Ex-Ducks take wing

Smith, Brown follow Dorsey's lead, land on their feet in migrations after stardom at Douglass five years ago

Sun Follow-Up

January 15, 2007|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN REPORTER

Two years ago, Joey Dorsey's potential was being promoted by Dick Vitale, but Tyler Smith was idling away at a famous friend's mansion in Denver and Gerald Brown was wasting time in West Baltimore.

That was not the way it was supposed to be for the best basketball team ever out of Douglass High.

"Tyler would call and remind me one of Joey's games was coming on TV, as if I didn't know that," Brown said. "That motivated us. I was happy for Joey, but at the same time, I know that Tyler and I wanted to show what we could do."

Five years after Douglass had a perfect season, the Ducks' big three - finally - are all making it in Division I at the same time.

Smith, The Sun's Player of the Year in 2001-02, is the do-it-all small forward for Colorado State, his fifth school since Douglass.

Brown found a home in his hometown, as he has Loyola College contending in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for the first time since 1994.

Dorsey continues to develop at Memphis, where his power game has always been a concern to the rest of Conference USA.

The three juniors are making it a very warm winter for Douglass coach Rodney Coffield.

"I got impatient, waiting on Gerald and Tyler," Coffield said. "People in the city were forgetting about them, but I knew it was going to take some time.

"For me," Coffield continued, "the irony is that Joey made it first. Tyler and Gerald had so much more basketball experience, they made Joey look good. They would get it to him in the open court, and he would throw it down. He looked great, but he was so raw."

Smith was the first one to wear a varsity uniform at Douglass and a reason Brown, a 10-12 teammate from the Robert C. Marshall Rec Center off Pennsylvania Avenue, transferred in from Dunbar in 2000.

"I didn't want to go to Dunbar," Smith said. "I wanted to help Douglass do something special."

The Ducks' 2000-01 season ended with a playoff loss to Southern, but that summer, they won a serious recruiting competition for Dorsey, who had never played scholastic ball. After having been expelled from the city system, he was attending an alternative school.

While skilled perimeter players abound, there is a premium on big men, and Dorsey, now 6 feet 9 and 260 pounds, was the one who completed Douglass.

In December 2001, Brown fed Dorsey for the basket that beat Walbrook. The Ducks became the area's No. 1 team, held off Randallstown in a momentous region final and beat Gwynn Park in the state 3A final, where Brown, Dorsey and Smith combined for 59 of Douglass' 76 points.

As quickly as they had come together, the Ducks disbanded. Brown and Dorsey had high school eligibility remaining, but Douglass did not have the support system in place to get them to Division I.

Moving along

"We could only play so many games, and I felt the kids needed to go someplace else to get national exposure," Coffield said. "Besides, they were nonqualifiers; they needed to get their academics in order."

All spent the 2002-03 season at prep schools. In 2003-04, Smith was a freshman atDePaul, Brown was a second-semester addition at Providence and Dorsey needed another year of prep school in North Carolina.

Memphis coach John Calipari stuck with Dorsey as he got his academics in order, but Brown and Smith didn't take care of business in the classroom and tested the patience of their respective coaching staffs.

Ineligible at the end of his freshman season atDePaul, Smith enrolled at Manhattan in the fall of 2004 but withdrew before the start of practice and drifted to Denver because that's where childhood friend Carmelo Anthony was.

Two years and four days ago, Brown had eight rebounds and five assists in his only Providence start, against Villanova, but a month later he dropped out of school and returned to Baltimore, where his girlfriend was pregnant with his child.

J'linkai, a son, was born in November 2005. By then, Jimmy Patsos had Brown on scholarship, but even that was a struggle. To become a full-time student, Brown paid for about $4,000 worth of credits at Loyola in the summer of 2005, all the while dealing with the death of his mother, Carolyn, and other losses.

"My mom went into the hospital for surgery and never came out," Brown said. "She was the one who had told me to grow up. On top of that, I lost three friends that summer, two to drug violence and one on a dirt bike."

Smith escaped those mean streets and found a new start, courtesy of Anthony. Colorado State is in Fort Collins, an hour north of Denver, where Anthony stars for the Nuggets. Sterling, 90 minutes east of Fort Collins, is where Smith spent the 2005-06 season, at Northeastern Junior College.

Last summer, Smith was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession while driving a Dodge registered to Melo Enterprises. Smith "was very mad at himself," as his embarrassment was compounded by all that Anthony has done for him and his family.

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