Gibbons' Dean and McCrone play through thick and thin as friends

Seniors who have grown into more than teammates on verge of final game

High School

February 22, 2002|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Dwight Dean and Luke McCrone have been the heart and soul of the Cardinal Gibbons basketball team for the last three seasons. But they are more than just teammates.

"Luke and I are very close friends," said Dean. "When we're not in school or playing basketball, we talk on the phone a lot. I know I can go to him anytime for help with my schoolwork or any other problems. I love Luke's sense of camaraderie."

They met as sophomores - Dean from West Baltimore, McCrone from Shanty Bay, a rural town near Toronto.

"Luke came to Gibbons looking for a sense of belonging and being accepted, which is how I felt my freshman year," said Dean.

"We bonded right away."

Which makes this weekend all the more difficult.

The Crusaders seniors likely will play their final game together in the Baltimore Catholic League/Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference Tournament at Goucher College.

Gibbons (15-18, 5-11) is the seventh seed in the tournament that continues today at 3:30 p.m. with four games. The Crusaders play the 7 p.m. contest against No. 2 seed St. Maria Goretti (21-9, 12-4), a team they have lost to twice.

"I'm really proud of those two and am going to miss them," said Gibbons coach Bob Flynn. "The last game together is going to be really tough."

Dean, who averages 23 points and seven rebounds per game, and McCrone, who averages 13.5 points and 12.5 rebounds, provide most of the team's offense.

"Those two are responsible for where we are and how much we have improved," said Flynn.

"They are our go-to guys, and if they don't have good games, we're usually in trouble. They have to play well for us to win."

The 6-foot-6 Dean, who was named to the All-BCL first team, is the main offensive weapon. He can post up, penetrate or take it out on the perimeter.

McCrone, 6-7 and a second-team All-BCL selection, is an excellent rebounder who can score from inside or outside.

"All Luke cares about is how the team is playing," Flynn said. "He is a very unselfish player who would rather see his buddy Dwight get the cheers than himself."

Three years ago, Flynn took over a Gibbons team that did not win a BCL game the year before he arrived. The Crusaders are turning the corner thanks mainly to the play of Dean and McCrone.

Growing up fast

Dean was just 8 years old when his father died because of liver failure in his West Baltimore house.

He grew up fast and felt "a sense of responsibility" to his mother, Sandra Dean, and his two sisters. At the same time, he was feeling peer pressure to hang out late with a bad crowd.

"I was hanging with some of the wrong people, who weren't doing me any good as I found out later, " said Dean.

Bryan Moorhouse, who was then the Gibbons coach, recruited Dean at Mount Royal Middle School.

Moorhouse, like Flynn, played for the late Ray Mullis at Gibbons. Mullis holds the metro area record for most career wins, 621 in 30 years at Gibbons, before dying of cancer.

After succeeding his mentor, Moorhouse fell on hard times when enrollment at the southwest Baltimore school fell off and the school nearly closed.

When Moorhouse resigned, Flynn took over and persuaded Dean to stay at Gibbons and not transfer to another private school.

"He [Flynn] made me feel like I belonged, made me feel like an asset to the program, " said Dean.

"He's become a father figure to me."

Dean's academic problems continued into his sophomore year, and Flynn said he "had to get in Dwight's face a couple times because he was with the wrong crowd. Then he and Luke became good friends."

Dean credits McCrone, who has a 4.0 grade-point average and scored a 1,430 on his SAT, for his change of attitude toward academics.

Dean has worked hard for a qualifying grade-point average and improving his SAT score. A number of colleges are interested in him if he can qualify.

There for his friend

Flynn was working a Morgan Wootten summer camp before he started at Gibbons and met McCrone and his parents. McCrone talked his parents into letting him come down to Baltimore, and it was agreed that he would live with the Tom Grace family and attend Gibbons.

"I was excited about the chance to play basketball down here where I could get more exposure for college," said McCrone, who is interested in attending Harvard, Princeton, Cornell and Columbia.

"At first, I was homesick, but the Graces treated me great and we gave it through Christmas to work. Dwight and I were the only two sophomores on the team and he showed me the ropes in basketball and with the team. I helped him with his school work."

McCrone's parents, Marty and Julie, drove 10 hours down to Baltimore every weekend to see him play. Then in January of 2000, Marty, a 6-foot-5 former basketball player, was diagnosed with squamos cancer.

"I was stunned when I found out because I thought it only happened to other people," said Luke.

Dean was there for his close friend.

"Dwight and Coach Flynn gave me somebody to talk to, and get my mind off it," McCrone said. "I never doubted that my dad would get over it."

"They [doctors] caught it early and my dad has beat it. He drives back to Canada for treatment every two months and is doing well."

The McCrone family moved to Baltimore after Luke's first year at Gibbons. His little brother, Jake, is on the Gibbons JV.

Marty, 47, teaches and coaches basketball and volleyball at Mount de Sales.

"Life has so much more meaning after my dad's ordeal, " said McCrone. "It really put things in perspective for me."

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