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HCC opens new era under Keyes

October 31, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Until Friday, every time Kenny Keyes is interviewed, the opening topic will be his footwear.

It's not a case of what brand of gear Hagerstown Community College's new men's basketball coach will equipt his first team. It's more a question of how he plans to fill the shoes of longtime coach Jim Brown, who retired after 23 years of coaching the Hawks.

"I wear a size 14. He only wore a size 11. When it comes to that, they are easy to fill," Keyes cracked.

Filling the Hush Puppies will be a lot easier than the sneakers if Keyes plans to equal Brown's 517 career victories. Keyes begins the new era of HCC basketball Friday when the Hawks play hosts to the Region XX Hall of Fame Tournament at the school's athletic complex.

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HCC will face CCAC-South in the late game after Harford and Rockville face off in the 6 p.m. opener. The championship game will be played Saturday at 7 p.m. before the Hall's 2002 class is inducted, one from each school playing in the tournament. Brown will enter the Region Hall from HCC.

And with the change of coach comes a subtle change in look for the Hawks. HCC features five local players on the roster on a team which has one returnee from last season and is short in stature, but long on quickness.

"The system is the same, the names are different," Keyes said. "(Using local players) is the route we have chosen to go and we hope to keep it up. We want to get more people in the stands. We used to have big crowds back in the other building. We hope we can get them again."

The local center of attention may be HCC's center - 6-foot-5, 280-pound Mike Lee, a South Hagerstown graduate. Lee took a year off from school after graduating from South and returns to the court on the college level.

"Mike had dropped some weight and is ready to play," Keyes said. "We have had problems over the last few years with big centers, Mike gives us someone to work against them. He just will be a little smaller than most of them."

Other local players - all who will be coming off the bench - to help the Hawks are Tavis Green, Clif Carey and Filip Simic, all from North Hagerstown and Nate Naylor, who played his senior season at Thomas Johnson after playing for two years at North.

All five local players have state tournament experience, which could help in the transition to the college game.

Lee will be joined in the starting five by shooting guard Jay Wingate, the only holdover from last season, and power forward Gerbront Gaddy, who played for Brown in 2000-01. A pair of newcomers, small forward Nagee Johnson and point guard Rexson Kenley, round out the lineup.

"We're going to be small and quick, like we were in the old gym," Keyes said. "That's what I recruited. I tried to get some bigger players, but they didn't come. This is what the Lord gave me, but this team fits our system. The smaller we are, the better we have been."

The point guard tandem of Kenley and Eugene Melchior along with Andre Brooks may be the keys to HCC's success this season.

"Kenley and Melchior are quick," said Keyes, who spent 13 years as Brown's assistant before accepting the top position. "Kenley could set the school's steals record."

The 6-7 Brooks may be the X-factor to HCC's success.

"Look out for Andre Brooks," Keyes said. "He will look like a (he'd play one of the forwards or center). He's our tallest player, but he can do it all. He played point guard at his high school (Columbia, Md.). He'll be tough to keep off the floor once he learns the system."

HCC's roster is rounded out by forwards Thomas Johnson and Peter Sajery, who the leading high school scorer for Montgomery County last season.

Keyes' world changed when he took over HCC's head coaching job. He became more than a coach, taking on the added administrative and organizational roles that go with the job. Still, Friday's opener is what he is living for.

"I can't wait for it to get here," Keyes said. "I'm excited get started and get a foot off the ground. With our opener and Jim going into the Hall of Fame, it will be a big weekend. I think we are going to suprise some people. If Lee and Gaddy can stay healthy and everyone keeps hitting the books, I think we'll win 20 (games)."

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