Loyola hopes home cooks up a title in Battle of Baltimore

Playing host of tourney, youthful Greyhounds eye retaking crown from UMBC

College Basketball

November 09, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Loyola College is the host for this year's Battle of Baltimore Classic, and normally that would be enough to give the Greyhounds an advantage in the four-team field.

But the two-time champions, who surrendered the crown to UMBC last November, showed their age in an exhibition game against Team Champion this week and drew the Retrievers as their first opponent.

"I wasn't in charge of the draw this year," joked Loyola coach Scott Hicks, whose team fell to the Retrievers, 74-56, in the 2000 title game after losing key freshman John Reimold to an ankle injury after the semis.

"We're a very very, young club with five freshmen and five sophomores and at times there will be three or four guys on the floor who've yet to play a college game.

"They have potential but our inexperience showed in the exhibition against a team with players with about 1,200 college games to our 150. We were a little too quick to take three-pointers and we weren't hitting them (7-for-31). It's difficult to press when you're doing that."

Still, Hicks likes the idea of the tournament, which is in its fourth year and rotates sites annually.

"I think it's a good format. I'm in favor of playing all the local teams," he said. "We all have enough travel just in our conferences."

Hicks said the Greyhounds are required by the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to play five non-league games against Division I teams ranked in the top 200 nationally.

"This tournament helps us meet that criteria," he said.

To Hicks' point guard, senior Damien Jenifer, the Battle of Baltimore provides the ability to strut about town if you win it.

"It means a lot," said Jenifer, a Mervo High graduate. "It's something to feel proud about. You get bragging rights in the summertime, small things like that."

Jenifer will have played in all four tournaments and has a chance to claim three titles. He is now the grizzled veteran, the only senior on the roster.

"I just try to keep everything positive and stay on them," he said of his young teammates.

Under an alternating formula, Coppin State replaces Morgan in the field this year and, as usual, coach Ron (Fang) Mitchell is playing it coy.

"I'm a little nervous about this," said Mitchell, whose team will face Towson on the first day. "We're struggling as usual and we're 0-2 in this tournament. We lost a great player in Joe Brown and we have a scoring problem. It's hard to say how we're going to be."

Which means opponents better beware of the Eagles.

UMBC coach Tom Sullivan took the opportunity to do a little recruiting at a news conference yesterday at the Coliseum Sports Bar in Cockeysville.

"I think this is a very important event," he said of the tournament. "You're looking at 65 scholarships [from five schools] here. I think it behooves the high school coaches and teams in the area to come see this tournament."

NOTES: WMAR-TV, which televises three of the four games, has agreed to a new four-year contract with the five schools involved. ... Next year's tournament will be at Morgan State.

Baltimore Classic

Site: Reitz Arena, Loyola College

When: Saturday, Nov. 17 and Monday, Nov. 19

Schedule: Nov. 17 - Coppin State vs. Towson, 7 p.m; Loyola vs. UMBC, 9:15 p.m.; Nov. 19 - Consolation game at 4:30 p.m.; Championship at 7 p.m.

TV: Ch. 2, both semifinals and championship game.

Defending champion: UMBC

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