Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My new favorite Gannon player: Malcom Woodbury

Malcom Woodbury may have only scored a handful of points in his college basketball career, but he scored some major points for a former high school classmate recently. Read the story below for details. For photos from the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, click here. Thanks to perennial GU season-ticket holder Paul DeSante for the heads up on this article.

Granby grad returns to keep prom-night promise

By Jaedda Armstrong, The Virginian-Pilot © May 24, 2010

Malcolm Woodbury sat at a table dressed in a black tux as he watched other prom goers boogie. He turned to his prom date, Sharonda Lebray, who sat beside him clad in a teal cocktail dress, cupped her chin in his hand, gazed into her eyes and asked, "Wanna dance?"

Malcolm is a 21-year-old college student who could have been anywhere that night. But he was at the Harrison Opera House for Granby High School's prom. He flew from Pennsylvania to be Sharonda's date. If he hadn't, he said, Sharonda probably wouldn't have attended.

They met four years ago, when he was a junior at Granby. He was a popular basketball player, a self-proclaimed ladies man. And Sharonda, 22, has cerebral palsy, a muscle disorder caused by brain damage. She can walk and eat on her own, but can't speak. He decided to join the Physical Education Leadership Training (PELT) class, which pairs students with disabled classmates.

Nervous at first, his concerns faded as he started interacting with the students. After playing bean bag toss and other games with Sharonda, he realized that she wasn't much different from other girls. She likes her hair and clothes, and sometimes she even has an attitude, he said.

He decided to take her to his prom in 2007. He remembers how his classmates were stunned to see him, a guy who had a list of possible dates, enter the ballroom with Sharonda on his arm.

"I just wanted her to have the chance to be out there with the rest of the school, and be as beautiful as she was that night," said Malcolm, a junior communications major at Gannon University in Erie, Pa. "It made people realize that I'm not as shallow as they perceive athletes to be."

That night he promised he'd come back to take Sharonda to her prom. When he'd be home from college, Malcolm made sure to stop by Granby to see his former teachers, and check on Sharonda, who would start to cry when she spotted him. "It's extremely humbling," Malcolm said. "She can't talk, but the tears rolling down her face and the noise she makes tells me that she's happy."

Sharonda requires constant assistance from an aide, Deborah Shuler, who holds Sharonda's arm when she walks. Sharonda can't go far and is easily distracted. When she gets tired of walking, she'll abruptly sit on the floor or in a chair and refuse to budge. Her movements are rough, her hands shake and she has seizures daily. "We know she may not ever have a boyfriend or get married, so this is her magical night," Shuler said.

At her prom, Sharonda gazed at the bright lights as Malcolm nodded his head to the music. They got up to dance as Malcolm walked her to the floor. He wrapped his arms around her waist. When they sat back down, he held her hand and whispered into her ear. Sharonda smiled hard as if he was telling her a juicy secret. By 10:30, Sharonda was tired. The night ended with them taking pictures.

It was bittersweet, Malcolm said. He was happy that he could take Sharonda to the prom, but she's graduating and his family has moved to Atlanta. He won't have a reason to come back to Granby High. He still plans to call and check up on her. And maybe visit every now and then. Sharonda's prom was perhaps as important to him as to her, he believes.

"If I was to just graduate and leave and never come back, that wouldn't have been right," he said. "I didn't want it to just be a moment."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

GU Recruit: Ramon Smith G 6-3 jr.

It's taken quite a while -- that's what happens when you replace two-thirds of your team -- but here's the final bio on the 7-member Gannon recruiting class. (Note: Another signing could be made later this summer; if it happens we'll hop back onto Google and look for info on that guy, too.)

I tried uncovering as much info as I could on Ramon Smith, but that's hard to do with a guy named "Smith." For example, he's from the Virginia area and dang was I excited to see that Ramon Smith was named Washington Post All-Met honorable mention in 2006. The first team for that squad included Kevin Durant (Texas/NBA), Austin Freeman (Georgetown), Greivis Vasquez (Maryland/NBA), and Darryl Webb (IUP). But that Ramon Smith was from St. Stephen's/St. Agnes High School, not Patterson High School like Gannon's Ramon Smith. So, he's not that guy, but thank goodness he's not THIS Ramon Smith.

