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September 21, 2011

Headliners, sleepers in local DI basketball classes

For the past three months I've been catching up with the nine head coaches of the state's Division I men's basketball programs, starting with Loyola's Jimmy Patsos in June and ending with Mount St. Mary's Robert Burke last week. Each coach discussed his school's incoming recruiting class at length.

With the interviews complete and classes back in session, here are my picks for headliner and sleeper for each team's group of newcomers.



This one’s easy. City shooting guard Nick Faust was Mark Turgeon’s lone signee of the 2011 class. “I was really impressed with him and his ability,” Turgeon said of the Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro player. “He can do a lot of things on the floor. I thought he had tremendous upside.” It’s probably a safe bet that Faust -- a consensus four-star prospect -- sees serious minutes on the wing for the Terps early on in his freshman year.


My interview with Turgeon was conducted before the Terps brought in Alex Len in late August. Information on the 7-foot-1, 225-pound center from the Ukraine is scarce, save for his numbers from the U18 European Championships in 2010: 16 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.3 blocks, 1.7 steals and 0.8 assists per game. With an unproven trio of post players in James Padgett, Ashton Pankey and Berend Weijs, Len will have ample opportunities for playing time. “I can see myself coming in and contributing right away and helping our team compete in a great league,” Len said in a news release.



First-year coach Pat Skerry lost his headliner earlier this month when the NCAA denied an eligibility waiver for Kelvin Amayo, a point guard from the allegedly academically dubious NIA Prep. With Amayo out of the mix, we’ll go with Marcus Damas, a JUCO transfer from Westchester (N.Y.) Community College who will have three years of eligibility. The 6-foot-7, 200-pound forward averaged 14 points and nine rebounds last season, and could be a factor at the 3 or the 4 right away. “He’s a guy that can play a couple different positions,” Skerry said. “He’s long and athletic. He’s got to get stronger and more consistent with his shot, but he’s a versatile guy with length.”


Will Adams signed with Towson in 2009, but was diagnosed with leukemia just a few months later. Now the 6-foot-4, 190-pound shooting guard from Philadelphia is cancer-free and ready to compete. “We need him to make shots and be another guy that will guard and be an interchangeable guy,” Skerry said. “I also think he could become a very good leader.” For more on Adams’ incredible story, check out this excellent feature by The Sun’s Ken Murray.



One year after Dylon Cormier (Cardinal Gibbons) stayed home to play for the Greyhounds, St. Frances point guard R.J. Williams decided to follow suit. “He’s a pass-first, defense-first guy. In this day and age, that’s hard to find,” Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos said of the first-team All-Metro player. “He just wants to pass first and play defense first, which means he wants to win.” Patsos said that if Williams didn’t start, he would “probably be the first guy off the bench.”


Tyler Hubbard was the designated outside shooter for national powerhouse Montrose Christian last season. For the Greyhounds, Hubbard could be called on to fill that very same role. “He can make shots, he can stretch the defense,” Patsos said. “I thought we struggled just getting easy baskets [last season]. We would throw the ball inside, everyone collapses, throw it out, and we shot very poorly from the 3-point line. As a coach, they weren’t bad 3s. We just didn’t have someone to make enough of them.” Hubbard’s an obvious candidate to eventually emerge as that much-needed 3-point threat.



Joey Getz capped his career at Archbishop Wood by leading the Philadelphia Catholic League in scoring at 21 points per game. The 6-footer is more than just a prolific scorer – he also was one of his squad’s top distributors. “He can score in a couple different ways,” said UMBC coach Randy Monroe. “He’s very competitive. He’s definitely one who will be able to play both guard positions.”


Monroe traveled to Indianapolis to sign Chandler Thomas, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound forward who was named to the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association 2011 All-State team. The final recruit in the Retrievers’ class is well-versed in the fundamentals of the game. “For a guy his size, he does a terrific job of rebounding the basketball,” Monroe said. “He really does have a nose for that. … A shot goes up, he blocks his man out and he does not allow him to get any scoring chance. I think he’s really good at that.”



