Prep school becomes perfect fit for Phillips

On High Schools

High Schools

April 12, 2005|By MILTON KENT

DEMETRIUS Phillips finished a solid, high school basketball career last spring at Northwestern with averages of 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks a game.

Those were respectable numbers, to be sure for a 6-foot-9 post player, but nothing that made the earth shake. Kent State, Central Connecticut State, La Salle and Rhode Island nibbled at Phillips, but none offered a scholarship.

Besides, Phillips thought he could do better, but not with the resume he had. His problem was he had been playing big man in a city that was known for its guards.

"I feel more comfortable playing players my size and bigger," said Phillips. "Baltimore is a guard's town. It's predominantly guards. But when you go on the road, you'll see guys who are bigger, stronger, faster."

So, what do you do when you're a giant in a land of Lilliputians and you need to be among more giants? You go find some giants, what else?

At the urging of his uncle, Ray Daniels, who was an assistant coach at Morgan State and a head coach at Dundalk Community College, Phillips decided to find some place to hone his craft, to make himself presentable to a big-time college or university.

That place turned out to be Notre Dame Preparatory, a private Catholic school in Fitchburg, Mass., a town 40 miles west of Boston. Phillips headed north, along with Chester Frazier and Paris Carter, who played guard and forward, respectively, at Lake Clifton last year.

"I knew that I would go at least [to a] mid-major [school in] college basketball, but I needed experience," said Phillips. "At prep school, I got experience by playing against more talented players, more athletic players."

But while many players go to prep schools to improve their grades so they can play immediately at Division I and avoid having to give up a year's eligibility under Prop 48 rules, Phillips says he went to Notre Dame Prep, strictly to improve his game.

Phillips said Notre Dame Prep carried a reputation, oddly enough, as a guard's school, but it has produced a decent share of big players. Most notably among them are Ryan Gomes, who just completed an impressive career at Providence, and Shawn James, a 6-9 freshman at Northeastern who was the America East Rookie of the Year as well as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year.

Of course, there are plenty of decent prep schools that could have helped Phillips better that are closer to Baltimore than Notre Dame, but sometimes to grow, as a player and as a person, you have to go.

"Massachusetts is far away," said Phillips. "When we were in school, anytime we were in school and we got into any type of trouble or a situation, we had to stick it out and see it through. We couldn't just walk away from a situation. The good thing about not being able to walk away is that you get to live that feeling every day. I think, if I was in Virginia or somewhere close like that, it would have been a cop out to leave and go home. But I had to stay and stick it out and be tough about things that were going on."

In the end, Phillips, who scored eight points for the Baltimore team in Sunday's Charm City Challenge win over a team of high school seniors from around the country, made a good choice, and ended up getting a scholarship to Fordham in the Atlantic 10.

The Rams were 13-16 last season, but Phillips believes head coach Dereck Whittenburg, the former DeMatha product who won a national championship as a player at North Carolina State, is the right man to maximize his skills.

"He has previous championship experience. Not just winning experience, but championship experience," Phillips said of Whittenburg. "He told me to keep up the good work and to keep working hard and to not get complacent. He said that with me coming in the summer as a freshman, I'll have my ups and downs, but when I get down, I have to try to get back up and earn respect from my teammates. I'll get better that way."

That's a lesson Demetrius Phillips has already learned and taken to heart.

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