Two big transfers put debate in focus

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Rudy Gay of Archbishop Spalding and Maurice Martin of Calvert Hall have more in common than just playing basketball in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Both are juniors who -- Gay at 6 feet 7 and Martin at 6-6 -- tower over most of their classmates. Both live outside of Baltimore, just east of the beltway. And both are looking forward to the days when they get their driver's licenses.

Gay and Martin are linked not just by their basketball skills, but also by where they showcase them.

That's because the two transferred from public schools in Baltimore County after the start of the academic year -- Gay in September and Martin in November. Their moves to two prominent private schools have ignited a debate over whether the MIAA, composed of 26 private and parochial schools around the metro area, should allow such transferring students to immediately play sports.

On May 19, the MIAA's Board of Governors could adopt a proposal that would prohibit a student who transfers from a public school during the academic year from playing varsity sports during that school year. Such transfer students wouldn't be eligible until the next fall.

A look at the circumstances of Gay's and Martin's transfers highlights issues associated with private school recruiting in boys basketball that get some public school coaches as steamed as a questionable call in a tight game.

"I don't think you should touch kids that have been in a program and have had success there," Dulaney basketball coach Rod Norris said. "It just doesn't sit well."

"We don't go to Calvert Hall, Mount St. Joseph and St. Frances trying to get their kids to come to us," said Randallstown coach Kim Rivers, whose team is ranked No. 1 in the area. "Why set up a game with them if they're going to try to steal our kids? That's basically what they're doing. They're stealing our talent."

Already, the move of Gay and Martin from Baltimore County programs has led a number of county basketball coaches to band together and suggest a scheduling boycott against MIAA teams that recruit during the academic year.

Annapolis coach John Brady went a step further in October. He canceled a much-anticipated game with the MIAA A Conference's Archbishop Spalding because of Spalding's addition of Gay, an All-Baltimore City/County swingman formerly of Eastern Tech.

Gay had averaged 12.5 points and 7.3 rebounds for Eastern Tech as a sophomore. Todd Wade, the Mavericks coach, said the private schools began recruiting Gay during the spring of his sophomore year.

Yearbook warning

Wade, who said he tried to counsel Rudy Gay and his mother, Rae Gay, said the first warning sign that he might lose his star player appeared in a note Gay had written in Wade's yearbook last spring.

"I hope I will see you next year, but it's not my decision anymore," Gay wrote. "It's my mom's. But just in case, thank you. Your son, Rudy."

When Gay missed the first two days of school in September, Wade suspected that Gay had transferred to Archbishop Spalding, located in central Anne Arundel County. But Gay showed up on the third day, Wade said.

"He gave me a look like he wasn't staying for very long," Wade recalled. "So I said, 'Tell me when you're going to be here for good.' He said, 'OK.' Then, a week and a half later, I asked, 'Are you here for good?' He said, 'I'm here for good, Coach.' "

Wade said Gay was absent from classes at Eastern Tech a week later. A phone conversation between coach and player confirmed Gay had transferred to Spalding.

Wade said he harbored no ill will toward Gay or his family. Though he held himself partially responsible for not doing more to retain Gay, Wade directed most of the blame at the MIAA, which concluded in its investigation that Spalding committed no violations.

"There are no consequences," Wade said. "They can just do what they want. The Catholic League [Spalding and many other MIAA schools have dual memberships] has their own rules. They do whatever they want, whenever they want."

Shortly after Annapolis' Brady confirmed the news about Gay's transfer, the coach canceled the game between two of Anne Arundel County's basketball powers.

"Why should I allow a team to be showcased against us that recruited a kid from a public school?" Brady said. "If someone wants to recruit a kid in the eighth grade, I don't have a problem with that. But once a kid starts high school -- whether it's public or private -- that should end it."

Spalding backs decision

Rudy Gay and his mother declined several requests to be interviewed for this article, and Archbishop Spalding coach Mike Glick and athletic director Lee Dove would not discuss any specifics of Gay's transfer.

"I'm not going to comment on anything with Rudy Gay," Glick said. "No adolescent should be put in a position to be scrutinized for any decision they made in terms of where to go to school for whatever reason."

Glick also declined to comment about charges of tampering from critics, but said he would not stand in the way of one of his players if he approached the coach with transfer papers.

"I would sign it in a second," he said. "If a parent and a student-athlete did not feel that this was the best place for the child, then I think the best thing would be for them to transfer."

Glick has won three regular-season championships and three Baltimore Catholic League tournaments in the past four years, but he said pressure to succeed is not what drives Cavaliers basketball. Instead, he points to his 10-year track record that includes guiding 41 of 42 athletes to college and helping them qualify to play basketball at those institutions.

