College Basketball 2017-18

A HOOPS WINTER BLOG: College roundball in the basketball-crazed DMV

Dec. 14, 2017
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA - One preseason website predicted AJ Wilson, a 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman, could play a big role this year for the George Mason men's basketball program. That appears to be the case, as the Laurel, Maryland product had eight blocks in a game earlier this season and then on Tuesday had his first double-double in a home game against Georgia Southern.

Mason assistant coach Duane Simpkins, who played at DeMatha Catholic High and Maryland and was an assistant at Towson, remembers watching film online of Wilson when he was a sophomore at DuVal High in Lanham, Maryland. “His athleticism jumped off the charts,” Simpkins told me this week.

Mason head coach Dave Paulsen, in his third season, saw Wilson in person in a tourney in New Orleans soon after he got the job with the Patriots. “I think he is doing a great job,” Paulsen told me. “We are really pleased with him. I think he is starting to scratch the surface with what he is doing.”

Nov. 21, 2017
COLLEGE PARK - The University of Maryland women lost big two days earlier at UConn. So the Terps took out their frustration against nearby Howard, picked to finish fifth in the MEAC. Maryland went over 100 points in an easy win over the Bison.

Nov. 20, 2017
COLLEGE PARK - Maryland sophomore Kevin Huerter, the son of a hoop coach, said tonight that freshman Bruno Fernando could be facing a lot of double teams once Big Ten action begins. Fernando started for the third time in five games and had a career-high 18 points in a win over Jackson State. Maryland will begin league play at home December 1 against Purdue, a top 25 team.

Nov. 15, 2017
WASHINGTON - There were not a lot of famous people in the stands here Wednesday night for the second game of the Patrick Ewing Era at Georgetown. That was not the case for his first game, when Michael Jordan and others were on hand at Capital One Arena. Georgetown can settle down to business and the Hoyas did that with an easy win over Mount St. Mary's, the defending NEC champ who lost several key players to the transfer route after last season.

Nov. 10, 2017
By David Driver
WASHINGTON - Howard lost its opener tonight at crosstown George Washington but the Bison put a scare into the Atlantic 10 Conference squad. And Howard has two big-time scorers from the outside in Charles Williams and RJ Cole, the freshman from St. Anthony's in New Jersey who was playing in his first college game. Cole had 23 points and Williams had 21 in the 84-75 loss. Cole turned down some big-time programs, including Georgetown, according to the Howard game notes. Cole is one of seven freshmen and part of the reason Howard this season hired assistant coach Sean Whalen, who grew up in Laurel and played Division II hoops.
“He has been a head coach before. He knows the whole playbook, which isn’t easy. We made a spot for him; he is valuable. We brought in a lot of shooters this year. He was a great shooter in college," Howard coach Nickleberry told me of Whalen.

Nov. 4, 2017
By David Driver
WASHINGTON - A few hours before Tyler Cavanaugh made his NBA debut with Atlanta, his former college team hosted Division II Fairmont State here on Saturday in Foggy Bottom in an exhibition game. The Colonials won 86-63 over FSU, which advanced to the Division II national title game last season.
"We're still figuring each other out," GW head coach Maurice Joseph said. “Overall, I'm happy with some of the things we got to see."
Former Marymount University player D'Ondre Stockman of FSU played a team-high 32 minutes and had seven points and one assist. He made just three of 11 shots from the field, including one of nine three-pointers.
“I didn’t play, obviously, to my potential,” he said. “You are going to have good games and bad games; it happens.”
GW hosts Howard on Friday in the season opener for both teams. The Colonials will be challenged without Cavanaugh, one of the top players in the conference last season.

