Dunbar center Bright's future has a nice telephone ring to it

February 28, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

It begins in the morning, sometimes before he wakes up. It continues during the school hours and usually doesn't end until late at night, often after he and his family have fallen asleep.

On the basketball court, Dunbar High School center Donta Bright has been able to shake and outmaneuver some of the top high school basketball players in the nation. But off the court, Bright so far has been unable to put the moves on the nagging phone calls from persistent college recruiters.

"They call before I go to school, at school and one time one called at midnight," Bright said. "Before I would talk to

them. But now I tell my family if someone calls late like that, to tell them that I'm asleep."

Such is the life when you are 6 feet 6, 200 pounds and have played a significant role for all four years in one of the premier high school programs in America. When the era ends at the Baltimore Arena on Sunday, as Dunbar faces Walbrook in the Metro Classic, Bright will go down as one of Baltimore's most prolific public high school scorers.

Bright has scored 1,884 points (17.5 per game) during his career. Though there are no records kept on city public school athletes (the state public school record going into the season was 2,153 by BarryYoung, at Mount Hebron High School; that has since been eclipsed by Pocomoke High School's Mike Roberts, who has 2,420), Bright's points probably rank him near the top in the history of Baltimore basketball.

Not that Bright cares. "Oh, really," is his reply when told about his scoring totals. It's a response that's typical of his off-the-court style: shy, unpretentious and seemingly oblivious to why he has attracted so much attention.

"I don't like to be called a star," Bright said. "I just want to be an average guy."

But average guys don't get named to both the McDonald's and Parade All-America teams. Average guys don't average 23 points against nationally ranked teams, which Bright did in Dunbar's wins over nine top 25 teams this season. And average guys don't put the wraps over some of high school basketball's best big men, as Bright did in limiting Rasheed Wallace, a 6-11 center at Philadelphia's nationally ranked Simon Gratz High School, to 21 points over two games, and holding North Carolina-bound Serge Zwikker, a 7-3 All-America center at Harker Prep in Potomac, to five rebounds in a tournament game in Hawaii.

"He's very quick and agile, which is difficult for a 7-footer to handle," said Stu Vetter, coach at Harker Prep. "At the college level, he's going to have to play against guys who are about 6-6 and 6-7. But I think Donta's an outstanding player and will be a great college player."

Bright came to Dunbar "because I heard the players went to college, and since no one in my family ever went, I wanted to be the first."

His skills were clearly evident his freshman year, when he made the varsity and was the first or second player off the bench.

By his sophomore year he was averaging 23 points on the way to being named The Evening Sun Player of the Year -- the only sophomore to win that honor.

"He just had the tools and the God-given ability when he got

here," Dunbar coach Pete Pompey said. "Like a lot of young players, he came in here wanting to do it all, but we put him in the system and got him to adapt."

His ability to adapt was also evident in his junior year, when his scoring average dropped to 17.2. Playing on a more talented team, Bright realized he didn't have to score as much and devoted more time to rebounding in helping the Poets to a No. 4 national ranking.

After his junior year he attracted the eyes of more college recruiters when he was named Player of the Week at the Nike basketball camp in Indianapolis. This year playing center (he grew up idolizing Ralph Sampson), Bright is scoring 20.1 a game and has played a key role in Dunbar maintaining its top ranking.

"We've had better ballplayers, and my role has changed because I'm trying to spread the ball out more," Bright said. "Everyone, including myself, has gotten more mature and wiser. The things I did before, I can still do. I'm just a little more team-oriented.

"As far as the No. 1 ranking, all the sportswriters in the preseason said that we were going to be No. 1, but we really didn't worry about that. We were just worrying about being No. 1 in March at the end of the season."

That No. 1 ranking could be secured with a win over Walbrook on Sunday. Along with the top ranking all season have been the comparisons with the 1982-83 and 1984-85 national championship Dunbar teams -- comparisons Bright said are unfair.

"I don't think that's right because the players from the other teams are in the pros and we're not even in college yet," Bright said. "I never saw them play in high school, so I won't compare the two. I'll let the other people do it."

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