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November 17, 2011

Sweet 16: Here comes the champ

The inaugural Sweet 16 championship match pitted one DePaul sophomore from Baltimore against another DePaul sophomore from Baltimore.

Forward Cleveland Melvin, the reigning Big East Rookie of the Year, and guard Brandon Young, a Big East All-Rookie Team selection, battled in the fan voting for the title of Baltimore's best college basketball player.

After one week of voting, a winner has emerged. Melvin, a former Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro player out of Lake Clifton, is your champion. Melvin finished with 85 votes, while Young checked in with 66.

On the season, the Blue Demons are 3-0. Melvin is the team's second-leading scorer at 16.5 points per game, and the top rebounder with seven per game. Young is DePaul's third-leading scorer at 15.5 points per game and the top assist man with four per game.

Congrats go out to Melvin, Young and the rest of the Sweet 16 selections.

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November 10, 2011

Sweet 16: Championship

The inaugural Sweet 16 championship has come down to teammates.

DePaul point guard Brandon Young (133 votes) defeated Missouri guard Kim English (29 votes) in one semifinal, setting up a title match with DePaul forward Cleveland Melvin (138 votes), who bested Syracuse forward C.J. Fair (20 votes).

So who gets your vote for Baltimore's best basketball player? Blue Demons fans, vote away!

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November 9, 2011

Recapping the Sweet 16

While voting continues to crown Baltimore's best college basketball player, here's a chance to revisit the inaugural Sweet 16.

As part of our college basketball preview this week, I condensed all 16 profiles into 16 vignettes for Friday's print edition of The Baltimore Sun.

If you've already read each of the 16 articles in the series, there's no need to check out the rest of this blog post. But if you want a (relatively) quick summary of Baltimore's top DI players, this blog is for you. Check out each vignette after the jump.

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November 7, 2011

Sweet 16: Moving on to the Final Four

And then there were four.

The voting has closed for the Elite Eight, leaving us with just four players left in the inaugural Sweet 16 bracket.

Voting for the Final Four can be found after the jump. I'll leave it open until Tuesday afternoon. Here are the results of the round-of-eight.

• In the biggest upset of this tournament, DePaul's Brandon Young (121 votes) easily defeated Memphis' Will Barton (40 votes). This is the same Will Barton that is a preseason Naismith Player of Year and Wooden Award candidate. So how did Young knock off the No. 1 seed? Credit goes to BlueDemonsNation.com, which featured one message board poster hilariously urging DePaul fans to "represent Chicago well and stuff the ballot box!" Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that this title will come down to Young vs. Cleveland Melvin?

• Missouri's Kim English (56 votes) defeated Connecticut's Roscoe Smith (38 votes).

• Syracuse's C.J. Fair (78 votes) defeated Oklahoma's Andrew Fitzgerald (35 votes).

• DePaul's Cleveland Melvin (134 votes) defeated Maryland's Sean Mosley (33 votes).

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November 4, 2011

Sweet 16: Moving on to the Elite Eight

The first round of voting for the inaugural Sweet 16 is complete.

Eight of Baltimore's best Division I college basketball players remain. The first-round results are listed below. Voting for the Elite Eight is after the jump. We'll keep it open until Monday afternoon.

• Memphis' Will Barton (110 votes) defeated Loyola's Dylon Cormier (38 votes)

• DePaul's Brandon Young (193 votes) defeated Morgan State's Kevin Thompson (95 votes)

• Missouri's Kim English (77 votes) defeated Notre Dame's Eric Atkins (50 votes)

• Connecticut's Roscoe Smith (107 votes) defeated Holy Cross' Devin Brown (26 votes)

• Oklahoma's Andrew Fitzgerald (90 votes) defeated Vermont's Brendan Bald (82 votes)

• Syracuse's C.J. Fair (87 votes) defeated Memphis' Antonio Barton (53 votes)

• DePaul's Cleveland Melvin (210 votes) defeated Charlotte's Jamar Briscoe (192 votes)

• Maryland's Sean Mosley (114 votes) defeated Delaware's Devon Saddler (34 votes)

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November 2, 2011

Sweet 16: Vote on Baltimore's best DI player

What started on Sept. 1 with a look at Loyola's Dylon Cormier ended Nov. 2 with a feature on Memphis' Will Barton. The 16 best Division I college basketball players from the Baltimore area -- in my opinion -- have been accounted for.

