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Skinn is 'the best player that never played at Hagerstown'

April 01, 2006|By BOB PARASILITI

HAGERSTOWN

During his stay at Hagerstown Community College, Tony Skinn might have carried around a 3.0 scoring average.

That wouldn't have been all that memorable for a guard on the Hawks' basketball team.

Instead, Skinn did his scoring where it really counted and reaped the benefits of his actions.

Skinn used his redshirt season at HCC to hit the books as a member of the Hawks' practice team. The diligence turned into an early graduation and acceptance to George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

That would seem like another run-of-the-mill story that is the function of junior colleges across the country. But for Skinn, the whistle-stop here turned into a cross country tour as a starting guard on GMU's basketball team, which will be making an astonishing appearance in this weekend's NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis.

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"He's the best player that never played at Hagerstown," HCC coach Kenny Keyes said. "I keep telling everyone that he was on our team, but they won't believe me."

Skinn was a face in the crowd at HCC. He transferred in after spending the 2001-02 season at Blinn (Texas) College. The 6-foot-1 guard was a graduate of Takoma Academy in Takoma Park, Md., and chose HCC to be close to home.

"He had academic troubles," Keyes said. "I told him he could come play for us or he could redshirt and practice. He chose to redshirt. He was the best player we had, but never played for us. If we would have had him that year, he would have been one of the best players in the Maryland JuCo Conference and we would have won the title."

He would have been a significant addition to the Hawks in Keyes' first year on the job, but Skinn had an eye to the future.

"He went down to George Mason for a visit and liked it," Keyes said. "He came back, continued to practice and worked on his academics to be able to graduate from here in one year. That left him three years of eligibility at George Mason."

Not even Skinn could imagine what was ahead for him just for hitting the books instead of scoring in one.

"I had met (GMU grad) Jason Miskiri playing in the Kenner League during the summer (of 2002), and he had talked about Mason," Skinn said in a March 15 story in The Washington Post. "I decided not to play basketball that year so I would be sure to graduate. Fortunately, the coaches had seen enough of me that they still offered me the chance to come and play."

Since leaving HCC, Skinn has started 67 of 92 games for the Patriots while averaging 12 points per game for his career. This season, he played 33 games while averaging 12.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, while leading the way with his outside shot and defense.

And now with the Final Four at hand, Skinn is standing at the pinnacle of his career that he only could have dreamed of four years ago at HCC.

"He knew what he wanted and he made it pay off," Keyes said.

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