There's going to be more than basketballs and players in the air this season. The open tournament, with its blind-draw controversy from the fall, has moved indoors.
It's unanimous among the county public school boys basketball coaches (all 12 polled): They don't like the lottery system for the tournament, but do like the new two-division set-up.
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSA) could make a lot of coaches happy by seeding the teams in each region at the start of the open state tournament.
The coaches believe teams that have great records should not have to travel to schools with losing records to start the playoffs.
Annapolis coach John Brady says "the administrative types who came up with this stuff, watched "Hoosiers" one too many times."
In contrast, the new two-division concept is a hit. The North Division is made up of Chesapeake, Glen Burnie, Meade, Northeast, North County and Old Mill with the South comprising Annapolis, Arundel, Broadneck, Severna Park, Southern and South River.
The division winners, based on all county games played (teams play each team in its own division twice, the other six once), will play for a county championship. That idea has the overwhelming approval of the coaches.
"The way the open tournament is currently set up, stinks," says Old Mill's 11th-year head coach Paul Bunting, whose Patriots were a perennial playoff team under the points system. "Seed like the NCAA does."
Even coaches at two 4A schools, who won just six games between them last year in Chesapeake (2-20) and Severna Park (4-18), agree with Bunting -- despite the fact they've been given a free ticket to the state playoffs under the open-tournament concept.
"I would prefer to earn your way into the playoffs," said Chesapeake coach John Spinnenweber. "I liked the old way because it gave you something to play for during the season. I think you derive more pleasure from earning a playoff berth.
"I say use the points system to seed the teams because it's not fair to the teams that play tough schedules and do well and get nothing for it."
Severna Park coach Paul Pellicani agrees and said the state "missed the boat by not seeding teams. It's extremely unfair to teams like Annapolis and Broadneck."
Brady admits that it is not as bad for 4A schools who are grouped in the East region with not too distant Queen Anne's and two Calvert County schools, but sees the inequities in the smaller classifications of 3A, 2A and 1A.
"It's not fair for a good team to have to travel three hours to Ocean City, for instance, to play a 2-18 team," said Brady.
Throwing more fuel on the fire, the state will have basically one draw in basketball with the schools drawn by the boys teams becoming the same opponent for the respective girls teams.
"That's right," said Glen Burnie coach Terry Bogle. "The almighty buck speaks. More money can be made with doubleheaders and saving on bus transportation."
Broadneck coach and athletic director Ken Kazmarek suggests a formation of a 10-coach committee to seed all the teams in the state tournament.
"I think most people didn't realize what they were getting into when they started the open tournament," said Kazmarek. "The state is supposed to serve the people and give them what they want."
In comparison, county athletic directors and coordinator of physical education Rick Wiles look like Santa Claus with the north and south divisions and county championship game.
Kazmarek's only fear is that "the two best teams might not play for the county championship," and 29-year veteran Meade coach Butch Young worries about "maintaining the enthusiasm into the playoffs."
Young who likes to refer to the playoffs as "the popcorn ball," doesn't fancy the chance of the two county finalists meeting the first night of the playoffs thanks to the blind draw for the open tournament.
Coach Gerald Moore of defending 4A East region champion Arundel is in favor of the divisions even though his Wildcats are in the stacked South. Last year's overall record of the six Southern teams was 88-55 (.615), with four boasting winning records.
The North was an overall 50-84 (.373), with only two winning teams -- North County (13-11) and Glen Burnie (12-11).
"We always played Annapolis and Broadneck twice anyway," said Moore.
Brady sees it much the same way and is ecstatic over renewing home-and-home rivalries with Broadneck and Southern. His only regret is playing Meade just once.
John Barbour of 2A Northeast, 4-18 a year ago against smaller schools, is the only non-4A team in the north, but is not complaining.
"It builds rivalries and will make us a better team at playoff time because who knows who you will draw," said Barbour.
Things are not as complicated for the county's three private schools. Severn, Spalding and St. Mary's are playing in the MIAA B Conference, where you have to qualify for the playoffs by the old-fashioned way -- by your record.
Only Severn's first year hesd coach Charles "Tank" Duckett is unhappy.
"We would rather be in A Conference and play the best teams twice like we did last year but that's another story," said Duckett.
Team by team outlook
1994-95 record: 19-5.