Now comes the interactive part of The Sweet 16. I set up a bracket below matching up all 16 players. After the jump, there are polls for each matchup. I'll keep voting on this round open until Friday morning. We'll keep the voting going until a champion is crowned. This will culminate with a recap of the series next week on the blog and in print as part of The Sun's college basketball preview. For a refresher on all 16 players, scroll down below the polls.

Let the voting begin ...

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Sweet 16: Will Barton, Memphis

will-barton-memphis-tigers.jpg The expectations placed on Will Barton before his freshman season at Memphis were undeniably lofty.

The 2009 Baltimore Sun All-Metro Player of the Year was a Top 10 recruit and Scout.com’s No. 1 shooting guard in the country. He had just finished a post-grad year at Brewster (N.H.) Academy in which he led the Bobcats to the National Prep Championship and earned MVP honors for the tournament. And some NBA Draft analysts considered the former Lake Clifton star a potential one-and-done player.

“I was very aware of,” the hype, Barton admitted. “I heard what people were saying, talking about me. I was very aware of it.”

Josh Pastner, whose first commitments as Memphis’ coach were from Will and younger brother Antonio, could sense that the 6-foot-6, 182-pound swingman might have been reading too many of his own press clippings. The second-year coach made it his priority early in the season to make Barton understand just how much development was needed in his game.

“I think with Will, there was talk of all that,” Pastner said. “But I knew when I saw Will play – and I told Will this when we signed him – ‘if you can be a one-and-done, great. But you’ve got a long way to go before then. You’ve got to get a lot better.’ I told him, [the NBA] ‘should be so far out of your mind. Anyone who’s telling you that, they’re not aware [of what it takes].’ You have to get so much stronger and better. I think early on, he was just trying to get used to the college game.”

Anything less than dominance was completely foreign to Barton. During the summer of 2008, Barton starred for Nike Baltimore Elite on the AAU circuit, earning Top 10 national rankings from Scout.com, ESPN.com, MaxPreps.com and PrepStars.com. Months later, Barton’s storybook senior year at Lake Clifton ended with the Lakers capping a 32-0 season with the Class 3A state championship. Then came his prep year at Brewster in which he averaged 20.8 points and was named the 2009-10 New England Preparatory School Athletic Conference Class A Player of the Year.

That track record of success – along with a steady stream of media hype – probably would have made any player overconfident to an extent. Barton was no different. But while the former five-star prospect couldn’t possibly live up to the unreasonable predictions that some assigned to him, Barton went out and did the best he could.

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November 1, 2011

Sweet 16: Kim English, Missouri

kim-english-mizzou.jpg Kim English wasn't surprised when Mike Anderson left Missouri for Arkansas. And while many fans were perplexed when the Tigers tabbed Miami coach Frank Haith as Anderson's replacement, English stayed "even-keeled" as always.

Part of that reaction is just the nature of English’s personality. The former Randallstown star says he never gets too high or too low. But English’s familiarity with Haith -- who recruited him heavily to play for the Hurricanes four years ago -- also played into his response to the coach’s hiring.

“[Haith] called me when he first got the job,” English recalled. “He said, ‘I told you I’d be your coach someday.’”

English, who said he “almost committed to Miami,” learned more about Haith from his former Cecil Kirk teammate Jack McClinton, an All-ACC performer for the Hurricanes. With that knowledge in mind, English made it his personal mission to help Mizzou fans come to believe what he already did – that Haith was the right man for the job.

