything. Just being away from home made me want to grow into more of a man. I just really want to help the team out and help Texas Southern get back to the NCAA tournament, and just be a successful player and a grown man.”

Strong fielded interest from Arkansas-Little Rock, Coastal Carolina, Coppin State, Mercer, Morgan State, UNC-Charlotte and UNC-Wilmington. Finishing college away from home was a priority when it came to picking a school.

“There’s nothing in Baltimore -- a lot of crime going on, a lot of killing,” Strong said. “I think I’ll have a better experience if I go away -- even though I just had a baby, a little boy. He’s four months, but I just can’t really be home. I don’t think at home I’ll be focused. I’ll be doing everything but what I’m supposed to be doing. … [Getting a college degree is] important to me because I want to be the first one in my family to have my son not want for anything. He’s always going to be OK. I’m trying to be the one that makes that happen.”

Before they head to Houston, Greene and Strong will be key components on a highly touted Cecil College squad. The Seahawks enter the 2010-11 season as the No. 3 team in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II poll.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 2:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting

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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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