Here’s the abridged resume of former Calvert Hall wing Donya Jackson: two-time Baltimore Catholic League Defensive Player of the Year, member of the 2010 BCL tournament-champion Cardinals, 20-plus-point scorer at Mercersburg (Pa.) Academy. The versatile 6-foot-3, 212-pound wing stayed committed to the Mids throughout his prep year despite interest from several mid-major programs. “He loves to play,” said first-year Navy coach Ed DeChellis. “I think he’s going to be a very, very good player here and hopefully in the Patriot League. But he has a high skill-set and he has a high, competitive motor. He just loves to play. He loves to compete and he’s very athletic.”


Jared Smoot’s senior statistics at Crown Point (Ind.) High were modest -- 9.6 points, 7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game – but he does bring one important factor to the table that none of his Navy teammates possess: the size of a true center. At 6 feet 10, 244 pounds, Smoot’s the tallest Midshipman by three inches. “He’s a big kid, is strong, can run and jump and can block shots,” DeChellis said. “He has got very good timing and he’s a very good shot-blocker. I think he’s a kid that will continue to get better and better.”

Morgan State


Anthony Hubbard was a high-major recruit coming out of Frederick Community College. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound wing eventually chose Iowa over Nebraska and Penn State. But after a month with the Hawkeyes, the Woodbridge, Va., native left Iowa City and enrolled at Morgan State. “… He can really create his own shot and can really get to the basket,” said Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman. “He’s really strong, so he rebounds and can play three positions – all three perimeter positions.” It wouldn’t be crazy to pencil Hubbard into the Bears’ starting lineup – at least at some point in the season.


Thair Heath comes from San Bernardino (Calif.) Valley College with three years of eligibility remaining. The 6-foot-9 forward was a first-team all-conference selection last season. And that’s about the extent of what we know about Heath. But Bozeman likes what he could bring to the Bears. “He’s one of those kids that’s just a tenacious rebounder,” Bozeman said. “He throws his body around a lot. We really believe in his defense and rebounding.”

Coppin State


None. Thanks to an Academic Progress Rate score below the NCAA-mandated minimum, Coppin was prevented from adding any new players to its roster because of scholarship loss.


We’ll go with the same player that occupied this spot last year: Logan Wiens. The 6-foot-8 forward redshirted last season after transferring from Merced (Calif.) College. Eagles coach Fang Mitchell expects Wiens to be part of his playing rotation. “Well he is a very intelligent player,” Mitchell said. “He passes well, but he can put the ball on the floor and he can also shoot it. He just adds shooting. We led the conference in 3-point shooting, and Logan adds another 3-point shooter.”



Pina Guillaume appeared in 25 games – starting nine – for Binghamton during the 2009-10 season. When things didn’t work out with the Bearcats, Guillaume headed to Blinn College in Texas. The 6-foot-9 power forward should be an instant-impact player for the Hawks this season. “At 6-9 he can put it on the floor, dribble and [shoot the] jump shot,” said UMES coach Frankie Allen. “I think he’s a very capable defender and rebounder. Like I said, he’s got good skills offensively with his back to the basket and facing the basket. He can step out and shoot the mid-range jumper and be an outside threat. I really feel very fortunate that we were able to get him.”


Gregory Womack is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard that was recruited by the Hawks for one main purpose: 3-point shooting. The former Redlands (Okla.) Community College player shot 65 percent from beyond the arc. “He’s got good size also, but he can really stretch the defense with his 3-point shooting,” Allen said. “Gregory can do other things. He’s a good rebounder, a solid defender, and just a solid player. He’s kind of a no-nonsense type of guy that gets the job done for you.”

Mount St. Mary’s


Xavier Owens could be just the type of do-it-all player Robert Burke needs in Emmitsburg. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound wing was a versatile scoring threat for Wharton High in Wesley Chapel, Fla. “He's got good size and strength that, right away, should allow him to compete,” Burke said. “He's an outstanding defender. It's rare you find a guy who has that defensive mentality that was able to put up the [offensive] numbers that he did in high school. We'll look for him to be versatile and fill in wherever he's needed, mostly on the perimeter, but maybe if we play small he can help on the frontcourt.”


Taylor Danaher, a 6-foot-10 center, was home-schooled before playing for Fredericksburg (Va.) Christian last season. He’s a developmental prospect that intrigued Burke enough to offer him a scholarship before last fall’s signing period. “Obviously, strength will be a factor,” Burke said. “But he’s versatile and already has a really nice feel around the rim. He likes to rebound the ball, he can really run, and he seems to have good endurance in that regard. So I think he can [help] in a lot of different ways.”

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

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About Matt Bracken

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

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