For the past 15 years, Carlton "Bub" Carrington has championed Baltimore's basketball scene.
In his role as the president, general manager and coach of the Nike Baltimore Elite AAU program, Carrington said he has seen the city's hoops talent get overlooked on a regular basis. By now, he's gotten used to those slights.
"It's not even just basketball," Carrington said. "Everybody skips over Baltimore. If you look at the Weather Channel, they skip over Baltimore. Entertainers skip from Philly to D.C. Baltimore gets no love. At the tournaments, [college coaches and scouts] look at Baltimore guys and say 'Man, they're tough.' Well, they've always been tough, but these guys continuously skip over us. We play with a chip on our shoulder, but we're going to get our respect."
Much of that respect could come this year when 66 players from the Baltimore area suit up for Division I schools, including 10 scholarship freshmen who will be counted on to make an impact for their respective high-major programs.
ESPN senior college basketball analyst Dave Telep thinks the talent Baltimore has produced in recent years has elevated the city to the same level as basketball hotbeds New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
"These things work in cycles," Telep said. "The thing about a place like Baltimore is the down cycles are limited. It seems to be in a pretty good run right now."
Headlined by Kansas guard Josh Selby, the Baltimore class is among the most highly ranked by all the major scouting services. Selby, a Lake Clifton alum, was a consensus top-five prospect and the No. 1 high school player nationally according to Rivals.com. Will Barton, who starred at Lake Clifton as a senior before heading to Brewster (N.H.) Academy for a post-grad year, was rated the top shooting guard in the country by Scout.com.
"These are some really talented kids at some major, major schools," said Lake Clifton coach Herman "Tree" Harried. "We've had a lot of players come out of Baltimore, so I won't call [this class] the best because that has yet to be seen. But it has the potential to be one of the best."
Selby's amateur status is under question and he's expected to miss at least the early portion of the season while the NCAA investigates his relationship with Carmelo Anthony's business partner Robert "Bay" Frazier. Selby has been cleared to attend classes and practice with the Jayhawks, but he cannot dress for games until the investigation is complete. Harried, though, thinks it's only a matter of time before Selby sees game action.
"He deserves it. He didn't do nothing wrong," Harried said. "He's practicing, so the next step is playing. He deserves to participate."
The 6-foot-6 Barton is the prize of Memphis coach Josh Pastner's Top 3 national recruiting class.
"I thought he was probably the best rebounding guard in the 2010 class," Pastner said. "He's been taught well by the high school and summer league coaches in Baltimore. He just has to continue to get stronger and keep building. We're expecting him to have a good season."
Barton will be joined by his brother Antonio, who averaged 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds for Lake Clifton during the Lakers' 3A state championship season in 2009. Antonio is the less heralded of the two, but both his brother and Pastner agree that he will surprise opponents in Conference USA.
"He gets the job done," Will Barton said. "He's gonna open a lot of peoples' eyes. If you ask a lot of people, they'll tell you he can really play."
Among the most recognizable connections to Baltimore recruiting is Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who won the only national championship of his Hall of Fame career with Anthony — the former Towson Catholic star — in 2003. Boeheim has heavily recruited in Baltimore dating back to the late 1970s when he plucked Harried out of Dunbar.
"We've benefited tremendously from the Baltimore area," Boeheim said. "We went down there and recruited Carmelo and getting him obviously helped us get Donte [Greene], and they both had great success here."
Former City forward C.J. Fair — who missed his entire junior year because of a knee injury — is Boeheim's latest Baltimore recruit. Fair played his senior year in the shadow of Barton at Brewster, but should see considerable minutes off the bench for the Orange. While Boeheim doesn't view Fair on the same level as Anthony and Greene, he believes the 6-foot-8 forward will make valuable contributions over the next four years.
"He's a very solid, very smart player and he understands the game," Boeheim said. "He's just a really good player."
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey expects former Mount St. Joseph point guard Eric Atkins to continue a recent trend in South Bend of valuable contributions from freshmen. In the past decade, Brey has pushed freshmen guards Chris Thomas and Tory Jackson into the starting lineup early and believes Atkins is up to the challenge.
"What I've really been impressed with is his basketball IQ," Brey said. "He's a really sharp kid and he thinks the game more like a junior. That's going to really help him."
At DePaul, Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are expected to complement each other under coach Oliver Purnell for the next four years. Melvin — who spent a post-grad year at Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) after playing with the Barton brothers at Lake Clifton — is a high-energy forward who settled in Chicago after briefly committing to Connecticut last fall.
Young, a Randallstown native, attended Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington and received offers from Miami, Marquette and Massachusetts, among others.
Former Walbrook forward Roscoe Smith will compete for playing time at power forward for Connecticut. Smith was a Nike Jordan Brand All-American after his senior year at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, where he averaged 18 points and eight rebounds per game.
Penn State forward Jonathan Graham, another Baltimore Catholic League product, is expected to make waves in the Big Ten. The 6-foot-8 Graham led Calvert Hall to last spring's BCL Championship and will compete for early playing time after the Nittany Lions lost starting forward Sasa Borovnjak to a torn anterior cruciate ligament during preseason practice.
Telep expects Xavier forward Jordan Latham to emerge as the group's sleeper. Latham was recently named to the Atlantic 10 preseason All-Rookie Team and should see substantial playing time in the Musketeers' rotation. A defensive-minded forward who's not afraid to shoot, the 6-foot-8 Latham averaged 12 points, seven rebounds and five blocks last season at City.
"Jordan's going to have a hell of a career," said Carrington, Latham's AAU coach with Nike Baltimore Elite. "In four years, he's going to get his name called as long as he listens to his coaches and plays strong at the rim."
As someone who has spent a chunk of his career coaching and recruiting in the area, Brey understands the plight of the unknown Baltimore player. He believes Baltimore players are a reflection of the city: tough, passionate and out to prove doubters wrong.
"Baltimore kids have a chip on their shoulder from an early age and they can't wait to get their hands on guys from those other areas," Brey said. "You see it when they get out on the court against those kids and I think that helps them. You could put a Baltimore all-star team together against any other city because it's as good as any other city."
|Name||College||Local high school||Position|
|Eric Atkins||Notre Dame||Mount St. Joseph||point guard|
|Antonio Barton||Memphis||Lake Clifton||point guard|
|Will Barton||Memphis||Lake Clifton||shooting guard|
|C.J. Fair||Syracuse||City||small forward|
|Jonathan Graham||Penn State||Calvert Hall||forward|
|Jordan Latham||Xavier||City||power forward|
|Cleveland Melvin||DePaul||Lake Clifton||power forward|
|Josh Selby||Kansas||Lake Clifton||point guard|
|Brandon Young||DePaul||Friendship Collegiate (D.C.)||guard|
The Baltimore Sun looks at the 2010-11 college basketball season today with a look at Baltimore's freshmen college basketball class. Here's what's next:
Towson Catholic alumnus Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech's star player, is the ACC's returning scoring leader. Are Delaney and the Hokies poised to dance in March? Plus ACC capsules.
Having to replace three senior starters, the Maryland men's basketball team worked extra hard over the summer and grew close as a team. Will it pay off? We find out beginning tonight.