“Fans over here were giving him a hard time,” English said. “Here in the Midwest, all they know of the ACC is Duke and Carolina. They didn’t have any clue who he was. Miami’s league record wasn’t stellar. They were kind of upset. That name kind of came out of the blue for them. The next day at the press conference, I kind of had to settle people down here and let them know. I think they all wanted [VCU’s] Shaka Smart, but we had to get someone who was a proven BCS recruiter, and he is that. He is a really, really good recruiter. He’s been a recruiter at Texas, Texas A&M and Miami. He definitely is a good man for the job.”

Throughout his three years in Columbia, English has taken pride in his ability to lead. The 6-foot-6, 200-pound senior is one of the most quotable Tigers, a social-media superstar, a campus leader, and one of the Big 12’s top guards. The roots of English’s development into a nationally recognized college basketball player can be traced back to Baltimore.

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October 25, 2011

Sweet 16: Andrew Fitzgerald, Oklahoma

andrew-fitzgerald-sooners.jpg The aftermath of Andrew Fitzgerald's sophomore year at Oklahoma was understandably "difficult" for the 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward.

The Sooners had just finished a 14-18 campaign, and the coach who recruited Fitzgerald to Norman – Jeff Capel – had been dismissed after his fifth season.

But Fitzgerald’s disappointment in saying goodbye to Capel was short-lived – especially when he found out who he’d be playing for over the course of his final two college seasons.

“Coach Capel was my guy,” said Fitzgerald, a Pikesville native. “He brought me in, and he’s got a great situation at Duke now being an assistant coach. Lon Kruger came in here and showed us a different kind of atmosphere and a different way to work. Nothing against Coach Capel, [because] I was kind of mad. But at the end of the day, I put it behind me and moved on with my life.”

Fitzgerald gave no thought whatsoever to transferring. For Kruger, the commitment of Oklahoma’s top returning scorer and rebounder was a welcome sign for the transition.

“Everything is new to the guys, so it’s something of an adjustment, that’s for sure,” said Kruger, who left UNLV for Oklahoma and has also been the coach at Florida, Illinois, Kansas State and with the Atlanta Hawks. “But Andrew has been great in terms of grasping everything and doing it with enthusiasm. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

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October 20, 2011

Sweet 16: Roscoe Smith, Connecticut

roscoe-smith-connecticut.jpg Roscoe Smith committed to Connecticut with the goal of eventually competing for championships. He just didn't envision that happening in Year 1 of his college career.

“No freshman ever expects to win a national championship your first year,” Smith said. “It’s a miracle. It was completely crazy that we actually did it.”

For Smith, freshman year with the Huskies was an ideal introduction to high-major college basketball. While Smith was a star at Walbrook for three years and one of Oak Hill (Va.) Academy’s top players as a senior, recasting himself as a role player to help UConn win the national championship was a seamless transition for the 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward.

“If [playing a supporting role bothered him], he didn’t show it,” said UConn assistant coach Kevin Ollie. “He came in and played his role. He came in and got minutes on the defensive end. We needed a person of his versatility to stick the 1 through the 4. He just had great ability to play multiple defensive positions and bring energy. That’s what he did when he came in.”

Many former five-star recruits expect to be double-digit scorers right off the bat in college. But Smith said he was fine doing whatever Jim Calhoun and the rest of the Huskies staff requested in order to win games. The stat sheet reflects Smith’s willingness to do whatever he was asked. The former Walbrook star appeared in 41 games for UConn, starting 33. He averaged 6.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 25.4 minutes.

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October 18, 2011

Sweet 16: Cleveland Melvin, DePaul

cleveland-melvin-blue-demon.jpg There were more than a few college hoops observers that openly wondered whether Cleveland Melvin was good enough to play in the Big East.

Questions about the 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward’s ability were widespread in the days after his commitment to Connecticut in the fall of 2009. And while many of those scouts, writers and fans abandoned their critiques after Melvin and the Huskies parted ways a few months later, the sting of skepticism in his ability stuck with the Lake Clifton grad.

Melvin’s freshman season at DePaul last year subsequently became a chance for him to “prove the doubters wrong.”

“A lot of people never thought I could play in the Big East, that I wouldn’t get as much minutes and playing time at UConn,” Melvin said. “So I definitely proved them wrong. I stayed focused and just worked hard to get where I’m at now.”

