Staying home; Ten of the best players in the country chose to play in their home states

THE BALTIMORE SUN

1. Mateen Cleaves; Flint, Mich., Michigan State

One of the three remaining "Flintstones" on the Spartans, Cleaves was rumored to be heading to the NBA after last season. Now a senior and among the nation's top point guards, Cleaves suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and is expected to be out for a couple of months. Currently eight assists behind Scott Skiles for first on school's all-time list, third in steals and fifth in three-point field goals. Has his mother's name tattooed on his left shoulder and "Flint" on his right.

2. Terence Morris; Frederick, Md., Maryland

Came to Maryland with a lot of hype after committing orally as a sophomore out of Thomas Johnson High School. Showed flashes as a freshman, scoring 16 points in 24 minutes against then No. 1 North Carolina. Was the team's leading rebounder (7.1) and second-leading scorer (15.3) as a sophomore, and blocked more shots (77) than Wake Forest. The 6-9 junior received 87 of 89 votes for All-ACC first team in the preseason balloting, and was the runaway choice for league's Player of the Year.

3. Quentin Richardson; Chicago, DePaul

After leaning toward Kansas, Richardson joined Bobby Simmons and Lance Williams to become one of three locals to start for the Blue Demons last season. Richardson led the team in scoring (18.9) and rebounding (10.5) as a freshman, finishing with 16 double doubles. The 6-6 swingman will likely play more guard than forward this year, and is considered a consensus first-team All-American. Stayed home to be close to his father and sister after his mother died six years ago. His father is a conductor on the L train that passes by the campus.

4. Michael Redd; Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State

Grew up rooting for Michigan's "Fab Five," but stayed home to play for the Buckeyes after seeing other high school stars leave town. The 6-6 guard has started all 66 games in his first two years, and averaged 39.3 minutes a game as a freshman. Became the first true freshman to lead the Big Ten in scoring, and has led the Buckeyes in scoring both years. Has five 30-point scoring games.

5. Chris Porter; Abbeville, Ala., Auburn

After committing to Tigers out of high school, he played two years at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College, where he was a first-team All-American as a sophomore. Returned to home state to lift the Tigers to a 29-4 record last season and to the school's first SEC title in 40 years, averaging team-high 16.0 points and 8.6 rebounds. Was named SEC Player of the Year. The 6-7 forward is one of college basketball's best dunkers, as evidenced by the highlight film, tomahawk jam he threw down against LSU.

6. Chris Mihm; Austin, Texas, Texas

Grew up five miles from the campus. Despite being 7 feet, 262 pounds, plays both inside and outside. Was a highly ranked swimmer and tennis player through high school, and was the No. 2 ranked player in Texas as a sophomore. All-Big 12 last season, preseason Player of the Year choice this year. Junior already ranks second in school history in blocked shots (174), needs 62 to set record. Ranked fourth nationally in rebounding last year (11.0). Had 19 double doubles last season, tying two others for tops among Divison I players.

7. Erick Barkley; Brooklyn, N.Y., St. John's

Played at Maine Central Institute after using high school eligibility, and it paid off. As a freshman last season, 6-1 point guard helped the Red Storm advance to its first Elite Eight game since 1985. A member of Big East all-rookie team last season, is preseason first-teamer this year. A finalist for Naismith (under 6-2) and Wooden (among top 25 players) awards. Played on gold-medal World University Games team this summer.

8. Brendan Haywood; Greensboro, N.C., North Carolina

Passed up Clemson and Miami to play for the home state Tar Heels. Gives North Carolina its best big man since Eric Montross. Second behind Rasheed Wallace all-time in field- goal percentage (62.3), his 12 points and 6.9 rebounds should go up this season. Started for World University team. Wears 00. The 7-foot junior is down 10 pounds to 264, lowest weight since coming to Chapel Hill.

9. Mark Madsen; Danville, Calif., Stanford

Nicknamed "Mad Dog" for his relentless style, especially on the boards. The 6-8 senior forward was one of the key players on Cardinal team to make the Final Four two years ago. Led the team in rebounding (9.0), averaged 13.1 points and had seven double doubles last season, and has been named All-Pac-10 the past two seasons. Only returning starter from last season's team. Unfortunately for Stanford, Madsen will be sidelined at least a month with a pulled hamstring suffered last week against Duke.

