The improvement in Johns Hopkins' football program was considered a breath of fresh air. Now comes a basketball program that may well be a hurricane by the end of the season.
The balance of power among the state's seven National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III teams may be swinging from Chestertown and Washington College toward Baltimore and Hopkins. All seven will be in tournament action this weekend.
Johns Hopkins has made steady improvement in four seasons under coach Bill Nelson, and this team is receiving national top 20 recognition. Senior Andy Enfield heads a team that includes four returning starters from last year's NCAA playoff team.
Until Nelson arrived, the Blue Jays had not had a winning season since they had an NCAA playoff team in 1973-74. His first season, 1986-87, the mark was 6-18, but since then there have been records of 12-12, 17-10 and 20-8. His fellow coaches in the Middle Atlantic Conference-South have made Hopkins a favorite for the Southeast Division title and a co-favorite with perennial champion Franklin and Marshall for the South crown and its automatic NCAA bid.
Enfield, a 6-foot-1 guard, broke Hopkins' single-season and career scoring records as a junior, a season in which he averaged 21.6 points, shot 52 percent from the field and shot 92.6 from the foul line (second in the nation in Division III).
The other holdover starters are Dave Eikenberg, Jay Gangemi and Bill Zahn, with three-year backup Eric Hastings expected to replace starter Evan Jones, an Oregon resident who transferred to Cal-Davis. Overall, an experienced core of seven seniors and juniors is backed by seven freshmen.
Washington College appears headed for a transition year. The 13-man roster has three juniors, seven sophomores, and three freshmen, with junior Tim Liddy, last season's third-leading rebounder, the chief holdover.
* FROSTBURG STATE: Senior guard Kevin Jessie, junior guard Will Liggins and junior forward Carlos Wicker are returning starters who led a 13-13 team in practically all the offensive categories. Three other juniors are expected to contribute immediately for coach Oscar Lewis -- forward Scott Kerr, a former Allegany Community College regular and a transfer from Bowling Green; forward Brent McKenzie, a top reserve a year ago; and center Andrew McLeran, who sat out last season.
* GOUCHER: The school's first men's basketball team features guards Corey Garner and Mike Hootner, junior college transfers with college experience. Rob Zmarzly (Archbishop Spalding) is a freshman center, and at 6-6, the tallest player on the 10-man squad. Coach Leonard Trevino's chief problems figure to be lack of depth and an inexperienced front line.
* ST. MARY'S: This is another program that is moving upward. Sixth-year coach Jay Gardiner has 10 holdovers from last season's 12-11 team, the first with a winning record in 12 years. Of the 15 players, Gardiner says they should make up his best team, with the freshmen his most talented class. Tri-captains Jason Slaughter, Jason Turner and Greg Cain are the nucleus, to be complemented by sophomore point guard Quentin Hillsman. Among the freshmen are two Baltimoreans, guard Mike Rudolph (Loyola) and 6-9 center Sean Keehan (Calvert Hall).
* SALISBURY STATE: A year ago, coach Ward Lambert featured run-and-shoot offense that set a Division III scoring record when it averaged 104.5 points in a 14-13 season. The Sea Gulls scored more than 100 points in 15 of 27 games, including a school-record 141 against Eastern. Guard David Byer and forward Jamie Gosweiler are returning starters, but the key is 6-4 junior forward Andre Foreman, who averaged 25 points and 13 points two years ago, then did not play last season. Three other lettermen, plus several newcomers, including transfer Ed Kucharski from Anne Arundel Community College, should ensure fewer points and more wins this season.
* WESTERN MARYLAND: Three starters are among the 11 veterans, but they are holdovers from a 5-19 team. Former assistant coach Nick Zoulias, who has replaced Alex Ober as head coach, will count on improved numbers by 6-7 senior forward Rob Howell (Mount St. Joseph), who averaged five points and three rebounds a year ago, and by 6-5 senior center Mike Sherlock, last year's leading scorer (10.4) and rebounder (4.5). Senior guard Eric Watkinson (Parkville), fourth in Division III three-point shooting percentage (52.5) last season, returns to complement returning starter Ed Krusinski in the backcourt.