Where Melvin is at now is a place where hardly anyone – even his biggest supporters – could have predicted. The Blue Demons big man is coming off a freshman season in which he averaged 17.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in conference play, earning Big East Rookie of the Year honors for his efforts.

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October 13, 2011

Sweet 16: Kevin Thompson, Morgan State

kevin-thompson-morgan.jpg Commemorative basketballs line the walls of Todd Bozeman's office, with each one signifying an important moment in his Morgan State tenure.

There are basketballs to remember MEAC championships, NCAA tournament appearances, wins over high-major opponents like Maryland and Arkansas, and several other notable accomplishments. For each of those highlights, Kevin Thompson was there.

“He’s been part of every last one of them,” Bozeman said of the Baltimore native.

Thompson has been one of the most integral parts to the success of Bozeman’s Bears over the past three years, which makes it all the more puzzling that the former Walbrook star finds himself suspended indefinitely from the team just weeks before the beginning of his senior season.

“[The suspension is] for a violation of team rules,” Bozeman said. “It’s something to be handled in-house. It is what it is.”

Bozeman wouldn’t comment on when Thompson might be reinstated, but when he is, Morgan will have a preseason All-MEAC selection at its disposal. Thompson, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound center, has been a double-double threat on a nightly basis ever since he first suited up for the Bears three years ago. That kind of production was exactly what Bozeman envisioned for Thompson when he first saw the Baltimore Select player at an AAU tournament in New York.

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October 11, 2011

Sweet 16: Antonio Barton, Memphis

antonio-barton-memphis-tigers.jpg Antonio Barton heard the whispers and read the comments.

The 6-foot-2, 170-pound point guard -- some people said and wrote -- was just riding older brother Will Barton’s coattails to a high-major basketball scholarship.

“It was just like rumors on the internet,” Antonio Barton said. “I would read it. [They said] that I would be a good practice player, or I was just a throw-in for my brother. Those type of things.”

It took all of one game at Memphis for Barton to show how foolish those anonymous commenters were in their dismissal of him. In Barton’s first career regular-season game, the 2009 Lake Clifton graduate scored a game-high 17 points, in addition to contributing five steals, four assists and three rebounds in leading the Tigers to a 104-40 win over Centenary.

That game was the first of many in which Barton proved that he not only belonged at a big-time basketball school, but that he was one of the most promising freshman point guards in the game. On the season, Barton was Memphis’ fifth-leading scorer at 8.2 points per game. He started 12 games for the Tigers, who finished 25-10, including a 10-6 mark in Conference USA.

Needless to say the thought of proving people wrong served as motivation for the former Baltimore Sun second-team All-Metro selection.

“I couldn’t wait to get to practice,” Barton said. “I never let what people say get to me. I never got upset by what I heard. I just pushed harder. It made me stronger.”

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October 6, 2011

Sweet 16: C.J. Fair, Syracuse

cj-fair-syracuse.jpg Big things were expected out of C.J. Fair after his All-Metro sophomore season at City.

The 6-foot-8 small forward was a surefire high-major prospect after leading the Knights that season to the Class 2A North Region semifinals. But over the next two years, Fair tore his ACL and missed his entire junior season with the Knights, and then left town to play with former Lake Clifton star Will Barton at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. With his two-year absence from local high school competition, Fair felt like he may have faded from the Baltimore basketball scene’s collective consciousness

“Once I fell off the radar, and then I went to prep school, I was away from the city,” Fair said. “A lot of people forgot me back home. I haven’t played there since 10th grade. I don’t think many people had big expectations for me.”

Jim Boeheim, however, was resolute in his belief that the potential Fair showed as a sophomore – and during his year at Brewster – was anything but an aberration. While the knee injury led to Fair’s plummet down the national rankings – from a borderline five-star prospect to Rivals.com’s No. 94 prospect in the 2010 class – the Syracuse coach was confident that he had a future star in Fair.

