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March 31, 2011

Digital Harbor's Daquan Cook ready for AAU circuit

daquan-cook-digital-harbor.jpg This winter was a tale of two seasons for Daquan Cook and the Digital Harbor boys basketball team.

Cook was one of several high-profile additions to the Rams’ roster before the season, and the junior combo guard was a major reason for the South Baltimore school’s preseason No. 3 ranking.

Digital Harbor started slow as it struggled to find the right combinations, dropping out of The Sun’s Top 15 poll by January. But Cook said he “was never concerned” about the Rams finding their way.

“I knew our chemistry would come together,” he said. “We just wanted to work harder the second half of the season. We knew what time it was. The second half of the season is where you pick it up, and when the playoffs come, you’ve got to work hard. You can’t take days off in the second half of the season. We put the first half of the season behind us.”

Cook, 6 feet 2, 175 pounds, shared ball-handling duties with senior Kevin Smith, and the duo developed a strong rapport throughout Baltimore City league play and into the state playoffs, culminating with a 64-46 win over Easton in the Class 2A championship game.

“It was a great experience,” said Cook, who averaged around 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists. “Everybody wants to make it to Comcast Center, but everybody can’t make it. So we were thankful that we made it. We worked hard for it and deserved it.”

There was little time for him to sit back and soak up the title thanks to the spring AAU season starting. Last July, Cook led Nike Baltimore Elite’s 16-and-under team to the Super Showcase AAU tournament title in Orlando. This year, however, Cook is suiting up for the Under Armour Elite Panthers -- a first-year program led by St. Frances coach Mark Karcher and Cook's cousin, Dwayne Wise.

“It was a very tough decision for me,” Cook said. “Coming off the national championship with my teammates, we had a very good season – a long, hard season, hard practices. I knew I was going to miss my coaches, too -- Coach [Darrell] Corbett. It was a very tough decision for me.”

Cook -- who helped the Panthers to a 2-0 record last weekend at the inaugural Karcher & Wise Spring Classic at St. Frances -- said he looks forward to more “exposure” this spring and summer on the circuit. He already has a long list of colleges that have been in contact, including George Washington, Kentucky, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Rhode Island, South Florida, Temple, UConn, UNC-Wilmington, VCU, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. The Bulls have already extended a scholarship offer.

“First, I like [South Florida assistant coach Eric] Skeeters,” Cook said. “He’s from Baltimore. So I’ve got to start right there. They had a good point guard in Dominique Jones, and that’s basically what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to work hard at point guard and play at the next level.”

A second-team Baltimore Sun All-Metro selection, Cook has had plenty of exposure to the ACC schools on his list. He has visited Blacksburg before, chatted with Hokies coach Seth Greenberg, and appreciated Towson Catholic grad Malcolm Delaney’s success there. Maryland, meanwhile, continues to closely monitor Cook’s progress.

“Coach Bino [Ranson], he comes to a lot of my games, comes to see me play,” Cook said. “He got me to talk to Coach Gary Williams one time. And that would be a good situation for me, too. They have two freshmen point guards. I would be playing against them and working hard in practice.”

The Owls are another program that has followed Cook for quite some time.

“They would be a good situation for me because their point guard is a junior right now,” Cook said. “I’m a junior, too. When he graduates, I’ll come right in and hopefully take his minutes if I decided to go to Temple.”

Cook said he’s focused now on the AAU season, where he expects to play the role of “a scorer, a leader and a floor general” for the Panthers. He’s hoping that this summer will provide similar success to what he experienced earlier this month at Digital Harbor.

“I’m just looking to work hard, play against the top players in the country and have some good teammates so we can win some tournaments and get a lot of exposure.”

Baltimore Sun photo of Daquan Cook by Gene Sweeney Jr. / Feb. 28, 2011

Posted by Matt Bracken at 12:25 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

March 30, 2011

Strong start for Nike Baltimore Elite's 16s

Jamel Williams was cautiously optimistic before the start of the spring AAU basketball season.

Nike Baltimore Elite’s 16-and-under coach had great success with the 15-and-under team last year, and returned the core of that team this spring.

“So this year when we started practice, it was like we never missed a beat,” Williams said. “They came back in, knew their teammates, had the structure, and that just carried over from last year.”

Last weekend, Williams’ optimism was affirmed with NBE’s runner-up finish in the New Jersey Spring Fling -- a 32-team tournament featuring some of the top programs on the East Coast.

Nike Baltimore Elite dropped a 76-72 overtime game to the host New Jersey Playaz in the championship game.

With big men Mike Owona and Christian Owona still playing for John Carroll -- the Baltimore Catholic League champions play in the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep this week -- Williams had to look elsewhere for help in the post. Dashawnte Lloyd, a 6-foot-1 ½, 260-pound forward from City, was up to the task.

“Almost every team in the tournament had kids 6-8, 6-9,” Williams said. “He shut them down, keeping them away from the basket. He did a great job on everybody in the tournament. He was the tournament favorite because of the way he battled with kids six, seven inches taller than that. He outworked them.”

Williams doesn’t keep track of offensive stats, choosing instead of focus on his “hustle chart,” which consists of rebounds, steals, charges, blocks, assists and forced turnovers. But whenever NBE needed a big bucket, Vermont Academy’s Daquein McNeil -- a former Carver standout -- usually delivered.

“His athletic ability has always been there,” Williams said of McNeil, who was on spring break from Vermont Academy. “But he has grown since [he left Baltimore]. He’s mature now. … He was extremely successful because of the hard work. He worked so hard. He was able to rebound, able to score, able to defend, and that was the team as a whole. A lot of his success was because of contributions from his teammates working as a cohesive unit.”

Mount St. Joseph guard Kameron Williams -- a first-team BCL selection as a sophomore -- also stood out offensively for NBE.

“He did a phenomenal job at this on his first year with our team,” Williams said. “He stepped right in and it was very comfortable. It was just like he played with us last year.”

A.J. Fisher (St. Frances), Daxter Miles (Dunbar), Tayshawn Scott (McDonogh), Rashard Todd (Mount Carmel) and Deshawn Wells (Perry Hall) also made valuable contributions to NBE’s run to the final.

Nike Baltimore Elite will host its own tournament May 6-8 at CCBC-Catonsville. Williams hopes his squad’s success continues there, and on the road as the AAU season progresses. He’s confident he has the right group of players to make it happen.

“We sort of have our own identity because our kids, some of our kids are not nationally known kids,” Williams said. “They just work hard. They just work so hard in practice and actually get along with each other. They enjoy playing with each other and accept their roles. A lot of that results in a lot of wins.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 9:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

March 29, 2011

McDonogh DE Allen Jackson picks ACC school

Allen Jackson had no interest whatsoever in getting caught up in a protracted recruiting process.

So the McDonogh defensive end set a self-imposed deadline for making his college choice.

“I didn’t want to wait it out,” Jackson said. “I knew my birthday -- August 4th -- was my cutoff. It was the last day I wanted to be thinking about college. I just wanted to decide and play my senior year and … just enjoy it like a regular high school senior.”

On Saturday afternoon, Jackson beat his deadline by more than four months by committing to Duke during an unofficial visit to Durham, N.C. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior picked the Blue Devils over offers from Maryland, Rutgers, Vanderbilt and West Virginia.

The commitment, Jackson said, felt like “the right decision to make” for a variety of reasons.

“Definitely the value of a Duke degree [was a major factor],” Jackson said. “The first day I got there, I talked to [Duke coach David Cutcliffe]. He seemed like a great, genuine person who definitely has plans for taking the program to the greatest heights. And that definitely caught my eye and put them up high on my list.”

The recruiting process started for Jackson the summer before his junior year when he landed a scholarship offer from Maryland. His stock rose after he recorded 87 tackles, nine sacks, four blocked punts and two forced fumbles for the Eagles last fall.

When the Blue Devils offered a scholarship to Jackson two months ago, he wasn’t quite sure what to think.

“I actually knew Duke as more of a basketball school,” Jackson said. “Football wasn’t particularly as strong. … Once I met Coach Cutcliffe, and all the staff that he put in place and the system that he put in place, I know for a fact that this year and the coming years Duke is going to win some ball games and put itself on the map.”

Jackson said the Blue Devils and Scarlet Knights were the front-runners heading into his visit to Durham, but he had no intention of committing at that time. Over the course of the weekend, however, Jackson softened on that stance. The Eagles standout sat in on player meetings, talked extensively with Cutcliffe and Duke defensive line coach Rick Petri, toured the campus and spent ample time at the football facilities.

Before Duke’s spring game kicked off Saturday, Jackson pulled Cutcliffe aside and delivered the good news.

“He was ecstatic,” Jackson said. “He said he was the happiest man in Durham.”

The response to Jackson’s Duke commitment among his friends and teachers at McDonogh has been almost unanimously supportive and complimentary. The lone exception might have been fellow Eagles defensive end Roman Braglio, a Maryland pledge who had hoped Jackson would join him in College Park.

“Right now, we’re not at each other’s throats. We’ll see,” Jackson said with a laugh.

For now, Jackson’s just excited to have beaten his commitment deadline by finding the right school for him.

“That whole day, I said the words ‘I committed,’ but it hasn’t really quite sunk in,” Jackson said. “It was really nice having all the staff congratulating me. The feeling was a great feeling to have. … [Now] I’m definitely just going to work out, going to lift, and do my best so that Duke football is at its best.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 1:59 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

March 28, 2011

Season recap: Chloe Pavlech

Chloe Pavlech's junior season got off to a rocky start this winter, but the Sycamore High star finished strong.

Pavlech, a 5-foot-9 point guard from Cincinnati who committed to Maryland last June, had her wisdom teeth taken out and had an operation on her eardrum right before the start of her season.

While recovering from those procedures, Pavlech – who was coming off a back injury as a sophomore – got bit by the injury bug again with nagging hip and ankle ailments.

“She was laboring,” said Aviators coach Paula Hayden. “With those nagging injuries, she was missing a ton of practice. The first few weeks of the season, she never put in a full week of practice. She’s the type of kid that stays after practice and works on her shooting. She comes in Sunday to work on shooting. She couldn’t do that.”

