Three 'old-timers' from Baltimore help revive Bowie State Division II Bulldogs finally competitive COLLEGE BASKETBALL

December 25, 1992|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

BOWIE -- Joseph Johnson was at St. Frances when it was still playing in CYO leagues. After Ronald Rudisill graduated from Mervo, his first stab at college sports was as an offensive lineman. Brian Brooks got out of Southwestern in 1987.

In trying to reverse a decade's worth of losing in one of the nation's premier Division II basketball conferences, you don't get picky about the age or background of prospects. That's especially true when three starters can be gained from one visit.

That's what Bowie State coach Tyrone Hart got out of Baltimore City Community College last spring. Rudisill is the center, Johnson a forward and Brooks the point guard for a revived program that the three juniors have helped to a 4-6 record.

Dominic Usher, a freshman from Carver, also has started this season. The city's presence in the lineup should increase next month, when junior Kevin Purnell, a Carver alumnus who led the Bulldogs in rebounding last season, is expected to regain his academic eligibility.

"The kids from around here want to leave and go someplace else," Hart said. "We've got to get our players in-state, and I've got to recruit Baltimore hard."

In recent years, Prince George's County has sent three prospects to Duke alone, and Bowie State hardly offered a basketball haven for the plentiful home-grown talent. Since entering the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association 12 years ago, the Bulldogs never have had a winning season, and they were saddled by a 30-game-plus losing streak in the late 1980s.

Hart arrived in 1990 -- his first two seasons produced seven victories each -- and has found players with similar backgrounds. After 13 seasons at Montgomery-Takoma Park, he was familiar with the region's junior college scene.

"Region XX is well-represented here," Hart said. "Besides the three guys we got from Baltimore, we've got players from Prince George's, Takoma Park and Germantown. Most kids end up in junior college because they didn't do something right in high school, but the ones that are hungry will do anything for you. They're usually pretty mature people."

That fits Bowie State's three starters from Baltimore. Johnson and Rudisill are 25 years old, and Brooks is 23. None was an All-Metro type in the mid-1980s. Their basketball careers were slowed by injuries, illness and making a living before they came together at Baltimore City CC last year.

"The last two years were some of the best I've ever had as a coach," said Roger Dickens, the Baltimore City coach. "I could come in the gym late, but whatever was supposed to be happening was, because of those three guys."

Hart longed for the 6-foot-7 Rudisill, who could strengthen Bowie State's inside game. Dickens sold him on Johnson, and Brooks followed.

Rudisill played a year of football at Frostburg State before returning to his roots. His brother Cleveland and Dickens have been friends since both were cut at City College. They were then on opposite sides of a heated rivalry, Rudisill for the University of Baltimore and Dickens for Towson State.

"I was the ballboy for Baltimore back then," Rudisill said. "I always thought basketball was my best sport when I was in high school, but I wanted to play football at Frostburg. Hurt a knee, though, and left after three semesters."

Rudisill and Johnson, who played in rec leagues for St. Frances before getting his high school diploma from Douglass, began playing for Dickens in 1990-91. Brooks, the Red Devils' leader the previous year, took off that season to mend a knee injury. Last season, the three led Baltimore City to a 21-6 record and the Region XX semifinals.

The 4-6 record and a pair of road victories represent considerable progress in the CIAA. Two of the last four NCAA Division II titles have gone to North Carolina Central and Virginia Union, which sent Charles Oakley and A. J. English to the NBA. The CIAA's heritage also includes Earl Monroe (Winston-Salem), Bobby Dandridge (Norfolk State) and Rick Mahorn (Hampton).

"There's no better [Division II] conference in the nation," Hart said. "We don't have any athletic scholarships, and we're basically recruiting with grants. We're playing David to everyone else's Goliath."

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