“After he got hurt, some people might have lost some interest in him,” Boeheim said. “We thought he was a good player and knew he would come back. I saw him in the summer and then I saw him at Brewster when he was up there. You could see that he hadn’t gotten back all the way. With knees, it usually takes a full year, for some it takes a year and a half. But you could see that he was on his way back. … I think he’s going to surprise people some day. He’ll be one of the best players out of the Baltimore area some day.”

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October 4, 2011

Sweet 16: Brandon Young, DePaul

brandon-young-depaul.jpg During his last summer on the circuit as Clemson's coach, Oliver Purnell became intrigued by an under-the-radar point guard from one of the country's top AAU programs.

“I saw Brandon [Young] an awful lot with Team Takeover that summer,” Purnell recalled. “I was always very impressed with him. He really had a tremendous upside.”

Purnell was far from the only major Division I coach in the summer of 2009 who became enamored with Young, a Randallstown native who eventually signed with DePaul over Central Florida, Marquette, Massachusetts, Miami and South Florida. While the Tigers never became involved in the Friendship Collegiate Academy standout’s recruitment, Purnell never forgot the 6-foot-4, 195-pound point guard.

Five months after Young signed his letter of intent, Purnell stunned the college basketball world by leaving Clemson to take the Blue Demons’ head coaching job. Priority No. 1 for Purnell was convincing Young to stay on board.

“It was clear that [Young and his mother] liked DePaul and they liked Chicago,” Purnell said. “It was really up to me to reassure them about the plan for him and how important he was for us in the new regime. We just set about doing that, sat down with his mother. We had an outstanding rapport right from the start.”

Young never wavered on his DePaul commitment, becoming Purnell’s point guard of the future – and present. While the Blue Demons labored through a 7-24 season in Purnell’s first year on the job, Young emerged as a notable bright spot, cementing his status as one of the Big East’s rising young stars.

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September 28, 2011

Sweet 16: Sean Mosley, Maryland

sean-mosley-maryland.jpg Mark Turgeon learned everything he needed to know about Sean Mosley within minutes of their first meeting at Maryland.

The new Terps coach invited Mosley – one of just two seniors on Maryland’s 2011-12 roster – into his Comcast Center office for a rehash of the 2010-11 season and a look forward to what was expected of him in his final college campaign.

“He was very honest,” Turgeon recalled. “He talked about how he had a bad year and didn’t know why. But he was honestly just excited. He loves Maryland. He loves Maryland basketball. Academically, he’s on track to graduate, which is a great story. He’s done a lot of great things and hopefully he’ll finish up his career real strong and graduate in May. I could tell he was totally committed to doing whatever it takes to be successful.”

Whether or not Turgeon’s first season in College Park will be considered a success depends on a number of factors, including – but certainly not limited to – finding a reliable post player to take Jordan Williams’ minutes, identifying a No. 2 scoring option behind Terrell Stoglin and getting contributions from a woefully thin bench. But a bounce-back year from Mosley – the second-leading scorer in Maryland high school history – could be just what the Terps need to surprise people in the ACC.

Despite a disappointing junior year in which he averaged 8.1 points, Mosley’s ever-sunny disposition hasn’t changed. If anything, the promise of something new has brightened the 6-foot-4, 210-pound wing’s outlook.

“Everything is going great,” Mosley said. “Everybody’s chemistry with Coach [Turgeon] and with the team is working well. We’re working really hard toward having a great season. With the [coaching] change, definitely everything happened fast. But I think we’re back on track as a team with new coaches and new guys coming in. I’m looking forward to great things this year.”

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September 27, 2011

Sweet 16: Devon Saddler, Delaware

devon-saddler-delaware.jpg With little fanfare, Devon Saddler committed to Delaware over Drexel and Towson in the fall of 2008. Less than one year later, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound combo guard was back on the AAU circuit, headed to prep school and receiving substantially more interest from a variety of high-major schools.

Saddler, who graduated from Aberdeen in 2009, heard from DePaul, North Carolina State, Oregon, Rutgers, Washington and several other programs thanks to his play with Baltimore Assault. More college coaches discovered the Baltimore Sun second-team All-Metro selection when he took part in open gyms at the Winchendon (Mass.) School that fall.

