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Heads may tell tales for Hawks

October 31, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Hagerstown Community College men's basketball coach Kenny Keyes is looking for a team with a special mental makeup.

He wants the Hawks to have a mind of a winning basketball team with the hearts of con men. And to pull both off, it comes down to one main ingredient.

Attitude.

"The bottom line for us is attitude," Keyes said. "If it stays good, we'll be all right. Last year, we got too selfish and that cost us five wins. But that's the junior college mentality. ... It's great when they're winning but when they get down, they want to go out and play one-on-one."

Attitude - and teamwork - will be imperative for the Hawks starting Friday when they play Potomac State at 8 p.m. in the second game of the annual Region XX Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the HCC athletic complex.

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That's because the Hawks will have to know when to run with the ball and when to pull on the reins to work a halfcourt offense.

"The fast break is our No. 1 offense and it will be as long as I'm here," Keyes said. "But when it's not there, I want to get in more halfcourt sets. I'm excited about this because we have a lot of talent and some other talent still coming."

On the surface, HCC has three players and a redshirt back from last year's 13-16 team, which lost five games by two points or less. The three returnees - Marcus Sugars, Tommy Cox and Ryan Henry - averaged 19 points per game from a team that prided itself in working fast.

It didn't always work and the Hawks resorted in trying to force things to happen instead of finding another way.

Enter 6-foot-8 Leon Nelson and 6-5 Mike Marsh, a pair of freshman big men from Buffalo, N.Y., who Keyes would like to make a major part of the offense.

"We will go as far as they take us," Keyes said. "They will start at the 4 (power forward) and 5 (center) four us. They are both quick and get out on the break, plus they are mobile enough to move around 6-9 and 6-10 guys underneath. We want to give the inside guys more touches this year. We have been working on it."

HCC has added depth inside with Ernest McGill, from Willimington, Del., who graduated from the same high school as the Hawks' all-time scoring leader, Dexter Boney, and 6-7 John Long, who played at Waynesboro before graduating from South Hagerstown.

HCC has most of its depth in the guard positions, which will give Keyes his most flexibility with personnel.

The two certainties are that redshirt Scott Spencer will start at the point and Cox will work at the shooting-guard slot.

"We were weak at the point last year, and now I have three," Keyes said. "Jamar Board is also a point. He is one of the best 3-point shooters in the country and Scott and Cox can all hit the 3.

"We are loaded at guard. We are better off than we were there last year."

Most of the flexibility will come at the 3 position, where Keyes can use a small forward or swing guard, depending on the need. Sugars is an option for the swing position while South Hagerstown graduate Dominique Byrd is a small forward possibility at 6-5.

Keyes admits he has the talent. The trick will be able to fine-tune the attitudes.

"Getting them to trust the offense, that's what they got to believe," Keyes said. "If the break isn't there, then go to the halfcourt game. That's always the struggle with junior college athletes."

HCC's roster will allow Keyes to go 12 players deep comfortably, but he could easily use all 15 players once everyone is comfortable and accepts their roles.

It becomes a matter of time, patience ... and attitude.

"Things don't seem to get corrected until January," Keyes said. "Once you start playing games, the cream rises to the top. It's time to get game-tested. The first game hasn't gotten here quick enough. I'm excited. We pass better and we are quicker. It will be a surprise on how good we will be."

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