Big-name coaches talk area guards at fundraiser

Vil­lanova’s Wright deems Bal­ti­more-D.C. re­gion ‘most fer­tile ground’ for play­ers

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jonas Shaf­fer

Jay Wright is a Churchville, Pa., na­tive, a Buck­nell grad­u­ate and the long­time men’s bas­ket­ball coach at Vil­lanova, a school in the Philadel­phia sub­urbs with as much pride in its lin­eage of Philly guards as the city has in its cheeses­teaks.

And yet, he con­ceded Wed­nes­day, to cross the Mason-Dixon line is to en­ter “prob­a­bly the hot­bed of bas­ket­ball right now in our coun­try.”

“This whole Bal­ti­more-Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area is prob­a­bly now — and I’ll get killed by my New York boys — the most fer­tile ground in the coun­try right now,” Wright told re­porters be­fore the Cal Rip­ken Sr. Foun­da­tion’s “Col­lege Sea­son Tip-Off” fundraiser lun­cheon at the Bal­ti­more Mar­riott Water­front. “Th­ese guys get the best high school coach­ing, and then they go into the sum­mer and they play th­ese [Am­a­teur Ath­letic Union] pro­grams, and they have some of the best AAU pro­grams also.”

He was not be­ing overly kind. In the re­flected glory of Wright’s 2016 na­tional cham­pi­onship ring were three Mary­land kids.

Kris Jenk­ins hit maybe the great­est shot in NCAA tour­na­ment his­tory, a buzzer­beat­ing, leg­end-mak­ing, time-tran­scend­ing 3-pointer in the fi­nal against North Carolina. He’s from Up­per Marl­boro.

Josh Hart is an All-Amer­i­can, the Big East Con­fer­ence Pre­sea­son Player of the

Year and a Sil­ver Spring na­tive.

Phil Booth was the un­likely hero of the April cham­pi­onship game, his sea­son-high 20 points off the bench lift­ing the Wild­cats to a ti­tle two years af­ter he claimed the Bal­ti­more Catholic League and Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion A Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships at Mount Saint Joseph.

“I want to be care­ful about defin­ing them, but I def­i­nitely think there’s a unique char­ac­ter trait of a Bal­ti­more guard and a D.C. guard,” Wright said of Booth, a Bal­ti­more na­tive and the son of a Philadel­phia na­tive, Phil Booth Sr. (Cop­pin State). “I think they’re a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, but they’re both great, and I’ll take ei­ther one of them.”

Also at the lun­cheon was an­other ti­tle-win­ning, Mary­land-guard-de­pen­dent coach: Gary Wil­liams.

The for­mer Terps coach could em­pathize with Wright, who­has the dif­fi­cult task of get­ting his ti­tle-win­ning team to buy in for an­other sea­son. Af­ter he cut down the nets in At­lanta in 2002, Wil­liams lost Juan Dixon (Calvert Hall), Lonny Bax­ter and Chris Wilcox.

Mary­land was a pre­sea­son top-15 team en­ter­ing the next sea­son. Still, it was dif­fi­cult to move on from the last one.

“I guar­an­tee you Jay Wright thinks that the cham­pi­onship game was a month ago,” Wil­liams said. “The hard­est thing is, es­pe­cially in Jay’s sit­u­a­tion, where he has a lot of those play­ers back, is to get them to un­der­stand that that was last year. … Sports move quickly to the next thing. And Jay’s in a sit­u­a­tion where he’s be­ing picked very high again this year.”

Some things, a na­tional cham­pi­onship doesn’t change. In a be­spoke dark blue, dou­ble-breasted pin­stripe suit and match­ing pocket square, Wright — “GQ Jay,” as he’s also known in sar­to­rial cir­cles — still looked like some­one out of “Mad Men.”

But when he was asked what it’s like to be in­tro­duced as “na­tional cham­pi­onship coach Jay Wright,” he said he looks around, a lit­tle flus­tered. He seemed happy to have Wil­liams there for cover (“I love Gary Wil­liams for a num­ber of rea­sons”) and advice.