While the increased attention left Saddler flattered, there was never any doubt in his mind about what he would do during the 2009 fall signing period.

“I knew I was going to sign the papers to the University of Delaware,” Saddler said. “I kind of did look into the other schools, but I really didn’t pay that hype any attention.”

When Saddler’s letter of intent arrived at the Delaware basketball offices, Blue Hens coach Monte' Ross -- who discovered the Aberdeen star at a camp in New Jersey before his senior year -- breathed an expected sigh of relief.

“He was a very, very loyal young man,” Ross said. “That eased our fears in terms of him going to prep school. … We were pretty confident in just the type of young man that he was. He wasn’t a wishy-washy type of young man. He was the type of young man that said what he meant and meant what he said. He pretty much stuck to his word. You always look for that in young men.”

Saddler’s loyalty to Delaware worked out well for both parties throughout the 2010-11 season. The Blue Hens experienced a seven-game improvement from the previous season, and Saddler established himself as one of the Baltimore area’s top college players by earning Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year honors.

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September 20, 2011

Sweet 16: Devin Brown, Holy Cross

devin-brown-holy-cross.jpg After final exams in May, the Holy Cross campus in Worcester, Mass., becomes somewhat of a ghost town.

Living in a nearly vacant college town might be lonely for some. But Crusaders guard Devin Brown, a second-team All-Patriot League player last season, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The entire campus empties,” said Brown, a 2007 City grad. “I’m with my teammates in the gym, working out, usually three or four times a day up at the Hart Center. It’s really good. It cuts down on the distractions, allows me to work on my game as much as possible.”

When Brown wasn’t working on his game this summer, the Baltimore native was interning at GE and plotting his post-graduate plans for entering the business world. That summer balancing act of books and basketball was typical for Brown. Over the past three years at Holy Cross, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior has emerged as a seemingly model student-athlete at the academically rigorous institution.

"We talked earlier in the summer about some things he was going to need to do from a basketball standpoint, but he also has had some things off the court with his academics,” said Holy Cross coach Milan Brown. “One of the [business] professors pulled me aside and said, ‘He’s absolutely going to be a star.’ … [This is] what kids who go to Holy Cross do. They’re going to play and be about academically trying to set themselves up for the future and where they’re going to work. He goes just as hard going for 30 points as he does in [in the classroom]. He’s done both. He’s talked a lot about being good in both avenues.”

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September 15, 2011

Sweet 16: Eric Atkins, Notre Dame

eric-atkins-notre-dame.jpg In the fall of 2006, Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey gave Eric Atkins the ball and asked the ninth-grader to lead his team.

Mike Brey didn’t go quite that far with Atkins last season. But the Notre Dame coach had no problem giving Atkins more responsibility than your average freshman point guard in the Big East.

“I was extremely pleased with what he was able to do coming off the bench … and actually starting a little bit,” Brey said. “He believes he’s supposed to be good. He knew it was his destiny to be a really high-level Big East guard. He prepared for it mentally. Even though his body was young last year, he was able to be a very efficient player in the Big East because of his discipline.”

Atkins may have had a modest season statistically for the Fighting Irish last year (5.8 points, 3.2 assists, 1.8 rebounds), but the two-time Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro player proved to Brey and other Big East observers that his best was yet to come.

“I think I had a really good experience as a freshman last year,” Atkins said. “Coach Brey told me before the season that pretty much everything was going to be done just the way it happened. He told me how my playing time was going to be. I knew how it was going to play out.”

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September 14, 2011

Sweet 16: Brendan Bald, Vermont

brendan-bald-vermont.jpg 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.

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September 8, 2011

Sweet 16: Jamar Briscoe, Charlotte

jamar-briscoe-charlotte-201.jpg The year Jamar Briscoe sat out after transferring to Charlotte from North Carolina Central was an excruciatingly long one.

