Friday's Richmond-Kansas game features Baltimore ties

Jayhawks are led by 2010 All-Metro Player of the Year Selby

Spiders assistant Brunt, redshirt freshman Sparrow are former St. Frances standouts

March 24, 2011|By Jon Meoli, The Baltimore Sun

Richmond assistant coach Jamal Brunt called Morehead State's second-round upset of fourth-seeded Louisville this year's "One Shining Moment" in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. With a win Friday night against top-seeded Kansas, Richmond, who knocked out Morehead State last weekend, could provide an even brighter one.

The 12th-seeded Spiders, the lowest-seeded team remaining in the tournament, pulled off an upset of their own over fifth-seeded Vanderbilt in the second round before cruising to a 17-point win over Morehead State. Now, the Atlantic 10 tournament champions travel to San Antonio to face Kansas on Friday in a game with several Baltimore ties.

Brunt, a former standout at St. Frances, is an assistant coach for the Spiders, and former first-team All-Metro guard Wayne Sparrow, also of St. Frances, is redshirting this year at Richmond. On the opposing sideline is the 2010 All-Metro Player of the Year, Kansas' Josh Selby (Lake Clifton).

Richmond caught a break by avoiding Louisville last weekend but faces a tough draw with the Jayhawks. While acknowledging that there are few flaws in Kansas' game, Brunt knows what it will take to notch another upset.

"It'll be a matter of trying to slow them down," Brunt said. "For us to stay in the game, we have to limit their fast-break opportunities and control the pace of the game. We just can't get overwhelmed by them or the environment."

Head coach Chris Mooney echoed those sentiments.

"We're going to work hard at it," he said. "We pride ourselves on defense, but at the same time we recognize how big of a challenge it's going to be."

Brunt, in his sixth season with the program, spent two years as the director of basketball operations before becoming an assistant coach in 2007. He's helped the Spiders achieve four straight 20-win seasons, the most successful stretch in school history.

Having seen the program grow to new heights under Mooney, Brunt has helped mold this year's team into winners.

"I always thought we had the players capable of doing something like this," Brunt said. "It's kind of touchy to say we'll definitely make the Sweet 16 because you never know who you'll play. We've played against every style imaginable and beaten ranked opponents. Over the years, it's allowed these guys to build up the confidence to beat really good teams and helped us in the tournament so far."

Along with recruiting, one of Brunt's many responsibilities on the staff is to work with Sparrow, who has spent this year improving his game and bulking up in the weight room.

"He helps me with my game all the time," Sparrow said. "He's always there to provide an answer for any of the guys whenever they need anything."

Brunt said Sparrow has dedicated himself to weightlifting and that the player has been growing physically right before their eyes.

"I couldn't be happier for him and his growth," Brunt said. "He's the point guard on the scout team, which has allowed him to handle the ball and make decisions. Going against a quality guard like Kevin Anderson has helped him. He's going to be a big part of Richmond basketball going forward."

While he hasn't played, Sparrow has traveled with the team and soaked in what he called a hectic experience. Still, he and his teammates are excited for Friday.

"It feels amazing to be able to go to the Sweet 16," Sparrow said. "We know we're ready to play, and the way we've been playing, we can shock the world. We've already done it this season."

xcxjmeoli@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jonmeoli

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