The New Community College of Baltimore qualifies for Division II in the national junior college structure. The Red Devils are used to competing with the big boys in Division I, however, and coach Roger Dickens doesn't want to tinker with tradition.
The NJCAA expanded from one to three levels between 1986 and last year. In Division I, players can receive a full ride, and powers in Kansas and Oklahoma recruit nationwide, serving as a stopping point for some big-time talents who aren't academically ready for the NCAA.
Even though it opts for Division I, Baltimore follows the rules in Division II, in which the only aid is tuition and fees. Dickens can't afford to ship in players, so he recruits the way the Red Devils always have, and hopes his homegrown team comes up big against rosters with a national flavor.
"If I can keep the Baltimore kids in Baltimore, we'd be in the running every year," Dickens said. "Whenever we lose to Allegany [the state power in recent years], it's always the kid from Baltimore that hurts me. Rudy Archer, Terrance Jacobs, Adam Johnson and others went up there and hurt us.
"Allegany doesn't have any Baltimore kids this year, and we beat them last week."
Baltimore is 6-1 after beating Delaware Tech last night, and the first nine players Dickens mentioned are from Baltimore. Most important might be Brian Brooks, a point guard out of Southwestern High who missed all of last season with a knee injury, one reason the Red Devils slipped to 18-12.
With Brooks returning, Northwestern grad Warren Wright was able to move back to shooting guard. The sophomore class also includes Joe Johnson, a power forward out of St. Frances, and small forwards Larry Lightner (City) and Darrick Purnell (Carver). Purnell spent last season at UMES, and Dickens said he has "unlimited potential."
Dunbar's Donnell Dantzler, Douglass' Clifton McCray and Edmondson's Tonio Davis also feel at home in Baltimore uniforms.
Dickens has an attachment to Ronald Rudisill, the 6-foot-6, 250-pound workhorse in the middle who went to Mervo. Dickens played collegiately against Rudisill's brother Cleveland, the former for CCB and Towson State, the latter at Essex and the University of Baltimore. They go back even further than that, however.
"Cleveland and I went to City College together, and we were both cut as juniors," said Dickens, who learned at an early age the depth of talent in Baltimore.
The Red Devils resume play Jan. 2 against Dundalk. That game will be played at Morgan State, one of Baltimore's substitute home courts while its own gym is being renovated. It also plays games at Coppin State.
* A caveat regarding USA Today's computerized power ratings: Games against Division II and III opponents aren't included, so UMES loses 111-74 to Salisbury State and doesn't drop any lower than No. 298 among the nation's 300 Division I teams.
No. 299 Morgan State could drop all the way to the bottom if the Bears aren't ready to compete at Oklahoma Saturday. Help could be on the way in January, as power forward Terry Butler and guards Phil Downs and Brandon Parker hope to be eligible at the end of the first semester.
In a similar roster change, Coppin State could soon add Coleman Scott, a 6-9 sophomore out of Oakland Mills. At Loyola, meanwhile, sophomore forward Jon Haggler will transfer elsewhere at the end of the semester. He played in 28 games as a freshman, but appeared in only three of the Greyhounds' first six games, playing 14 minutes.
* Salisbury State's Division III All-American forward Andre Foreman is Sports Illustrated's Small College Player of the Week . . . Even though it doesn't have an NCAA basketball bid, the shrinking East Coast Conference will send its baseball champion to the NCAA tournament in 1992 . . . The Towson State women play nationally ranked George Washington Saturday (1 p.m.) at the Towson Center.