Mark Turgeon saw these traits even before he took the Maryland head coaching job in 2011 following four seasons at Texas A&M. That’s why he can often be seen at local high school games, hoping to establish the same connection that’s helped him land commitments from Suitland senior Roddy Peters and O’Connell junior Melo Trimble this year.
“People in this area love basketball and to me, that’s what makes this area unique, because kids play year-round and specialize in the sport,” Turgeon said. “There are lots of good coaches and good players, and it’s nice to have quality kids in our backyard where I don’t always have to get on a plane to see good talent.”
With this concentrated wealth of talent comes a nightly grind featuring top-notch competition, an aspect that Duke sophomore Quinn Cook still cherishes from his days at DeMatha within the nationally respected WCAC.
“One night we’d be playing Tyler Thornton and Cedrick Lindsay on Gonzaga and the next night we’d play Kendall Marshall and O’Connell. You never had a night off,” said Cook, who played three years at DeMatha before transferring to Oak Hill. “Guys from the area have a certain toughness, swagger and love for the game, and that’s why you see so many of us become successful at the next level.”
The importance of coaching
As Wootten found out when he began his day basketball camp in 1961, this area’s love for the game is often cultivated through the coaches. Not only do the coaches invest in their own players but they make sure to develop and enhance their own skills through camps and clinics across the nation.
“You see Steve Turner from Gonzaga and Mike Jones from DeMatha coaching at the Chris Paul camp and guys like Stu Vetter and the Woottens have their camps, too,” said Paul Biancardi, ESPN’s director of basketball recruiting. “These guys are always looking for ways to improve and the players see that and feed off that because they want to improve and already love the game.”
Of course, there’s no better motivator for student-athletes than seeing players such as Durant and Cook excel at the next level. They are proof that the extensive training, competitive schedule and coaching demands common to the D.C. area’s teams can pay off, giving this generation’s players a sense of pride and further motivating them to back up the region’s impressive reputation.
“I’m from Ohio but I knew what I was getting into when I came to coach here because it’s a basketball-driven area and everybody knows that,” said Farello, who has coached in the area for 20 years. “From a young age, these kids have a basketball in their hands and when you match that love with the solid programs here, it’s clear that this area will always be rich with talent.”