Graduate student Hunt making grade for Terps

Men's lacrosse: Arriving at Maryland with a degree and three productive seasons at Yale on his resume, attackman Brian Hunt has become the second-leading scorer for a unit filled with new faces.

April 18, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - When the Maryland offense moves a lacrosse ball, the probability is high that it will be passed or caught by a player who wasn't with the Terps last season.

This campaign hinges on the transition made by a half-dozen fresh faces, but that group includes several who are anything but rookies, the most notable being Brian Hunt.

Hunt is new to Maryland, but not to college lacrosse. Over three seasons at Yale, he torched the Ivy League for 78 goals and 50 assists. When a severe ankle injury halted his senior season there before it started, Hunt joined the Terps and combined that final year of eligibility with the pursuit of a master's degree.

Joe Walters, a freshman from Rochester, N.Y., is the Terps' top point-getter. With 15 goals and eight assists, Hunt is second, and he said it helps that he's not the only newcomer on the Maryland attack.

"I'm not holding the team back when I ask questions, because so many new people are learning the offense, the coaches have to teach it anyway," Hunt said. "We have to go over things a lot. There are so many new people, we're still trying to find an identity. We're pretty deep into our season, and we haven't really clicked yet."

No. 5 in The Sun/Channel 2 rankings, Maryland (7-2, 2-1) is after its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship since 1998. The top-seeded Terps open the ACC tournament tonight (6 p.m.) in Charlottesville, Va., against Duke. Virginia meets North Carolina in the second semifinal, and the winners come back in Sunday's title game.

Maryland whipped the 12th-ranked Blue Devils (7-5, 0-3), 13-7, in the March 2 season opener, as Hunt had three goals and an assist. He collected 14 goals through eight games, but he's totaled just one in the past three for an offense that is usually started by senior midfielder Mike Mollot or junior attackman Dan LaMonica, who have combined for 27 assists.

"It's a continuing adjustment, for Brian and for us," Maryland coach Dave Cottle said. "When Brian was at Yale, he had the ball in his stick more and he played behind the goal. Now, he spends more time on the crease and the wing. Part of that's good, it's made him grow. Part of it's bad, because he may need the ball more. We haven't used Brian to the best of his abilities."

Cottle was the coach at Loyola College in the summer of 1997, when Hunt attended the Top 205 Camp there and didn't make much of an impression on the college recruiters who manned the nation's premier Division I programs. He starred for Unionville High in Kennett Square, Pa., but it was his SAT score of 1,480 that got him into Yale.

As a sophomore, Hunt had two goals and four assists as the Bulldogs threw a scare into Maryland before falling, 12-9. In 2001, he collected 28 goals and 30 assists, and was named the New England Player of the Year. More of the same was expected last year, but a few hours before Yale was to board a bus for Philadelphia and its opener against Drexel, Hunt's right ankle was damaged in practice.

"On the last play in practice, I stepped on it wrong, and it was pretty grizzly," said Hunt, whose father also played in the Ivy League, for Cornell. "I broke the fibula, the big bone, and tore all the ligaments. I considered withdrawing from school and playing for Yale this season, but I was only three credits away from [my] degree."

Hunt picked up an economics degree and 25 pounds, as he didn't approach full speed until last October. By then he was immersed at Maryland, where he chose a graduate program close to the nation's capital over studying and playing at Duke. This semester's load consists of four courses, with titles like "Financial Planning Control Systems for Managers and Consultants."

Besides Hunt and midfielder Justin Smith, a transfer from UMBC, the Maryland offense added freshmen Walters, Bill McGlone and Brendan Healy. Even the offensive coordinator is new, as Paul Cantabene was hired last September.

Does the 23-year-old Hunt's distinctive resume give added weight to his voice?

"I have three years experience under my belt, so I bring the same things as any other senior," Hunt said. "I don't know if I bring anything different because I have a degree, or because I'm older."

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