Pavlech endured and finally got back to full strength by “the last seven or eight games of the season” – save for a bout of strep throat in Sycamore’s two-point, season-ending loss in the district finals. The future Terp came up big for the Aviators in the sectional finals with a game-winning bucket with 12 seconds remaining.

Hayden said Pavlech faced stiff competition on a nightly basis, thanks in large part to her status as a future ACC player.

“I think that the pressure of her verballing to Maryland had a lot to do with it in the beginning of the season,” Hayden said. “I think that everyone … didn’t look at her like a teenager or a 16-year-old anymore. They looked at her as a Maryland Terrapin. And she’s obviously going to grow much more. … I think that the outside put more pressure on her than she put on herself.”

Pavlech excelled for Sycamore (17-6) when she was healthy, averaging 11.8 points. She led the team in rebounds (5.4 per game), steals (2.6) and assists (2.4). She improved her shooting percentages across the board from sophomore to junior year, including 10-percent increases at the foul line (80 percent) and beyond the arc (34 percent). Pavlech also shot 43 percent from the field, an increase of five percentage points.

For her efforts, Pavlech was a first-team all league, first-team coaches association, and second-team Southwest District – composed of players from the Cincinnati and Dayton areas – selection. Hayden has high hopes for Pavlech's senior season at Sycamore.

“I just think next year she’s going to have an amazing year,” Hayden said. “We have a big core of our team coming back. I think next year is her year. We had a couple seniors on our team. It was almost like she didn’t want to step on their feet sometimes. But next year, I think she’s going to have an amazing year. The kids get along really great. I’m excited about it. It could be the best group I’ve ever had next year. And she obviously will be one of the big reasons for that.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 1:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Season recaps
        

Unsigned hoops prospects event near D.C.

For any high school senior or junior college prospect still looking for a place to play basketball in college, here's your chance.

iHoops is hosting a one-day camp for unsigned players on April 9 at Hoop Magic in Chantilly, Va. There will be Division II, Division III, NAIA, and junior college coaches on hand. It’s a free event. iHoops will review all applicants.

Click here for more information on the event. The registration deadline is Wednesday.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 8:34 AM | | Comments (1)
        

March 25, 2011

AAU tournament in city this weekend

Some of Baltimore's best high school basketball talent will be on display this weekend as the spring AAU season tips off.

The inaugural Karcher & Wise Spring Classic will feature teams from three age groups – 15s, 16s and 17s – all day Saturday and Sunday at St. Frances.

The Baltimore Under Armour Panthers and Cecil Kirk are two of the more high-profile programs scheduled to participate. The Panthers’ 16-and-under squad features Patterson point guard Aquille Carr, and the 17-and-under team has Digital Harbor’s Daquan Cook.

Check out Charm City Finest for a complete tournament schedule.

All games will be played at St. Frances. This post earlier stated that the Carmelo Anthony Youth Center would also host games, but that's not the case.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 1:02 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Weekly recruiting roundup

Thanks to Justin Anderson's commitment last week, the Maryland coaching staff has now turned its attention toward finding a post player for the 2012 class.

Shaquille Cleare, a 6-foot-9, 285-pound center from The Village School in Houston, has emerged as a top target.

Head coach Gary Williams and his staff watched Cleare play earlier in the week and have made him a priority on the recruiting trail.

• UM center target Desmond Hubert was named to phillyburbs.com's All-County team.

Hubert averaged 14.6 points per game (19.8 during the playoffs) while leading the Warriors to their second Central Jersey Group 1 final in three seasons. Hubert has narrowed his college choices to the universities of Maryland and North Carolina.

• Testudo Times this week took a look at Maryland's three commitments for the 2011 class. Click here for Nick Faust, here for Sterling Gibbs and here for Martin Breunig.

• Gibbs is in the running for the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger's boys basketball Player of the Year award.

• DeMatha center and Terps target Bee Jay Anya has been named to USA Basketball's men’s developmental national team.

Anya, who is 6 feet 8 and 290 pounds, had a breakout season, earning attention from college coaches across the nation as he averaged 8.9 points and was a presence inside at both ends of the court.

• The Sun Gazette of Williamsport, Pa., named Terps women's commitment Tierney Pfirman its girls basketball Player of the Year.

Pfirman, a 6-foot-1 guard who can play all five positions, averaged 29.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 6.2 steals and 4.6 assists per game while leading South to a 17-3 record before a stress fracture injury forced her to miss its last three games. Pfirman recorded a double-double nearly every game and never scored fewer than 23 points per game.

Football recruiting

• Maryland has plenty of company in its pursuit of Potomac athlete Ronald Darby.

North Carolina was the first to offer Darby following his freshman season and Maryland wasn't too far behind. Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, FSU, Miami, Michigan, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, USC and many more have offered since. So far he has visited only Maryland. Darby plans to attend the Notre Dame spring game on April 16.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 10:14 AM | | Comments (32)
Categories: Weekly recruiting roundup
        

March 24, 2011

Season recap: Nick Faust

nick-faust-season-recap.jpg For better or worse, Nick Faust began his senior season at City with "an unbelievable amount of hype."

The 6-foot-6 shooting guard capped an acclaimed run on the AAU circuit with Nike Baltimore Elite by signing with Maryland right before the high school boys basketball season began. Knights coach Mike Daniel worried that Faust was receiving “too much” attention.

“That’s a lot for a kid to handle,” Daniel said. “He’s got to come in academically and do well in school. He’s got to handle that and basketball. And then Nick also has got to handle himself. You know how kids are.”

It didn’t take long for Daniel to realize that Faust was up to the task.

“One thing I found out is that Nick has a lot of guts,” Daniel said. “And you don’t have to tell him to turn it on when he needed to turn it on. So I thought that he did a pretty good job with that, absolutely.”

As a junior, Faust helped City win its second-straight Class 2A state championship. With Knights post players Jordan Latham (Xavier) and Aron Nwankwo (Pittsburgh) off to college, Faust stepped up his game to the tune of 22 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. City (16-9) fell short of its three-peat attempt, but Daniel was impressed with the improvement in Faust’s all-around game.

“He had the ability to run the point guard position to get into the offense,” Daniel said. “He also showed the ability to rebound. And it was really noticeable in the Dunbar game. When we played, he just rebounded the basketball like nobody’s business. It seems like at that point after, he would get six or seven rebounds every game. So he showed tremendous fortitude. His intensity really, really improved from last year. A lot of that is him stepping up to be a senior now.

“There were quite a few games that he showed a remarkable improvement, and a willingness to take big shots. After coming off last year, we kind of missed our big guys, our inside game. And Nick improved all year with that. So he just wasn’t a [one-dimensional] player. His versatility, I think, improved 110 percent. And last but not least, Nick has become a true competitor. He doesn’t have to be told to compete.”

Faust’s reputation after his junior year was “basically a shooter.” This year, the future Terp developed into a more well-rounded scorer, showcasing an ability to “put it on the floor and get to the rack.” As Faust adds strength to his lanky frame, Daniel expects his game to improve even more.

“His mental approach to the game has improved, I’m going to say 80 percent,” Daniel said. “At times, Nick is a beast. … I’ve just never seen a player’s versatility improve like that from one year to the next. His IQ for the game, it’s going to get better as he gets older. But it definitely improved from last year.”

Daniel expects Faust to make an impact for the Terps during his freshman year. The City coach thinks Faust – who may not be done growing yet – will add a scoring punch to Maryland from Day One.

“I think he’ll be able to fill the void or that hole that Maryland has right now – the ability to put the basketball in the bucket on a consistent basis,” Daniel said. “His ability to shoot the ball and take the ball inside and get to the hoop, I think all those things are going to make Nick a heck of a player. I expect him to have, if not a great freshman year, a good freshman year.”

Baltimore Sun photo of Nick Faust by Amy Davis / Feb. 24, 2011

Posted by Matt Bracken at 1:41 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Season recaps
        

March 23, 2011

Milford Mill's Tevin Hanner picks Loyola

tevin-hanner-loyola.jpg For Tevin Hanner, senior year has been all about leading Milford Mill to its second-straight Class 3A state championship.

With that mission accomplished earlier this month, the 6-foot-5, 185-pound small forward was ready to focus on recruiting. On Monday afternoon, Hanner decided to continue his basketball career close to home by committing to Loyola.

“I felt like it was time,” Hanner said Tuesday. “I felt that it was the perfect fit for me, both academically and athletically. And I felt that based on talking with my family and everything. They felt that I’m ready, so I had to do it. There was no reason to wait.”

Hanner, a Baltimore Sun second-team All-Metro selection, was also recruited by Robert Morris, St. Francis (Pa.) and Towson – before the Tigers made a coaching change. Varsity Sports Network first reported Hanner’s commitment.

Hanner joined the Millers’ JV squad as a freshman before being elevated to varsity by the end of the year. Milford Mill coach Albert Holley called Hanner one of the “hardest-working, most determined players” he has ever coached.

“Tevin’s the kind of player that does it all,” Holley said. “He works hard, he plays hard, he defends, he rebounds, he scores. In practice, he makes all his teammates better. He’s a large part of it.”

As a senior, Hanner averaged about 13 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals. He scored 17 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in the Millers' 56-44 win over Centennial in the state title game. Holley said Hanner’s “freakish athleticism” separates him from other wings his age. That attribute should serve him well at Loyola.

“I think at some point, he can be an all-league player,” Holley said. “He has the work ethic and the skills. That’s the key for him in college -- playing for a coach like Jimmy Patsos that demands and pushes real hard.”

Loyola started showing interest in Hanner during his junior year, but ramped up its pursuit last summer. Patsos and Greyhounds assistant coach Greg Manning served as a “one-two punch” in recruiting Hanner. The coaching staff was a major draw for him.

“Patsos really did it for me,” Hanner said. “He showed me how much of a good coach and a people person he is throughout the whole recruiting process, especially when I went on my official visit. … He was real honest. Being in the recruiting process for so long, you kind of see who was beating around the bush and who was not. Patsos was one of those people.”

