Southern's Hemsley choosing among Terps, Hoyas, 3 others Maryland also in running for 6-11 S.C. center O'Neal

January 25, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Johnny Hemsley says he won't be pushed -- not by friends, family or college recruiters.

"Everybody wants to see me stay close to home, especially my family," said the smooth 6-foot-5 senior from Baltimore's Southern High. "If I'm pushed, I'll be the one doing the pushing. I'm the one who's going to do the four years in college, and the hard work on and off the court."

At which college is the issue.

Is it close-to-home Georgetown, as speculation insists?

Or closer-to-home Maryland?

"I wouldn't say that," Hemsley said of talk that he's already decided on the Hoyas. "I'm down to five, and I like both Georgetown and Maryland."

Hemsley is one of two Maryland recruits who'll participate in today's opening round of the First National Bank Charm City Classic at the Towson Center. Southern, No. 5 in USA Today's high school poll, plays No. 1 St. Anthony of Jersey City, N.J., tonight at 8:30.

That follows a 5:30 game between No. 15 St. John's-Prospect Hall of Frederick, with 6-6 forward Nate James, and St. Raymond's (N.Y.).

Hemsley's final five consists of California, Pitt, Miami, Maryland and Georgetown. He made his necessary SAT score in November, and needs only to bring up his GPA for the April signing period.

Even if he is leaning toward Georgetown, he might be persuaded by the prospect of more playing time at Maryland, which loses four seniors. The Hoyas have a freshman, Victor Page, at shooting guard, the position Hemsley most likely would play.

James has received scholarship offers from Maryland, UCLA, Duke, Syracuse and Clemson, according to his coach, Stu Vetter.

Although reports suggest James is headed to UCLA -- to join former St. John's point guard Cameron Dollar -- Vetter said no decision will be announced until March.

"Nate's one of the best post-up players," Vetter said. "He's an intense rebounder, similar to George Lynch [who also played for Vetter]. He's not as big and strong as Lynch, but he has the same intensity."

Meanwhile, Maryland is scrambling to come up with a big man. The Terps reportedly are in the running for 6-11 Jermaine O'Neal of Eau Claire High in Columbia, S.C., but the hometown team -- South Carolina -- has been gaining ground in a field that includes Kentucky.

What's more, charges of O'Neal having sex with an underage girl have been dropped, removing the legal cloud over his head.

Another big man the Terps are chasing is 6-10 Ken Johnson, a shot-blocker and rebounder from Henry Ford High in Detroit. His xTC coach, Bill Carter, yesterday called Maryland "one of the front-runners" in a list that includes Ohio State and Detroit Mercy.

Johnson visited Maryland on Jan. 6 for the North Carolina game and missed Henry Ford's next game when he got snowed in.

"The ACC would be a great place for him to play," Carter said. "He'd be able to develop. He reminds me of [Wake Forest's] Tim Duncan, a guy you haven't heard of who develops into a real good player."

Another Maryland recruit, Damon Thornton, a Top 70 prospect from Atlantic Shores Christian in Chesapeake, Va., is still taking visits. He's been to Maryland, North Carolina State and Syracuse, and plans to visit two schools from a group that includes Iowa, Wake Forest, Georgetown, Xavier, Pitt and Tennessee. Thornton is fully qualified.

Maryland recently lost 6-2 point guard Ryan Bailey, who committed to Southern California and whose brother, Toby, plays at UCLA.

Other players Maryland is looking at include 6-8 Craig Ratliff of Paintsville, Ky.; 6-4 Tony Stanley of Washington & Lee in Arlington, Va.; and 6-4 Jarrett Lockhart of St. Michael's in New York.

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