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DeMatha alumni well represented in NCAA tournament

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Published on: Thursday, March 21, 2013

By Brandy L. Simms

Perhaps no other high school in the nation can boast the legacy and tradition of the DeMatha Catholic athletic program.

Under legendary basketball coach Morgan Wootten, DeMatha became a household name in 1965 when the Stags beat a Power Memorial Academy team led by future NBA Hall of Famer Lew Alcindor who later became known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Since that landmark victory four decades ago, DeMatha has produced McDonald’s All-Americans and Olympic gold medalists along with NBA and NCAA champions.

There is no question the Hyattsville private school’s basketball program has served as a benchmark for excellence throughout the ages — and this year is certainly no different.

With the 2013 NCAA tournament under way, DeMatha boasts more former players in this year’s field than any other high school program in the area.

Although this was a down year for the Stags — who finished with a disappointing 13-16 overall record — the program’s alumni flourished on the collegiate level where seven former players made an impact at their respective schools.

“It’s just fun to be able to turn the TV on and be able to see our guys,” said DeMatha head coach Mike Jones. “We’re very proud of them. Obviously, they’re all playing at different schools, but I think the fact that DeMatha gets mentioned because that’s where their roots are, I’m really proud of that.”

Indiana junior guard Victor Oladipo, an Upper Marlboro native, was a staple on ESPN highlight shows with his acrobatic dunks. The 6-foot-5 jumping jack was voted a unanimous selection for first team all-conference honors in the Big Ten and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. He also emerged as a leading candidate for various National Player of the Year honors and has been identified as a potential lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Oladipo was recently named the 2013 National Player of the Year by The Sporting News.

“We are excited and honored that The Sporting News has recognized Victor with this award,” said Indiana head coach Tom Crean. “Victor never takes a day off, literally. To give you an example, we were done with practice the other day at 4 p.m. At 4:15 p.m., we went into the film room, there’s meetings, and it’s 6:30 p.m. and he is still out there working on his shot. He has made this his life’s calling on that court. He is a phenomenal student and is going to graduate in three years. He never, ever takes a day off from getting himself better. That’s impressive.”

Notre Dame junior guard Jerian Grant, a Bowie native, earned second-team All-Big East honors after averaging a career-best 13.4 points per game.

Duke sophomore point guard Quinn Cook was named third team All-ACC and fellow former DeMatha standouts Mikael Hopkins (Georgetown), Jeremi Grant (Syracuse) and James Robinson (Pittsburgh) have all made significant contributions on their respective teams.

The list of DeMatha alumni in the NCAA tournament also includes Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey and UNLV assistant Heath Schroyer.

Meanwhile, Charlotte senior forward Chris Braswell, also a former DeMatha standout, helped guide the 49ers to a 21-11 record and a berth in the NIT.

Duke, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Indiana, Syracuse and UNLV have all advanced to the NCAA tournament, and there’s a chance we could see a DeMatha reunion at the Final Four in Atlanta.

Each region boasts a former player who once walked the hallways at the Hyattsville private school.

Indiana is the top seed in the East Region and Syracuse holds a No. 4 seed in that region. UNLV is the No. 5 seed in the East Region. Georgetown earned a No. 2 seed in the South Region and Duke is the Midwest Region’s No. 2 seed. The West Region features seventh-seeded Notre Dame and No. 8 Pittsburgh.

Indiana opens the tournament against the winner of the play-in game between LIU-Brooklyn and James Madison. The Hoosiers would play at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. with a couple tournament wins. That would mark a homecoming for Oladipo.

“It would be nice, but I’m not looking forward to that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to Dayton, winning in Dayton. That is all we’re focusing on.”

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