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Smithsburg grad coaching on national stage

March 28, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

When the NCAA Men's Division II Tournament unfolds at noon today, there will be a Washington County presence on the sidelines.

Smithsburg's Jeff Harshman is an assistant coach for the resurgent Bowie State University program, which claimed the South Atlantic Regional championship to gain entry into the eight-team finals field in Lakeland, Fla.

Bowie State opens the tournament with a noon tipoff against UMass-Lowell (28-4) and hopes to reach the championship at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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"We got down here Monday, practiced in the late afternoon and then had a good practice for two hours Tuesday," Harshman said Tuesday night. "We are a pretty good team and have confidence. We've only lost when we've beaten ourselves by getting frustrated."

Bowie (29-4) is ranked No. 8 in the country and has turned around its program in four years.

When Luke D'Alessio took over four years ago, Harshman came, too, following stops at Salisbury State University and Milford Mill and Gwynn Park high schools.

The program, which had just completed a dismal 3-24 season, immediately improved to 7-21 under the new coaching staff. Bowie followed with 19-9 and 20-8 marks prior to this year's dream season.

"We've worked with a good attitude," Harshman said. "Inside of four years, we're playin' for all the marbles."

Harshman graduated from Smithsburg in 1987 and played basketball under coach Tom Kitchens.

"Coach Kitchens had a great influence on me when I was a volunteer assistant," Harshman said. "He had a great love for the game and so do I."

Harshman, who teaches at Randallstown High, said St. Maria Goretti coach Cokey Robertson also was instrumental in his decision to enter the coaching field.

"I developed a great relationship with Coach Robertson," Harshman said. "He's taught me a great deal."

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