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Spriggs gets down to basics Challenge welcomed: The new coach at Spalding, never a basketball power, believes in building a winning program with sound fundamentals.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Robert Spriggs came to Archbishop Spalding in search of a cure for losing.

Despite a daily dose of fundamentals from Spriggs, the Cavaliers are off to a 2-7 start.

Coaching a program never mistaken for being a basketball Mecca, Spriggs is not easily discouraged. Spalding has had only two winning seasons in the last 10 years, but Spriggs welcomes the challenge to succeed, which he calls "not a destination, but a journey."

"It hasn't been frustrating to me at all. I'm upbeat," said Spriggs.

"The guys are really learning the basic fundamentals they needed. It's my goal to complete their individual games and get everybody on the same page. We use the medicine ball [a heavier ball] practically every day to improve passing and sure-handedness."

The 34-year-old Spriggs, father of five children, coached at the recreation level for 15 years in Baltimore (Collington and Tillman Square centers), and his forte is teaching the game's fundamentals.

Among Spriggs' proteges are Shawnta Rogers (The Sun's Player of the Year last season from Lake Clifton), Sam Cassell (Houston Rockets), Kwame Evans (George Washington) and the late Reggie Lewis (Boston Celtics). Spriggs had those blue-chippers and many more during their formative stages.

"I love the teaching part of it and that's why I took the job at Spalding," said Spriggs, a graduate of Patterson High and Loyola, where he majored in psychology.

Lee Dove coached the Cavaliers to an overall record of 47-77 in five years before taking the reins of athletic director. Dove succeeded Domenic Pachence and decided he "couldn't do anybody justice by trying to coach basketball and also be athletic director," so he stepped down.

Spalding last enjoyed a winning season in 1992-93 (17-10) under Dove. The 17 wins broke the school record of 16 set by John Spinnenweber (now Chesapeake coach) in back-to-back seasons -- 1983-84 (16-8, MSA B Conference semifinals) and 1984-85 (16-11).

The school's only boys basketball title came in 1981-82 with Bert Olsen coaching the Cavaliers to the MSA C Conference championship with an 8-1 record, 11-9 overall.

Spriggs, a Timonium broker, is not concerned with winning titles right now. His emphasis is on "trying to instill a degree of discipline and patience," and it hasn't been easy.

Just this week, the Cavaliers went into the Bob Pascal Tournament at Northeast on a positive note after upsetting Boys' Latin, 109-79, to even their record at 1-1 in MIAA B Conference, Tier III play.

But it didn't carry over to the Pascal as the Cavs were routed twice, 92-66 by Severna Park and 92-61 by Northeast.

"Inconsistency and having a new guy in the lineup threw our chemistry off," said Spriggs.

Spriggs was referring to Joe Petrocelli, who returned from a football injury. Petrocelli averaged 23 points a game for last year's 18-0 JV team.

Petrocelli's return has created a problem for Spriggs. The coach is trying to find a way to get Petrocelli and guards Matt Brady and Mike Angelo into the game at the same time.

Brady is averaging 22 points a game and Angelo has been dishing off six assists per outing. Petrocelli had 20 points against Severna Park and 12 against Northeast while Brady had games of 18 and 19, respectively.

"I'm faced with a dilemma because Joe gives us more points, and the other two have played well," said Spriggs. "I even tried all four [including guard Mike Massarini] with a big man in the middle, but that creates too many matchup problems.

"But even though we lost two games in the Pascal tournament, I experimented with a few things and found some answers for when we get back into our conference [Friday at home vs. St. Mary's]."

Spriggs is sticking with a motion offense he learned as a 5-foot-9 point guard under Mark Amatucci (now Calvert Hall coach) at Loyola College. In that attack, discipline is imperative.

"They're learning to take better percentage shots and make better passes to cut down on turnovers," said Spriggs.

"As long as they keep their mental attitude positive, and we get the right chemistry, things will be different by mid-season."

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