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Summer hoops recap: Crusader Nation

For the past 24 years Fred McCathorine has spent the spring and summer months crisscrossing the country with his Crusader Nation boys' basketball teams.

The summer of 2010 was McCathorine's last as a coach, although he'll continue in his role as Crusader Nation's program director in the years to come. While he'll miss roaming the sidelines, he'll always remember his last team, which was composed mostly of players that joined the program as 13-year-olds. One moment this summer, on a trip to a tournament in New Jersey, was especially memorable for McCathorine.

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"We had an early game," McCathorine said. "I told them [at the hotel], 'You need to go upstairs, get to bed, get some rest and meet me down here at 7 [a.m.]. When I came down at 7 and turned the corner, they were all standing by the elevator. They said, 'Coach Mac, you're late. You always say we have to be there five minutes early.' So they were easy to travel with and they're great young men. They're a bunch of bright young men focused on getting a college degree."

Here's a player-by-player look at Crusader Nation's 17-and-under squad:

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• Mount St. Joseph center Trey Clinton is known for his inside play, but McCathorine was impressed this summer by the 6-foot-8 senior's ability to step outside the paint. "Trey, to my surprise this season, developed a great mid-range jumper. … We asked him to take jump shots from the foul line. We run a play where everyone is out at the four corners. We get the ball to his corner and Trey will take that 3. The biggest thing with Trey Clinton is his ability to knock down that 3, and that helped us stretch the defense." McCathorine said he thinks Clinton will sign during the fall period. A 3.8 student, Clinton has received interest from Brown, Catholic, Lafayette, Navy, Penn State, Princeton and South Florida.• After guiding Milford Mill to the Class 3A state championship last spring, Isaiah McCray picked up right where he left off this summer. The 6-foot-1 senior filled multiple roles for Crusader Nation, playing the 1, 2 and 3. "When Isaiah's on, he's going to rain 3s on you. If not, he's going inside to try and dunk it on you," McCathorine said. "He's definitely a player with a college body – he's not a skinny high school kid. Isaiah is real strong. … He'll shoot that jump shot over people three, four, five inches taller than him simply because of the elevation on his jumper." McCray, a 3.7 student, has interest from Colgate, Jacksonville, Long Island, Loyola, UNC-Wilmington and Wagner.

Tevin Hanner teamed with McCray on the Millers' state title team, and then followed that up with an eye-opening spring and summer with Crusader Nation. The 6-foot-6 forward demonstrated impressive athleticism and a knack for getting to the hoop. "I've seen that kid do some things with the basketball that just amaze me," McCathorine said. "The good thing about Tevin is over the summer, he started to be more than a slasher. He developed a mid-range jump shot. … Wherever Tevin ends up, they'll really have a big-time player." Jacksonville, Loyola, Robert Morris, Tarleton State (Texas) and UMBC have made contact.

• John Carroll point guard Malcolm McMillan is already off the board, having committed to Central Connecticut State earlier this month. The 6-foot-1 senior generated all sorts of mid-major interest this summer thanks to his play with Crusader Nation. McCathorine thinks that McMillan will see a lot of minutes for the Blue Devils before his freshman year is done. "He's so in tune with the coaches," McCathorine said. "He's a coach out there on the floor. … For the type of offense we run – up-tempo, lots of picks, spreading the floor – he's the perfect person for that. He's stronger than most guards on the circuit … and he's just very efficient on the floor."

Brian Morton may not be a household name in Baltimore Catholic League circles just yet, but McCathorine expects that to change this year. "I would say for Catholic League Defensive Player of the Year, if he doesn't get it, it's politics," McCathorine said. "If Brian doesn't start a game, and someone's hurting us, then I'm sending Brian in [to guard] him. Brian will go shut the kid down. There's no doubt about that. It doesn't matter what size he is – he's going to harass him. He does a lot of things to frustrate whoever he's playing. For our team, Brian is by far the best defensive player on the team." The 6-foot-3 Morton has interest from several small colleges, including Bethany, Eastern Mennonite, Randolph, Wilkes and Wheeling Jesuit.

• Former Long Reach center Brandon Pines, 6 feet 7, suited up for Crusader Nation in the spring but not the summer. McCathorine said Pines – who's attending Charis Prep (N.C.) this year – has "so much upside. He bought into the program. The thing I hope about Brandon is that he develops his body and gets stronger. He has great footwork around the paint and is a great rebounder." Presbyterian and UMES are among the schools that have inquired about Pines.

• McCray and Hanner weren't the only members of Crusader Nation to lead their high school team to a state title. Iakeem Alston, a 6-foot-2 guard, was a key contributor to Dunbar's Class 1A championship last spring. Alston, a senior with interest from Bowie State, Howard and Mount St. Mary's, thrives on the defensive end. "When coaches ask me about Iakeem, I ask, 'Do you press a lot? Are you full court? Man?' Because if they are, then Iakeem is your man up top."

• Two years ago Chris Kempt played competitive basketball for the first time. Now the former Cardinal Gibbons center has a college hoops future, thanks to his play with Crusader Nation. The 6-foot-7 senior, who now attends Archbishop Spalding, was the team's second-leading scorer this summer. "Chris is this big, wide body who can handle the ball on the wing and head to the rim if you give it to him," McCathorine said. "He's either going to turn around and shoot or head to the basket. He's so big and so strong that he usually gets an and-1. Someone is going to get a really good athlete right there." Pfeiffer (N.C.) and UMBC have expressed interest in Kempt.

• McCathorine met Juwan Newman when the 6-foot-8 center was riding the bench at Lake Clifton. Newman left the Lakers for KIMA, a charter school in Washington, and saw more action there. His game took another step forward this summer with Crusader Nation. "He's just extremely long," McCathorine said. "Juwan is a lot like Chris. He's played a lot more ball than Chris, but he has reinforced his game so much. … He's very focused. If he sends you a text message or e-mail, his tagline is 'Trying to better myself every day.' Newman, who's doing a post-grad year at the Phelps Schools in Malvern, Pa., would like to play at Charlotte.

Baltimore Sun photo of Trey Clinton by Barbara Haddock Taylor / Jan. 31, 2010

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