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Hawks' Gregory 'roles' with the flow

February 27, 1997

By BOB PARASILITI

Staff Writer

Robert Gregory is the closest thing the Hagerstown Junior College basketball team has to the Automobile Club.

The Hawks have taken many twists and turns during the 1997-98 season, but Gregory's job has been to guide the freshmen-laden team in the right direction and give it the needed jumpstart when it started to sputter.

That "roadside service" attitude was something new for Gregory to learn as the team's only returning sophomore. He was forced to understand there was more to basketball than scoring. He became one of the main reasons HJC changed from a near-.500 team to one with a 22-8 record and second seed in this weekend's Region XX tournament.

"I know this could possibly be it (as an HJC player)," Gregory said. "I just want to go out and light a spark for this team. I think we've surprised a lot of people with the way we have played. We had a slow start because we had a lot of young players and a lot of players from last year who didn't come back. People expected us to be around .500 for the year but we came on strong."

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The Hawks struggled to a 8-6 record to open the season when coach Jim Brown decided to reevaluate the team. It meant a change in roles for some players, including for Gregory, who went from a starter to sixth man.

"Robert has been coming off the bench and the guy who sets the tone for us defensively," Brown said.

Gregory's defensive play has helped HJC win 14 of its last 16 games heading into the regional tournament. But it also taught the 5-foot-10 guard a measure of humility. Instead of being the focal point of the team, he had to accept the role of experienced supporting cast player.

"I'm comfortable with my role now," Gregory said. "Now it's whatever the coach wants me to do, I go in there to do it for the team. I think I matured a lot. It's not so much the scoring as it is being able to realize the situation when I go out on the floor. Last year, I always looked at the offensive end of the floor. This year, I think about being a defensive stopper and looking at other aspects of the game."

It was a season of drastic changes for Gregory, who was ready to redshirt this season to take a shot at being the Hawks' point guard next year. But HJC suffered key injuries in the preseason, changing the course of Gregory's junior college career.

Still, there is one item of business Gregory is looking to finish before he closes his career at HJC. It happened on Jan. 15 in HJC's overtime loss to Allegany. With seconds remaining and the Hawks leading by three points, Gregory needed to hit just one of two free throws to ice the game. He missed both and the Trojans' Mike Renfro hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force the overtime.

On Sunday, if HJC gets by Mount Aloysius in the Region XX semifinal, Gregory could get the chance to even the score.

"This is going to be my last time here," Gregory said. "It hasn't really hit me yet, but win, lose or draw, this will be it. I won't think about that until Sunday. But it would be nice to back in that same situation that I was in the first Allegany game and go out doing it right this time."

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