Whenever Hanner had a question about Loyola, former Cardinal Gibbons standout Dylon Cormier – a Greyhounds freshman – was happy to provide an answer. Hanner and Cormier are “good friends” thanks to their time spent playing for Crusader Nation on the summer circuit.

With Hanner, Cormier, former John Carroll center Josh Wiegand, and St. Frances point guard R.J. Williams – who committed to the Greyhounds in December – on the roster, Loyola will have a decidedly local flavor next season.

“It proves that they’re trying to put Baltimore on the map with people in-state instead of going out and recruiting people out of state,” Hanner said. “Basically, why not do it with the guys that are here? There’s a lot of talent in Baltimore.”

Hanner sees some parallels between Loyola’s program now and Milford Mill when he started high school. The Millers were “an average program” then, but thanks to “a couple pieces put together and great coaching from Coach Holley,” they are now Baltimore County’s unquestioned power. Hanner hopes for similar results with the Greyhounds. He can’t wait to get started.

“It’s a special feeling,” Hanner said. “All my hard work I put in, all the years finally paid off.”

Photo by of Tevin Hanner by Steve Ruark for The Baltimore Sun / March 12, 2011

Posted by Matt Bracken at 11:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

March 22, 2011

College hoops spotlight: USF's Eric Skeeters

eric-skeeters-south-florida.jpg At every step in his climb up the proverbial college basketball coaching ladder, Eric Skeeters has learned an invaluable lesson.

Many of the lessons imparted to Skeeters – a Baltimore native now serving as an assistant coach at South Florida – came during his time working under Coppin State’s Fang Mitchell.

“I had to finish a scouting report for a game one time,” Skeeters recalled. “Fang came in the office the next day and said, ‘Did you get a chance to finish that report?’

“I said, ‘No, not yet. I’m almost done now.’

“Fang said, ‘Well did you sleep last night?’

“‘Yeah.’

“‘Well then you had time to do it.’”

It's been 12 years since Skeeters left Coppin. At South Florida, he enjoys coaching in the most high-profile basketball conference in the country. But the lengthy path that led to Tampa was predominantly paved thanks to his experience playing and coaching in Baltimore.

Skeeters started his high school career at Cardinal Gibbons before moving on to Woodlawn. After graduating from high school in 1986, Skeeters headed to CCBC-Catonsville, starring on the basketball and lacrosse teams. After a knee injury ended his playing career, Skeeters turned to coaching – on the AAU circuit and at the Bentalou Recreation Center in West Baltimore.

While Skeeters worked on his bachelor’s degree at Coppin State, William Wells, the venerable St. Frances basketball coach, offered him a job coaching the Panthers’ junior varsity in 1992. For four years, Skeeters helped build St. Frances – which didn’t have a gym at the time – into a perennial Baltimore Catholic League contender. He also started to earn a reputation – that still holds to this day – as a tireless recruiter.

“I say this all the time, but in recruiting, the biggest signing I’ve had was convincing Mark Karcher to go to St. Frances over the defending national champions in Dunbar,” Skeeters said. “Mark was the best prospect in the eighth grade playing on the East Coast. So coming up, getting Mark to come to St. Frances was the hardest job ever. Then we had to convince him to stay. Oak Hill, St. John’s Prospect Hall, all of them came after him. … We had to sell Mark not on being the next, but on being the first. A great player comes to a program and opens the doors for a Sean Mosley. Now they’ll be compared to you.”

Skeeters left St. Frances in 1996 to join Coppin’s staff. At that point, Mitchell had already established the Eagles as the MEAC’s preeminent power. Skeeters did all he could to enhance that success.

“Those years at Coppin,” Skeeters said, “I learned everything you needed to do to be successful at any level, from admissions to academic support to financial aid to scouting to scheduling to recruiting to player development to marketing. Fang was the AD, so we were involved in all that. We were involved in every aspect. So I learned everything about being a college coach in my years at Coppin with Fang.”

During Skeeters’ three seasons on North Ave., Coppin went 58-30 with three regular-season conference titles. In 1997, the 15th-seeded Eagles pulled off one of college basketball’s most memorable upsets, topping second-seeded South Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“We had to sell the success,” Skeeters said. “In the 90s, Fang owned the league. We won our share.”

Skeeters left Coppin in 1999 for Youngstown State, where he worked under John Robic -- now an assistant at Kentucky -- for four seasons. Then came a one-year stint at Virginia Tech, where Skeeters helped recruit a Top-25 class headlined by future pro Deron Washington.

When the opportunity to come back to Baltimore in 2004 as an assistant at Towson presented itself, Skeeters jumped at the chance. Five years later, South Florida coach Stan Heath came calling, and Skeeters headed to Tampa for the biggest challenge of his coaching career.

“Being back at the [high-major] level, it’s all what I expected,” Skeeters said. “Everybody knows how good this league is. Night in and night out, it’s a pro league. In order to be successful at this level, you have to be good. The league is full of great coaches. There are no rocking-chair games in the Big East. You can’t sit back and say, ‘OK, we can take it easy tonight.’ Every night in the Big East, every night is a national championship-level game.”

In Skeeters’ first season in Tampa, the Bulls went 20-13 – the program’s third 20-win season ever. Despite having a .500 record in the Big East, South Florida was left out of the NCAA tournament field. The Bulls followed that up with a disappointing 10-23 campaign this year.

“We had nine losses by single digits where we had the lead in the second half,” Skeeters said. “That’s just how tough the Big East is. But overall, it was definitely a year we didn’t expect. You lose a guy like Dominique Jones in the first round of the NBA draft, it’s hard to recoup that. We won 20 games last year, but lost a guy in May to the draft. His dreams came true. But we’ll be pretty good and back in the mix next year.”

The Bulls have signed two intriguing post prospects in Andre Jackson and Jordan Omogbehin. They’ll also add Victor Rudd, a transfer from Arizona State, onto the active roster. Skeeters thinks Rudd could be “one of the better perimeter players in the Big East.” In the meantime, Skeeters will do what he does best – recruit.

“We’ve established that you can win at South Florida,” Skeeters said. “South Florida is a sleeping giant, a diamond in the rough in the best conference with the best location. Right now it’s 77 degrees and sunny in Tampa, Fla. Up in Connecticut, it’s snowing. We think we have the best location in the league. Obviously, we’re in the best conference in college basketball. This is a hard sell, but it’s not that hard to sell because players coming in can be difference makers.”

Whatever the future in coaching holds for Skeeters, he’ll always look back on his basketball upbringing in Baltimore, where he learned the trade from Wells, Mitchell, and countless others. A piece of advice from Coppin’s longtime coach still resonates to this day.

“Fang sat me down and said, ‘You have an opportunity there to do something that so many people would want.’ I was like, ‘Come on, Fang. I just got the JV job at St. Frances.’ And he said, ‘but you have a job coaching basketball. And that right there is a fortunate thing.’ I’ll never forget that. You go back over the years, this job opens, that job opens – it didn’t matter where it was. It didn’t matter if it was little, tiny St. Frances. I got paid $175 every two weeks. It wasn’t for anything else besides being in coaching, developing kids, and the love of the game and building something.”

2006 Baltimore Sun photo of Eric Skeeters by Gene Sweeney Jr.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 3:22 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: College hoops spotlight
        

March 21, 2011

Maryland the 'perfect deal' for Nick Brigham

Many prospective college football recruits have a dream school. Nick Brigham, however, had a dream coach.

Brigham, an offensive lineman from the Marist School in Atlanta, grew up rooting for Connecticut – his mother’s alma mater. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior watched the Huskies ascend from D-IAA competition to a BCS bowl under Randy Edsall.

“I hadn’t really been hearing from Maryland before Coach Edsall,” Brigham said. “I was hopeful, but I didn’t really know. I watched Maryland football growing up and loved the program. … [Then] they started showing heavy interest, and gave me the offer. When Coach Edsall got there, it just made it the perfect deal. That’s really what made it a great fit for me, and one of the reasons why I committed.”

Brigham visited College Park almost two weeks ago during his spring break, and pledged to the Terps shortly thereafter. Maryland was his first scholarship offer.

Brigham’s recent trip to Maryland wasn’t the first time he had a chance to meet Edsall. After his ninth-grade year, Brigham went to UConn’s summer football camp and earned MVP honors for the offensive line group. During that camp, Brigham got an up-close look at how Edsall operates.

“He’s a great guy, a really stand-up guy,” Brigham said. “It sounds weird, but I work better within a defined system. He’s a very organized coach. He tells you exactly what he expects from you, [and] explains what he wants. You do it, he loves you for it, and you’re one of his boys. If you tell me what to do, I’ll do it. I love working in that type of system. That’s how I was raised, how I grew up. That’s what I love about Coach Edsall.”

Marist coach Alan Chadwick inserted Brigham into his starting offensive line as a sophomore, with “exceptional” results. Junior year wasn’t quite as good, with Brigham battling a nagging ankle injury. But Chadwick has a pretty good idea of why Brigham was a coveted recruit for the Terps.

“He has a tremendously strong lower body, big thighs, big hips, great leg drive and he comes off [the ball] hard,” Chadwick said. “He really comes off and gets after it. He’s not just another big guy who lumbers off the ball. We’re an option-based team. We’re in the four-point stance, coming off hard and low every single time. That kind of tenacity and intensity, I think, is something that attracts peoples’ attention.”

The Maryland coaches didn’t have to do much selling on the merits of the football program to Brigham, who will likely play offensive guard for the Terps. What was of greater importance to Brigham was Maryland’s academic reputation. A 3.9 student who scored a 1,410 (out of 1,600) on the SAT, Brigham spent part of his visit to College Park meeting with advisers and professors in the chemistry and biology departments.

“I didn’t really know Maryland was such a good science school,” Brigham said. “I knew it was a very good university. When I actually went there, it was very advanced and up-to-date. Their science programs have so many opportunities in the job field. I love football, but I want to have an education that’s going to get me to the next step. Yeah, the NFL is a great dream. That’s definitely my goal. But if that doesn’t happen, I don’t want to have a college degree that’s not going to get me anywhere.”