June 21, 2017
By David Driver
WASHINGTON - Niki Reid Geckeler has resigned as the head women's basketball coach at Towson University, a school spokesperson confirmed today.
The position for head women's basketball coach at the CAA school has been advertised since June 16 at Towson was 12-18 this past season.
Reid Geckeler became the head coach at Towson in time for the 2013-14 season. Before that she was the head coach at Howard, posting a mark of 85-75 in five years.
She is a former standout at Georgetown and was a team captain for the Hoyas in 1992-93. Georgetown named James Howard as its new head coach on June 14 and he reportedly is working to name his new staff. Howard had been the associate head coach for two seasons at Georgetown.
Howard took over for Natasha Adair, who left Georgetown after three seasons to become the head coach at Delaware in May. Delaware, like Towson, is a member of the CAA.
Another coaching change in the CAA is at UNC-Wilmington, where Karen Barefoot is the new coach after she had been at ODU. One of her assistants is Tina Martin, the long-time head coach at Delaware who was replaced by Adair after last season. Martin had been at Delaware for 21 seasons.
"I am very excited to add Tina to our staff,” said Barefoot in a statement on the school website. “She is a longtime friend of mine and a true professional. Tina’s wealth of knowledge and experience in coaching, especially with her experience in the Colonial Athletic Association, makes her a welcome addition to our program.”
Update: Geckeler was officially named a Georgetown assistant on June 22.
"Niki has been a dear friend to me for many years and she's been in this business for a long time having success as a head coach," said Howard in a statement from Georgetown. "She appreciates what makes Georgetown special and brings a resume as a strong recruiter and defensive-minded coach. Having her one seat down from me on the bench will have a profound and immediate impact on our program."
March 12, 2017
WASHINGTON - They say that having a senior guard at this time of year is a good omen for teams that want to make a run in the NCAA tournament.

Well Michigan has two of them. Tourney MVP Derrick Walton, Jr. and all-tourney player Zak Irvin combined for 37 points and 12 assists as the Wolverines beat No. 2 seed Wisconsin here at the Verizon Center to win the Big Ten conference tourney title Sunday.

“God is good. We overcame a lot,” Walton said of surviving a plane scare on an aborted takeoff Wednesday. “Had a lot of trials and tribulations. All I can say is God is good. We're here for a reason. I wouldn't want to do this with any other group of guys. This hat feels real good on my head.”

Said Irvin of the title: “It means so much to all of us. All of the adversity that we've been to throughout the whole tournament. We stuck together as a family and got the job done.”

March 5, 2017
Richmond, Va. - The Dayton men's basketball team thinks they are headed to March Madness. But the Dayton women know for sure, after they beat No. 7 seed Duquesne here on Sunday for the Atlantic 10 tournament title to gain an automatic bid. The Dukes became the first No. 7 seed to ever make the title game, but the Flyers prevailed. Dayton won three games in three days, beating a VCU team playing a few miles from its campus Friday, a St. Louis team with the top player in the league on Saturday and then a Duquesne team that played George Washington in the title game last season.

March 4, 2017
Richmond, Va. - VCU senior guard JeQuan Lewis was surrounded by family and friends on the court at the Siegel Center here late Saturday afternoon, after his team beat George Mason 72-60 on Senior Day in the regular-season finale.

Nearly a month after he scored a career-high 34 points in a win over Saint Joseph's, the quick Lewis had just one point against Mason. But he had nine turnovers and no assists as the Rams clinched second in the conference.

“At the end of the day I am a point guard,” Lewis told me after the game. “I know I can score. If my team needs me to score 30 I will score 30. Tonight it was all about getting my team involved. I have had my scoring spurts.”

VCU is 24-7 and will play Friday in Pittsburgh in the conference tournament.

Mason is 19-12 and the No. 7 seed and will play Fordham on Thursday in the tournament.

March 3, 2017
Richmond, Va. - The former capital of the Confederacy - not that there is anything wrong with that, maybe - will be a hoops capital for the next 48 hours.

The Atlantic 10 Conference women's tournament begins here at 11 a.m. with hometown and No. 8 seed VCU facing No. 1 seed Dayton. The semifinals are Saturday, also at the Richmond Coliseum, with the title game at noon Sunday on ESPNU.

Saturday you could see parts of four Division I Atlantic hoop games if you tried hard enough. There are two women's games while the VCU men host George Mason at 2 p.m. and Saint Louis playing at Richmond at 4 p.m.

March 1, 2017
EMMITSBURG, MARYLAND - It is hard to imagine that a conference tournament game between power five teams that know they are headed to the NCAA field could match the intensity here tonight before a loud crowd of 2,405 a few miles south of the Mason-Dixon line.

