Some things never change with Mount St. Joseph's basketball, between coach Pat Clatchey, Baltimore Catholic League titles, and former Gaels stars on the biggest stage this month during the NCAA tournament.
Clatchey, who won his 500th career game this season and a 16th overall league title while finishing with a record of 31-8, had a star-studded backcourt yet again.
While Clatchey saw MSJ alum point guard Eric Atkins compete for Notre Dame during the NCAA tourney, his senior guard Kameron Williams (signed with Ohio State) was leading the team in scoring at 21 points per game, while junior combo guard and Terps target Phil Booth had a breakout season as well.
But ever the perfectionist, Clatchey said the road wasn't always smooth this winter.
"Really, it was a good season because going into the season, and throughout the season, I was really concerned and at times disappointed with our defense," he said. "It was not up to our normal standards, not up to par.
"We were rebounding-challenged defensively, and I think it cost us some games early. But we were very talented offensively, and I think there was a mindset that we could overcome their deficiencies by what we could do on offense. In many cases that was true, and we did bounce back to win 31 games and win the BCL tournament, so we did right the ship."
Clatchey moved a freshman, 6-foot-5 big man Doc Barnes, up from varsity during the season "and he really kinda solidified our interior defense. And he brought some toughness. And I think he was the guy who really got us over the hump."
Barnes is already on the Terps' recruiting radar and visited Comcast Center with Booth for the Terps-Duke game last month, while the Terps staff scouted the team a few times this year and visited open gyms.
"And Phil and Kam had really good seasons, and they certainly carried us for the most part," Clatchey said. "But we got good contributions from some other guys as well."
As for Booth, who seemingly still has Maryland, Indiana, Villanova and Georgetown under consideration for college destinations, he averaged 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists this season.
"We ask a lot of Phil, and rightfully so because he is capable of doing a lot," Clatchey said. "Phil, you know, a lot of times has to guard the other team's best player regardless of position. He can play multiple positions offensively. And overall, I thought he had a terrific season and culminated that with being the BCL Tournament MVP and will be a first-team all-metro guy as well.
"He's a very, very good all-around player, and he has that ability to make those around him better."
Clatchey said Florida and Louisville are also involved in his recruitment, among others. He said Booth may be a late summer/fall decider. He unofficially visited all of the big four schools this season.
"I think they [his family] are taking it all in," Clatchey said. "It's a big decision at this point in a young man's life. I mean, he's got a great support system with his parents, and I am sure they will take in all the information and I am sure make a great decision."
Clatchey said Maryland remains in the hunt "and they have captured his attention." But with other young combos at College Park like Seth Allen, Roddy Peters and Melo Trimble coming next, Maryland "will have to explain to him how that all....the dynamics of how all that would work. But with Phil, there is a lot of versatility. He's got the size, athleticism, he can play the point, he can play the two and shoot it and score. But he does have a different body type than Seth and Melo, as he is taller than those guys."
Clatchey got an eyeful of Trimble last week at the Alahambra, where he went off shooting. The Mount St. Joe's coach had seen the Terps commit once before as well.
"I got to see him three days in a row up there, and the young man played terrific," Clatchey said. "Just really carried his team and played at a high level. Terrific shooter and he makes the right plays in terms of distributing the ball. And more in transition than half court as I think his half court decision making is still a work in progress.
"But he's got great range, he's almost like an automatic free throw shooter, and he has a very high basketball IQ. And he is fundamentally very sound and very skilled."
Meanwhile, Williams, who Clatchey has long compared to Juan Dixon, said the senior is special among his all-time greats.
"I mean, that guy was part of three championship teams and walks away scoring over 2,000 career points in three seasons and the all-time leading scorer at Mount St. Joe," the coach said. "He had a terrific high school career, he's a quality young man, a solid, respectable student, and he's on his way to playing at one of the premier programs in the country at Ohio State."
Clatchey keeps up with all of his former players, including welcoming back former Terp Dino Gregory from overseas ball in Germany to work out with the team in January, while former MSJ center and one time Terps recruit Henry Sims became MSJ's first NBA signee when he inked a 10-day contract with the Hornets this year. He is now in the D League with the Erie Bayhawks.
Meanwhile, Will Thomas (George Mason) is playing pro ball in Turkey.
Looking ahead, the Terps will also be involved with promising MSJ freshman guard Randy Miller, Clatchey said.
But one thing has changed this year with MSJ hoops, notably a new $18 million gym arriving next season, replacing the antiquated 60-year old former gym.
"Well, the new facility will just give us a chance to see how the 'other half' lives [laugh]," Clatchey quipped. "We have a lot of fond memories and success in the old gym, but as I told somebody before, a lot of 'thrills' but not too many 'frills.' "
On Mark Turgeon and the Terps, Clatchey, who has a good pulse on not only the local scene but college hoops in general, said:
"They are very active and very assertive recruiting-wise. They are out and about, in constant communication, and they have certainly laid down a solid foundation for their recruiting purposes.
"He is a very good coach, he is proven. And it will be interesting to see how they will be in the Big Ten. But I think he is a very good coach and he is an up-front and honest guy. He is replacing a legend, which is never easy, but I think they have made a great hire."