Playing for Edsall and getting a good education were top priorities for Brigham, but he also wanted to make sure he felt comfortable on campus. Several of his relatives who played sports in college urged him to hold off on making a commitment until he found a school that put him completely at ease.

“They all told me, ‘when you go to the place you’re meant for, you’ll know it,’” Brigham said. “If you’re going to go somewhere, make sure you can go there even if you didn’t play a sport. What if something, God forbid, happens? Are you still going to be happy going to college there without sports?

"And so I went there, looked at it completely, objectively. Would I still love this campus even if I didn’t have football? And I said, yeah. I love the campus. It’s a great place academically, great professors, great football program, great coaches, great guys, great campus. It wasn’t really too hard of a decision to make.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 12:18 PM | | Comments (2)
        

March 19, 2011

Prep school forward 'a great get' for Loyola

When it came to the evaluation of Chen "David" Cai, every Loyola basketball coach had his say.

Greyhounds assistant coach Luke D’Allesio discovered the 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward on a trip to Lee Academy in Maine to scout point guard Rodney Beldo. D’Allesio evidently liked what he saw of Chen.

Loyola assistant Greg Manning checked out Chen for himself during Lee’s game against Maine Central Institute.

“It was David’s coming-out party in the sense that he could play against high-level competition,” said Lee Academy coach Andrew Papaefthemiou. “Greg went back and told Coach [Jimmy] Patsos, ‘I think we should get on that guy.’ G.G. Smith came to the next game, and Coach Patsos came next week. The whole staff got the chance to see David play. I feel like coaches should be rewarded for how hard they work [in recruiting]. They definitely did with David.”

Chen, who was also recruited by Maine, Santa Clara, UC-Santa Barbara and Utah Valley, committed to the Greyhounds last week. The prep school prospect averaged 12.5 points and seven rebounds for the Pandas (18-23), shooting better than 40 percent from the field, 37 percent from 3-point range, and 75 percent from the foul line.

Before playing for Lee Academy, Chen – originally from China – starred for Maranatha Christian High in San Diego. He was embroiled in an improper benefits scandal and deemed ineligible as a senior, but Papaefthemiou said he was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and will have no NCAA eligibility issues.

On the court, Chen’s talent has never been in question.

“David’s a great pick-and-pop guy,” Papaefthemiou said. “We used him a lot with pick and rolls. He can stretch defenses very well, as well as score on the block. He can go both ways. He has good handles for a big guy, and he’s a face-up 4. He’s pretty crafty with the basketball.”

Papaefthemiou said he thinks it’s reasonable to expect Chen to get 10-to-15 minutes per game as a freshman, with the potential for much more down the road.

“I think it’s a great get for [Loyola]," Papaefthemiou said. “He’s a kid that’s very coachable, and when you get a chance to see him play, I think you’ll be surprised at the type of kid they’re getting.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 9:07 PM | | Comments (0)
        

March 18, 2011

Weekly recruiting roundup

Maryland's 2012 basketball recruiting class got off to a strong start Thursday when Montrose Christian small forward Justin Anderson committed to the Terps.

Anderson joined Stu Vetter's Montrose Christian program as an athletically precocious, nationally known ninth-grader. Vetter said Anderson was a natural leader for the Mustangs from Day One.

"Justin had what embodies a leader the day he walked onto the court," Vetter said. "Unfortunately, when you’re a freshman, you’ve got [upperclassmen] like Mouph Yarou and Isaiah Armwood and Josh Hairston, those kind of guys. As an underclassman, you don’t take over. Now he’s moved on as a junior and assumed a lot of leadership skills. Next year, as we always do, it’ll be his team. It’s his senior year, he has to be a leader. He expresses himself very well. He’s one of the more personable guys you’ve ever wanted to meet. He handled the press conference [Thursday] like a veteran NBA player."

Anderson quickly proved to be "one of the best athletes" Vetter has ever coached. While the expectations for Anderson "were way too high," the future Terp has developed into a vital player for the powerhouse Mustangs -- the top-ranked team in Washington.

"He’s playing at the highest possible high school level, and he’s done very, very well," Vetter said. "He’ll continue to develop and he will have an impact at Maryland from the beginning. I think he should be a McDonald’s All-American and be an outstanding recruit for Coach [Gary] Williams at the university."

• The Washington Post's Josh Barr reported Thursday that Anderson's commitment could spell the end of Maryland's pursuit of Episcopal (Va.) forward Arnaud Adala Moto.

Adala Moto was interested in Maryland, but the Terrapins had yet to offer a scholarship. [Episcopal coach Jimmy] Fitzpatrick said he had not heard recently from Maryland -- perhaps an indication that the Terrapins knew where they stood with Anderson.

• UM shooting guard signee Nick Faust is scheduled to play Sunday in the Elite Basketball Showcase at the Verizon Center.

• Terps women's commitment Lexie Brown was selected as player of the year in Georgia's 7-AAAAA region.

Football recruiting

Nick Brigham, an offensive guard from the Marist School in Atlanta, has committed to the Terps. Check back with Recruiting Report later for more on Brigham's pledge.

• Gilman offensive lineman Brian Gaia updated Rivals.com this week on his recruiting picture.

“I’ve got eight offers from Boston College, East Carolina, Iowa, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Virginia and West Virginia,” he said. “I’m getting interest from Tennessee, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Auburn, Penn State and Georgia Tech.

• The Terps are involved with Georgetown Prep offensive tackle Michael Boland.

“I have gotten to know Coach Brattan pretty well, so I really enjoyed spending the day with him,” said Boland. “Also, the basketball game after the junior day was a fun experience.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 12:12 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Weekly recruiting roundup
        

March 17, 2011

Terps land Montrose Christian's Justin Anderson

After missing the postseason for the first time since 1993, the Maryland men's basketball program was seemingly overdue for some positive news.

On Thursday afternoon, Justin Anderson, a 6-foot-7 junior from Montrose Christian, provided just what the Terps needed.

"I will be attending the University of Maryland," Anderson said during an appearance on Comcast SportsNet. "I felt as though I wanted to get the decision over with, not in a rush, but I felt as though it was about that time I could start creating relationships with Coach [Gary] Williams and with his assistants and start working on the game in the way that they want me to be ready for Maryland when I get there."

Anderson is Maryland's first commitment of the 2012 class. The Mustangs small forward cited location and the success of former Montrose Christian star Greivis Vasquez at Maryland as major factors in his recruitment. He said in a phone interview that the Terps have stood out ever since they started seriously recruiting him as a freshman.

"They just started standing out, obviously because of the location, my family being close by, and I think it’s just perfect for me and my family," Anderson said. "Coach Williams is a great coach. He approaches the game the same way I do. His energy is unbelievable."

Anderson grew up near Fredericksburg, Va., playing for Courtland High’s junior varsity team as an eighth-grader. He headed to Montrose Christian for his freshman season, immediately establishing himself as one of the most athletic prospects nationally in the 2012 class.

"We first met Justin in the eighth grade. He actually recruited us," said Montrose Christian coach Stu Vetter. "Everybody in the country was recruiting him, and I didn’t know much about him. His dad called my phone and left a message. Fortunately my staff had seen him and said I better return that call, because he’s pretty good. He’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached. ... He’s a developing basketball player, and Justin’s getting better every year. I think by the time he gets to the University of Maryland, he can develop into one of the best players in the ACC."

This winter Anderson averaged 14 points for the Mustangs (22-1), who earned The Washington Post’s No. 1 ranking for D.C.-area teams. Duke, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia were among the other programs involved with Anderson, who reminds Vetter of one of Maryland's all-time greats.

"It’s very similar to when we were dealing with Greivis Vasquez," Vetter said. "Maryland was going through a little difficult time, didn’t have a lot of energy on the floor. I remember talking to Coach Williams, talking about what Greivis would bring to the team – not just on talent, but with energy. [Anderson] brings such energy to the floor that’s infectious to other players."

Dave Telep, ESPN.com’s national college basketball recruiting analyst, called Anderson a “unique” talent who will be “ready to go as a freshman” from a defensive perspective. Offensively, the high-flying Anderson’s game is still developing.

“I think it starts with getting more comfortable with his jump shot and just finding a consistent offensive comfort zone," Telep said. "In the past he’s married himself to shooting 3s. I think he can get his shot off the bounce as needed. I think he could be a real good slasher, mid-range pull-up guy. I think that’s an easy role to project.”

Anderson, the No. 43 player nationally according to Rivals.com, said he is always working on his game. The four-star prospect acknowledged during his televised announcement that there is certainly room for improvement.

"Coach always tells me, ‘Justin, you can be happy, but don’t be satisfied.’ I live off of that day by day," Anderson said. "I’m never satisfied, but I am happy with my progression. I think the outside shot is coming along real well, but not where it needs to be. I think all aspects of the game – ball-handling, defense, which is the most important part of the game, I think, to me."

Anderson will join a Maryland team in 2012 that could – barring attrition – return Jordan Williams, James Padgett, Ashton Pankey and Martin Breunig in the frontcourt, Haukur Palsson, Mychal Parker and Nick Faust on the wing, and Terrell Stoglin, Pe’Shon Howard and Sterling Gibbs in the backcourt.

"It’s [a team of] guys that want to win," Anderson said. "They don’t want to be selfish with the basketball. I kind of know going in that it’s a team that’s willing to win, not just a bunch of individuals trying to get to the NBA."

With Anderson's commitment, the Terps have two additional scholarships to give in the 2012 class. He is expected to make an immediate impact in College Park. Telep said Anderson's athleticism and leaping ability set him apart from other prospects his age. At the very least, he'll be "an exceptional teammate, a great energy guy, and a piece of the puzzle at the highest level.”

“He’s a player right away,” Telep said. “I don’t think he’s a guy who’s [your primary] scorer, but he’s a really good player. I think he’s a guy who gets offensive rebounds, takes pride in his defense, runs the court and gets to the rim. You have a couple times a game where he shifts momentum your way. Athletically, he can do that. … You expect him to be a presence defensively, a really good rebounder, and a super team and energy guy.”

For Anderson, making a commitment before the end of his junior year felt like "a great decision" for him and his family that "wasn't rushed at all." He's counting the days until he suits up for the Terps.

