Sixth man Campion teaches chemistry Boys basketball: Spalding's leading scorer last winter accepted a new role this season and is finding new ways to help his team win more than ever.

January 22, 1998|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

While a bevy of talented underclassmen has drawn most of the attention in No. 5 Archbishop Spalding's immediate success in the Baltimore Catholic League, a senior captain has quietly made huge contributions.

Jason Campion, the Cavaliers' leading scorer last winter with a 12-point average and six rebounds a game, has gone from starter to the first or second man off the bench this season. And Campion has done it with maturity, class and understanding of the team concept.

The 6-foot-5, 175-pound senior could have stirred up dissension but instead has helped craft chemistry that has the Cavaliers on a roll. Spalding (13-7, 4-1) hosts No. 3 Towson Catholic (11-3, 5-0) in a big Catholic League showdown at 8 p.m. tomorrow.

Unquestionably, the Cavaliers would not be in the position they are in if it were not for the example being set by their two-year captain.

"I started the first 10 games this season, but with all the talent we have, I don't mind the way I'm being used, " said Campion, who understands his role.

"It's my job as a captain to set a good example for the younger players, and after my sophomore year on JV, I wasn't sure I could play at the level of the guys coach Martin was bringing in here.

"But I've gotten better because of all the talent around me, and before he [Martin] came in last year, if things had continued the way they were, I don't think I would have improved any."

Campion said he never envisioned anything like the Cavaliers have now.

Just three years ago, Spalding was 3-17 playing in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference. Last year brought the arrival of the ambitious Martin with his eight-year Catholic League background as an assistant or JV coach at Cardinal Gibbons and Mount St. Joseph.

Martin started building a power that has seen the Cavaliers set a school record for wins (21-8) and cop the MIAA C Conference title last year and soar to the top of the Catholic and A conferences this season.

The transition to such a dramatic rise has been smooth because of the attitude of the likes of Campion and another key senior off the bench, 6-foot-8 Jon Bents.

"This team has better chemistry than any team I've been associated with in my 11 years of coaching," says Martin. "These kids really care about each other, and Jason's leadership and acceptance of his role to make us better has had a lot to do with it."

Martin wanted to put a quicker team on the floor, around 7-foot junior center Derrick Goode, and that meant changing Campion's role. Having a player like Campion, who can come in and drain a three, drive inside to score, or pull down a few #F rebounds, has given Spalding depth.

"It's important that I hustle, shoot well and be versatile," said Campion. "Plus, I have to make sure the younger players do the things they're supposed to do, on and off the court."

Campion admits that when he's not playing, he enjoys watching his teammates, such as super sophs Derrick Snowden at point guard, Darren Johnson and Tremaine Robinson.

Snowden's ball handling "is incredible, and it's fun watching Tremaine dunk and leap," said Campion.

During the Christmas holidays, the Cavaliers took their show to tournaments in Las Vegas and New York and had a stretch of four straight losses.

"We struggled against some quality teams nationally, but we had a couple team meetings to remind each other that we were playing such [high caliber] teams for the exposure, experience, and to get ready for the Catholic League," said Campion, who had never been on a plane until the trip to Vegas.

"The traveling was a great experience, and it really brought us hTC together. Everybody likes each other on this team. And winning plays a big part. We know what it feels like and got back on track when we got home."

Campion has drawn interest from several NCAA Division II and III schools, among them Salisbury, Goucher and Lebanon Valley, and Slippery Rock (Pa.), a Division I school.

"I want to major in communications or education," said Campion, who chose Spalding four years ago for academics.

His dad, Tom Campion, a former 6-4 baseball player, teachs in Prince George's County, and his mother, Peggy, is a business manager for an architectural company.

Their work ethics have obviously rubbed off on Jason, who boasts a 3.5 grade-point average and an SAT score of 1,190.

"If I don't get into communications, I may want to teach history or [physical education]," said Campion, who for now is doing an excellent job teaching chemistry.

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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