At stake: Div. III pride of the state

8 local teams begin 3-day tourney today

College basketball

November 18, 2005|By CHRISTIAN EWELL | CHRISTIAN EWELL,SUN REPORTER

Brett Adams and Bill Nelson, men's basketball coaches at Villa Julie and Johns Hopkins, respectively, might not like the notion that ultimatums, not invitations, led to this weekend's Pride of Maryland Tournament at Hopkins, Villa Julie and Goucher College.

Formally, Adams and Nelson notified the state's seven other Division III programs (Goucher, Washington College, Hood, McDaniel, Salisbury, Frostburg State and St. Mary's) three years ago about the inaugural event. But it was also a case of frustration after seven years of unsuccessful efforts at collaboration among the schools.

The pair decided that there would be a tournament - at the two schools' expense - no matter what.

"If they want to play, great," said Adams, in his 12th year at Villa Julie. "If they don't, forget 'em."

After the invitations went out, the initial hope was for two other programs to join. Instead, everyone wanted in, to the relief of Nelson, who simply hopes to build interest in the event. St. Mary's, the last of the schools to request an invitation, won't play this year but will next year.

The eight teams will play three games each, battling for first through eighth place. Tonight's games will be at Goucher and Hopkins; the games tomorrow and Sunday will be at Villa Julie.

"I don't have my hopes up in terms of packing the gyms," said Nelson, in his 20th year at Johns Hopkins. "If we can get a tradition, it can be a good thing. But that takes time."

Nelson's inspiration came from his time in Rochester, N.Y. - as a coach at Rochester Tech and Nazareth - where a group of smaller schools were able to gain sponsorship for an event now known as the JP Morgan Chase Tournament.

While he and Adams are hoping for sponsorship in future years to defray the $10,000 cost of the tournament, Nelson knows that the Baltimore area provides greater obstacles than Rochester's colleges faced.

"In Rochester, there are no Division I teams," said Nelson. "Here, [Division III] is well behind the Division I schools and probably behind the high schools. But kids in Division III are outstanding players and have been the best players at their high schools."

This is just the latest push toward attaining the general interest that smaller colleges enjoyed during the 1970s and early 1980s, before schools at all levels split into conferences.

Since then, attention has come in bursts to smaller programs, such as Division I Towson and Coppin State during the 1990s. But overall, there's been little to draw fans beyond the most stalwart. In this tiny way, the Pride participants hope to alleviate that situation.

"It's fantastic, and we're proud to be a part of this," said Bob Flynn, coach at McDaniel. "It can be the same way as it was when all of the local schools were in the same conference. I was a part of that [era]. I always looked forward to that."

christian.ewell@baltsun.com

Pride of Maryland

Tonight

Game 1 -- Hood vs. Washington College at Goucher, 6 p.m. Game 2 -- Villa Julie at Goucher, 8 p.m. Game 3 -- McDaniel vs. Frostburg State at Johns Hopkins, 6 p.m. Game 4 -- Salisbury at Johns Hopkins, 8 p.m.

Tomorrow

At Villa Julie Game 5 -- Gm. 1 loser vs. Gm. 2 loser, 1:30 p.m. Game 6 -- Gm. 3 loser vs. Gm. 4 loser, 3:45 p.m. Game 7 -- Gm. 1 winner vs. Gm. 2 winner, 6 p.m. Game 8 -- Gm. 3 winner vs. Gm. 4 winner, 8 p.m.

Sunday

At Villa Julie Game 9 -- Gm. 5 loser vs. Gm. 6 loser, noon (seventh place) Game 10 -- Gm. 5 winner vs. Gm. 6 winner, 2 p.m. (fifth place) Game 11 -- Gm. 7 loser vs. Gm. 8 loser, 4:30 p.m. (third place) Game 12 -- Gm. 7 winner vs. Gm. 8 winner, 6:30 p.m. (championship)

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