Here's what I could come up with on the real Ramon Smith, much of the data thanks to Gannon's Super SID Dan Teliski:

* Transferred from Frederick (Md.) Community College, where he led the Cougars to their first-ever regional title
* Named to the NJCAA Region XX Division I All-Tournament team after registering 19 points, 9 rebounds, 6 steals and 4 assists in the regional championship game. Here's the article from that contest.
* Here's his bio from FCC. Rather underwhelming from an information perspective, eh?
* I'm not sure who Frederick is playing in this photo of Smith, but holy moly is that a huge arena.

GU Recruits: Anthony Clagett and Dennis Rumph

I don't think new recruits Anthony Clagett and Dennis Rumph will mind us talking about them together. After all, they were teammates the past two seasons at Allen County Community College in Iola, Kansas. The Iola website says that the town of 5,700 boasts "one of the largest town squares west of the Mississippi." More importantly, I learned on the Internet that Allen CCC was 17-13 last year (11-7 in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference), losing in the first round of the postseason tournament. The only team that I recognized on the AC3 schedule was Neosho (KS) College, the alma mater of former Golden Knight Cass Wright.

Here's a breakdown of each player; again kudos to Gannon SID Dan Teliski for much of the information:

Anthony Clagett (PG, 6-1, jr.)
* The most insightful data I came across on Clagett is this highlight video of him at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington D.C. Looks like he can really slash to the basket and finish with either hand. His jumper is also pretty smooth.
* The move at the 3:14 mark of the tape is pretty nasty. If that was me, I'd be watching that segment of the video over and over and over and over. I think John Reilly's favorite part was the stretch showing Clagett's defensive prowess (that begins right around 2:30).
* The final 30 seconds of the tape provides this data: Clagett won over 50 games as a junior and senior; he's the epitome of intelligence, toughness, and leadership (and maybe hyperbole); and "he is also your next point guard."
* I have to admit, it's hard to watch the video and not get fired up that he's joining Gannon. But I have to remind myself that it's a high school highlight tape. For all I know, the kid could commit 22 turnovers a game.
* At AC3, he averaged 12.1 points, 4.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals, shooting 49 percent (80-for-165) from the field
* A Kansas juco website describes him as "point guard ... excellent ball handler, strong on-ball defender and great competitor"
* Here's his bio from AC3
* In high school he averaged 13.5 ppg, 7 apg, 6.2 rpg, and 4 steals
* His Twitter account is protected, so you can't see what he's writing -- which is VERY smart -- but I think you'll like his account name: @GU_Knight

Dennis Rumph (F, 6-6, jr.)
* I couldn't find as much info on Rumph. His AC3 bio says he's from Boynton Beach, Fla. That's where Bob Dukiet was residing when he passed away, and it's the hometown of former Gannon leaper Vince Mosley.
* At AC3, he was named to the KJCAA all-conference second team.
* He's not a big scorer (9 ppg), but he had good stats in terms of rebounding (8.2 avg) and blocks (2.2 avg) last season. Shot 49 percent (90-185) from the field.
* A Kansas juco website describes him as "excellent rebounder and shot blocker who gets up and down the floor well."
* Here's a photo of Rumph in action at AC3

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stephen Battle Signing Article

Kudos to A.J. Mason from The Independent newspaper in southern Maryland for forwarding to me his story on recent GU signee Stephen Battle. The text is below; the photo of the signing ceremony is on the right.

Ready for the next Battle
Thomas Stone graduate signs with Gannon Univ.

By A.J. Mason, Staff Writer

For four years on the basketball court, Thomas Stone forward Stephen Battle battled through workouts, games, practices. And for the last two, he was the most dominating big man in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.

Now, Battle, a recent graduate, will face even bigger battles at the collegiate level as he recently inked his letter of intent to play at Division II's Gannon University. The institution is located in Erie, Pa., and holds more than 4,000 students.

"It was the position that they said I would play and the coaching staff said that if I'm ready to play, then they would put me in," Battle said on what led to his decision to head to Gannon, a member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. "We will run sort of a motion offense and I can step out and use my athleticism, so I'm definitely ready for the next level."

Battle will be playing under Gannon head coach John Reilly, who was very high on the 6-foot-6 swingman who was a force this season, averaging 17.5 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks a game. He also showed his touch from three-point range, knocking down nine of them, and shooting 72 percent from the free-throw line.

A three-year starter for Thomas Stone head boys basketball coach Dale Lamberth, Battle will be able to shoot, defend, attack the rim with his potent jumping ability, rebound and pass out of double teams.