"I can’t wait to show them how much of a Maryland player [I am], and how committed I’ll be to the program when I get there," Anderson said. "The energy I’ll bring is the same if not more than Greivis brought throughout his four years of college. Game after game, I’ll be there."

Posted by Matt Bracken at 5:56 PM | | Comments (26)
        

Countdown to Justin Anderson's announcement

It's decision day for Montrose Christian small forward Justin Anderson.

The four-star small forward will announce his choice during Washington Post Live on Comcast SportsNet at 5 p.m.

Anderson, a 6-foot-7 junior, has been linked to Maryland by several media outlets.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 12:28 PM | | Comments (3)
        

Local college hoops players in NCAA tournament

There are exactly zero Division I men's basketball programs in Maryland competing in this year's NCAA tournament, but that doesn't mean local hoops fans will be completely deprived of rooting interests.

Seventeen players from the Baltimore area are suiting up for the Big Dance. Thanks go out to ace intern Jon Meoli for tracking down those names. Check out the list after the jump.

PlayerSchool Region, SeedHometownHigh school / prep school
Isaiah ArmwoodVillanovaEast, 9BaltimoreMontrose Christian
Eric AtkinsNotre DameSouthwest, 2ColumbiaMount St. Joseph
Antonio BartonMemphisWest, 12BaltimoreLake Clifton / Notre Dame Prep (Mass.)
Will BartonMemphis West, 12BaltimoreLake Clifton / Brewster Academy (N.H.)
Kim EnglishMissouri West, 11BaltimoreRandallstown / Notre Dame Prep (Mass.)
C.J. FairSyracuse East, 3BaltimoreCity / Brewster Academy (N.H.)
Chauncey GilliamAkronSouthwest, 15ColumbiaHammond / Brewster Academy (N.H.)
Jonathan GrahamPenn State West, 10BaltimoreCalvert Hall
Naji HibbertTexas A&M Southwest, 7BaltimoreDeMatha
Jordan LathamXavier East, 6BaltimoreCity
Aron NwankwoPittsburghSoutheast, 1BaltimoreCity
Josh SelbyKansasSouthwest, 1BaltimoreLake Clifton
Kerwin SelbyWest Virginia East, 5Bel AirC. Milton Wright
Henry SimsGeorgetown Southwest, 6BaltimoreMount St. Joseph
Roscoe SmithConnecticutWest, 3BaltimoreWalbrook / Oak Hill (Va.)
Wayne SparrowRichmond Southwest, 12BaltimoreSt. Frances
Cammeron WoodyardPenn StateWest, 10WestminsterWinters Mill
Posted by Matt Bracken at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
        

March 16, 2011

St. Frances grad Dante Holmes looking for best fit

dante-holmes-prep-school.jpg Dante Holmes may not be where he expected to be at this point in his basketball career, but there’s still plenty of time for him to get there.

A two-time Baltimore Sun second-team All-Metro selection at St. Frances, Holmes was a dynamic wing recruited by several mid- and high-major programs coming out of high school. Holmes committed to Marshall last spring, but after missing NCAA qualifying standards, he had to do a post-grad year instead.

At Oldsmar Christian School near Tampa, Fla., Holmes has made the best out of his prep-school experience.

“He’s been doing real well,” said Carlos Green, a St. Frances assistant and Holmes’ uncle. “He averaged 20.9 points, and they went 30-10. … He shot better than 43 percent from 3-point range. His shot is totally different now.”

Holmes has worked hard in the weight room to become a more college-ready player. The results have been positive for the 6-foot-3 ½ combo guard, who is now up to 202 pounds – a 15-pound weight gain from when he was a senior at St. Frances.

Holmes used the added muscle to his advantage by playing some point guard down the stretch for Oldsmar Christian. While he mostly played off the ball at St. Frances, adding another element to his game “made his stock go up a little bit higher.”

“I think it benefited him a whole lot,” Green said. “It helps him understand the 2 position a whole lot better. He was so used to people setting him up all the time. It gave him a whole lot better understanding of the 2-guard position.”

Green expects Holmes’ recruitment to pick up in the coming weeks, especially after the NCAA tournament is done and open coaching jobs have been filled. St. Bonaventure – which recruited Holmes heavily out of high school – has called. Green also said there has been some interest from Iowa State and Nebraska, while “Boston College and Kansas State are showing strong interest.”

“We’ve been talking back and forth on the phone the last couple of weeks,” Green said. “It’s a matter of setting up some visits.”

Green said the Eagles have kept tabs on Holmes since late in his senior year, and the Wildcats found out about him thanks to his play at Oldsmar Christian.

While Holmes had hoped to be a college freshman this year, Green said he has been patient with the process. The Panthers assistant said his nephew is “kind of puzzled about the recruiting game,” but remains confident that he’ll find the right place sooner rather than later.

“We had a conversation [Monday], just talking about a lot of guys at school this year as freshmen -- a lot of guys he played against since he was 10 years old," Green said. "He’s always held his own or got the best of the other guys. It’s just one of those things. You can’t explain it. Guys like Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash and John Stockton weren’t highly recruited. I told him it boils down to one school. It’s all about the best fit.”

Click here to see video of Dante Holmes at Oldsmar Christian School.

Baltimore Sun photo of Dante Holmes by Gene Sweeney Jr. / Jan. 22, 2010

Posted by Matt Bracken at 4:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

Breunig, Faust picked for new all-star game

Before teaming up at Maryland next season, Martin Breunig and Nick Faust will join forces at the inaugural NeXt All-American Classic in suburban Chicago on April 3.

Breunig, a 6-foot-9 forward from St. John's Northwestern Military Academy in Wisconsin, and Faust, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from City, will suit up for the "Got Now" team.

The game features 24 of the top-ranked players in the country, with a portion of the proceeds going to Chicago Public Schools athletics. It will be televised live at 2 p.m. on CBS College Sports Network.

Click here to see the rosters.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 9:43 AM | | Comments (6)
        

March 15, 2011

Good Counsel OL Mike Madaras talks Terps pledge

Sifting through more than 20 scholarship offers, fielding hourly phone calls from college coaches, and scheduling campus visits can be a daunting task for any highly touted football prospect.

For Good Counsel offensive lineman Mike Madaras, going through all that just didn’t seem to be worth the trouble – especially considering his mind was made up early on in the recruiting process.

“It was pretty tempting [to prolong the recruiting process],” Madaras said Monday. “But I knew at the end I was probably going to end up at Maryland, so I saved a lot of time by just committing.”

Madaras, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound junior, became the first member of Maryland’s 2012 recruiting class last week when he pledged to the Terps over Central Florida, Duke, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, South Carolina, Stanford, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Wisconsin, among others.

A two-year starter on the Falcons’ offensive and defensive lines, Madaras has demonstrated a sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde persona to Good Counsel coach Bob Milloy. On the field, Madaras’ intense play was rewarded with a Washington Post All-Met honorable mention nod. Off the field, the future Terp is a thoughtful scholar who’s considering a major in mechanical engineering.

“He’s a great player and he’s a better kid. He’s the nicest gentleman you’ll ever meet,” Milloy said. “He’s a very smart kid, a very good student, and a very considerate, nice young man. … He’s like Clark Kent. When he puts in the mouthpiece, be ready to play, because he’s going to come after you. He puts his helmet on, and he changes personalities. He plays hard, and when the game is over, he’s just a nice, sweet little boy. He’s a different guy.”

Falcons defensive line coach Kevin McFadden said Madaras is a dominant offensive line prospect with pro potential. It was no surprise to him that Madaras landed so many scholarship offers so early in the process.

“[Madaras has] great hip flexibility, great feet, of course his wing span and the level of aggressiveness that he has [stands out],” McFadden said. “Mike’s a basketball player, too, so he’s got good feet. Notre Dame offered him as a guard because he was able to switch directions, plant his feet in the ground and get up field right away. Then he was able to switch his feet and switch to the next defender. You don’t see that at this level out of a high school player that much.”

Madaras landed an offer from Maryland during Ralph Friedgen’s tenure, but his interest in the Terps picked up considerably once Randy Edsall took over in College Park.

“I just love the new coaching staff,” Madaras said. “They’re doing a really good job there with what they have there. I’m really excited to play for Coach Edsall and definitely [offensive line coach Tom] Brattan.”

Winning a third-straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship is Madaras’ No. 1 priority at the moment, which makes his commitment to Maryland well before his senior season an enormous relief.

“I feel like 100 pounds has been taken off my shoulders,” Madaras said. “But I’m just glad that it’s all over so I can just focus on school now.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 5:39 PM | | Comments (2)
        

March 14, 2011

Greg Whittington talks Georgetown commitment

Jon Browne went to bed early Sunday, weary from attending a St. Patrick's Day parade and seeking a good night's rest before another day of school at Oakland Mills.

When the Scorpions coach awoke to seven missed calls and several text messages, he thought, “what in the world happened last night?”

Browne quickly discovered what all the fuss was about. Greg Whittington, who led Oakland Mills to a 25-1 season, made an earlier-than-expected commitment, picking Georgetown over Clemson, DePaul, Maryland and Texas.

“I just realized that Georgetown was the best fit for me, so I might as well just commit now,” Whittington said. “I’ll be able to see the world at Georgetown, too.”

Said Browne: “I never thought in a million years he would commit on the visit without having gone anywhere and without sitting and weighing his options. Not in a million years would that happen. I was just as surprised as anyone. But at the end, I’m very, very happy for Greg and his family.”

Whittington was an unknown prospect nationally before leading his Howard County-based AAU team – HCYP Elite – to a third-place finish at the AAU Nationals in Orlando last July. Clemson and Maryland were among the high-major programs that began to express interest in Whittington after his AAU performance, but it wasn’t until this winter with Oakland Mills that the 6-foot-9, 210-pound senior became one of the most wanted recruits in the country.

HCYP Elite coach Bill Napolitano knew it was just a matter of time before high-major programs picked up their pursuit of Whittington.

