Big Smith giving 9-1 Bowie State big hopes

State notebook


January 02, 2003|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Virginia Tech transfer Jon Smith has transformed Bowie State from a very good Division II basketball team to a legitimate national championship contender.

The addition of the 6-foot-8, 225-pound senior center gives the Bulldogs two major inside players - 6-9, 235-pound senior forward Tim Washington is the other - doing the job in an area where most coaches can only hope to have one dominant player.

"Jon is the most athletic player I've ever coached," said Bowie coach Luke D'Alessio. "He is a pure shot blocker and rebounder, with an excellent touch around the basket."

Smith brought a certain aura of respect and strength with him from Virginia Tech, and he more than lived up to that reputation in just the third game he played for the Bulldogs, Nov. 26 at Livingstone College.

That was the evening he went up for a dunk nearly six minutes into the first half against the Blue Bears and shattered the glass backboard, forcing postponement of the game and sending Bowie on a seven-hour bus ride home.

"That night was the highlight of the season so far for me," Smith said. "I've received a lot of razzing from my teammates about making them ride seven hours for nothing. It has made playing here a lot of fun already, and I truly believe we could win a national title with this team."

It all added to the hype surrounding Smith, who has turned the hoopla into victories (9-1 Bowie start) and a Most Valuable Player award last weekend in the Porreco Cup tournament at Gannon (Pa.) University.

The Bulldogs won the tournament title game, 88-87, over Gannon when Smith scored on a layup with three seconds left off a pass from Washington, who led the winners with 25 points.

Smith had 22 points and 12 rebounds in the title game, giving him 43 points, four blocks and 18 rebounds in the two tournament games.

Smith's recent spurt has raised his scoring average to 14.6 points, he is shooting a team-leading 65 percent from the field and is averaging 7.2 rebounds and a team-high 2.6 blocks a game.

He is second to Washington (8.4) in rebounding and third to Washington (20.0 points) and Stephen Moss-Kelley (15.8) in scoring.

"I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to play with this much talent," Smith said. "Having Tim up front with me really makes my job easier because he draws so much attention. We're an inside-oriented team here with outstanding guards. I could have stayed at Tech, but it was a guard-oriented team."

Sea Gulls No. 20

A big fall sports season for Salisbury has raised the school to No. 20 in the nation in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Division III standings.

The Sea Gulls went to the final four in field hockey and to the first round of the NCAA Division III tourney in football and soccer.

Salisbury had 158 points after the fall season, just 12 points behind No. 12 Washington (Mo.) University.

Williams (Mass.) College was No. 1 with 376 points, Trinity (Texas) was No. 2 and Messiah (Pa.) College was third.

Goucher cruising

Goucher's men's basketball team finished 2-0 last week in the five-team Cruzin' Classic in West Palm Beach, Fla., and celebrated by doing what comes naturally for tourists.

The Gophers (now 7-3) boarded Carnival Cruise Lines' Fascination ship for a three-day cruise to the Bahamas.

Goucher senior center Thabo Letsebe and freshman guard Jonathan Garritt were named to the all-tournament team.

Letsebe averaged 14.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in the wins over Northwestern Oklahoma State (73-62) and Adrian (Mich.) College (65-59), in addition to contributing five steals and four assists.

The 6-6 Letsebe leads the team in scoring with 17.2 points a game and needs 13 blocks to become the school's all-time leader in that category.

Garritt shot an outstanding 68.8 percent (11-for-16) from the field in the two games, averaging 14 points and five rebounds.

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