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Nine years ago, Tony Martin was preparing to coach what would be his final season as head man at Archbishop Spalding. That team would go on to win the Baltimore Catholic League championship, finish 31-5 and produce eight Division 1 players.

Today, Martin is readying to coach his third season at John Carroll. This team, which moves up to the MIAA A league from the B conference, has the potential for similar success – and perhaps the same amount of future D1 players.

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"There is a precedent; I think this team has eight D1 guys," Martin said. "The one thing that Spalding had was a Big East starting point guard [at Villanova] in Derrick Snowden. You can't really measure having a guy like that. … [but] we have some very good players."

One such player is Isaiah Philmore, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound junior and the star of John Carroll in the eyes of college coaches and an assortment of AAU teams who felt his wrath throughout the summer. Just a couple years ago many local AAU teams were uninterested, allowing Philmore to latch on with the Delaware Sharpshooters.

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"They picked me up two years ago when I was horrible, so I just stayed loyal," said Philmore, who has averaged more than 30 points per game throughout the summer. "A lot of other different teams see how I am now and they're shocked that I actually turned out to be better than I was. Now they want me to come over and play with them."

Virginia Tech, Loyola, Delaware, Miami (Fla.) and Marquette have all offered Philmore scholarships, but he says there's no leader yet. For now, Philmore's focused on improving – something that Martin believes is inevitable.

"Isaiah wills himself to play harder than anyone else on the court," Martin said. "His athleticism is outstanding and his skill development is coming along. The sky's the limit for him."

Three seniors for the Patriots are likely D1 players – center Jakub Kusmieruk, forward Josh Wiegand and guard Mike Maczko.

Kusmieruk – who measures in at 7 feet 4, 275 pounds – came to the U.S. from Poland two years ago, enrolling at John Carroll as a sophomore.

"Jakub runs the floor well for a kid his size," Martin said. "He has great hands and [he's got] pro potential with the right kind of development. He speaks four languages (English, Polish, German and Russian) and has a tremendous sense of humor."

Central Florida, LaSalle and Loyola are among several schools to step forward with scholarship offers. Georgetown, St. John's, Syracuse, N.C. State, Florida State, South Florida and Marquette are some of the high-major schools keeping on eye on the big man.

Wiegand wasn't always a sure-fire D1 guy, spending a decent amount of time on Patriots' bench as a junior. But coaches took note of the 6-foot-8, 3.7+ student over the summer.

"I've always wanted to play at [the D1] level," Wiegand said. "When I really realized it [was possible] was probably this spring because I got a personal trainer and I started working out more. I went to George Mason's camp for two days. After coming back from there … I really thought I could get a scholarship to a D1 school."

Those thoughts were realized when The Citadel stepped forward with a scholarship offer. American, Oral Roberts and Quinnipiac are also heavily recruiting Wiegand, who Martin called a "rock solid student-athlete." Wiegand's combination of basketball and academics has drawn the attention of several Ivy League schools, as well.

Maczko – John Carroll's third potential D1 senior – is also hearing from Quinnipiac frequently, in addition to serious interest from IUPUI, Richmond, Central Connecticut State and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

"I'm a major fan of Mike in that he's a gym rat, a guy who loves the game," Martin said. "He's probably one of our most versatile guys. I'm really looking forward to seeing his game improve with the talent around him. He shoots it from very deep."

John Carroll's other D1 prospects are Dejan Gaspic, a 6-foot-0 point guard from Croatia, Wyatt Smith, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward, Erick Smith, a 6-foot-3 guard and Raphael Jordan, a 6-foot-1 guard. All four are juniors.

Martin will need major contributions from those eight -- as well as seniors Tim Pleiss and D'Metric Evans -- in order to compete with the likes of Towson Catholic, St. Frances, Calvert Hall and others on a weekly basis.

"We're going to go in there ready to compete and play as hard as anyone," said Martin, who has also scheduled the Patriots for the Charm City Classic, the Primetime Shootout in New Jersey and the City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers, Fla. "Understand it's going to be a major adjustment for our guys, but we know the challenges lying ahead."

Those challenges, in addition to the knowledge that the Patriots could feature up to eight future D1 players, will likely place a target squarely on the backs of John Carroll's players.

Count Philmore as one Patriot player that's unconcerned with said target, and ready to embrace those challenges.

"I really don't think we care," Philmore said. "We just can't wait to play in the 'A' conference and show them how great we are."

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