"Coach Reilly invited me to his house on the first visit," said Battle, who visited Gannon in April. "He just made me feel at home and I was comfortable after that. The campus was very traditional and everyone up there was like a family."

Quinnipiac (Conn.), Delaware State, St. Francis (Pa.), Central Connecticut and Cleveland State (Ohio) were schools at the Division I level that were interested in Battle, but Gannon was just the perfect fit.

"The main thing that I want to bring to Gannon is intensity and momentum," said Battle, who led the Cougars to a SMAC title this winter and a third consecutive state tournament appearance. "I want to continue to work hard and prove myself every time I step on the court."

Battle's older brother, Mike, who played guard at the University of Central Florida from 2005 to 2008, knows the ropes of the college level and often give pointers to his younger brother. "He has to set goals for himself and the team," Mike Battle said. "The main thing is keeping up on his schoolwork because you can't play without the grades. Stephen has to stay humble and keep working hard and beat the next man out for a spot."

The older Battle mentioned that along with improving on every aspect of his game, he wants his brother to improve on his pull-up jump shot and be more aggressive at all times. "I've been watching him his whole life," Mike Battle said. "It's definitely a good thing to see how he developed over the years into the player he is now. He's put a lot of work in, and the hard work has paid off."

Lamberth and Mike Cole, Battle's AAU head coach for the Southern Maryland Mustangs, helped him make his decision on Gannon, along with his mother, Sheila, and father, Michael.

Sheila Battle mentioned that her son will do just fine on the next level, but just has to continue to develop and step it up even another notch. "At the next level I think he will do well," she said. "There is always room for improvement and Stephen was more like a team player in high school, but I told him at the next level, ‘You have to go,' and when the game is on the line and the coach tells you to take the shot, you have to do it. Having the green light is hard to get at any level."

Battle noted that he is undecided about his major, but wants to get into the marketing and advertising field.

While going through battles in high school practices, Battle now will go up against teammate Kendal Smith, who signed with Bloomsburg University, also in the PSAC. "It's going to be fun playing versus Kendal," Battle said. "On the court, we won't like each other, but after it's all said and done, we will still be friends."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

GU Recruit: Kyle Servance PG 6-0 jr.

If I had to pick a player on the current Gannon roster who would be the starting point guard when the season opens Nov. 26, I'd put my money on Kyle Servance (on the far right in this photo). The juco transfer from from Howard Community College in Maryland is unlikely to sit on the bench after ranking the NJCAA top 10 in assists (6.9 avg) and three-point percentage. Yes, I know James Bryant came in highly touted last year and that worked out about as well as BP's deepwater drilling plan. But Bryant didn't have the luxury of spending all off-season with the team and the pre-season with the coaching staff. Point guards are rarely plug-and-play.

Here's some info I uncovered on Servance, much of it thanks to Gannon SID Dan Teliski:
* Averaged 16.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals last season at HCC
* A threat from the outside, he hit 50 threes on the year
* Named second team all-conference in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference
* In a 107-98 loss at Monroe College, Howard hit for a game-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, including 5-of-8 on threes
* Here's the cover of a Howard CC game program featuring Servance (with ball, on the left).

* Led Reservoir High School (Md.) in scoring (15.8 ppg) and assists as a senior, earning team MVP honors. (Personal note: Reservoir's nickname is "Gators." Man did they miss an opportunity to nickname themselves the Bulldogs so they could call themselves the Reservoir Dogs. But maybe the self-proclaimed "Friendliest School In The Country" didn't want to be associated with Quentin Tarantino's violent movies.)
* Earned all-Howard County honors, ranking 5th in the county in scoring, 8th in assists (3.2 avg), and 8th in three-pointers made (47)
* Played in the Maryland-vs.-Pennsylvania All-Star Basketball game, which I bet you didn't know existed until just now

That's Servance as an athlete. Now let's talk about the kid as a student.
* I'm not sure if he'll be a Communications/TV major, but this video, which appears to be directed and produced by him, would get him a front row seat in Gannon's Comm/Arts program.
* Looks like he was a member of the HCC Times, the Howard Community College student newspaper. (Scroll to page 4 of this link.) Could he be a guest contributor to Gannon Hoops?

On Facebook, Servance lists his interests as "chillin" and "ballin." Let's hope he's stellar at the latter so Gannon fans (and Coach Reilly) can do more of the former this season.