Darrell Brooks got off to a good start as Bowie State's men's basketball coach in his first year back at his alma mater.
The longtime George Washington assistant guided the Bulldogs to a 16-10 record last season. This year, he'll attempt to better that mark with the help of a few former Baltimore City high school stars.
Brooks has added four Baltimore natives to the Bulldogs' roster for the 2010-11 season: Trawn Rogers, a 6-foot-8, 185-pound forward from St. Frances, Byron Westmoreland, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound shooting guard from Mervo, Julian Harrell, a 6-foot point guard from Good Counsel, and Tyrone Lawson, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward from Northwestern.
"One of the things I really like about Baltimore kids, and I've recruited the area for a long time, is that they're very tough, hard-working kids, no matter if their game is big or small. That's what I like about Baltimore kids," Brooks said.Rogers helped the Panthers to the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League championships in 2009. After graduating from St. Frances, Rogers headed to a prep school in North Carolina, where he was discovered by Brooks' staff.
"I've got to be honest, I could act like I was really smart, but we went to his prep school and were actually recruiting the point guard from that school, who I just loved," Brooks said. "We saw Trawn and realized he was from Baltimore. I wasn't crazy about him at first, but we kept on seeing the other kid and got to see him play a little bit more. I really like his skill set.
"The thing that scared some low Division I schools was his size. He's very thin at 185 pounds. But for us at this level, fortunately we can look past that. He'll work hard in the weight room and get bigger and stronger. The more I saw him, I realized we had a chance to recruit him and get him. We were kind of lucky with that one. … I'm very excited about him. In the next two or three years, he can be one of the better players in the league."
Westmoreland was a Baltimore Sun second-team All-Metro selection in 2008. After graduating from Mervo, he headed to Pitt-Johnstown, a Division II program where he redshirted as a freshman. Westmoreland then moved back home and enrolled at Baltimore City Community College, where he guided the Panthers to the Maryland JUCO tournament championship.
"Byron Westmoreland, after a year at BCCC, he's a scorer. He's just a flat-out scorer," Brooks said. "He manufactures baskets and he's an athletic, long, lean wing guy. That's kind of how I like my wings, going back to my days at GW. But I'm really excited about him because he's a scorer and he knows how to play. He has good basketball IQ. … When we went to watch him, I really liked him right off the bat. I like guys who can score and have very good basketball IQ. He's got both of those. I think he can be ... a big-time scorer in this league, and I think that he will be."
Harrell comes to Bowie as a walk-on. The former Towson Catholic point guard transferred to Good Counsel for his senior season after the Archdiocese of Baltimore closed TC in the summer of 2009.
"It was around the spring and we were going through our spring workouts, and whenever recruits would come up, he would come up as well," Brooks said. "He said he was accepted and going to come to school here. He can really shoot the ball. … He's been around all summer with the guys playing pickup. He's just a hard-working kid who shoots the basketball. He's a non-scholarship guy who can really help us in practice situations."
Lawson's entering his junior year at Bowie State but his first season on the Bulldogs' basketball team. Adding Lawson to the roster was an added – albeit unexpected – bonus for Brooks.
"He just played in high school and literally came by my office one day [and said], 'I go to school here and I'm interested in playing.' He worked out with our guys, played hard and grabbed rebounds," Brooks said. "He's learning, obviously, the fundamentals. But he's a very, very hard-working kid at 6-8 who's physical. Definitely in practice he can be a physical guy, and you could get him into some games and he'll help you."
Throughout his more than 25-year coaching career, Brooks has made a habit of recruiting Baltimore. Expect that to continue during his time at Bowie.
"It's a natural fit," Brooks said. "It depends on what part of Baltimore you go into, but it's 25, 30 minutes from the school. Obviously in-state guys are always what we look for. So Baltimore will be a hotbed for us. It always has been for Bowie, so it's not like I'm creating anything. It's always been that way. We'll just continue to find guys that come and fit the program, both academically and basketball-wise."