The Notre Dame Prep boys basketball program will have a decidedly Baltimore flavor this season.
Four players with ties to the area have enrolled at the Fitchburg, Mass., school for a post-graduate year.
Former Lake Clifton standout Cleveland Melvin, a 6-foot-8 power forward, is probably the most heavily recruited Charm City native on the Crusaders' roster.
"South Florida has offered," said Notre Dame Prep head coach Ryan Hurd. "TCU has offered. Memphis and Baylor and UConn, I think they will [offer]. I think they want to make sure he takes care of everything he needs to take care of first."
Melvin is scheduled to take the SAT on Saturday. After that, he'll be able to take official visits. Melvin hasn't decided if he'll sign next month or wait until April.
"He's only going to get stronger and better working on his game up here," Hurd said. "To me, he could be a kid that if he waited until the spring [to sign], the sky's the limit to his options."Point guard Antonio Barton, a teammate of Melvin's on Lake Clifton's undefeated Class 3A state title team, has also joined the Notre Dame Prep squad.
"He's been great since he got here," Hurd said. "He's working on some things with his body and getting ready for where he's headed. He's already committed [to Memphis], so his ability speaks for itself. Now it's another year to get him bigger and stronger and ready to play at Memphis. ... We anticipate him being a leader on this team. When you come to this level having already committed, it buys you some scrutiny you might not normally want. But he's doing a great job taking that on his shoulders and proving he belongs at that level."
Antoine Myers, a 6-foot-2 point guard who graduated from Forest Park last spring, already "has a host of offers on the table," according to Hurd. Myers will likely wait until the spring to sign because "he wants to see how much better he can get" this season at Notre Dame Prep, and then see which suitors he has.
"His recruitment is all over the board, probably more so than any kid we have here," Hurd said. "Sometimes you hear people talk about a kid having an extra gear. He's got one of those gears and when he puts it on, he just flies by people. We have to work on getting everything together all the time, but when that stuff clicks, he can go anywhere from the Big East to the America East. He's going to have a ton of options. It's going to be really neat to see where he ends up."
Former Towson Catholic small forward Levi Noel is the final NDP player with Baltimore ties on this season's roster. The 6-foot-5 London native was a late addition to the Crusaders. Noel quickly impressed Hurd and the rest of NDP's coaching staff.
"I have no problem seeing him in the Atlantic 10. I have no problem seeing him at a higher level," Hurd said. "But you have to appreciate his game. He's got something to prove and he could end up being the biggest surprise up here. He's a kid I didn't really know a lot about and he's kind of taken the team on his shoulders in terms of leadership, knocking down shots, competing and kind of setting the bar [for the rest of the team]."
Melvin, Barton, Myers and Noel are just the latest Baltimore players to suit up for Notre Dame Prep. Kimmie English (Missouri), Chester Frazier (Illinois), Antoine Allen (Miami), Devin Brown (Holy Cross), Paris Carter (New Mexico State) and Terence Jones (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) all spent time with the Crusaders before heading to college. For Hurd, continuing to build his roster with players from the area is a no-brainer.
"My relationship with [Cecil Kirk coach] Anthony Lewis [is what keeps me coming back to Baltimore]," Hurd said. "I know he's doing things for the right reasons and doing things the right way. When you have someone like that that you trust, [who coaches] talented players that are going to be completely focused, why wouldn't you keep going back to that well?"
Baltimore Sun photo of Cleveland Melvin by Kenneth K. Lam / Feb. 23, 2009