The game changed for Bowie State this season the moment point guard Anton Jenifer stepped onto the court.
And so did everything else surrounding the Bulldogs' men's basketball program.
"We were thinking this was a rebuilding year," said coach Luke D'Alessio, who guided Bowie to the NCAA Division II Final Four last season with a 31-4 record. "But now we feel like we have a chance to go for a national championship. Anton gives us so much scoring at the point along with his vast experience, knowledge of the game and desire to win."
Jenifer, a 5-foot-9 senior transfer from Morgan State who played at Baltimore City Community College and Walbrook, has been superb through the first nine games, averaging 23.9 points, 4.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 2.2 steals in the team's 7-2 start.
Few people expected the Bulldogs to even contend for a Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association title this season after losing all five starters from last season.
Jenifer is so caught up in D'Alessio's low-key approach to the game that he has played all season with a painful stress fracture in his ankle. D'Alessio has wanted Jenifer to rest the ankle at times, but he plans to keep playing through the pain.
"The doctors have said I can't hurt it any more by playing," Jenifer said. "Anyway, I've already sat out two years and now I'm having too much fun to take time off."
D'Alessio has given Jenifer free rein on the court.
"He lets me talk on the court," Jenifer said. "I don't do any nasty trash-talking, just normal stuff."
This freedom for Jenifer has come after he spent a lot of time this past summer talking to D'Alessio about how they believed the game should be played and it was obvious they were on the same page.
Jenifer's enthusiasm wasn't even dimmed by Monday night's 93-84 loss to Mansfield (Pa.) University at Bowie, a game the Bulldogs could have used to jump into the Division II Top 25.
"It was a tough loss, " Jenifer said, "but we'll be back."
Bowie shooting guard Allen Van Norden (17.2 points a game) follows Jenifer in a high-scoring backcourt that averages more than 41 points, and center Shawn Hampton averages 11.2 points and 8.0 rebounds.
"We didn't have all that scoring in the backcourt last season," D'Alessio said.
While the Hood College men's basketball team is taking a few first-season bows for a good start, the Hood women pulled off a major upset in Division III earlier this month, winning at Capital Athletic Conference power Salisbury, 80-71.
"This is absolutely the biggest win in the history of our program," Hood coach Rod Liller said. "High school players in Frederick County look at Salisbury as the place to go to play basketball if you don't go Division I. The CAC [Capital Athletic Conference] is by far the best conference in our region, and for us to be 2-0 against them [they beat St. Mary's the night before topping Salisbury] is really saying something."
Kathryn Linehan and Melissa Kolb combined for 41 points to lead Hood (4-2) past Salisbury. Danielle Allen had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Rita Willis added 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Johns Hopkins senior forward Chad Tarabolous has been selected to the NSCAA/Adidas Division III Soccer All-America second team. He led the Blue Jays to an 18-3-1 record this season, scoring a team-leading 24 goals and getting seven assists. He finished his career third all time at Hopkins with 62 goals and 146 points, and is the sixth Blue Jays player to earn All-America honors under coach Matt Smith.
Towson junior volleyball setter Mary Clare Coghlan has been named one of seven recipients of the Colonial Athletic Association Scholar Athlete Award for the fall season. Coghlan was a first-team All-CAA choice, the CAA Setter of the Year and helped lead the Tigers to a 14-0 regular-season record.