10. Morris Peterson; Flint, Mich., Michigan State

Another of the "Flintstones." Started only four of 38 games last season but still led the Spartans in scoring (13.6) and was first-team All-Big Ten, believed to be first substitute to be named all-league in a major conference. The 6-6 forward, a fifth-year senior, will likely start this season. Was named Most Outstanding Player in the Midwest Regional last season. Second cousin to former high school star Jonathan Bender, now with the Indiana Pacers. Both his parents and two sisters played college basketball.

Ready for prime time

Freshmen who'll play big roles:

Majestic Mapp, Virginia: Has name and game to become a star for the Cavaliers.

Nick Collison, Kansas: Spurning home state Iowa might have cost Tom Davis his job.

DerMarr Johnson, Cincinnati: At 6-9, former Maine Central star could be starting in the backcourt for the Bearcats.

Jason Kapono, UCLA: Will join a talented group of sophomore frontcourt players for the Bruins.

DeShaun Williams, Syracuse: Best offensive talent in backcourt since Lawrence Moten left town.

The pressure's on

Players who need to step it up:

Mike Mardesich, Maryland: After showing promise as a redshirt freshman, 7-footer slumped last season.

Shaheen Holloway, Seton Hall: Hasn't turned out to be for Tommy Amaker what Amaker was years ago for Duke.

Peter Vignier, Michigan: Much-touted high school player hasn't produced for the Wolverines.

Lester Earl, Kansas: It's hard to imagine what the excitement was about when he left LSU two years ago.

Vincent Yarbrough, Memphis: The Tigers were expecting more out of top recruit last season.

Second-year blues?

Sophomores looking to avoid jinx:

Quentin Richardson, DePaul: Averaged almost 19 points a game as a freshman, could be headed to NBA after this season.

Mike Miller, Florida: One of four sophs to figure prominently in coach Billy Donovan's plans.

Erick Barkley, St. John's: Helped the Redmen reach the Elite Eight.

Mark Karcher, Temple: Took time to get in shape after sitting out, ex- St. Frances star came on strong.

Chris Williams, Virginia: Could help bring the Cavaliers back to the upper half of the ACC.

Sitting on the hot seat

Coaches who are losing supporters:

Bobby Cremins, Georgia Tech: His luck might finally run out if the Yellow Jackets don't win this season.

Bruiser Flint, Massachusetts: Has never made it out of John Calipari's shadow.

Brian Ellerbe, Michigan: A 12-19 record in first year of contract put former Loyola coach on the spot in Ann Arbor.

Jerry Tarkanian, Fresno State: NIT doesn't cut it for the folks who brought Tark in three years ago.

Steve Lavin, UCLA: Without Baron Davis, will have his toughest coaching job to date.

Heated rivalries

These schools don't like each other:

Duke-North Carolina: Even if the programs are not quite what they used to be, this might be the most heated in sports.

Penn-Princeton: Ivy League matchup usually has NCAA bid at stake.

Louisville-Kentucky: Only other event bigger in the Bluegrass State is the Kentucky Derby.

Indiana-Purdue: How much does Gene Keady enjoy beating Bob Knight? As much as he likes to breathe.

Worth the wait

Transfers who'll make impact:

Marcus Griffin, Illinois: National junior college Player of the Year last year will put Fighting Illini back in NCAA tournament.

Luke Axtell, Kansas: Roy Williams is hoping that former Texas shooting star has better luck than Lester Earl did in second chance.

James Griffin, College of Charleston: Former Mr. Basketball in South Carolina is coming home.

Scott Robisch, Butler: Didn't quite live up to his billing -- or his dad's legacy -- at Oklahoma State.

Loren Woods, Arizona: After playing his freshman year with Tim Duncan at Wake Forest, 7-footer ran into problems with Dave Odom.

The best views

Best arenas to watch a game:

Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke: The students might be more obnoxious than creative, but you can't beat the intimacy.

Allen Field House, Kansas: The ghosts of Naismith and now Wilt hover over the court.

The Palestra, Pennyslvania: It gets pretty heated. A word of advice: watch out for the flying toilet paper.

The Pit, New Mexico: Site of North Carolina State's upset of Houston in 1983 NCAA final, it's a tough home court for the Lobos.

Maples Pavilion, Stanford: The Cardinal might need the bouncing floor to shake up a few of its opponents this season.

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