"The pressure here is to produce productive members of society and student-athletes that will go to four-year colleges and graduate," he said. "That's the pressure that we put upon ourselves."

Martin's Overlea exit

Gay's transfer bears similarities to that of Martin, a sturdy center who averaged five points a game at Overlea as a sophomore last season.

Initially viewed as a project by Falcons coach Larry Nelson, Martin had begun to emerge as a more confident player, took part in the Baltimore Select League during the summer and received recruiting letters from Rutgers, Yale and Fairfield.

His development was so rapid that several private schools became interested in Martin.

Ten weeks into the school year, in November -- two weeks before the start of basketball practice -- Nelson said he received a call from Martin's mother, Celia Brooks, informing the coach Martin had decided to transfer to Calvert Hall in Towson.

"I asked him if this was what he wanted to do," Nelson recalled. "He said, 'I don't know. I'm hurt. I want to be with you and the team.' But he said he wanted to follow his family's wishes."

However, Martin's stepfather, Henry Brooks, disputed Nelson's version and said the family actually initiated a tour of Calvert Hall and was never under any pressure to make an immediate decision.

"We took the tour, and we had time to think about it," said Brooks, who acknowledged Martin received financial aid to attend the private school but declined to disclose how much. "There was no pressure on Calvert Hall's part. They showed us what was going on, and we were given every opportunity to think about it."

Brooks said the decision to move Martin from Overlea was not based on Calvert Hall's basketball program. Rather, Brooks said he and his wife -- whose mother and brother are educators in New York -- concentrated on finding the best avenue to college.

"The bottom line is education," Brooks said. "You can blow out a knee playing basketball, but education is a permanent deal. ... You have to take advantage of every opportunity. When this opportunity came up for Maurice, we thought it was a great opportunity."

Asked if he thought his stepson would still be at Calvert Hall if he didn't play basketball, Brooks replied: "If he didn't have basketball, [my wife] would've looked around and researched the best school for Maurice. If that was Calvert Hall or another school down the road, who knows?"

Although Brooks didn't agree with the MIAA's proposed rule to make transfers sit out -- "You can't hastily install a proposal based on a couple of incidents where nothing shady went on," he said -- he said his stepson would have forfeited his junior year had the rule been in place before this season.

"Would Mo have sacrificed that? I would like to think that he would," Brooks said.

Black eye either way?

Like Eastern Tech's Wade, Overlea's Nelson said he isn't angry with Martin or his family. Instead, he sounds perturbed with Calvert Hall's approach.

"I'm old school," Nelson said. "The kid matriculated for 10 weeks. Give him a break. ... I don't know if that sits well with me ethically. I wouldn't do that."

Calvert Hall athletic director Lou Eckerl defended the school's basketball program, saying the Cardinals and coach Mark Amatucci did not act inappropriately in accepting Martin.

"Whether he transferred in June or October, the same black eye will be there," Eckerl said. "Would Overlea have been happy if Maurice had transferred during the summer? I don't think so.

"I think if people looked at Calvert Hall realistically, they would understand that we're not going out and raiding schools for kids," Eckerl said. "Most come in as ninth-graders and go through the system, and that's what we try to do. But once in a while, you'll have a kid like Maurice or someone else. ... And we don't tell a kid, 'Hey, you're good at band. We can't take you.' If they meet the academic requirements, they are accepted. Here's a student who met the academic requirements, and we accepted him."

Amatucci said little during a phone interview other than: "I don't pay attention to anybody's criticism. Calvert Hall has followed and will always follow the rules."

The case of Gary Neal

MIAA executive director Rick Diggs said the association did not investigate Martin's transfer because no one filed a complaint.

Two springs ago, Calvert Hall accepted another transfer from a public school during the academic year. Gary Neal, a guard at Aberdeen in Harford County, departed in March 2001 to finish his high school career with the Cardinals.

Neal, who is a candidate for Rookie of the Year honors in the Atlantic 10 Conference at La Salle, said he and his parents had sought a transfer to a private school before his junior year. After that season, when his parents made another round of calls, the Cardinals showed the most interest.

"My parents were looking into a school that would be better for me education-wise and prepare me for the SATs and college," Neal said. "The fact that Calvert Hall had a good basketball program was a plus."

Had the current proposal been in place before he transferred, Neal said he still would have departed Aberdeen -- although Calvert Hall would not have been an option, because the school does not accept students seeking to transfer after their junior years.

Neal said he would have waited until summer to make the move. "I wouldn't have sat out," he said.

Count Neal's father as an opponent of the MIAA proposal.

"I think that the kids should be able to do what their parents think is best for them," Gordon Neal said. "In our particular situation, we wanted to prepare Gary for college. That's a decision that parents are equipped to make. I don't think a kid should be penalized for trying to better his education."

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