By David Driver
3:43 PM EST, February 28, 2012
There are 345 college men's basketball teams at the Division I level and the National Collegiate Athletic Association allows each to have three full-time assistant coaches on staff. Laurel High graduate Antoine Gaither has been on staff at Howard University as an assistant coach for the past two seasons but did not begin this season full-time. Gaither, who played at Division III Gettysburg (Pa.) College and is the third assistant on Howard's staff, has a job with the government that allows him to juggle his coaching gig at Howard.
While almost all Division I school have three full-time assistant coaches, Howard does not.
"It is not the norm. Obviously it is not ideal," said Keith Coutreyer, the associate head coach at Howard and a former coach at Laurel High.
Gaither played at Laurel High under Coutreyer and then took over as head coach of the Spartans when Coutreyer became an assistant head coach at Hampton, which like Howard is in theMid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Coutreyer joined the staff of head coach Kevin Nickelberry at Howard prior to the 2010-11 season and Gaither also came on board
Howard and other small Division I schools can get a big payday if they earn a spot in the NCAA Division I men's tournament. The Bison can gain an automatic bid to March Madness with a title at the MEAC tourney, which begins March 5 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"Tournament time is exciting because of the possibilities that exist for us. We are building for the future," said Coutreyer, whose team is 9-20.
Hampton (10-18 as of Feb. 27) has two Laurel High grads on its roster: Chris Tolson and Milade Lola-Charles. Tolson played in 27 of the first 28 games and averaged 9.7 points per game. He was named an athlete of the week at Hampton on Feb. 13. Lola-Charles played in five of the first 28 games.
A product of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club is with a team that could make the Division I tournament. Jonathan Arledge (KIMA charter school) is a sophomore for George Mason (23-8), which begins play in the Colonial Athletic Association tourney March 3 in Richmond against either Georgia State or Hofstra. Another local player in the CAA is North Laurel's Shane Reybold (Reservoir High), a reserve with North Carolina-Wilmington (9-20). UNC-W will face JMU March 2 at noon in Richmond in the tourney opener.
St. Vincent Pallotti High graduates with Division I teams include Keron DeShields, who came off the bench in 23 of the first 28 games for Montana (22-6) and averaged 2.0 points. The Grizzlies play in the Big Sky Conference, which begins its tourney March 3 at campus sites. College women players from Pallotti include Chizzy Ekedigwe (Seton Hall) and Amanda Gorham, a reserve for Long Island. Ekedigwe came off the bench in 19 of the first 29 games for the Pirates (8-21) and averaged less than a point per game.
At the Division II level Will Alston, who led Laurel High to the Class 4A state semifinals as a senior in 2008, is now a senior at Valdosta State (11-15) in Georgia. He averages 11.5 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per outing. Valdosta will play in the Gulf South Conference tourney, which starts March 1 in Florida. Alston played his first two years of college at Division I Jacksonville before transferring to Valdosta State.
"We are going down the home stretch and wrapping up my senior year," said Alston, who is on track to graduate this summer with a degree in criminal justice. Alston hopes to play overseas next season. "Coach (Mike Helfer) told me to keep doing what I am doing now," Alston said.
David Driver is the former Laurel Leader sports editor. Contact him at davidsdriver.com.
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