Up,up and away: State's teams are reaching for new heights Division II and III teams at a glance

November 20, 1992|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

Division III basketball in Maryland has enjoyed an upsurge in the 1990s, and there's no reason to believe that the improvement will stop this winter.

The decade began with Washington College reaching the NCAA Final Four. The Shoremen have since been replaced atop the Middle Atlantic Conference Southeast Section by Johns Hopkins, which is expected to earn its fourth straight trip to the NCAAs.

Salisbury State, which reached the NCAA quarterfinals last season with national Player of the Year Andre Foreman, has enough talent back to make it three straight national tournament appearances.

St. Mary's made a statement with its hiring of Bob Valvano, who was ousted at Catholic last spring but brings Division I experience to Southern Maryland. St. Mary's lone in-state rival in the Capital Athletic Conference is Goucher, and the Gophers' third-year program got another considerable infusion of new talent.

With less than three weeks of preparation because of a new NCAA policy delaying the start of practice, the state's small colleges open tonight. It will be the 23rd season of coaching on the Eastern Shore for Salisbury State's Ward Lambert and Washington's Tom Finnegan, and they have to go back nearly two decades -- to before the NCAA split into three divisions in 1976 -- to find an in-state situation this strong.

"In the 1980s I think we won something like 78 percent of our games against other state teams," Finnegan said. "If you look across the state, Division III basketball has gotten a lot better.

"Some schools have been able to bring in transfers from Division I or II schools who wanted to play right away. The Johns Hopkins schedule [it plays in both the MAC and University Athletic Association] is a great enticement, and it's able to recruit nationally."

Hopkins point guard Danny Knee is from California, and its top player, Luke Busby, is from Ohio. One of the state's premier players is Salisbury State junior guard Dameon Ross, a graduate of DuVal High in Prince George's County who began his collegiate career at Old Dominion in 1988.

Valvano is the first full-time coach hired by St. Mary's. He spent four seasons in the 1980s running Division I St. Francis (N.Y.), but he respects the competition he'll face in Maryland.

"We open up at Hopkins [tonight, 8 p.m.], and our home opener is against Salisbury State," Valvano said. "We have an excellent chance of going 0-for-November."

Bowie State, Maryland's lone Division II team, added three transfers from Baltimore City Community College and hopes it can add to the state's small-college status.

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