“I think he’s like a Kevin Durant-type player – a big kid who can shoot and handle the ball,” Napolitano said. “He’s athletic, he’s quick and he’s fast. He’s not a big, slow, uncoordinated kid. He’s kind of like a guard who kept growing, but stayed coordinated and skilled. I think he’s the kind of kid that fits in anyone’s program. A skilled 6-9 kid, it’s a rare commodity.”

While Browne had intended to accompany Whittington on visits to Clemson, DePaul and Texas, the Oakland Mills coach had some inkling that his star player harbored some desire to stay close to home. Maryland assistant coach Bino Ranson recruited Whittington harder than anyone, according to Browne. But save for attending a couple of Maryland games, Whittington never toured the College Park campus. “He was just not interested in going at all,” Napolitano said.

Browne said Georgetown started recruiting Whittington later in the process, but Hoyas coach John Thompson III put the “full-court press” on him immediately, checking out several Oakland Mills games.

“It was a good feeling to know that there was a top-notch coach in the stands coming to watch me play,” Whittington said. “Bringing the whole coaching staff to the basketball game, that really got them over the top.”

Browne thinks Whittington’s skill set makes him a good fit for just about any offensive system. The future Hoya’s “basketball IQ is off the charts,” and Browne expects him to realize his potential under Thompson’s tutelage.

“X’s and O’s are never going to be a problem for Greg Whittington,” Browne said. “There’s no system he can’t work in. I think Coach Thompson and his staff are going to do a wonderful job developing his talent. For a guy like Greg, the sky’s the limit.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 9:59 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

Weekend wrap – Notes on Gibbs, Whittington

Sterling Gibbs finished one win shy of a New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Non-Public A championship.

The Maryland-bound point guard had a big game for Seton Hall Prep, but the Pirates suffered a 71-60 loss to St. Augustine.

Seton Hall Prep (26-4) senior guard Sterling Gibbs finished with a team-high 28 points and seven rebounds.

• Oakland Mills forward Greg Whittington is off the board for Maryland. The 6-foot-9 senior has committed to Georgetown, according to Scout.com.

“I didn't want to go to far away,” he added. I'm close to home and my family and friends can come see me play.”

Check back with Recruiting Report later for more on Whittington's commitment.

• Maryland women's commitment A'Lexus Harrison had a double double in Digital Harbor's 66-35 loss to Calvert in a Class 2A state semifinal.

The Rams pulled within 32-20 on layups from A'Lexus Harrison (15 points, 14 rebounds) to open the second half.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 9:01 AM | | Comments (18)
        

March 13, 2011

McDonogh's Roman Braglio talks Terps pledge

For nearly two hours at the Gossett Team House in College Park on Thursday, Roman Braglio played the role of highly touted recruit and resident state expert.

A lifelong Baltimorean, Braglio chatted with Maryland coach Randy Edsall, inside linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski and defensive line coach Greg Gattuso about football and much more.

“All the coaches are new here so we talked about restaurants, places to live, just normal conversation,” Braglio said. “It was just real apparent that they were not just trying to get to know me as a football player, but as a person, too.”

Braglio, a defensive end from McDonogh, said he had no intention of committing to the Terps last week. But after the sitdown with the three Maryland coaches, Braglio had a sudden change of heart.

“I kind of walked out, started thinking about it, walked back in, and [Gattuso] said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Coach, I want to be a Terp.’ He ran over and hugged me and picked me up, carried me to Coach Edsall.”

With his commitment, Braglio became the second member of Maryland’s 2012 recruiting class. Good Counsel offensive lineman Mike Madaras was the first on the board for the Terps just hours earlier.

Braglio, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound junior, got his start playing the game early, suiting up for his first team when he was just 8. As a 180-pound freshman, Braglio got the call to play for McDonogh’s varsity team.

“I was ready, but I wasn’t close to where I am now. I wasn’t really pushing those big kids around,” Braglio recalled. “But it definitely helped a lot just getting experience and knowing how to use your body against people bigger you. It just helps so much, just having the pressure of game time. The experience definitely helps me now.”

A defensive end and offensive tackle, Braglio hit the camp and combine circuit after his freshman year. Before his sophomore season began, the future Terp started to realize he might have a Division I future. Those thoughts were confirmed when former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen offered him a scholarship after his 10th-grade season.

Braglio -- who also had an offer from West Virginia -- was told that the Terps’ scholarship still stood after the new staff took a look at his junior film. It became clear quickly that he was a top priority for Edsall.

“Coach Edsall kind of told me, ‘Roman, you’re one of the top guys on our list right now. We kind of need to get the ball rolling for our class.’ He told me that in-state kids are what he’s going after right now. Sure, there are out-of-state kids he wants, but it’s always special for the in-state kids to play for their home school.”

Braglio is slated to play defensive end for the Terps, either as a strong-side or weak-side pass rusher. He’s excited for his senior season with the Eagles, and thankful to have wrapped up the recruiting process early.

“There was some temptation [to prolong the process],” Braglio said. “But it just kind of takes a lot of pressure off my chest to get it over with. I kind of looked at Maryland as a school and a football program, and didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be there.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 5:39 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

March 11, 2011

Weekly recruiting roundup

Sterling Gibbs is just one win away from ending his high school career with a state championship.

The Maryland-bound point guard turned in a clutch performance for Seton Hall Prep on Wednesday night in the Pirates' 55-47 win over St. Peter's Prep in the North Jersey Non-Public A tournament championship game.

Senior Sterling Gibbs, who connected on 10 of 13 free throws in overtime, led Seton Hall with 23 points and junior Dallas Anglin chipped in with 17 points, hitting four 3-pointers.

Gibbs will lead Seton Hall Prep against St. Augustine Prep on Saturday for the Non-Public A title.

• With North Carolina coach Roy Williams watching from the stands, the high school career of Desmond Hubert came to an end. The Terps center target's New Egypt High squad suffered a 49-47 loss to Asbury Park in the Central Jersey Group I final Tuesday night.

Hubert led the Warriors with 19 points to go along with 15 rebounds and eight blocked shots.

• DeMatha center Bee Jay Anya played well in front of several college coaches on hand for the Stags' 52-50 win over Theodore Roosevelt on Monday night.

Among colleges represented were Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgetown, George Mason, Xavier, Temple and St. John's. Ohio State assistant coach Dave Dickerson, the former Maryland player and longtime assistant coach, also was there.

Football recruiting

• The Maryland football program has reportedly landed its first two commitments of the 2012 class. According to InsideMDSports.com, Good Counsel offensive lineman Mike Madaras and McDonogh defensive end Roman Braglio have both pledged to the Terps. Check back with Recruiting Report later for more on their commitments.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 11:16 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Weekly recruiting roundup
        

March 10, 2011

Plenty of options for Boys' Latin OT Greg Pyke

A frequently traveled path for starters on the Boys' Latin lacrosse team goes from high school graduation to a spot on a Division I college roster.

Lakers attackman Greg Pyke could easily follow that route when he finishes high school in 2012. But the 6-foot-5, 315-pound junior has other plans in mind.

“My brother played lacrosse in college [at North Carolina], and my sister [played at James Madison],” Pyke said. “But I’m just built for football. I fit football more easily. I feel more comfortable there. Being a big guy, with lacrosse I kind of feel out of place. But in football, I just like hitting.”

Pyke has done his fair share of that while starting both ways for the Lakers these past two seasons. While Pyke is a more highly rated recruit for lacrosse -- Inside Lacrosse ranks him the No. 8 player in the 2012 class -- plenty of major college football programs are hoping to land the versatile offensive tackle.

“I don’t do the rankings, but he’s going to be a good Division I football player,” said Boys’ Latin football coach Ritchie Schell. “The kid’s 6-5, 315 pounds, and he hasn’t even reached his potential, technique-wise. He has unbelievable hand-eye coordination. He’s going to be a great guard or tackle. He can pull and move. I think once these teams see him in person, they’ll offer him right away. So I think he’s going to be unbelievable by the time it’s all said and done.

“What holds him back is he can’t go to [camps and combines because of lacrosse]. I’d much rather have him play a spring sport than do a combine. I’m a big believer in playing as many sports as possible. Whether that’s right or wrong, that’s my opinion.”

Pyke currently holds scholarship offers from Duke, Maryland, Penn State, Rutgers, South Alabama, Virginia, Wake Forest and West Virginia. Schell said Boston College wants Pyke to visit, while the Alabama coaches remain in close contact.

“He loves Alabama,” Schell said. “They’ve been up twice and have not made an offer yet. They want to evaluate him at camp.”

Said Pyke: “Alabama, they have the pick of the litter pretty much. Everyone wants to go to Alabama. But I’m still on their radar. I’m going down there this summer to their camp and see if that helps me.”

Pyke spent the past two seasons battling Virginia-bound defensive end Marco Jones in practice. Going up against an ACC-caliber recruit served as good training for Pyke.

“I think it helped me a lot,” Pyke said. “I think I first got looked at by coaches [who] came in here to see Marco and [Cornell commitment Michael Turner], then saw me and said, ‘Who’s this kid?’ It definitely helped me, seeing Marco go through the process and doing what he does,” Pyke said.

Pyke, who also plays for Boys’ Latin’s basketball team, is focused on lacrosse season now. A few college coaches have said he could play football and lacrosse in college, but Pyke thinks “one DI sport is tough enough.” Once lacrosse season is finished, Pyke plans to turn his attention toward his college football future.

“I don’t think I’m going to commit anywhere early,” Pyke said. “I just need to go out and start visiting the schools more often to get a better feel for what all the other schools have to offer.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 3:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

March 9, 2011

Friends' Jon Schmidt headed to Ivy League

Before Jon Schmidt's senior season at the Friends School began, the 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward sat down with Quakers coach Bill Pace to formulate a list of college programs that had piqued his interest.

“We talked about a very small list of schools,” said Pace, a first-year coach at the MIAA B Conference school. “But his educational priorities were [clear]. He knew what he wanted to do.”

What Schmidt – an A student with law-school aspirations – wanted to do was play basketball at an Ivy League school. That goal is now a reality for Schmidt, who will head to Providence, R.I., in the fall to play for Brown.