Coach: John Brady (career record: 375-68)
Top players: Germaine "Boo" Diggs, 6-7, Jr., F; John Downs, 6-0, Sr., G; Brian Barber, 6-6, Jr., F; Ryan Dacey, 6-3, Sr., G; Linford Matthews, 6-4, Sr., F; Todd Nicolini, 5-11, Jr.,G; Niya Washington, 6-1, Jr., G; Barry Booth, 5-11, Jr., G; Byron Booth, 5-11, Jr., G; Harold Covert, 5-9, Jr., G.
Outlook: It's been five years since Annapolis made it to Cole Field House for the state playoffs. In 11 of Brady's first 14 seasons at the school, the Panthers qualified with region titles and won a state championship in 1990. "This team should be a contender because they are eager and determined," said Brady, whose .847 career winning percentage in 18 years is the best in county history. "We didn't do well in our first two scrimmages, but this team is resolved to do better and did in our last scrimmage. They're open to coaching." Brady believes that Diggs, who should be one of the county's top players after starting as a sophomore and having a great summer in the Annapolis Outdoor League at Truxtun Park, can become a "big-time player." Brady says Diggs, "has great instincts, is a great athlete who can guard people, handle the ball, pass and take it to the basket. He needs to improve his perimeter shooting." The Panthers should get steady perimeter shooting from Dacey, Downs and Nicolini with Matthews and Barber blending inside with Diggs. Brady is coaching the sons of a former player for the first time in the Booth twins of Barry Booth Sr., a 1979 grad.
Archbishop Spalding Cavaliers
1994-95 record: 12-15.
Coach: Robert Spriggs (first season).
Top players: Matt Brady, 5-10, Sr., G; Joe Petrocelli, 5-11, Jr., G; Eric Anderson, 6-7, Sr., C; Mike Chaconas, 6-4, So., F; Mike Angelo, 5-9, Sr., G; John Bents, 6-6, so., C; Nick McAvoy, 6-0, Jr., G-F; Jeff Carter, 6-3, so., F.
Outlook: Spriggs, a veteran rec coach in Baltimore who played at Patterson and Loyola College, takes over for Lee Dove. Dove stepped down after five seasons and a 47-76 record to concentrate on his duties as athletic director. The new coach relishes the teaching aspects of coaching and had the likes of Shawnta Rogers, last year's Baltimore Sun Player of the Year, and scores of other blue-chippers in their formative years. "I'm trying to instill a new attitude and improved work ethic at Spalding," said Spriggs. "I told the kids success is not a destination, but a journey and I expect us to be a surprise and thorn in the side of the teams in our conference." The Cavaliers play in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) B Conference and have a strong nucleus from last year's undefeated JV team (18-0), led by Brady, who had 20 points in a season-opening 87-59 loss to Pallotti on Friday. Petrocelli led the JV with 23 points a game, but is recovering from arthroscopic surgery (football injury). When he returns he will give the Cavs a strong backcourt. Spriggs is also expecting good things from Anderson and Chaconas inside, swingman McAvoy and Old Mill transfer Carter.
1994-95 record: 21-4.
Coach: Gerald Moore (73-65)
Top players: Darnerian McCants, 6-4, Sr., F; Robert Fannon, 6-1, Sr., G; Bill Clyburn, 6-3, Sr., F; Raven Womack, 6-6, Sr., F; Jim Todd, 6-4, Sr., F; Erik Lipton, 6-4, Jr., G; Joe Parker, 6-4, Jr., G; Victor Robinson, 6-4, Jr., G; Jamell Miller, 6-1, Jr., G.
Outlook: Moore, the Anne Arundel County Coach of the Year last season after leading the Wildcats to their first region title and trip to the Final Four in 20 years, is hoping for an encore. "Last year's team was last year's team, and that team had more individual talent and grew as a team," said Moore. "This year is a team from the very beginning, more unselfish, bigger and more athletic." Arundel lost All-County guards Bakari Ward and Kevin Higgins to graduation. Ward, also All-Metro, averaged 22.8 points a game while Higgins tossed in 15.1 points per. That's nearly 40 points a game. "We will score our points with McCants, and several guys who were on our undefeated (20-0) JV team last year," said Moore. Among the JV additions are Lipton, second-team All-Metro quarterback in football and All-metro tight end Parker.
1994-95 record: 22-3.
