Sweet 16: Brendan Bald, Vermont
Near the beginning of what proved to be a relatively nondescript freshman season for Brendan Bald, Vermont assistant coach John Becker was reminded why the Severna Park grad was such a coveted recruit for the Catamounts.
“Against Providence his freshman year, we got killed,” said Becker, who was elevated to head coach in May after Mike Lonergan left for George Washington. “But Brendan followed a miss, came in and had a two-handed dunk. There you got a sense of his athleticism.”
Moments like that were somewhat scarce for Bald during the 2009-10 season. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound wing, who scored 12 points against the Friars that day, finished his freshman year with a stat line of just 2.9 points and 9.9 minutes per game.
“I knew I could play,” Bald said. “I just waited for the opportunity to perform. I was sucked into my role freshman year a little too much – a little too comfortable. I had a good role for my freshman year and helped my team a lot. But the team needed me a lot more sophomore year.”
Bald was able to answer those needs all throughout the 2010-11 season. The Baltimore Sun’s 2009 Anne Arundel County Player of the Year was Vermont’s second-leading scorer at 11.3 points per game and its top 3-point shooter at 41 percent. He also served as a lockdown defender on the wing. For his efforts, Bald was named the America East Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to earning third-team all-conference honors.
“It was great. I automatically stepped into a larger role on the team,” Bald said. “I felt like I had to perform. I really worked on my game after my freshman year. I basically just had the opportunity and seized the opportunity by just getting better and better. Hopefully I’ll take another large leap after this year.”
Becker first encountered Bald when he was an assistant at Catholic University in Washington. Brad Bald -- Brendan’s older brother who eventually signed with UNC-Wilmington -- was a recruiting target for Becker, along with a couple of his Triple Threat AAU teammates. Becker later moved on to Vermont as the director of basketball operations, and the younger Bald brother emerged as a top target for the Catamounts.
“Coming out of high school when we recruited him, we thought he was a great athlete. That’s the thing that kind of jumped out at you,” Becker said. “We thought he could really develop into a dynamic wing player in the America East conference.”
Much of Bald’s development freshman year took place behind the scenes. Georgetown Prep grad Garvey Young saw most of the minutes at the wing, while Maurice Joseph -- a Michigan State transfer -- was another starter on the perimeter. But after the 2009-10 season, Joseph graduated and Young transferred to Quinnipiac, opening up plenty of minutes for Bald.
“He did really well offensively and defensively in the league,” Becker said. “He can really guard and take the opposing team’s best wing player out of the game. Offensively, we’re going to need him more this year – more than the last two years. I told him he better get better on those wind sprints. We’re going to need him to perform at a high level both on and off the court. I told him that he has a chance to be a Player of the Year-type in our league the next two years. That should be his goal. I think he’s really motivated and worked really hard this summer. I think he’s going to have a really great junior and senior year.”
Vermont lost to Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament during Bald’s freshman year, and the Catamounts suffered a first-round loss to Cleveland State in the NIT last season. Bald stayed on campus all summer, taking classes and working out with his teammates in the hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament once again.
Bald said he’s excited for Vermont’s first year under Becker’s direction. Player and coach are in full agreement on expectations for the coming year.
“I’m definitely going to be looked on as an aggressive scorer, and I’m still going to have to lock up the other team’s best player,” Bald said. “I’m going to have a larger role this year. My team’s going to depend on me a bunch. We’ve got a lot of good guys coming back, a lot of guys that are going to step up. It’s looking great this summer with the freshmen coming in. I think we’re going to have a good year and surprise some people in the postseason.”
The Sweet 16 is an occasional series profiling the 16 best Division I college basketball players from the Baltimore area. Players were selected based on prior accomplishments and projections for the upcoming season.
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U.S. Presswire photo of Brendan Bald by Mark L. Baer / March 6, 2011