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Spalding's rise raises a ruckus; Boys basketball: Three winters ago, the Cavs were 3-17. Enter a new coach and four freshmen. Now No. 1, they have the Catholic League abuzz.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Build it, and they will get mad.

Archbishop Spalding's seemingly overnight rise to the top in Baltimore-area boys basketball has caused rumblings among some Catholic League coaches.

Some question how coach Tony Martin could inherit a 3-17 team and in just three seasons turn it into The Sun's top-ranked squad.

The coaches won't elaborate, but rumors of questionable recruiting continue, despite dismissal by the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association of two transfer cases last season.

"We've gained some respect, but I know success this quickly has caused some animosity," said Martin, 34. "A lot of people question our success and have started a lot of gossip. But we're not apologizing for our success."

Martin spent four years each at Cardinal Gibbons and Mount St. Joseph as JV coach, going 151-46 (.766) and winning seven league titles before landing at the Catholic school in Severn three years ago.

Lee Dove, Spalding athletic director, said he was impressed with Martin's aggressive, organized style, as well as his time under late Gibbons coaching legend Ray Mullis, whose career 620 wins are the metro area's all-time best.

Spalding (13-2) has zoomed to No. 1 in only its second season in the Baltimore Catholic League.

Martin and his assistants -- Rick Landers, a former Calvert Hall assistant, and Ralph Burley, an Anne Arundel County summer league guru -- have done it by recruiting promising eighth-graders and a couple controversial transfers.

"There's a feeling that they grew very rapidly, but Tony is just very aggressive," said Rick Diggs, MIAA executive director. "Some of our coaches don't want to do anything and expect the kids to come to them. It doesn't work that way anymore."

Some contend that Martin has drawn players from everywhere, but, in fact, all but two of his 15 varsity players reside in Anne Arundel County.

"They [some Catholic League coaches] taught him how to do it, and now they're mad because he's doing it," said Jerry Savage, who in his 31st season at Loyola is dean of the league coaches.

"I can't get upset with what Tony has done, because he's not doing anything different than anybody else. I'm happy for him and think what they've done is good for our league."

A first-season title

In his first season, Martin, playing four blue-chip freshmen, guided the Cavaliers to a school record for wins (21-8) and the MIAA C Conference title.

Now juniors, those four NCAA Division I prospects -- Derrick Snowden, Tremaine Robinson, Isaac Brooks and Darren Johnson -- still lead the way.

Snowden, a point guard being recruited by several Atlantic Coast Conference colleges, including Maryland, would have gone to Old Mill if he had chosen to attend a public school.

"I wanted to be challenged [athletically and academically], and that's why I chose Spalding," said Snowden, who also was recruited by Mount St. Joseph, Cardinal Gibbons and Severn. "I thought I would have a better opportunity to play college basketball."

The four drew a lot of attention as 14-year-olds playing for the Running Aces, an Amateur Athletic Union team that Burley coached.

"I was trying to recruit them to come to Severn before I became Tony's assistant," said Burley, who was an assistant at Severn. "A whole lot of private schools were after them, but rather than have them compete against other in the Catholic League, I sold them on playing together at Spalding."

Tuition -- $5,300 a year at Spalding -- is another issue for the team's critics. The school awards no athletic scholarships, but financial aid is available to those eligible, athlete or not.

"Students get up to a certain amount [$2,000 maximum] based on need," said Spalding's Dove. "The only scholarships are academic, or music."

Martin, who said his varsity and JV players have a cumulative 3.00 grade-point average, added that some work part time to help with tuition. Several parents work extra jobs to pay for the private-school experience.

"I know some parents [of players] resent hearing that their kids are skating through when they're working their tails off," said Martin, a graduate of Mount St. Joseph and the University of Maryland who is a Timonium restaurant's business manager.

Spalding joined the Catholic League and MIAA A Conference last winter with a schedule that included three national tournaments. Going 17-17, the Cavaliers ranked 14th in The Sun's final poll.

