Hawks head to Florida

November 27, 1996


Staff Writer

The Hagerstown Junior College basketball team should be giving thanks for the Pepsi Challenge, hosted by Central Florida Community College.

The Hawks played in the Thanksgiving weekend tournament in Ocala, Fla., the last two seasons, and each time came away with an accurate indication of their strength as a team.

This year's tournament comes at a crucial time for HJC. Even with a 3-0 record, the Hawks are far from settled. Injuries and the academic ineligibility of projected star Bobby Wimbush make this holiday trip anything but festive.

"The best and the worst come out of players at this tournament," HJC coach Jim Brown said. "There are a lot of college scouts there and we'll have to see who is down there playing for the scouts and who's playing for the team to win games. This will be our first time away from home. This will be the first time flying for most players. It will all be a learning experience."


Brown himself may learn the most, beginning this evening at 8:30 when HJC meets Polk (Fla.) Community College in the first round.

First, he'll find out if the Hawks can handle the physical stress of playing three games in three days. He'll also see if anyone is ready to plug the hole created by Wimbush's absence.

"Anytime there's a major change - by injury or ineligibility - it takes time for a team to understand what's needed," Brown said. "Who will step up to fill the void? For us, it won't be one person. It will be a combination."

That combination involves asking Devon Wade to become a better rebounder, Chris Jones to gain stamina and James Stokes to play stronger inside. It also requires more minutes for frontcourt reserve Ted Rayzer.

But the factor that will determine HJC's destiny is defense, which clearly was the difference last Saturday night in the Hawks' 62-60 win over the Community College of Allegheny County-Pittsburgh.

"That was kind of fun to see," Brown said. "People are used to seeing us score so many points that they don't usually see us play that kind of defense. We proved we can get down and dirty."

Two years ago, HJC won two of three games in the Pepsi Challenge, with Contrell Scott establishing himself as the Hawks' point guard for the season. HJC went on to advance to the District 10 finals, falling one step short of a berth in the national tournament.

Last year, with Mylo Brooks left in Hagerstown for disciplinary reasons, HJC dropped two of three in the tournament. The Hawks later lost in the Region XX tournament and the team was dismantled. Only one player from that team - Robert Gregory - is back this year.

"This tournament will be a wait-and-see proposition," Brown said. "I'm going down to see how we play against the competition. We have no goals. It will be up to the players to determine what we need to do to win. That's what we did last Saturday."

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