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There’s a long and sorry tradition in this market of letting blue-chip basketball talent leave.
Well before becoming NBA Hall of Famers, for example, Spingarn High School’s Elgin Baylor and Dave Bing went away to college (the College of Idaho and Syracuse, respectively) because no schools around here wanted them. Notre Dame, never known as a hoops power, once landed three of our first-team All-Mets—Austin Carr of Mackin High School, DeMatha Catholic High School’s Sid Catlett and Collis Jones of St. John’s College High School—in the same year (1967). And in recent years, the local scene has faced such indignities as having to watch Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant, teammates on the P.G. County Jaguars, a local AAU team, win back-to-back NCAA Player of the Year honors while playing for Big 12 schools. There’s also star-in-the-making Kendall Marshall, who declared he’d play for the University of North Carolina—after just his freshman year at Bishop O’Connell High School.
But it seems colleges around here really want to end D.C.’s days as an export center for basketball talent. Amid a spring of unprecedented coaching upheaval, essentially every college hoops program in the market has made a statement about keeping local talent local.
“It’s going to be an AAU bloodbath,” one local high school official predicted.
If such a bloodbath is indeed taking place, the first drops were dripped at the University of Maryland, where Mark Turgeon replaced Gary Williams as head coach. Despite having won the national championship in 2002, Williams never could shake a reputation for letting local AAU talent escape.
“You always heard criticism that Gary didn’t ‘play the AAU game,’ because he didn’t get [local AAU stars turned non-local college stars] Dermarr Johnson or didn’t get Rudy Gay or Scottie Reynolds,” says Bijan Bayne, a D.C. sports historian who runs the website dcbasketball.com. “Maryland would have been in the Final Four every year if Gary got everybody people said he should have got.”
With his first hire, Turgeon made a statement that he wanted to play the game Gary didn’t: Turgeon brought in Dalonte Hill, most recently an assistant at Kansas State, where he will forever be known as the Man Who Landed Michael Beasley.
Whereas Turgeon, who came here from Texas A&M, is a local hoops outsider, Hill is the opposite: When it comes to recruiting, nobody will out-D.C. him. He once coached D.C. Assault, a powerhouse Prince George’s County-based AAU squad, and is also tied to Team Takeover, another nationally renowned AAU squad. How he got Beasley to Manhattan, Kan., shows just how powerful local ties like that can be when it comes to recruiting. Hill was an assistant at UNC-Charlotte just before taking the K-State job. And Beasley, a former D.C. Assault star and the most coveted prep player in the country as a senior, had originally committed to UNC-Charlotte. After Hill got the K-State job, Beasley agreed to skip out on Charlotte, too, and join Hill. At K-State, Hill was given a long-term deal that annually netted him $420,000 plus incentives, making him the highest-paid assistant in all of college basketball. Nothing in Hill’s résumé to that point explained his salary—except Beasley’s arrival.
But Maryland isn’t the only school aiming for more D.C.-area talent. Historically, George Washington University was more likely to recruit from east of the Berlin Wall than east of the Anacostia River. No more. In May, GW replaced head coach Karl Hobbs with Vermont’s Mike Lonergan. On his own, Lonergan has strong local basketball bona fides: He’s a Bowie native, a product of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School and a former assistant to Williams at Maryland.
“I know I’m biased, but as a former D.C. high school player, P.G. County product, I really believe this is a basketball hotbed, maybe one of the best basketball areas in the entire country,” Lonergan said at his introductory press conference.
And Lonergan quickly built a staff designed to help GW swim in the local talent pool, hiring Kevin Sutton, a Falls Church native, and Pete Strickland, a DeMatha grad, as assistants. Sutton, a former Flint Hill School standout and longtime assistant to local prep coaching legend Stu Vetter, most recently coached Montverde, a Florida boarding school that he guided to a national prep championship in 2007. Strickland spent the last five years as an assistant at N.C. State.
Even schools where new head coaches weren’t hired are showing a new emphasis on shopping locally.
Over at Howard University, second-year coach Kevin Nickelberry hopes a recent binge of local commits will bring an end to an eight-year streak of 20-loss seasons. The Washington Post reported last week that the incoming recruiting class, led by Eleanor Roosevelt High School forward Prince Okoroh, is regarded as being among the best in school history, and that to get it Nickelberry “leaned on long-established area relationships” while his assistants honed in on Team Takeover and D.C. Assault, the same AAU juggernauts Hill was connected to.
And if there’s going to be a bloodbath on the local recruiting scene, Georgetown University doesn’t want to be left undermanned. Just after Maryland announced Hill’s hiring, the Post’s Josh Barr floated a rumor that Georgetown might re-hire super recruiter Kevin Broadus.
Broadus, a Dunbar Senior High School alum, was a Hoyas assistant when John Thompson III took over the program in 2007, and gets credit for keeping P.G. native Jeff Green in the fold during the upheaval. He also gets credit for winning a national recruiting battle for St. John’s Chris Wright and DeMatha’s Austin Freeman while with Georgetown.
Broadus’ reputation for being able to land D.C.’s best and biggest is so sturdy that he might be able to overcome several of the most brutal exposés The New York Times has ever written about a basketball coach, most of which questioned his talent-acquisition tactics. One Times piece from 2007 said Broadus “recruited a player to Georgetown who in four years of public high school in Delaware compiled final grades of F in 12 courses” and had an overall GPA of 1.33.
The Times also chronicled Broadus’ ugly two-year run as head coach at Binghamton University in New York. Seven players were kicked off the team just before the start of the 2009 season, amid a blitz of allegations of academic improprieties (a teacher said coaches pressured her to change grades), physical assaults (a player battered a 66-year-old woman at a Walmart after getting caught stealing condoms, which were given out for free on campus), and drug dealing (the team’s point guard was arrested for selling crack cocaine). Earlier this spring, when the state government of New York released the 2010 salaries of all state employees, Broadus came out on top, with a $1,026,793 payout that Binghamton gave him to resign in October.
Broadus’ attorney, Linda Kenney Baden, says that nothing that happened in Binghamton will affect his employability. “Coach Broadus was fully vindicated by the NCCAA and SUNY Binghamton as evidenced by their payment to him,” she says. “In addition, Coach Broadus has been sought by a number of schools to return to coaching because they recognize his value to student athletes.”
And, all the Hoyas’ hoops message boards have since loaded with posts from fans hoping the rumors of a reunion with Broadus come true. As the poster going by casualhoya posted on casualhoya.com when the question, “Will Kevin Broadus Return to Georgetown?” was posed: “Oh my! #excitedinpants.”
Bijan understands why a school such as Georgetown would hold its nose and pull out its checkbook to bring in a top recruiter, especially with all other schools in the market having rededicated to landing locals.
“It’s a business decision,” he says.
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