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Russ came of age at Saint James

March 29, 2009|By TIM KOELBLE

Mike Russ was not your prototypical basketball prospect when he came to Saint James as a freshman -- about 5-foot-8 and a hefty 220 pounds.

And, as basketball players go, he had an ugly shot that needed plenty of work.

Four years later, that 'propsect' is 6 feet tall, weighs a rock-solid 205 pounds and scored 1,750 points in a career that lifted him to second place on the Saint James all-time leaderboard.

Russ demonstrated an all-around game second to none. He could score from the perimeter or down low. He fought as hard as anyone for rebounds and picked up a few assists and steals here and there.

For the 2008-09 season Russ scored 531 points and averaged 19.7 per game. He grabbed 8.3 rebounds a game, two assists, two steals, shot 49 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the foul line.

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Russ is The Herald-Mail All-County Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

"Mike would literally have two hands to his right of his head when he shot," said Saint James coach Mike Brooks. "He needed to change. He would come and find me and say, 'Coach, let's go and work on this.' His desire to improve never wavered since he was a freshman."

Not only did Russ retool his shot, he developed his ballhandling skills, enabling him to drive to the hoop with either hand. He dropped weight, but increased his strength immeasurably.

"He's as strong as some college players I know," Brooks said.

His strength gave him the physicality needed to play an all-around game.

"I just used to shoot the ball," said Russ, "but playing pickup and AAU games against bigger and stronger players really helped. I was always a physical player. But I learned it's a lot easier to score on a layup getting inside."

Russ scored a Washington County-high 36 points on Feb. 14 against Clear Spring that topped off a two-game scoring binge of 67 points. He also had over 800 career rebounds.

"It means a lot, it really does and it shows a lot of work really paid off," Russ said. "But I also had teammates that made me look better than I was sometimes."

"He's the kind of kid that always spreads the praise," said Brooks. "He is a great teammate and friend of the players. It was fun to watch Mike. He made the game such an important time for everyone on the team."

Russ is joined on The Herald-Mail All-County First Team by:

Brent Bell, North Hagerstown
The senior forward averaged 17.8 points per game, scoring 427 points. Averaged 7.9 rebounds and 2 steals. Hit 49 percent from the field.

Kyle Crist, Clear Spring
Senior guard averaged 13.3 per game for the Blazers and was their all-around floor leader. He hit 49 percent of his 2-pointers, 38 percent from the arc and 70 percent at the line. He led the team in assists, had four rebounds a game and 2.7 steals a game.

Michael Warrenfeltz, Williamsport
Senior center averaged 13.9 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Wildcats. Hit 54 percent from the floor.

Nic Martin, St. Maria Goretti
Junior guard scored 599 points for the Gaels for a 17.1 average. He shot 49 percent from the floor and 75 percent at the line. He was among area leaders in assists (4.4 pg) and also managed to get 5 rebounds per game.

Armando Miller, Broadfording Christian
The 5th-year senior scored 589 points this season for the Lions and averaged 17.9 per game. He hit 51 percent of his field goals, 72 percent at the line and averaged 9.5 rebounds, 52 percent coming on offense.

All-County Second Team

Joe Mattei North Hagerstown 6-1 Junior Forward

Spencer Draper Saint James 6-2 Senior Guard

Brandon Glazer Clear Spring 6-2 Junior Guard

Cody Englehart Clear Spring 6-4 Junior Center

Alan Reed Smithsburg 6-3 Senior Forward

Colby McCauley Williamsport 5-10 Senior Guard

All-County Honorable Mention

Boonsboro -- Shane Zbir, Shane Lowery; Clear Spring -- Jordan Thurber, Jordan Lavender; Grace Academy -- Caleb Serafini; Hancock -- Tommy Kratz; Heritage Academy -- Cody Butts, Andrew Hendershot; North Hagerstown -- Allen Sandberg; Smithsburg -- Josh Conway; South Hagerstown -- Shane Santell, Jason Chase; Saint James -- Dylan Zimmerman; St. Maria Goretti -- Stephon Berry; Williamsport -- Stephen Christy, Connor Arnone; Highland View Academy -- Mike Nyata.

The All-County teams were selected by Washington County coaches.

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