'Noodles' on Div. I menus

February 09, 1994|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Contributing Writer

Last Monday afternoon around 3 p.m., Dunbar basketball coach Paul Smith walked into athletic office for practice. By 3:45, he had messages in his hands from Temple and Wisconsin.

At the bottom of each pink message slip, the reference read the same: Noodles.

"Noodles," a k a Rodney Elliott, the Poets' 6-foot-8 senior power forward, has gained the attention of some of nation's top programs.

Along with Temple and Wisconsin, the Dunbar captain is being recruited by Clemson, George Mason, George Washington, Maryland, North Carolina State, Providence, Rhode Island and Towson State.

"His options are apparently becoming a little broader," Smith said. "By not signing during the fall because of his football commitments, his stock has risen."

In Dunbar's run to the state Class 2A championship last season, Elliott played a major role, averaging 9.7 points and 10.6 rebounds. This season, Elliott is averaging 10.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 5.7 assists for USA Today's No. 17 team.

"I'm kind of surprised," Elliott said. "I really didn't get a chance to go to camp [Five-Star] until my junior season, and that's when I got a chance to be seen."

"He possesses unique skills," Smith said. "At the beginning of the season, we had him at the three [small forward] because of his ability to handle the ball, make good passing decisions and his perimeter shot. But he's more valuable to us inside, especially on the offensive glass."

Elliott, who weighs 205 pounds, had one of his best games against Southern-Baltimore in a 72-71 loss on Dec. 10 at Coppin State, getting 17 points and 11 rebounds.

At the Charm City Classic two weekends ago, Elliott scored 19 points and had 35 rebounds in two games, earning all-Southeast bracket honors. Against Rice of New York, then ranked No. 1 in the country, Elliott broke a Charm City Classic record with 22 rebounds.

All season, he has been consistent on the stat sheet and as a leader.

He was the starting quarterback for the football team, which went 9-3 and reached the state 2A semifinals before losing to runner-up Southern-Anne Arundel, 43-24. Elliott passed for more than 1,350 yards and nine touchdowns for Dunbar, which finished ranked No. 5 in the area.

The football game was played on a Friday night. The first day of basketball practice was the next morning. When Smith arrived for practice, Elliott was the first one there. That left an early impression on Smith.

"He was just ready to get started right away," Smith said. "The guys look to him for his leadership, vocally, as well as his playing ability. In close ballgames, he's the person who has called the huddle, similar to a quarterback in a huddle. He brings that quarterback mentality to the court."

Football was Elliott's first love growing up in East Baltimore. When he was 7, his friends jokingly called him "Noodles," and the nickname stuck. The tough and physical play of football helped him develop leadership qualities.

But as he started to grow, basketball also became a favorite of his. Once he reached Dunbar and the mystique of its basketball program, it won his complete attention. Now, he has the attention of some of the nation's premier programs.

"It feels good to be wanted," said Elliott, who has exceeded the Scholastic Assessment Test qualifying score of 700 for freshman eligibility. "Hopefully, I can get a four-year scholarship, get a degree and play basketball."

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