No. 1 seed Mount St. Mary's, playing on its home court in the quarterfinals of the NEC tournament, held off No. 8 Sacred Heart 76-73 to advance to the semifinals at home Saturday against Robert Morris. Junior Robinson, at 5-foot-5 the shortest player at the Division I level, had 22 points and four assists for The Mount.

Mount redshirt junior guard Charles Glover, who had played just one minute, came in with 1.5 seconds left to inbound the ball under the visitor's basket. The Mount made one of two free throws after that and a long 3-pointer was off the mark at the buzzer by the SH. "That is my role. I am the closer," said Glover, who is from Bowie and played at Gonzaga with Nate Britt of North Carolina and Kris Jenkins of Villanova.

The Wildcats and Jenkins play on Saturday at Georgetown in the regular-season finale. But I will be in Richmond for the Atlantic 10 Conference's women's tournament and at VCU for the game with George Mason.

Feb. 28, 2017
SOMEWHERE IN THE OLD LINE STATE - March will roar in like a lion - with college hoops close behind.

Post-season Division I basketball will come to Maryland on Wednesday, March 1 as No. 1 seed Mount St. Mary's will host No. 8 Sacred Heart in the first round of the NEC men's tournament in Emmitsburg.

The Mount roster includes six players from Maryland and a seventh, sophomore guard Elijah Long, went to John Carroll near Baltimore. He is averaging 14.8 points per contest. Long had 22 points, seven assists and six boards in the regular-season finale against St. Francis Brooklyn as The Mount ended up 14-4 in the NEC. All three figures were above his season averages.

The Mount head coach is Jamion Christian, who is from Virginia and is a former assistant at William & Mary and VCU.

Sacred Heart also has a local connection: redshirt junior De'von Barnett is from Waldorf, Maryland and played at Riverdale Baptist in Upper Marlboro. He has started 27 games and is scoring 7.3 points per contest.

Then on Thursday the U.S. Naval Academy - the No. 4 seed out of the Patriot League - will host No. 5 seed Holy Cross in the first round of their tournament. It will be a rematch of a few weeks ago when host Navy beat Holy Cross 60-47 in regular-season play on Jan. 28.

The Crusaders feature all-league player and senior Malachi Alexander, who is from nearby Bowie, Maryland. He had several family and friends at the game at Navy in January and the same should be true this week.

Feb. 25, 2017
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Could No. 24 Maryland miss the NCAA tournament? That seemed impossible to even consider a week ago. But in the past six days the Terps lost at Wisconsin and then fell at home to Minnesota and, on Saturday, to Iowa. Maryland has lost three games in a row for the first time this year. That number could grow to six if the Terps fall apart and lose Tuesday at Rutgers, at home Saturday to Michigan State and then in their first game in the conference tournament. That is hard to fathom, and the Terps should be assured of an NCAA berth even though they will fall out of the top 25 on Monday.

Feb. 22, 2017
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND - Was this bound to happen? No. 24 Maryland starts three freshmen and for most of this season they have performed very well. In a loss at home here Wednesday to Minnesota, the trio of Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson combined to make 10 of 33 shots while the defense allowed 55 points in the second half. "We've been playing great all season and we just can't panic right now," said guard Jaylen Brantley, a junior. Maryland will host Iowa on Saturday after the 2001 Final Four team and 2002 national title team are honored.

Feb. 16, 2017
HARRISONBURG, Va. - William and Mary entered play here Thursday with a 1-6 mark in CAA road games and a 2-11 mark overall this season away from Williamsburg. Then the Tribe went out and lost in overtime to James Madison, which has struggled no matter the setting this year. Was this the most frustrating road loss of the season? "I think they have all been frustrating," said Tribe standout Daniel Dixon, who had 22 of his 29 points after halftime.

