HCC will get its first look at its totally revamped team today when the school hosts the Region XX Hall of Fame Tournament. HCC will face Catonsville in its opener, following the Allegany-Harford opener at 6 p.m.
The event has been changed to a tournament instead of a mixer, meaning the two losing teams will meet in the consolation game at 5 p.m. on Saturday, followed by the championship game at 7. That leaves open the possibility of a first meeting between Allegany and HCC, the two longtime heated rivals.
Region XX will induct three new members to its Hall of Fame on Saturday.
HCC's women's basketball coach and former volleyball coach Marlys Palmer will lead the Class of 2004, along with former Allegany star Steve Francis, who went on to play for Maryland and is presently playing professionally for the Orlando Magic. Former Harford athletic director Judy Davilin will also be enshrined.
In Miner, Keyes says he has the player who can be the cornerstone of his program and be a throwback image to a player from HCC's successful past.
"He hustles all the time and plays defense," Keyes said. "He reminds me of Dexter Boney with the way he plays defense. He's not there offensively, but he's getting there. Still, he can take over a game. He can get a lot of baskets here, especially with the way we run the break."
The comparison to Boney is high praise. The 1993 HCC Hall of Fame inductee led the Hawks to the NJCAA national tournament as a freshman, something Keyes is hoping Miner could duplicate.
Keyes worked extra to get Miner, who was drafted by the San Diego Padres last summer and made visits to Barton (Kan.) Community College, before deciding to attend HCC.
"I was in Miner's ear all year," Keyes said. "I told him and his family that if it came down to him going to a junior college, he should come here. I know he's going to play baseball and he could get drafted again, but I hope he stays here for two years. He could do as well as Boney."
Joining Miner will be four former Hagerstown prep stars, including sophomore and North Hagerstown graduate Clif Carey, who returns after redshirting last season. Carey and Cole Bellon, another North product, will serve as the Hawks' captains and will start. The 6-foot-8 Bellon will start at center.
Marshall Branch and Bernard Harris round out the local contingent and will start the season coming off the bench.
"Carey is back from being redshirted and is picking it all right up," Keyes said. "When he came in and started playing the 3 (wing guard) position, we started winning. Cole will start, but he didn't play much last season. These guys have been great to coach, especially when we have Clif out there running the show."
Rounding out HCC's starting five will be Alonzo Patterson, a sophomore point guard who transferred from Davis & Elkins, and 6-4 Rayquan Miles at power forward.
"Patterson's dad was inducted to the HCC Hall of Fame this year and he brought his son here to play," Keyes said. "He didn't play last year and he's here trying to make a run at a D-I school. Miles has a body like (former HCC star) Bernard Hopkins, but he boxes out more."
The rest of HCC's roster is made up of freshmen. The list includes, Travis Stuart and Derek Fields, teammates from Robert E. Lee High in Staunton, Va.; transfers Momodou Jobe (Hutchinson (Kan.) CC) and Jabel Sallah (Kentucky CC) and young big men, Josef Williams, Brian Collins, Victor Jackson and Marko Hamlin.
For Keyes, his newest team strikes a vein of excitement which could turn into a jackpot for HCC.
"These guys are easy to coach," Keyes said. "This is the first year we've been able to do that. It was tough the first year because I had all the guys who I coached as an assistant and they wanted me to be their buddy. This year it's much different. But this year, we have a bunch of freshman and we can only go as far as they take us."