Spalding started this season ranked No. 2 locally behind Dunbar but moved to No. 1 two weeks ago after Dunbar lost twice and finished sixth in the Slam Dunk at the Beach tournament in Delaware. At the same time, the Cavaliers were a close second in Arkansas' King Cotton Classic.

Spalding's 75-71 win Saturday over Hagerstown's St. Maria Goretti, the league's preseason favorite, established the Cavaliers as the team to beat.

Calvert Hall coach Mark Amatucci is impressed with what Martin has accomplished but is reserving the accolades.

"Tony's doing a good job attracting quality players. More power to him," said Amatucci, in the sixth year of his second coaching stint at Calvert Hall after stops at Loyola College and Anne Arundel Community College. "It's good to add another very competitive program to our league. It gives us attention not only locally, but nationally, too."

Amatucci's 1981-82 Cardinals went 34-0 and won the mythical national title.

"I never imagined we would end up where we did," said Amatucci. "That's why I say Spalding is not there yet. We have to wait and see. One thing, though, we didn't go outside Baltimore to get players."

Martin has done that with two players over the last three years: Max Yokono, from Cameroon, and Aleksandar Pavlovic, from Serbia.

Yokono, now a redshirt freshman at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, had knee problems for two years and played only at the end of last season for Spalding. Pavlovic came last fall as a senior.

"As long as such transfers are done the right way, they can be very positive for a school," said Martin. "I've made a lot of contacts working summer camps, and there a lot of people across the country who want to help [foreign] kids."

'No violations'

The MIAA reviewed -- and approved -- two transfers last season, those of 7-foot center Derrick Goode and guard Chris Masters.

"No violations were committed," said commissioner Diggs, "and both players are eligible to play at Spalding."

Goode is a fifth-year player who transferred to Spalding from City College two years ago. Earlier, he had played a year of JV ball and another on the varsity at Episcopal High in Alexandria, Va., before entering City as a sophomore.

Some coaches were upset when Goode, who has lived in Anne Arundel County with his mother the last two years, moved again as a junior to Spalding. But as Loyola's Savage said, "He's within the rules and is not the first fifth-year senior to ever play around here."

The sharpshooting Masters, a Severna Park resident, transferred last season as a junior from Mount St. Joseph. Masters, on Martin's 26-0 Mount St. Joseph JV team in 1995-96, wanted to be nearer home.

"Most of our kids were born and raised in Anne Arundel County, and the exposure they're getting together is a great opportunity for them," said Burley.

Name Pos. Hgt. Class Public school dist.

James Bowen G 6-0 Senior Severna Park

Scored 20 against St. Maria Goretti last weekend. Quick. Has big-play knack. Averages seven points. Football player, too.

Isaac Brooks G 5-10 Junior Meade

Team leader, quick, superb ballhandler and defender, three-point threat. Averages nine points, five assists.

Derrick Goode C 7-0 Senior North County

Can intimidate in the post. Down to 290 pounds, more mobile. Team's top scorer (15 points a game) and rebounder (10).

Darren Johnson F-G 6-3 Junior North County

Seldom takes a bad shot, averages seven points. Nicknamed "Batman." Can help on the boards. All-County football linebacker.

Chris Masters G-F 6-3 Senior Severna Park

Sharpshooting swing player. Soft touch, top three-point shooter. Averages 11.1 points.

Aleksandar

Pavlovic F-C 6-8 Senior --

Serbian exchange student can drain the three-point shot or post up. Averages nine points and five rebounds.

Tremaine

Robinson G-F 6-3 Junior Meade

Nicknamed "Showtime" for his alley-oop dunks. Creates and finishes. Averages 12.6 points, four rebounds, three assists.

Derrick Snowden G 6-0 Junior Old Mill

One of area's top point guards. Averages 9.5 points, six assists, three steals. All-Catholic League, All-County as sophomore.

Pub Date: 1/15/99

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