“It’s just really fantastic,” Schmidt said. “It’s what I’ve wanted since I probably [started] high school. I’ve been working really hard to attain that, and now … I’ve got to work hard, get back in the gym and train so I can play. It’s another motivator for me to keep working hard.”

Schmidt, who averaged about 24 points, 14 rebounds and three assists for the Quakers this winter, committed to the Brown coaches “a couple weeks ago.” But his pledge was firmed up Monday when he received his “likely letter” – which all but assures his acceptance into the school – in the mail.

Ivy League schools cannot offer athletic scholarships, but the Bears’ staff -- led by head coach Jesse Agel and assistant T.J. Sorrentine -- made it clear to Schmidt that he was wanted.

“I think that being a good student definitely helps a lot, but I also think I work pretty hard out there on the court, play very hard, and they like that,” Schmidt said. “I’m a big energizer. I go up against people bigger than me and can still be successful. I think they really saw that.”

Schmidt had hoped to wrap up his recruitment before his high school season started, but a torn hamstring suffered in July sidelined him for the open period of the AAU season. Had Schmidt stayed healthy, he would have served as Nike Baltimore Elite’s starting power forward on the summer circuit. Without that chance to play in front of college coaches, Schmidt entered the school year without a scholarship offer.

Schmidt worked his way back to full strength over the next several months, benefiting from conditioning and plyometric training with Friends’ varsity soccer team. When basketball season started, Schmidt was ready to star for Pace.

“He can handle the ball against the press – not like a point guard, but he can see over the top and make great passes,” Pace said. “But he’s also a dominant rebounder. [For Nike Baltimore Elite], he’s their garbage guy, a double-double guy purely on hustle, offensive rebounds and that kind of stuff. Come back to high school, and he’s our go-to guy. He’s got that workman mentality; bring his lunch pail and hardhat, go to work every day. [I would say], ‘I need you this game to be a purely perimeter player. We’re going to go big, move you over to the 3.’ He can make the adjustment, no big deal, which creates some interesting matchups.”

Pace said he received calls in recent weeks from American, Davidson, Lehigh, Loyola, Quinnipiac and several others regarding Schmidt. The Cornell coaches had also expressed interest in Schmidt at one point, but took a commitment from another forward earlier in the process.

Schmidt, meanwhile, was sold on Brown quickly. The university has a strong Russian program, which Schmidt is interested in studying along with his pre-law curriculum. He also looks forward to helping the Bears – 11-17 this season – eventually contend for Ivy League championships.

“I really loved it [there],” Schmidt said. “It’s a great location, it’s a really good size, and it was just a really great fit for me personally. … I’m excited to be a part of the team.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 12:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

March 8, 2011

City's Mike Cheatham headed to Marshall

mike-cheatham-marshall.jpg Mike Cheatham toured Marshall's campus, met with coaches, and experienced everything else that is generally expected to take place during a college visit.

But when it came time for the City guard to depart from Huntington, W.Va., and return home to Baltimore last weekend, there was one last thing he needed to do.

“When I was about to leave [I committed],” Cheatham said. “The campus is good and the town is good. It’s like an overall [nice] environment there. So I can develop things on and off the court.”

A 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior, Cheatham also received interest from Drexel, Iona, Robert Morris and UNLV, among others. His commitment was a welcome surprise to the Thundering Herd coaching staff.

“They were pretty excited that I was coming because they really need some extra players to come in and produce for the team,” Cheatham said.

City assistant coach Tony Biggers said he’s had good relationships with Marshall coach Tom Herrion and assistants Mark Cline and Dino Presley over the years. The Thundering Herd coaches have all spent time recruiting Baltimore, so Biggers recommended they return to this area to check out Cheatham.

“The Marshall coaches came in, [and] Mike impressed those guys,” Biggers said. “They like him at both ends of the court. We’re not surprised at what the kid could do. I was telling Coach Herrion that they’re definitely getting a good kid. He’s a good kid. … To be honest with you, I really didn’t have an idea that he was going to [commit]. So it worked out for him. He’s happy, we’re happy.”

Cheatham played a major role for City’s 2010 Class 2A state championship team, earning a reputation as one of the area’s top defensive guards. Playing for Nike Baltimore Elite on the AAU circuit last summer, Cheatham continued to generate “a lot of buzz about him,” according to Biggers.

While the Knights came up short in their bid for another state title this season, Cheatham had plenty of individual success, scoring 16 points a game.

“His shooting,” stood out this year, Biggers said. “He’s a slasher, can get to the rack, is a very good defender. I think he’s an all-around player. I think sometimes he gets a little too unselfish. But he really put the team before himself, which showed good character. He’s got great character. Once he gets stronger, he’s going to be a lot better.”

Cheatham said the Marshall coaches envision him playing either guard spot as the team’s “floor generator.” Early playing time is a distinct possibility. There may even be an opportunity for Cheatham to share time in Marshall’s backcourt with former Randallstown standout Johnny Higgins.

Cheatham may do a year of prep school before matriculating to Huntingtown, but that won’t be determined for another few months. For now, he’s just excited to have found a school where family and friends can see him play on occasion, and a place where he thinks he can eventually deliver “a championship.”

“It feels good,” Cheatham said. “It feels like a lot of pressure off my shoulders, deciding what I wanted to do.”

Baltimore Sun photo of Mike Cheatham by Kenneth K. Lam / Dec. 21, 2010

Posted by Matt Bracken at 2:44 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

March 7, 2011

Weekend wrap – Whittington's season ends

The high school career of Maryland forward target Greg Whittington came to an end Friday as his Oakland Mills squad dropped a 52-48 decision to Gwynn Park.

The Scorpions' star senior forward, Greg Whittington, finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks despite being the focus of a diamond-and-one defense that also double-teamed Whittington every time he touched the ball.

Maryland coach Gary Williams, along with assistants Bino Ranson and Keith Booth, were reportedly on hand to watch Whittington.

• Terps point guard signee Sterling Gibbs dished out 10 assists in Seton Hall Prep's 86-68 win over Union Catholic.

Senior guard Sterling Gibbs scored 31 points to spark No. 7 and top-seeded Seton Hall Prep in his final home game and Bob Farrell became the state's third-winningest coach all-time in the North Jersey, Non-Public A semifinals in West Orange.

• UM center target Desmond Hubert helped New Egypt to a 74-43 win over Burlington City in a Central Jersey Group 1 semifinal.

New Egypt center Desmond Hubert had 18 points, a dozen in the second half to help drive the last few nails in the coffin.

• Montrose Christian wing Justin Anderson is reportedly down to Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia. The four-star prospect told Jeff Borzello that there is "no specific date set" for his decision.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 9:42 AM | | Comments (5)
        

March 4, 2011

Weekly recruiting roundup

Desmond Hubert's senior season has been extended, right along with the timeline for his recruitment.

The 6-foot-9 center scored 20 points Thursday to power New Egypt to a 60-35 win over Metuchen in a Central Jersey Group 1 quarterfinal.

After the win, phillyburbs.com's Tom Rimback asked Hubert when he planned to make his college decision.

Then he can turn his attention to another matter. He still hasn't announced whether he'll accept a college scholarship offer from Maryland or North Carolina. He's hoping to have plenty of time before making that choice.

"No, I haven't decided yet," Hubert said. "Hopefully, I'm going to decide as soon as the season's over. I just want to finish out the high school season and get to a state championship first."

• Terps point guard signee Sterling Gibbs guided Seton Hall Prep to an 86-77 win over Paramus (N.J.) Catholic.

Senior guard Sterling Gibbs connected for 25 points to pass his brother Ashton as Seton Hall Prep’s all-time scoring leader and head coach Bob Farrell earned a milestone victory in an eventful North Jersey, Non-Public A quarterfinal game in West Orange.

• UM shooting guard commitment Nick Faust's City squad fell to Edmondson in a Class 2A North semifinal Wednesday.

But when Faust (10 points) got caught up in traffic just past midcourt, recovering the ball and then getting fouled before he could get a shot up, the Edmondson victory was sealed. Faust was sent to the line with a harmless 0.1 seconds left. After he missed and the final horn sounded, the Edmondson bench erupted.

• Maryland forward target Greg Whittington helped lead Oakland Mills to a 55-42 win over Douglass of Prince George's County.

Oakland Mills, which improved to 25-0 on the year, also got a 13-point night from Joe Kiely. Whittington finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and six blocks.

The Scorpions host Gwynn Park in a 2A South regional final at 7 p.m. Friday night.

• The Washington Post's Josh Barr this week updated the recruiting status of DeMatha forward Jerami Grant.

At 6-foot-7 and 190 pound, Grant already holds several scholarship offers, including Maryland, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Georgia Tech, Villanova, Pittsburgh and Clemson. He is averaging 8.5 points, seven rebounds and two blocks for the Stags, but colleges coaches see tremendous potential in his game.

• Menomonee Falls (Wis.) wing J.P. Tokoto, who listed the Terps among his top eight teams, announced his commitment Thursday night to North Carolina.

"Definitely style of play," Tokoto said in what separated UNC and Wisconsin. "Both coaches are loving guys that really care about their players. They really have a passion for what they do, which made the decision that much harder. Stay at home or leave the state. That's what it pretty much came down to."

• UM women's commitment A'Lexus Harrison led Digital Harbor to a playoff win Thursday night.

Sophomore A'Lexus Harrison led all scorers with 17 points for No. 15 Digital Harbor as the Rams advanced to the Class 2A North regional finals Thursday with a 60-49 win over No. 12 City.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 2:16 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Weekly recruiting roundup
        

March 3, 2011

Calvert Hall CB Da'Quan Davis raises his stock

daquan-davis-calvert-hall.jpg In helping Calvert Hall to the 2010 MIAA A Conference championship, Da’Quan Davis became a household name among local high school football followers.

In guiding MD Dream to a second-place finish at the BadgerSports 7-on-7 tournament at Rutgers last weekend, the Cardinals cornerback raised his profile once again, with one recruiting website calling him one of the rising stars of the 2012 class.