Coach: Ken Kazmarek (205-78)
Top players: Mike Tasker, 6-1, Sr., G; John Williams, 6-5, Jr., G; Renardo Walker, 6-3, Sr., F; Jamaine Young, 6-1, Sr., F; Noble Watkins, 6-5, Jr., F-C; Brad Limbacher, 5-8, Jr., G.
Outlook: Kazmarek feels it "would be a big mistake," to try and replace county Player of the Year and two-time All-Metro guard Jason Smith, the school's all-time leading scorer (1,662 points). The coach is hoping the huge loss of his four-year starter will "concentrate on our strengths with our players feeding off each better to give us more balanced scoring." Williams, a defensive stalwart (59 steals), and Walker are the returning starters, but Tasker and Young got a lot of time last season and were key players on a run to the 3A state semifinals. Kazmarek wants to get Williams (8.9 points, 6.2 rebounds), who has started since his freshman year, more involved offensively this season. He hopes JV grad Watkins gives Walker (6.7 points, 6.5 boards) and Young (13.9 points, 6.4 boards, 4.1 assists) help inside, gets defense and ball handling from Limbacher and a bigger scoring role for Tasker (5.2 points). The Bruins used seven players almost extensively last season, but Kazmarek doesn't see that happening this year. "Depth is our weakness right now and it looks like we will play six players most of the time," he said.
1994-95 record: 2-20.
Coach: John Spinnenweber (5-39)
Top players: Jason Adams, 6-8, Sr., C; John Jennings, 6-1, Sr., F; John Jenkins, 6-0, Sr., G; Jared Vogt, 6-0, Jr., G; Aaron Brown, 5-8, Sr., G; Shawn Plews, 6-1, Jr., F; Dave Dolch, 6-4, So., F; Marvin Hazen, 5-10, Jr., G.
Outlook: The Cougars lost only one senior and easily have the best overall talent in Spinnenweber's three years at Chesapeake. "I'm not predicting we're going to Cole, but we have the talent to compete for the first time since I've been here," he said. "The kids were pretty successful in their summer leagues, especially Jason [Adams], who has grown two inches and gotten a lot stronger after dedicating himself to the weights. He will make us really tough inside and we've got kids like Jared [Vogt] who can stick it." The Cougars will be able to apply pressure for the first time in three years and Spinnenweber is putting more emphasis on defense.
Glen Burnie Gophers
1994-95 record: 12-11.
Coach: Terry Bogle (279-316)
Top players: Desmond Dailey, 6-2, Sr., F-G; Damon Flamer, 6-1, Sr., G; Quincy Caldwell, 6-2, Sr., F; Terry Gaither, 6-0, Sr., G; Chris Witherspoon, 6-1, Jr., F; David Marcus, 6-1, Sr., G; Jason Harris, 6-2, Sr., F; Lenny Holmes, 6-3, Jr., C; Dam Griffith, 6-3, Sr., C.
Outlook: Look for the Gophers to run their "red unit" once again with Dailey leading a seasoned group of quick players. "This is one of the most athletic teams I've had. They are very quick," said Bogle, who begins his 28th season. "They've been running well in pre-season and Desmond is a quality player but has to realize that he doesn't have to carry us." Dailey was All-County last season after leading the county public school league in scoring during regular season with 22.4 points a game.
1994-95 record: 9-13.
Coach: Butch Young (387-245)
Top players: Lavar Robinson, 6-2, Jr., G; Deshawn Brown, 5-11, Sr., G; Kaishi Harris, 5-11, Sr., G; Wes Riddick, 6-3, Sr., C; Eric Cooks, 6-4, So., C; Elijah Thurmon, 6-3, Sr., F; Garnett Day, 6-4, Sr., C.
Outlook: Because of transfers at Fort Meade, a host of underclassmen who were in Young's program have departed. "Things have really changed and we've lost a lot of kids," said Young, who begins his 18th season at Meade and 29th as a county coach. "They're building new housing on the base and kids are scattered all over the place and not back here." The transfers coupled with only one returning starter in Robinson, who averaged 10 points a game for the Mustangs, have Young in a quandary. "I don't know if we're going north or south with this team," he said. "We're not going to be able to push the ball up and down the floor like we have in the past, and defensively, we might have to cheat and play a little zone." Young, coming off his first losing season at Meade, has built his career on teaching man-to-man defense, but may be forced to try something else.
