Two years ago, Joey Dorsey's potential was being promoted by Dick Vitale, but Tyler Smith was idling away at a famous friend's mansion in Denver and Gerald Brown was wasting time in West Baltimore.
That was not the way it was supposed to be for the best basketball team ever out of Douglass High.
"Tyler would call and remind me one of Joey's games was coming on TV, as if I didn't know that," Brown said. "That motivated us. I was happy for Joey, but at the same time, I know that Tyler and I wanted to show what we could do."
Five years after Douglass had a perfect season, the Ducks' big three - finally - are all making it in Division I at the same time.
Smith, The Sun's Player of the Year in 2001-02, is the do-it-all small forward for Colorado State, his fifth school since Douglass.
The three juniors are making it a very warm winter for Douglass coach Rodney Coffield.
"I got impatient, waiting on Gerald and Tyler," Coffield said. "People in the city were forgetting about them, but I knew it was going to take some time.
"For me," Coffield continued, "the irony is that Joey made it first. Tyler and Gerald had so much more basketball experience, they made Joey look good. They would get it to him in the open court, and he would throw it down. He looked great, but he was so raw."
Smith was the first one to wear a varsity uniform at Douglass and a reason Brown, a 10-12 teammate from the Robert C. Marshall Rec Center off Pennsylvania Avenue, transferred in from Dunbar in 2000.
"I didn't want to go to Dunbar," Smith said. "I wanted to help Douglass do something special."
The Ducks' 2000-01 season ended with a playoff loss to Southern, but that summer, they won a serious recruiting competition for Dorsey, who had never played scholastic ball. After having been expelled from the city system, he was attending an alternative school.
While skilled perimeter players abound, there is a premium on big men, and Dorsey, now 6 feet 9 and 260 pounds, was the one who completed Douglass.
In December 2001, Brown fed Dorsey for the basket that beat Walbrook. The Ducks became the area's No. 1 team, held off Randallstown in a momentous region final and beat Gwynn Park in the state 3A final, where Brown, Dorsey and Smith combined for 59 of Douglass' 76 points.
As quickly as they had come together, the Ducks disbanded. Brown and Dorsey had high school eligibility remaining, but Douglass did not have the support system in place to get them to Division I.
"We could only play so many games, and I felt the kids needed to go someplace else to get national exposure," Coffield said. "Besides, they were nonqualifiers; they needed to get their academics in order."
All spent the 2002-03 season at prep schools. In 2003-04, Smith was a freshman atDePaul, Brown was a second-semester addition at Providence and Dorsey needed another year of prep school in North Carolina.
Memphis coach John Calipari stuck with Dorsey as he got his academics in order, but Brown and Smith didn't take care of business in the classroom and tested the patience of their respective coaching staffs.
Ineligible at the end of his freshman season atDePaul, Smith enrolled at Manhattan in the fall of 2004 but withdrew before the start of practice and drifted to Denver because that's where childhood friend Carmelo Anthony was.
Two years and four days ago, Brown had eight rebounds and five assists in his only Providence start, against Villanova, but a month later he dropped out of school and returned to Baltimore, where his girlfriend was pregnant with his child.
J'linkai, a son, was born in November 2005. By then, Jimmy Patsos had Brown on scholarship, but even that was a struggle. To become a full-time student, Brown paid for about $4,000 worth of credits at Loyola in the summer of 2005, all the while dealing with the death of his mother, Carolyn, and other losses.
"My mom went into the hospital for surgery and never came out," Brown said. "She was the one who had told me to grow up. On top of that, I lost three friends that summer, two to drug violence and one on a dirt bike."
Smith escaped those mean streets and found a new start, courtesy of Anthony. Colorado State is in Fort Collins, an hour north of Denver, where Anthony stars for the Nuggets. Sterling, 90 minutes east of Fort Collins, is where Smith spent the 2005-06 season, at Northeastern Junior College.
Last summer, Smith was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession while driving a Dodge registered to Melo Enterprises. Smith "was very mad at himself," as his embarrassment was compounded by all that Anthony has done for him and his family.
As reported in The (Fort Collins) Coloradoan, Smith's mother, Donetta, is working and making her home there. One brother, Keenan, is playing for a local high school, and another, Troy, is a freshman at Northeastern Junior College. The household includes their sister Shannelle, 13.
According to The Rocky Mountain News, Smith was ordered to take part in a counseling program at Colorado State after his arrest. He was suspended for two exhibition games, but scored 26 points in his Rams debut and is second on the team in scoring (11.4 points per game), assists (2.7) and minutes (30.5).
Brown on a roll
Loyola takes a 9-6 record and a four-game winning streak into tonight's (7 o'clock, MASN) game against Towson at Reitz Arena thanks to the play of Brown, who is among the nation's top 10 scorers with a 23.3 average and leads the Greyhounds in rebounds (5.3) and minutes (35.9).
"It was hard to contain myself in practice last year," said Brown, who sat out last season as a transfer. "This year, I was ready to go."
Dorsey leads the Tigers in rebounding average (9.6) and field-goal percentage (.653). He got into foul trouble at both ends last season, as eight disqualifications limited his playing time and he made just 39.3 percent of his free throws, but Dorsey's improvement in those departments has been astounding.
Memphis won its fifth straight Saturday, when Dorsey played a season-high 33 minutes and made six of his nine free throws. He has raised his free-throw percentage 10 points this season and credits a tip he received last October from Larry Brown.
"He had Coach Cal [Calipari] take some extra motion out of my shot," said Dorsey, whose basketball knowledge is finally catching up to his physical skills.
"Every game I get in foul trouble, we lose, but I'm getting smarter there," Dorsey said. "I'm not taking any plays off. In a way, this is just like high school. The guards put up the shots and I get the rebounds."
That work is appreciated, as Dorsey's No. 32 jersey is the best-seller on the Memphis Web site. While Loyola and Colorado State will have to win their respective conference tournaments to get to the NCAAs, Memphis is the class of Conference USA.
"I trained with Tyler and Carmelo in Baltimore for a couple weeks last summer," Dorsey said. "Tyler was talking a lot of smack. I went to the Elite Eight last year. Tyler and Gerald have some catching up to do."
Five years later
Douglass High had a landmark team in 2001-02. Five years later, its three All-Metro first-team selections are college juniors and having a considerable impact.
Name, School ................................... Comment
Gerald Brown, Loyola ................. Possible MAAC Player of the Year
Joey Dorsey, Memphis ................. Inside force for Tigers
Tyler Smith, Colo. State ............... Wing goes inside and out