Parker points way for Howard CC

February 14, 1993|By Tom Worgo | Tom Worgo,Contributing Writer

Before the season started, Howard Community College men's basketball coach Wheeler Brown said sophomore guard Brian Parker, a preseason All-American, would be at the center of the Express' success.

Brown expected Parker to average more than 20 points and be HCC's go-to guy.

The fourth-year coach, however, was surprised when Parker turned out to be the focal point of the team's early-season struggles.

In the team's first 10 games, Parker, played five games at point guard and five at off-guard, with the Express going 6-4.

It was a slow start for a team with more depth and talent than last year's squad that went 28-5. It finished one game short of qualifying for the national tournament and was ranked all year in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III poll.

But during the team's slow start Brown noticed HCC lacked a fast break and wasn't scoring enough. So he made Parker the team's permanent point guard, and the Express has taken off.

HCC, ranked fifth with a 20-5 record, has won 14 of 15 games, including 12 in a row since Parker became a fixture at the point. The Express has averaged 93.3 points and gone 18-2 with Parker at point guard compared with an average of 76.4 points and a 2-3 record without him.

"We had growing pains," Brown said. "We moved people around and tried to experiment with a couple of players at the point. Our fast break was almost non-existent. But the kids were so close in talent. There weren't any clear-cut winners for positions.

"But if we had kept Brian at the point all along, it would have solved a lot of problems. It [not having Parker at point guard] might have cost us a couple of ballgames."

Parker is averaging 26.2 points, which ranks the Atholton grad third in the nation for Division III junior colleges and 10.2 assists -- first in the Maryland JuCo. Nine schools, including Towson State, have expressed interest in him.

Brown said the game against Anne Arundel, a 90-88 loss in mid-December, turned the season around for the Express.

"It made us realize we had to come to play every night," he said. "Up until then, we took it for granted that teams would lay down for us because we were Howard Community College. After the loss, we developed goals for the season -- to finish 21-5 and get the top seed in the JuCo tournament."

Poor grades after the fall semester hurt two programs in the Maryland JuCo -- Charles and Montgomery-Takoma Park. The two schools canceled their programs because they lost several players. Another program, Anne Arundel, lost six players.

But the Express only lost one player. "The kids did a real good academically," Brown said of the group that posted a 2.79 GPA.

In 1991, the Express lost three players to poor grades, and last season the team lost four.

For the second consecutive year, the Express has won the National Division of the Maryland JuCo, posting an 18-1 mark. And to become Maryland JuCo champ, the Express will have to continue its surge when the tournament starts Feb. 18. Howard will be the top seed.

"We feel we can get to the championship game," Brown said of the 12-team tournament, which will lack Division I powers Allegany and Hagerstown.

But Howard's top goal remains to qualify for the national tournament. The Express must win the Region XX tournament, Feb. 26-28, to advance. The sting, however, remains from last season when HCC lost to Montgomery-Germantown last February by three points, which left the Express one game short of qualifying for the tournament. Two weeks earlier, the Express had beaten the same team by 25 points.

"We think we should be there every year," Brown said. "They [sophomores] felt the pain. It's kind of fueling them to make a push for the tournament. And it's making them push the rest of the kids harder."

The Express possesses other standouts, including Old Mill grad Damion Sewell at off-guard (19 points, three assists, four rebounds) and Atholton product Jermaine Reynolds (14.8 points, seven rebounds), a small forward.

When Howard lost starting power forward Ray Fountain for eight games to a sprained knee, starting in December, freshman Kammau Street became and remained the starter. Fountain became HCC's sixth man when he returned, averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds. HCC also gets double figures from reserve forward/center Damion Sterling (11 points, five rebounds).

"We have six players averaging in double figures," Brown said. "And our depth has really been what's carrying us. The team in terms of depth is much better than last year.

"The team overall has the capability of being a better team, and I think it means more about getting into the national tournament. I think it will make a major difference."

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