North County Knights
1994-95 record: 12-10.
Coach: Brad Wilson (28-83)
Top players: Maurice Bowie, 6-1, Sr.,G; Cornelius Burley, 6-0, Sr., G; Chris Salmon, 6-6, Sr., C; Richard "Speedy" Allen, 6-3, Jr., C; Derek Booth, 6-0, Jr.,G; Corey Wright, 5-9, Jr., G; Sean Brown, 5-10, Jr., G; Sonio Proserpi, 6-2, Jr.,F.
Outlook: Coming off their first winning season in their six-year history with three key starters returning. the Knights could give Old Mill and Glen Burnie a run for the county's North Division title. "We can definitely improve on last year with the returnees we have, a good senior nucleus and more depth with seven to eight pretty good kids up from JV," said Wilson. Bowie, third team all-county last year, will be "one of the top five players in the county," said Wilson. Burley in the backcourt and Allen inside give the Knights a solid foundation. Bowie averaged 13 points, seven boards and four assists, Burley tossed in 12 points a game to go with four assists and Allen grabbed seven rebounds an outing to go with 11 points per game.
1994-95 record: 4-18.
Coach: John Barbour (168-199)
Top players: Russell Wright, 6-3, Sr., C; Mike Parker, 5-8, Sr., G; Wayne Wanner, 5-11, Sr.,G; Sean Richardson, 6-2, Sr., F; Ryan George, 5-11, So., F; Bruce Chaney, 6-0, Sr., F; Josh Gerst, 5-8, Sr., G; Jason Hobbs, 6-3, Jr., C.
Outlook: With 16 of the Class 2A Eagles 20 games against 4A schools in the North-South division set-up, Barbour expects to be very competitive come playoff time. "I believe we can hold our own and the tough schedule will only make us better," he said. "We're kind of small, but we've been doing some good things and I expect us to improve our record." Barbour is especially pleased with the chemistry of his team with Parker, Richardson and Wright being the foundation.
Old Mill Patriots
1994-95 record: 11-11.
Coach: Paul Bunting (123-99)
Top players: Joe Barnes, 5-9, Sr., G; Anthony Graves, 6-6, Sr., C; Demar Thompson, 5-10, Sr., F; Ramar Thompson, 6-0, Sr., F; Kris Brown, 5-10, Sr., F; Dion Fleming, 5-10, Sr., F; Brian Bogle, 5-8, Sr., G.
Outlook: If Graves, who averaged 14 points a game as a sophomore before transferring to Archbishop Carroll in Washington last year, recovers fully from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Patriots could be one of the top two teams in the county. His presence inside would make second-team All-county guard Barnes, who averaged 16 points a game last year, more dangerous. Graves returned to Old Mill this fall, much to the delight of Bunting. "Anthony has been released by his doctor, but is still in rehab," said Bunting. "With him healthy, we could have the best overall talent and team I've had here. We can put an all-beef team on the floor that most football teams would like to have." The 235-pound Graves leads the way with the Thompson twins, Demar and Ramar, also bulky at about 215 pounds each.
St. Mary's Saints
1994-95 record: 14-10.
Coach: Dave Lombardi (19-23)
Top players: Danny Marohl, 6-1, Sr., G; Braxton McNeil, 6-2, Sr., C; Jamal Reed, 5-8, So., G; D.J. Dauses, 6-1, So., F; S. J. Womack, 6-2, So., F; Matt Murphy, 6 -1, Sr., F; Chris Summers, 6-0, Fr., G; Scott Driscoll, 6-5, Jr., C.
Outlook: After a rocky start, a 53-28 loss to Severn in the Cardinal Gibbons Crusader Invitational, the Saints bounced back defeat John Carroll, 67-59, on Saturday to fuel optimism for MIAA B Conference action. "It wasn't a good start. but we have a lot of young kids and they played with more intensity the second game," said Lombardi who begins his third season after delivering the school's first winning season in several years. "We should be quicker this year and Danny, Braxton and Matt will help the younger players." Marohl, third-team All-County last year after leading the Saints in scoring (14.3), is a co-captain with All-County football lineman McNeil. They and Murphy, another football player, form a solid senior nucleus.
1994-95 record: 25-8.
