Coppin, Towson get quick jump Eagles ready to party

Jaskulski starts anew with experienced Tigers

October 17, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

While Jim Phelan rolls on at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg and Fang Mitchell prepares for another possible trip to the NCAA tournament, new basketball coaches at Towson University and Loyola College will be trying to establish strong programs.

Coppin, Towson and Maryland will be trying to get a jump on the season as three of six area Division I programs that are conducting "Midnight Madness" tonight, when teams are allowed to start full-scale practices at 12: 01 a.m.

Towson's Mike Jaskulski will be hoping to capitalize on his Big East ties to pump some new life into a Tigers program that competes in a tough America East Conference and has a new wooden basketball floor to replace an outdated synthetic surface.

Dino Gaudio brings a lot of confidence and discipline to Loyola from Army and will be out to rescue the Greyhounds from some disappointing performances the past three seasons under former coach Brian Ellerbe.

Jaskulski was an assistant to Leonard Hamilton at the University of Miami for four years before taking the Towson job April 25.

Jaskulski has only a little more than five weeks to prepare his team for a Nov. 24 game with the University of Michigan at the Towson Center.

"The good news is we have four starters returning and the bad news is we're playing in the 13th-ranked conference [America East] in the country. But I'm flat-out enjoying this job. I love the school, I love the area and am looking forward to a tremendous challenge."

The four returning starters are seniors Ralph Biggs, Derick Newton, Ryan Lexer and Marlin Wise.

"Midnight Madness is an opportunity for the players to interact with the student body, which is so important to our program," Jaskulski said. "It stirs up interest in the team. It will also be the first time I've been able to see my players scrimmage five-on-five live. My contact with the players has been limited to two hours a week working on skill development with just three players."

Gaudio said there are two reasons he is not having Midnight Madness.

"Our students are on fall break and we have to have some substance before we have the frills."

Gaudio said returning starters Mike Powell, Jason Rowe and Roderick Platt are the "cornerstones of our team."

However, Gaudio has brought in five freshmen whom he says "can contest for starting positions."

They are 6-foot-9 forward Patrick Davis from Houston, 6-7 forward Brian Carroll from Pittsburgh, 6-3 guard Ryan Blosser out of Waynesboro, Va., 6-1 guard Brant Mack out of Washington, Pa., and 6-7 Apostolis Nasiou, who comes from Greece.

Mitchell and the Coppin State Eagles have earned the right to party a little tonight, as they stole the hearts of basketball fans vTC across the nation last March in the NCAA tournament.

Mitchell's team came within a successful in-bounds play of beating Texas and becoming the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16. Coppin fell to the Longhorns, 82-81, in the second round after stunning sixth-ranked and second-seeded South Carolina, 78-65, in the opening round.

"It seems like the NCAA tournament wasn't that long ago," Mitchell said. "A lot of people I've talked to when I'm out in the community are asking about this year, so I know there is a lof of anticipation regarding the season."

Coppin has four starters returning, including the preseason Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year, senior guard Antoine Brockington, who averaged 17 points a game last year.

Phelan, 68, is the winningest active coach in college basketball with a 772-413 record, taking over the top spot with the retirement of North Carolina's Dean Smith.

Phelan has six players who started a lot last year returning, including sophomore shooting guard Gregory Harris out of DeMatha High.

As usual in October, optimism reigns at almost every school and that is true for Morgan State and UMBC, which are both coming off frustrating seasons.

Third-year Morgan coach Chris Fuller believes he is on the right recruiting track, thanks in large part to the success of Coppin State.

"I can now go up to a Roman Catholic in Philadelphia and these kids will listen to me because they know I can offer them the same chances at success they've had at Coppin," said Fuller, who has landed two top freshmen this season from Roman Catholic.

Curtis King, a 6-7 forward, and Michael Canady, a 6-11 center, are the gifted Roman Catholic products at Morgan. Fuller also has added a Philadelphia-area standout freshman, 6-7 swing man Brandon Dalton, to the Bears' roster in hopes of improving upon last year's 9-18 mark.

UMBC dipped to a 5-22 record last season under Tom Sullivan and is turning to youth this year in hopes of finding some success.

There will be 11 players on the Retrievers' roster with one year or less experience.

Pub Date: 10/17/97

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