Wooster learns Div. I not as easy as 1-2-3 Ex-Annapolis star has a rocky start

January 03, 1993|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,Staff Writer

The coach who recruited him left for another job, he had an altercation with a teammate, and he has learned that everybody, not just a couple of players per team, can play at this level.

Welcome to NCAA Division I college basketball, Rob Wooster.

Wooster, the Annapolis High grad who was the Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year a second straight time last season, is on a basketball scholarship at St. Francis (Pa.).

After leading the county in scoring with an average of 26.1 points and becoming only the third player in Panthers history to crack 1,000 career points (1,001), Wooster accepted a basketball scholarship to St. Francis from coach Jim Baron.

Wooster never got to play for Baron, who left at the end of last season to take the coaching position at St. Bonaventure in New York. It was the first in a series of big adjustments for Wooster.

For Baron, it was a step up from the Northeast Conference, in which St. Francis plays, to the Atlantic 10 Conference, a career move that Wooster fully understood. Tom McConnell, a former assistant at Dayton (Ohio), replaced Baron.

"I was disappointed that coach Baron left, but I understood why he did it," said Wooster.

"It was an opportunity he couldn't pass up, but I was confused and scared at first. I called Mr. Brady and he calls me and that has helped me get through it."

John Brady was Wooster's high school coach. The first place Wooster visited when he returned home during Christmas break was Brady's practice at Annapolis High.

"I still look to Mr. Brady for help," Wooster said.

Baron's departure was not the only setback Wooster encountered.

A fight with a teammate that Wooster declined to detail occurred in the college dorm and resulted in the freshman missing six weeks of preseason and playing with goggles the first five games.

"I was hit by a teammate and he broke a socket under my eye, but it's over now and everything is fine," said Wooster, who sank four free throws in the waning seconds against the University of Buffalo in St. Francis' only victory in its first six games.

Wooster has started just one game, but the 6-foot-5 small forward gradually is getting more minutes and is happy with the playing situation.

"I like the atmosphere a lot, on the court and off, and am part of a very young team," Wooster said.

"We only have two seniors on the team and a lot of juniors, and Coach McConnell has been a pleasure to play for. I just want to be a team player."

One of the seniors is center Mike Fink, who is tough inside, and junior forward Deon George, who averaged 9.5 points and 4.4 rebounds last season, may be the best player on the team.

"We're going to take our lumps, but we will be competitive, and hopefully we can get to the Northeast playoffs," Wooster said.

"The biggest adjustment playing-wise has been getting used to the fact that everybody can do everything. It's not like in high school where each team has a couple good players, but every team we play has players as good if not better than you."

Wooster, who is majoring in international business and marketing, has put on about 15 pounds since graduating from Annapolis and is up to 205 after hitting the bench and weights.

"Mr. Brady prepared me well for this, because you've got to be a lot stronger and tougher mentally and physically for this level," Wooster said. "It's a real battle to prepare every day and if you don't you can get your butt kicked good.

"I guess the biggest adjustment to college life has been the freedom you have with nobody like Mr. Brady to keep on you to keep on top of your academics. You have to do it on your own."

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