For the past 15 years, Carlton "Bub" Carrington has championed Baltimore's basketball scene.
In his role as the president, general manager and coach of the Nike Baltimore Elite AAU program, Carrington said he has seen the city's hoops talent get overlooked on a regular basis. By now, he's gotten used to those slights.
"It's not even just basketball," Carrington said. "Everybody skips over Baltimore. If you look at the Weather Channel, they skip over Baltimore. Entertainers skip from Philly to D.C. Baltimore gets no love. At the tournaments, [college coaches and scouts] look at Baltimore guys and say 'Man, they're tough.' Well, they've always been tough, but these guys continuously skip over us. We play with a chip on our shoulder, but we're going to get our respect."
Much of that respect could come this year when 66 players from the Baltimore area suit up for Division I schools, including 10 scholarship freshmen who will be counted on to make an impact for their respective high-major programs.
ESPN senior college basketball analyst Dave Telep thinks the talent Baltimore has produced in recent years has elevated the city to the same level as basketball hotbeds New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
"These things work in cycles," Telep said. "The thing about a place like Baltimore is the down cycles are limited. It seems to be in a pretty good run right now."
Headlined by Kansas guard Josh Selby, the Baltimore class is among the most highly ranked by all the major scouting services. Selby, a Lake Clifton alum, was a consensus top-five prospect and the No. 1 high school player nationally according to Rivals.com. Will Barton, who starred at Lake Clifton as a senior before heading to Brewster (N.H.) Academy for a post-grad year, was rated the top shooting guard in the country by Scout.com.
"These are some really talented kids at some major, major schools," said Lake Clifton coach Herman "Tree" Harried. "We've had a lot of players come out of Baltimore, so I won't call [this class] the best because that has yet to be seen. But it has the potential to be one of the best."
Selby's amateur status is under question and he's expected to miss at least the early portion of the season while the NCAA investigates his relationship with Carmelo Anthony's business partner Robert "Bay" Frazier. Selby has been cleared to attend classes and practice with the Jayhawks, but he cannot dress for games until the investigation is complete. Harried, though, thinks it's only a matter of time before Selby sees game action.
"He deserves it. He didn't do nothing wrong," Harried said. "He's practicing, so the next step is playing. He deserves to participate."
The 6-foot-6 Barton is the prize of Memphis coach Josh Pastner's Top 3 national recruiting class.
"I thought he was probably the best rebounding guard in the 2010 class," Pastner said. "He's been taught well by the high school and summer league coaches in Baltimore. He just has to continue to get stronger and keep building. We're expecting him to have a good season."
Barton will be joined by his brother Antonio, who averaged 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds for Lake Clifton during the Lakers' 3A state championship season in 2009. Antonio is the less heralded of the two, but both his brother and Pastner agree that he will surprise opponents in Conference USA.
"He gets the job done," Will Barton said. "He's gonna open a lot of peoples' eyes. If you ask a lot of people, they'll tell you he can really play."
Among the most recognizable connections to Baltimore recruiting is Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who won the only national championship of his Hall of Fame career with Anthony — the former Towson Catholic star — in 2003. Boeheim has heavily recruited in Baltimore dating back to the late 1970s when he plucked Harried out of Dunbar.
"We've benefited tremendously from the Baltimore area," Boeheim said. "We went down there and recruited Carmelo and getting him obviously helped us get Donte [Greene], and they both had great success here."
Former City forward C.J. Fair — who missed his entire junior year because of a knee injury — is Boeheim's latest Baltimore recruit. Fair played his senior year in the shadow of Barton at Brewster, but should see considerable minutes off the bench for the Orange. While Boeheim doesn't view Fair on the same level as Anthony and Greene, he believes the 6-foot-8 forward will make valuable contributions over the next four years.
"He's a very solid, very smart player and he understands the game," Boeheim said. "He's just a really good player."
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey expects former Mount St. Joseph point guard Eric Atkins to continue a recent trend in South Bend of valuable contributions from freshmen. In the past decade, Brey has pushed freshmen guards Chris Thomas and Tory Jackson into the starting lineup early and believes Atkins is up to the challenge.