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Hawks begin by looking to reach end

October 30, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

If all goes as planned for the Hagerstown Community College men's basketball team, the 2007-08 squad will be a classic before-and-after picture.

That is, at least in the estimates of new coach Terry Truax, what you see on Friday when the Hawks open the season in the Region XX Hall of Fame Tournament will be much different than what you'll see at the Region XX Tournament.

"I think we will be a much better team in February than we will be at Thanksgiving," said Truax, the Hancock native who returns to the area after many years of coaching at the NCAA Division I level. "We are using an offense with timing and execution that takes time to perfect."

So, the Hawks will be putting a new twist on the old "day-to-day" term in sports.

In fact, they will be putting an new twist on the style of basketball being played at HCC.

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Gone is the racehorse game that resembles an end-to-end hockey rush. Over the years, HCC has been successful, but fell to a level of simply outscoring the opposition rather than stopping them.

Truax is promising a team with structure and purpose while employing a four-year college game on a two-year college level.

"I don't believe in keeping it simple because these guys are only playing at a two-year school," Truax said. "They have some intelligence. Many of them dream about playing at Maryland and if they get there, they will have to learn to play this kind of offense.

"We have good overall individual ability. They are the kind of athletes I like to coach, but we have no celebrities on the team. We have eight to 10 solid players as far as depth and any five of the group will be good on the court at the same time."

In the midst of all the change, there is one constant remaining in the starting lineup. Forward John Long returns as one of only two holdover players from last year.

In Long, Truax has a building block in his foundation. The 6-foot-8 Long, a Hagerstown native who played for Waynesboro, Pa., was the fourth-leading rebounder in the nation at the junior college level last season.

"What I like about John is that he is serious about his academics and is blue-collar kind of worker,"Truax said. "He is all business. He has a good grasp of the concepts. It's hard to believe this is only his fourth year of playing basketball. He has a future ahead of him."

Long leads a new group of players who have some pedigree in basketball and ties to HCC. Five players are Division I qualifiers who may not have gotten the needed test scores or a good offer and chose to come to a junior college first.

"That's good and bad," Truax said. "They are good players, but they could be leaving in a year if they get an offer. Either way, it's good for the program. It gives us a reputation for having good players for four-year schools."

Joining Long in the projected starting lineup for Friday's game with CCBC-Essex in the two-day, four-team mixer are backcourt players Calvin Johnson, Travis May and Kelvin Bright, while Lewis Lambert will join Long in the frontcourt.

"Lambert and Long will be playing the high post with a lot of perimeter players," Truax said. "Then we have Sheridan Price, who is a good edition who can come in and help. He is one day out of high school and good enough to start on most teams."

Bright, a 6-5 guard, is a transfer from Robert Morris, while the 6-1 Johnson and 6-4 May have been nice surprises for Truax.

"Johnson is a kid from Norfolk, Va., that we offered a scholarship before we saw him play. He was recruited to a D-I school but didn't have the SAT scores," Truax said. "He's a natural leader with the ability to be a good quarterback for the offense. May is the kind of Delaware kid that we used to go after when I was at Towson State. He played for Shahid Perkins, who played here, so we knew he was sound.

"Bright should be at a lot of D-I schools. He's a find. He redshirted and played at Robert Morris, but was behind the league's player of the year, who was an underclassman. He's athletic and a slasher with good range."

Other players of note are Chris Tillery, a 6-4 backcourt player, along with Q'Monte Matheny, a guard who played at Martinsburg, and Will Taylor, a 6-6 frontcourt player from Williamsport.

After four weeks of practice and two scrimmages, the new Hawks are nearing their debut.

"I always felt that the first couple of games are to see how you will play," Truax said. "I don't know how that will be, but I know we will play hard. I want to see our approach and a singleness of purpose. We are striving for a unit where we have two-deep at every position. The way we want to play, it will be impossible for a kid to play for 30 minutes all the time. I hope we don't have to do that because with a 28-game schedule, it will take its toll."

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