Durant plays beyond years

Texas freshman stands out in Big 12, rises in national prominence

National notebook

January 17, 2007|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Reporter

The NCAA lifted its ban on freshman ineligibility before the 1972-73 season. Over the past decade, the very best never bothered to stop on campus, but the NBA's new draft policy has led to the phenomenon of Kevin Durant.

Heading into last night's game at Oklahoma State, the Texas freshman was averaging 23.7 points and 11.0 rebounds. He is the only player in the nation to rank among the top 10 in both categories, and Durant hasn't done it against a cupcake schedule.

With three players taken among the top 42 in the 2006 draft, this should be a rebuilding year for the Longhorns, but coach Rick Barnes put Michigan State, Gonzaga, LSU and Tennessee on the non-conference schedule and Durant didn't let up once No. 21 Texas got into the Big 12.

With 37 points against Colorado and 34 against Missouri, the 6-foot-9, 225-pound Durant doesn't look like someone who turned 18 in September. It's what Texas expected when assistant coach Russell Springmann helped Barnes win a pitched recruiting fight.

Barnes learned his way around the Capital Beltway two decades ago, when he briefly took the George Mason job. Springmann went to high school in Montgomery County and was a senior guard at Salisbury State in 1989-90, when the Sea Gulls set a Division III record by averaging 104.5 points per game. Durant is from Suitland, in Prince George's County, and prepped at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy and Montrose Christian.

Durant is clearly the premier player in the Big 12, and he might be the best in the nation.

Sometimes, voters wish they could wait until late March to make decisions like those.

In 2002-03, Troy Bell of Boston College was the Player of the Year in the Big East. The U.S. Basketball Writers Association made Xavier's David West their National Player of the Year, and put him on an All-American team that included Marquette's Dwyane Wade, T.J. Ford of Texas, Nick Collison of Kansas and Oklahoma's Hollis Price.

The judging in that beauty contest appeared blurred when Syracuse freshman Carmelo Anthony dominated the NCAA tournament.

Ohio State's Greg Oden and North Carolina's Brandan Wright could go higher in the 2007 draft, but if Durant's regular-season impact exceeds what Wisconsin's Alando Tucker and Pittsburgh's Aaron Gray put up, then his youth shouldn't preclude him from being considered for national player of the year.

Mount steadying

The bad news is that Mount St. Mary's last won a game in the Northeast Conference tournament in 2000.

The good news is that half of the Mountaineers' rotation wasn't around at the end of last season, and they're 4-2 in NEC play.

The Mountaineers' leading scorer is Chris Vann, a 6-foot junior who missed the latter two-thirds of last season with a hip injury, and coach Milan Brown is using three freshmen. Will Holland and Kelly Beidler are in complementary roles, but Jeremy Goode is playing nearly 34 minutes a game at the point.

"Jeremy's starting to get a better feel for how I want him to play," Brown said. "In high school, he just had to make plays, but I need him to run a team. For four games, all he did was run the offense, he was hesitant to shoot. The idea is to get an open shot, and if he can do that within the framework of the offense, then take it."

Brown looked at the big picture Dec. 28, when he held 6-4 senior Mychal Kearse out of a 41-point loss at Maryland. Still recovering from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered last April, Kearse rested for the start of NEC play. On Jan. 4, last season's NEC Defensive Player of the Year played 48 minutes in the longest game in Mount history, a four-overtime win at Long Island.

Flynn foundation

McDaniel College has postponed tonight's game against Washington College, but the Green Terror will play Saturday's home game against Gettysburg. It will be its first since the death last week of coach Bob Flynn.

Flynn, 49, died of a massive heart attack. His funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Catonsville. An educational foundation has been established for Flynn's three children. Donations can be made payable to F. Michael Grace, Trustee, 300 Frederick Road, Suite 100, Catonsville MD 21228. paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

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