Feb. 11, 2017
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND - The Maryland bench outscored the Ohio State reserves 33-0 on Saturday as the Terps broke a two-game skid with an 86-77 victory. The three Ohio State bench players combined for no points and six fouls in a combined 36 minutes. A pair of freshmen guards led Maryland, as Anthony Cowan of Bowie had 19 points and Kevin Huerter had 18. Junior point guard Melo Trimble was held to 11 points. “That kid doesn’t struggle,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said of Trimble. “Those guys stepped up. We wanted Cowan to make shots and sure enough he did.” Maryland plays Wednesday at Northwestern while Ohio State is at Michigan State on Tuesday. "Shots were falling today," Huerter said. "Sometimes it comes down to who makes shots late in the game."

Feb. 9, 2017
TOWSON, MARYLAND - The hottest Division I team in the state of Maryland is not the Terps. It is Towson, which won for the eighth time in nine tries with a win at home Thursday night against Hofstra in CAA action 69-65. The Tigers are now 8-5 in CAA play this year.
“I really challenged them at halftime about our defense," Towson head coach Pat Skerry told reporters. "It was just a phenomenal effort defensively. I also thought Eddie Keith came up big for us on the boards. He had a couple of man-sized rebounds for us tonight. It’s different guys on different nights every night.”

Feb. 8, 2017
WASHINGTON - You can't make this stuff up. VCU senior guard JeQuan Lewis, from a small-town in Tennessee, stepped up big again as he made two free throws with 0.4 seconds left as the Rams beat host GW 54-53 on Wednesday night. On Saturday, Lewis made a free throw with 0.5 seconds left at St. Bonaventure to send the game into overtime and VCU eventually won.
GW appeared to have won the game when Yuta Watanbe hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds. But Lewis was fouled on a sneaky inbounds play as the Rams kept their at-large NCAA berth alive.

Feb. 4, 2017
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND - Maryland freshman guard Kevin Huerter noted that the last time the Terps lost at home they then won seven in a row. Maryland will look to do more of the same after a rare conference home loss here on Saturday, as Purdue made two free throws with 2.1 seconds left for a 73-72 setback. Maryland was up by 12 points midway through the second half but went nearly the last eight minutes of play without a field goal. The Terps play Tuesday at Penn State, then host Ohio State on Saturday.

Jan. 25, 2017
WASHINGTON - Georgetown head coach John Thompson III began his postgame press conference Wednesday night at the Verizon Center with a twist.
"I've heard a lot of people do this, but I never have. But I just want to give God the credit and thank him for the win," said Thompson, who then got a slap on the shoulder from graduate guard Rodney Pryor. The Hoyas beat Creighton 71-51 for just the second conference win for Georgetown this season.

Jan. 24, 2017
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND - Maryland took care of Rutgers here on Tuesday night as the Terps began the week ranked No. 22 in the country. It may be awhile before Maryland drops out of the top 25, like they did after it beat American at home in the season opener back in November. The Terps start three freshmen to go with junior point guard Melo Trimble. But you get the feeling that even if Trimble leaves for the pro ranks after this season Maryland will be just fine next season with the trio of Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan as the Fabulous Frosh Trio.

Jan. 23, 2017
WASHINGTON - A season of misery continues for the Hoyas of Georgetown, and the schedule doesn't get any easier. The Hoyas lost Sunday at Xavier and Georgetown is now 1-6 in Big East play this season. Georgetown hosts Creighton on Wednesday and plays Saturday at Butler, so a mark of 1-8 in conference play is entirely possible. I spoke last week with Otto Porter, Jr., a former Georgetown star now with the Washington Wizards, and he said he speaks regularly with Hoyas head coach John Thompson III. Porter said it is tough to watch his former program struggle but couldn't point to one specific reason way the Hoyas have fallen.

Jan. 10, 2017
COLLEGE PARK, Maryland - The Terps held off Indiana 75-72 here on Tuesday night in a game that had the feel of a Big Ten of NCAA tourney game. The Terps had lost in their last home game, against Nebraska, but had won at Michigan on Saturday. The Hooisers have now lost three of four and fell out of the top 25 on Monday. Maryland began the year in the top 25 but fell out after the first week.

A memorable game in Baltimore suburbs
Dec. 19, 2016
CATONSVILLE, Maryland - Maryland, Baltimore County was averaging a respectable 82.2 points per game in its first 10 contests. The Retrievers certainly rose to the occasion at home Monday against The Citadel, which entered the contest leading the nation at nearly 102 points per game. UMBC came away with 120-111 win in double overtime - the most points ever scored by UMBC in a game. The previous best was set in the 1970s against Division III Gallaudet. At a few points in overtime each player on the court had scored at least 10 points.