“It was a great experience to play against some of the top athletes in the nation,” Davis said. “It was great competition up there. … I feel as though it is essential to go to different places and show your face. You want to see everything that’s out there. That’s where the recruiters and scouts are, and the best of the best that compete at different events. Going against guys from out of the state, if I want to be the best, it’s a chance to go out and compete against the best.”

Davis played opposite Poly defensive back Donovan Riley to form a shutdown secondary for MD Dream. The pair’s performance was no surprise to those who have watched them closely.

“They were calling them the prime-time twins,” said Calvert Hall defensive backs coach Cory Robinson, who coached MD Dream in Piscataway. “We had, hands down, the top two cornerbacks at the event. They were very, very aggressive, very confident and very skilled. They made a lot of plays and caught everyone’s attention. Teams just stopped throwing on them and kind of just tried to go up the middle of our defense. They really weren’t successful doing that. They locked it down.”

For Davis, the attention from scouts and recruiters is a long time coming. Davis said he “wasn’t highly recruited” by the MIAA schools coming out of middle school, noting that he “wasn’t the best athlete” compared to some of his rec-league teammates. When it came time to choose a high school, there wasn’t a doubt in Davis’ mind about where he hoped to play.

“I wanted to go to Calvert Hall no matter what,” Davis said. “[Calvert Hall coach Donald] Davis came out to two of my games. He said I had some work to do … so I knew I had to work 10 times harder than anybody else. But I’ve been working hard my entire life, so it kind of came naturally to me. It’s been instilled in me that when you work hard, you can actually achieve something.”

Davis joined the Cardinals’ JV program as a freshman, going about his business on the field and off with a “walk-on mentality.” He was elevated to Calvert Hall’s varsity as a sophomore, biding his time behind two senior starters at cornerback while absorbing all the knowledge he could from Robinson.

“I just dedicated myself to becoming a technician and improving my craft,” Davis said.

After his 10th-grade season, Davis traveled to several camps and combines, including one at South Carolina where he had his “coming-out party” by matching up against Cal recruit Avery Walls, a four-star safety who also took reps that day at wide receiver.

As a junior at Calvert Hall, Davis was hampered by hamstring and groin injuries, but still managed to excel all season long for the Cardinals’ vaunted defense. He picked up right where he left off on the combine circuit this winter. His efforts were rewarded last month when he picked up a verbal scholarship offer from West Virginia.

“I was overrun with emotion,” Davis said of the Mountaineers’ offer. “It felt good with all the stuff I’ve been through and all the hard work, to finally have a Division I offer on the table. It feels good to be wanted. I just pray to thank God, thank my parents and coaches and everybody who believed in me. I still have unfinished business. I’m not satisfied with just one scholarship offer. I want to be the best I can be.”

Davis thinks he could be “getting close” to offers from Connecticut, Penn State, Rutgers and South Carolina. He plans on attending several more combines and Junior Day events in the coming months, while working out with his teammates in hopes of leading the Cardinals to another championship. After his senior season, Davis will focus more intently on his college future.

“I want to experience the whole entire recruiting process,” Davis said. “Adrian Amos – he just committed to Penn State – told me that I should take all my official visits before I make my decision. He said the recruiting process is very fun. I want to reap the benefits of being a Division I recruit. So I think I’m going to be a Signing Day guy like him.”

Baltimore Sun photo of Da'Quan Davis by Jed Kirschbaum / Nov. 25, 2010

Posted by Matt Bracken at 4:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

March 2, 2011

Prep school helps Donya Jackson 'a whole lot'

donya-jackson-mercersburg.jpg Since leading Calvert Hall to the Baltimore Catholic League tournament championship one year ago, there have been "no days off" for Donya Jackson.

The 2010 BCL Tournament MVP stepped away from the local spotlight after graduation and packed his bags for a post-grad year at Mercersburg Academy. At the Pennsylvania prep school, Jackson has prepared for a college career at the Naval Academy by improving his academics and his game. Developing into a more potent scorer was a top priority for the two-time BCL Defensive Player of the Year.

“I worked on my offensive game a whole lot because I didn’t want to be one-dimensional,” Jackson said. “I didn’t want to just be a stopper. I wanted to be able to stop someone and make it tough for them [to defend] me on the offensive end. … [Prep school] gave me the opportunity to go ahead and do some more things on the offensive end. It’s helped me a whole lot.”

Blue Storm coach Mark Cubit said Jackson was a college-ready prospect when he enrolled at Mercersburg. It was obvious to Cubit that Jackson received “great coaching” at Calvert Hall, so there wasn’t a ton of skill development that needed to be done.

“He did a fantastic job. He’s a great leader,” Cubit said. “Obviously, he’s a very, very strong defender, and he found his rhythm offensively as well. … He’s got a very nice jump shot. I don’t think that was ever an unknown. He showed up with a very good jump shot. I think what he improved was his ball-handling, [and his] ability to get the jump shot off the ball. I think that was the major difference that we saw throughout the course of the year. He was able to handle the ball a little better.”

Jackson said he averaged around 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals for Mercersburg (10-13). The Blue Storm finished their season Feb. 17 with a 73-67 loss to Shenandoah Valley Christian School. Jackson scored a team-high 21 points in the loss.

When it became clear to Jackson that he would need a year of prep school before heading to Annapolis, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound wing came up with a list of goals. Consider most – if not all – of those objectives accomplished.

“As far as basketball goes, I’ve definitely come here and [done] almost exactly what I thought I was going to do,” Jackson said. “I said I was going to come here and improve my game and try to average 20 points. I did that, plus more. I said I was going to come here and try to make my passing better and make my IQ higher on the floor, and I did. As far as academics go, I think I’m doing a great job just keeping up with my studies, [especially with] always being on the road with basketball.”

In addition to basketball and classes, Jackson has been working hard on declamation – a public speaking competition at Mercersburg that is scheduled for Thursday.

“I can’t wait,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be a comedy piece.”

Jackson hasn’t received official notice from the Naval Academy that he’s been admitted, but his grades have been good and he expects that official acceptance to come soon enough. He plans on moving to Annapolis at the end of June to get started on his plebe summer.

Jackson has paid close attention to the Midshipmen (11-19) this season. He’s counting the days until he joins their ranks and helps “take Navy to the next level.”

“Oh man, I can’t wait to get there,” Jackson said. “I’m so excited to get with my team and just start working out. I know [there are] going to be stressful days when I think, ‘Why am I attending this school? Why did I come here?’ But I’m just going to push through because I really think with the class we have coming in, I think we can do some big things athletically.”

Handout photo of Donya Jackson

Posted by Matt Bracken at 2:52 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local recruiting
        

March 1, 2011

Davon Usher hitting stride at JUCO in Fla.

davon-usher-polk-state.jpg With a hobbled Davon Usher plagued by an "irritated herniated disc" in his back, Polk State College limped to a 3-10 start to its 2010-11 men’s basketball campaign.

When the former Digital Harbor wing returned to full strength, the Vikings’ fortunes changed dramatically.

“What happened was after Christmas, when he became healthy, we’re 14-3 since,” said Polk State coach Matt Furjanic. “So I guarantee you a lot of that happened because he’s healthy now and doing a great job for us.”

A 2010 Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selection, Usher had planned on spending his college career at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. But when the 6-foot-6 prospect couldn’t get through the NCAA Clearinghouse, junior college became his best option. Furjanic said he found out about Usher’s availability thanks to some college coaches here in Baltimore.

“We’re lucky to have him. We’re really lucky,” Furjanic said. “The assistant coaches at Towson are good friends of ours. They told us about him in the summer. He wasn’t getting the grades. Corpus-Christi backed off when he didn’t get through the clearinghouse. So the coaches from Towson called us and said, ‘Listen, you’ve got to look at this kid. He can really play.’ We signed him [in] like July.”

Furjanic had high hopes for Usher once he arrived on the Lakeland, Fla., campus, but the back issues popped up “around the middle of November.” Usher was extremely limited in practice. During games, he would either play sparingly or sit out altogether. Over the holiday break, Usher returned to Baltimore under doctors orders to rest. He returned to Florida improved, and with a more aggressive rehab program, was back to full strength by the middle of January.

“When he got healthy, he was just a big key for us coming off the bench,” Furjanic said. “He plays three different positions. He plays mostly outside for us. He can just attack the rim for offensive rebounds. He does all the little things that are necessary.”

In his role as Polk State’s sixth man, Usher has averaged nine points and 5.5 rebounds in Sun Coast Conference play. He’s the Vikings’ third-leading scorer, and was a second-team all-conference selection. Usher will lead his team into the Florida state junior college tournament this week, starting with a matchup against Marianna on Thursday. Furjanic is counting on Usher to provide a scoring punch off the bench.

“His strength right now is his intensity, the way he plays,” Furjanic said. “He’s an average outside shooter, but he can take the ball to the basket and finish. He’s a good offensive rebounder. But he just plays so hard. And that was frustrating when he had the back problems. It just limited him on what he can do. But now that he’s healthy, with the intensity level that he plays with, offensively and defensively, I mean he’s a winner. That’s probably the best way I can explain it.”

Recruiting doesn’t really get started for junior-college players until their sophomore year, but Furjanic said North Florida and Stetson have already expressed interest in Usher. There’s also a hometown school that remains on Usher’s mind.

“Right now, he really likes Pat Kennedy at Towson,” Furjanic said. “Towson’s been in contact with him. He really likes Pat Kennedy a lot. I know he would have a big interest in coming back home. He mentioned how excited he would be after having two years away, he could come back to Baltimore. So I know Towson has shown interest. They haven’t offered yet. That’s probably the one school he’s really excited about.”

Furjanic said Usher is “doing great in the classroom,” earning better than a 3.0 grade-point average during his first semester. Usher will continue to play a major part for the Vikings this season, and Furjanic expects him to have an expanded role as a sophomore.

“With a good offseason program coming back next year, he’s just going to take off,” Furjanic said. “He plays so hard, is so coachable and does everything you ask of him. You tell him something, he responds. He’s going to do what you want him to do as a player. … He’s just a great kid. We’re just really excited about him and excited about his future."

Photo of Davon Usher courtesy of Polk State College.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 2:38 PM | | Comments (3)
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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