Little McGuthrie has the Mount on the rise 5-8 freshman guard is big man on court

February 27, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

EMMITSBURG -- At first glance, he looks like the kid who should be delivering your daily paper or helping put groceries into your car outside the supermarket.

His basketball shorts hang below his knees, in vogue today but a testimony to his minuscule frame. His shirttail sometimes flops loosely over the shorts, no fashion statement, to be sure.

If 100 students were lined up and an unknowing fan were asked to pick the player who has turned around Mount St. Mary's program, the least likely candidate to be chosen would be Chris McGuthrie.

But once he steps onto the court, there is no deception. This diminutive specimen is the man who frustrates opponents, invigorates teammates and delights the Mount faithful.

"Nobody can check him out there," said Kevin Booth, McGuthrie's backcourt running mate. "What he does is make the other team play two people on him. And that always leaves somebody open for him to find."

"The scary thing," said Robert Morris coach Jarrett Durham, "is that he's only a freshman. When we played him the second time, he was dropping in NBA threes, so we were forced to go out and get him. Then, he just started driving and dishing off. The guy is some player."

And just what the Mount needed after a 6-22 season that included 150 more turnovers than the opposition. Coach Jim Phelan had been forced to use Booth -- who was hobbled by bad knees -- at the point.

"It's the major difference in our team," said Phelan. "Point guards are so important at our level, and at the end of last year we had completely run out of them. Every trip down the court became an adventure."

The first, last and always priority was to get a guard who could hold on to the ball and penetrate the lane. Such an addition would enable Booth to return to shooting guard, his natural position.

McGuthrie's high school team, Springbrook in Silver Spring, had a 57-17 record during his three years as a starter and advanced to the state final one year and the semifinals another.

But he was headed farther north.

"I didn't want to come here at first," McGuthrie said. "I had my heart set on going to Manhattan. But then [Manhattan coach Steve] Lappas went to Villanova, and at the time I was ready to sign, they really didn't have a coach."

McGuthrie said he had visited the Mount, leaving after a day, and was not impressed.

But one of Phelan's assistants, Don Anderson, persisted in the pursuit, and his timing and salesmanship were exquisite.

When Lappas departed Manhattan, Anderson stayed on the trail.

"I guess I really didn't know what I was looking for," McGuthrie said. "I wasn't too interested in school, never thought about it seriously. But my parents kept on me, and I knew I had to go. I'm very glad I'm here now. Coach Anderson looks after the players."

McGuthrie said he was concerned that he might spend most of this season on the bench. Dave Kapaona, who had been redshirted the previous year because of a stress fracture in his foot, was returning, ostensibly to lock up most of the court time at the point.

"He was coming back, and I was sick in the preseason," McGuthrie said. "I really didn't see myself playing much."

But once McGuthrie shook off the flu and began darting and --ing and confounding people with his crossover dribble and lightning first two steps, it was Kapaona who saw the bench in his future and left school.

Since reaching top speed, he has hovered around a 20-point scoring average and the team is 8-2 in games in which he has at least six assists. A mini-slump struck several weeks ago when fatigue set in, but McGuthrie has picked up the pace again heading into tournament play.

The Northeast Conference has several exciting young point guards, but McGuthrie is the centerpiece.

A good high school student, despite "getting by without doing much," in his words, McGuthrie acknowledged basketball was higher on his priority list.

But he has applied himself well at the Mount and carries a B-minus academic average.

John Barrett, his high school coach and now the athletic director-coach at Pallotti, said: "I think he's terrific. He has the ability to play at a higher Division I level, but I don't know if he could have handled the superior size.

"Chris is very quick, and if somebody had wanted him, he could have

gone to some bigger Division I schools. But his choice was very good. Now if he'd just get his pants up, he'd look the size he is."

That size is 5 feet 8, 150 pounds. Before the season, McGuthrie was up to almost 165 pounds because of weight training, but the grind has shaved him down.

A misprint in the Mount media guide lists McGuthrie at 5-8, 225. He laughs at the thought. "Obviously, they made a big mistake," he said.

McGuthrie's father, Calvin, a mailman, is a solid 5-11, 230 pounds. Calvin was a good athlete at Roosevelt High in Washington, and Chris' three younger brothers, "all skinny and small," according to Chris, are involved in high school sports.

As it turned out, the marriage of McGuthrie and Phelan has been ideal.

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