Big-name coaches talk area guards at fundraiser
Villanova’s Wright deems Baltimore-D.C. region ‘most fertile ground’ for players
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 baltimoresun.com/sports. 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.