Cekovsky improves his game at Maryland
Dec. 13, 2016
COLLEGE PARK, Maryland - Terps junior forward Michal Cekovsky averaged less than three points per game as a freshman and sophomore. Now he is averaging more than 10 points per game for Maryland, which is 11-1 after a win at home against Jacksonville State on Monday. The Terps are off until facing Charlotte on Dec. 20 in Baltimore.

Terps off to unbeaten start
Nov. 29, 2016
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND - Maryland is undefeated going into its home game tonight against Pittsburgh in the ACC/Big 10 challenge. The Terps lost four standout players to the pro ranks - Jake Layman and Diamond Stone were drafted by the NBA, Robert Carter, Jr. is in Italy and Rasheed Suliamon is in the D-league - but junior point guard Melo Trimble and three freshmen have carried the load so far.

Hoyas off the radar in New York
Oct. 11, 2016
NEW YORK - Georgetown head coach John Thompson III told me today he has never had a fifth-year transfer. The Hoyas have one now, and he will be expected to step in and be productive right away.

Trimble attracts attention
Oct. 13, 2016
WASHINGTON - Maryland junior guard Melo Trimble, from nearby Upper Marlboro, was named all-Big Ten earlier this week. Then on Thursday he met the media at the Big Ten media day at a hotel in upper northwest.


David Driver is a native of Harrisonburg, Virginia and played baseball at Turner Ashby High and Eastern Mennonite College (now University). He graduated from EMC in 1985 with a degree in English and a minor in journalism. He has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for nearly 25 years and was the first sports editor of the daily Baltimore Examiner and for nearly 10 years was also the sports editor of Laurel (Md.) Leader, now part of the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He is now a full-time free-lance writer and is the main correspondent for The Sports Xchange, a national content provider for UPI/Reuters, in the coverage of the Washington Nationals. He also covers major college basketball in the Baltimore-Washington region for The Sports Xchange and in the past covered college and pro sports for The Associated Press as a free-lancer. Read more

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Hazelbaker comes through in a pinch

April, 2017

By David Driver
For the Ball State University athletics website
Used with permission

Jeremy Hazelbaker // Sarah Sachs/Arizona Diamondbacks By David Driver/Special Consultant

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The late baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams once said "I think without question the hardest single thing to do in sport is hit a baseball."

Jeremy Hazlebaker, 29, a former Ball State standout, takes that a step further when discussing the role of a pinch-hitter in Major League Baseball.

"I firmly believe it is the hardest thing to do in sports," he said, standing his locker in the clubhouse of the Arizona Diamondbacks during a recent road trip to Nationals Park.

But Hazelbaker has become adept at the role as a pinch-hitter and key reserve outfielder for the Diamondbacks.

This comes after he made his Major League debut in 2016 while tying the single-season team record with four pinch-hit home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals. He hit .235 with 12 homers in 114 games with the Cardinals last season.

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From Millbrook to Georgia Tech to James Madison, Marcus Marshall chases his NFL dream

December 11, 2017

By David Driver
For the The News & Observer
Used with permission

Millbrook’s Marcus Marshall (21) finds an open hole in Leesville defense on Oct. 31, 2014 at Leesville Road in Raleigh. Olen C. Kelley III HARRISONBURG, VA.

When Marcus Marshall decided he would transfer after two seasons at Georgia Tech, the Millbrook High graduate was determined to get it right this time.

“I am not going to make the same mistake again,” he said of the recruiting process.

While both of his parents attended James Madison, where his father Warren had a stellar Hall of Fame career as a running back for the Dukes, the school in the scenic Shenandoah Valley was not a slam dunk for the Raleigh running back.

For one, he attracted interest from the University of Iowa, a power five conference member just like Georgia Tech.

But the pull of JMU – a Football Championship Subdivision stalwart and 2016 national champion – proved too enticing, due in part to the fact he would not have to sit out a year since he would be moving down a level.

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