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Commentary: Christian has an easy system to sell

Mount St. Mary's coach Jamion Christian chose his team's running, gunning, pressing, high-scoring style of play for two reasons.

First, of course, he believes shooting early in the shot clock, often from long range, and creating offense off of defensive pressure is the best way to win basketball games.

Second, and perhaps just as important, he believes it's a style of play that will attract talented recruits.

Let other teams bang for 40 minutes and grind out physical, 56-52 slugfests. He wants his team scoring in the 80s or 90s. And it's OK if the other team does, too. He figures if his Mountaineers force the opposition to play this style, often out of their comfort zones, MSM will be just fine - in the game and on the recruiting trail.

"I love our tempo. I think it makes for a great place for young guys to come in and make an impact," Christian said last week after running St. Francis Brooklyn out of Knott Arena, 88-82. "I think us being the most southern school in our league, it's really important to attract, long, athletic, fast athletes. I think we have a better chance of getting them than teams that are north of us. So I think our style of play is perfect if we continue to attract those type of players."

Let's see, I can shoot whenever I want, especially if I'm standing outside the 3-point arc, and instead of wrestling with my man on defense for 35 seconds I can press full court, force turnovers and get easy baskets for myself and my teammates?

Sounds like a pretty easy sell.

Heck, even Wagner coach Bashir Mason sounded like he'd enjoy playing in such a system Thursday night after MSM's Julian Norfleet and Rashad Whack combined for 55 points to beat his team 89-80.

"They have the ultimate green light. They can shoot any shot they want," Mason said of MSM. "When you can play that way, with that type of light and that type of confidence, then the ball's going to go in more times than not."

At least until Saturday, when the Mountaineers went cold and couldn't turn Robert Morris over. Before that, they had won three of four by averaging 90 points per game.

That Thursday win might've meant more than just another game in the standings.

The Mount was playing to a regional television audience on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. A TV game might be taken for granted in the ACC or Big East. In the NEC it's one of a handful of opportunities each year to put the product on display to prospective future players.

They got to see an up-and-down affair in which Mount St. Mary's forced 19 turnovers, scoring 34 points off of those turnovers, and jacked up 24 shots from beyond the arc, making 10.

They also got to see Wagner score a number of easy baskets after breaking the Mount's press, finishing with 50 points in the paint after St. Francis tallied 62 in the previous game. Some of those points were on spectacular alley-oop dunks.

No problem, says Christian, because the highlight-reel dunks are often followed in short order by a Norfleet or Whack 3-pointer or fastbreak layup.

"Hopefully there was someone who tuned in, that doesn't usually watch NEC basketball, maybe they saw Duan Anderson dunk and were like, 'Maybe I'll stay here and watch,'" Christian said. "And then they got a chance to watch [Norfleet and Whack] put on an absolute show."

And maybe some 6-foot-3 high school junior who loves to run and shoot saw the show and, suddenly, a tiny school in the mountains of rural Maryland just blipped onto his radar.

Christian has already attracted, by most accounts, a strong, six-man recruiting class for next season - including a rocket point guard, some long and athletic wings and a transfer from Butler who's already in school. But coaches have to always be thinking about the next class, and the one after that.

"It's just really exciting for us to have a chance to showcase 'Mayhem' on TV," Christian said on Thursday, using the nickname he's given the style of play. "For everyone in the NEC, it's really important for us all of us to have a branding opportunity and to showcase well on TV. The goal of every program here is to help the league grow [and] I do feel like we represented the league very well."

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