The Cardinal Gibbons grad and 2008 Baltimore Sun second-team All-Metro selection was the second-leading freshman scorer in the country at NCCU. Briscoe was confident he could play at a higher level, and the 49ers – members of the Atlantic 10 – provided that opportunity. While nervousness had rarely been an issue for the former Crusaders star before, Briscoe’s long-awaited Charlotte debut stirred up that unfamiliar feeling.

“The game I was most nervous for was actually the first game I played. It was an exhibition against Queens,” Briscoe said of the Division II school. “I remember dribbling the ball one time and the air just went out from under me. That was the game I was really the most nervous. After that game, everything else just came into the flow. I just followed my natural instincts.”

For the majority of Briscoe’s sophomore season with the 49ers, those natural instincts served him exceedingly well. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound point guard from Cherry Hill scored 16 points (4-for-6 on 3-pointers), dished out five assists and collected three steals in Charlotte’s 94-57 win over Queens. Briscoe followed that up with a 30-point performance in the 49ers’ season-opening loss to Gardner-Webb.

While Briscoe had hoped for more team success than Charlotte experienced in its 10-20 season, first-year 49ers coach Alan Major was pleased with his point guard’s sophomore campaign.

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Posted by Matt Bracken at 2:29 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: The Sweet 16
        

September 1, 2011

Sweet 16: Dylon Cormier, Loyola

dylon-cormier-sweet-16.jpg There were plenty of reasons why Dylon Cormier decided to play basketball for Loyola.

Academics, proximity to home and early playing time were all factors in the Cardinal Gibbons combo guard’s choice. But Cormier’s relationship with Greyhounds coach Jimmy Patsos was perhaps the most crucial piece of the puzzle.

“Me and him, we clicked from the get-go,” Cormier said. “That’s my man right there. We think the same way. We’re the same people. … In practice, he’s just as fired up as I am about the game. Coach is one of the main reasons I came here. He cares about it just as much as I do.”

The trust between player and coach was evident throughout the 2010-11 season. Cormier started 27 of 30 games, averaging 8.1 points and three rebounds and quickly emerging as one of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s top freshmen.

For Cormier, a Baltimore Sun All-Metro player at a Baltimore college, there were undoubtedly high expectations heading into his first season.

“And he came close to fulfilling them,” Patsos said. “His ability to play defense -- he covered the other team’s top scoring guard. Let me tell you – he didn’t play any defense [in high school]. He was a scorer and a point guard in high school. We were 0-3 in the games he didn’t play when he had mono. So that’s just how you can see what he did for our team. He was good defensively – better than what I thought he was going to be.“

Continue reading "Sweet 16: Dylon Cormier, Loyola" »

Posted by Matt Bracken at 12:10 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: The Sweet 16
        

August 31, 2011

New series coming: Sweet 16

While we all patiently wait a month-and-a-half or so for the start of the 2011-12 college basketball season, I've got a little something coming on the blog that will hopefully get us primed for the year.

Thursday will be the debut of ‘The Sweet 16,’ an occasional series that will profile the – you guessed it – 16 best returning Division I college hoops players from the Baltimore area. The selections were made based on prior success and projections for this coming season.

The series isn’t really a ranking, per se, of the top 16 players from the area. After the 16th player has been featured, I’ll set up a bracket-style tournament with polls on the blog for everyone to vote on who they think is Baltimore’s top college hoops player.

There were some really tough omissions -- namely Texas A&M’s Naji Hibbert (Baltimore native, DeMatha graduate) and Morgan State’s Aric Brooks (St. Frances). (It's also entirely possible that I forgot someone worthy. With more than 65 DI players from here, it's hard to keep track of everyone). Akron’s Chauncey Gilliam (Columbia native) also would have been under consideration had he not sat out last season as a transfer from UMBC. He’ll have a chance to make the cut next year, along with this year’s freshmen and any JUCO transfers.

We’ll get things started Thursday with the first of three local guys playing for an in-state school.

Posted by Matt Bracken at 10:43 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: The Sweet 16
        
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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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Maryland's 2011 football recruiting class
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