“I ac­tu­ally talked with him a lit­tle bit ear­lier, and one of the things that all the guys talk about, as Gary did … [is] the hang­over the next sea­son,” Wright said. “Ev­ery­body has told me it’s there. How you deal with it, whether you get over it, it is dif­fer­ent for ev­ery team, but it’s def­i­nitely there, and don’t feel bad if you sense that you’re fight­ing it be­cause it’s there.”

Given the back­drop of the me­dia ses­sion — the foun­da­tion’s logo, two chil­dren stand­ing next to a photo of an in-uni­form Cal Sr. — and the big­gest story in sports — Chicago Cubs ver­sus Cleve­land In­di­ans — base­ball talk was only nat­u­ral.

“Sport­sCen­ter” host Scott Van Pelt, a Mary­land na­tive and alum­nus, spoke of grow­ing up root­ing for the Ori­oles, idol­iz­ing Cal Jr., only to reach a point in his ca­reer where he would be asked to help the Hall of Famer.

“I was on TV at 1 in the morn­ing last night,” Van Pelt said. “I’m here right now be­cause Cal asked.”

Said Wil­liams: “If Cal asks, what are you go­ing to do?”

Even grow­ing up in Topeka, Kan., Mary­land coach Mark Tur­geon said Cal Jr. was a “big­ger-than-life thing.” Tur­geon couldn’t say no; that agree­ing to come also helps him score Ori­oles tick­ets, he joked, was merely a bonus.

Last sea­son, he watched the fi­nal game of the base­ball sea­son, Game 5 of the World Se­ries, with his son at Citi Field in New York. Their fa­vorite team, the Kansas City Roy­als, took home its first ti­tle in 30 years.

The Roy­als didn’t make the play­offs this year; by Wed­nes­day, if not ear­lier, their reign will be over. In be­tween re­mak­ing a pre­sea­son Top 25 team that lost four starters and rais­ing three chil­dren with his wife, that has been some­thing of a re­lief.

“I tell you what, it’s a lot less ex­haust­ing not hav­ing a team play­ing in the play­offs, be­cause play­off base­ball is some­thing else,” Tur­geon said. “You hang on ev­ery pitch.” Mark Tur­geon


For­mer Ori­ole Jake Ar­ri­eta flirted with his­tory, Kyle Sch­war­ber drove in two runs and the Chicago Cubs evened the World Se­ries at a game apiece with their first Fall Clas­sic win in 71 years, 5-1 over the host Cleve­land In­di­ans in Game 2 on Wed­nes­day night. Ar­ri­eta car­ried a no-hit bid into the sixth in­ning be­fore the In­di­ans reached him for two hits and a run. By then, the Cubs had al­ready scored five runs — one in the first on An­thony Rizzo’s dou­ble, one in the third on Kyle Sch­war­ber’s sin­gle, and three in the fifth on RBI hits by Ben Zo­brist and Sch­war­ber and a bases loaded walk by Ad­di­son Rus­sell. For cov­er­age, see and go to bal­ti­more­ SCHED­ULE Se­ries tied 1-1 (best-of-7; x-if nec­es­sary) All games: 8 p.m., chs. 45, 5 Tues­day: Cleve­land 6, Chicago 0 Wed­nes­day: Chicago 5, Cleve­land 1 Fri­day: Cleve­land@Chicago Satur­day: Cleve­land@Chicago Sun­day: Cleve­land@Chicago x- Tues­day: Chicago@Cleve­land x- Wed­nes­day: Chicago@Cleve­land


Run­ning back Ken­neth Goins Jr., left, cel­e­brates a touch­down against Michi­gan State. He also had a 2-point con­ver­sion.


“Sport­sCen­ter” host Scott Van Pelt, left, and for­mer Mary­land bas­ket­ball coach Gary Wil­liams were pan­elists at the “Col­lege Sea­son Tip-Off” fundraiser lun­cheon.

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