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Coaches converge on HCC

March 17, 2000|By BOB PARASILITI

If the tide would decide to roll about 100 miles inland, Hagerstown Community College would be the site of its own unique form of Spring Break.

All right, so we don't have Speedweeks and beach bunnies like Daytona Beach, Fla., has this time of year, but there is a large crowd converging on the area for some of their own special kind of fun in the sun.

cont. from sports page

They are the legion of four-year school coaches who have come to Hagerstown Community College with hopes of recruiting one of the 139 players on any of the 12 teams playing in the National Women's Junior College Division II tournament.

And there are no towels or bottles of sunblock to be found on this resort.

"It's not spring break at all," said Bethann Shapiro, an assistant for Tulsa (Okla.). "We are in the middle of our recruiting period. It's anything but an easy time."

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They come from all over the country, starting in the Mid-Atlantic region and all around to country. They are from NCAA Division I, II and III schools just looking for the one player who might make a big difference in their program.

"Absolutely, you can find players here," said Kevin Eckert, an assistant for the University of Buffalo, the newest edition to the Division I Mid-American Conference. "You can find a lot here. Major colleges are looking for impact players but you can also get that role player that can be the missing piece to a championship team."

And Thursday was D-Day, especially since all 12 schools played in a 12-hour period. A total of 27 coaches, including former South Hagerstown star Boe Pearman, who is the head coach at Rhode Island, came in on Wednesday for the first day of competition, followed by 19 signing in on Thursday. Others attended without signing the guest list.

Unofficially, it's a ratio of one coach for every three players.

Most were easy to pick out. They roamed around the athletic complex, most wearing shirts or jackets with their school name over their heart. It was like a fraternity or sorority meeting, as some talk during games, comparing notes and needling one another for fortunes of the season.

And between games, they were even easier to spot. Taking more time to compare notes in the hospitality room or in front of the television in the lobby, checking out the first round action of the NCAA Tournament.

It might have been men's games, but it's still basketball.

But despite the appearance of the whole thing being a big vacation - and they came to Hagerstown to spend it - there is some serious business going on.

"I'm here because we're Division II too," said West Virginia State coach Gill Heasley of the West Virginia Conference. "We're not going to get the bonafide Division I player. We can get this level though. I've been coming here for three years, but I haven't got one yet. But I keep coming back because this is the level of player we need."

For Heasley, he's looking at even the seventh and eighth player on the team as a possible candidate. For Tulsa and Buffalo, a pair of new programs on the block, they are hoping for THE player. Meanwhile, they check out the freshmen as possible recruiting targets for next season.

And it turns out to be a golden situation for Hagerstown, which is in the middle of its eighth season of running the tournament. It may not be beachfront property, but coaches have tried to find prime property here.

"There is a lot of talent, especially at guard, here," Eckert said. "Personally, I love coming here for the tournament. In a big city, there are too many hassles and too many distractions. The intimate setting here is great."

And you don't get a sunburn either.

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