Coach: Charles "Tank" Duckett (first season)
Top players: Dennard Melton, 5-10, So., G; Andrew Watts, 6-9, Sr., C; Winston Johnson, 6-4, Jr., F; Jeff Hatch, 6-7, Jr., F; Greg Cooper, 6-2, So., F; Jeff Haskins, 6-2, So., G; Matt Wright, 6-0, So., G.
Outlook: Duckett takes the reins after being a very involved assistant to Wayne Fowler, who led the Admirals to a 48-11 (.814) record in two seasons. Fowler now assists his close friend with Gil Goodrich. "It's the same program with the three of us, but it's been kind of hectic as head coach," said Duckett, a former standout player at Severna Park and Washington College. Severn opened its 30-game schedule with a 1-1 weekend, topping St. Mary's, 53-28, before losing to host Cardinal Gibbons, 73-54, in the final of the Crusader Invitational. Sophomore Melton, second-team All-county as a freshman (15.8 ppg), had 29 points in the first two games and Duckett says, "He had 14 points against Gibbons with two and three players guarding him. Teams feel that if you stop him, you stop us, but in time that won't be true." Once the biggest front line in the county -- 6-9 Watts, 6-7 Hatch and 6-4 Johnson -- gets more time together, the Admirals could be tough to stop. Watts, the only starting senior, lost 30 pounds and tips the scales at 265 while Hatch, who is recovering from a football injury, weighs in at 235. Duckett expects his team to win "at least 15 games, maybe 19 to 20."
Severna Park Falcons
1994-95 record: 4-18.
Coach: Paul Pellicani (6-38)
Top players: John Briggs, 6-3, Sr., G; Darrell Andrews, 6-1, Jr., G; Greg Korwek, 6-2, So., F; Mike Morehead, 6-2, Jr., F; Steve Boyle, 6-2, Sr., F; Dille Jarvi, 6-2, Jr., G; Nick Stook, 6-1, So., F.
Outlook: After two frustrating seasons, Pellicani expects his Falcons to come of age this year. "I will be very, very surprised if we're not competitive this season," said Pellicani. "This team has good court awareness, the ability to shoot and create and has made the commitment to get better." The coach was referring to his players competing in three summer leagues and putting in the time in the weight room. Briggs, who averaged 11.1 points a game last year, will lead the backcourt with Andrews, while Boyle, Korwek and Morehead will take care of the inside. "People will have to defend five people when they play us this year," said the coach. "This is going to be a versatile team, and our only concern is when we have to address size and strength and how we match up inside."
1994-95 record: 7-16.
Coach: Tom Albright (437-251
Top players: Scott Crandell, 6-1, Sr., F-G; Jeff Crandell, 6-0, Jr., G; Adam Booth, 5-11, Sr., G; Derek Hawkins, 6-1, Sr., F; Matt Thomas, 6-5, Sr., C.
Outlook: Coming off only the sixth losing season in his 30 years at Southern, Albright, who is the county's winningest coach with four state titles, has an outstanding senior nucleus. Swingman Scott Crandell averaged 18.3 points a game to earn third-team All-county honors as a junior and Thomas tossed in 10.5 points underneath. Booth, Hawkins and Jeff Crandell add to the Class 2A Bulldog experience factor. Another nine underclassmen will add depth and fresh legs to the Dawgs' nonstop running and pressure-defense approach.
South River Seahawks
1994-95 record: 15-9.
Coach: Kenny Dunn (178-201)
Top players: Doug Lawson, 6-3, Sr., F; Phil Tayman, 6-0, Sr., C; Guan Brown, 6-2, Jr., F; Howie Edelstein, 5-8, Jr., G; Russell Nicholson, 6-2, So., F -G; Justin Terry, 6-3, So., F; Dion Glass, 5-7, So., G; Purnell Jackson, 6-6, So., C.
Outlook: With all-county guard Corey Davis (20.9 points, 5.2 assists) and second-team all-county forward Russell Tongue (15.9 points, 12.9 boards) among eight graduated seniors, Dunn sees inexperience as his team's strength. What? "Because of our inexperience, we will learn from our mistakes and become a better team," Dunn said. "And while they're learning, I have to have a sense of humor. But seriously, this is a good, solid bunch, fun to be around because they work so hard." Lawson, who transferred to Southern and Northeast before returning to South River, and Tayman are the key seniors who got varsity playing time last year,along with Brown and Edelstein. Jackson, who is up from the JV, is a project with great size.