Local interest reaches across much of bracket
Fans interested in locating players from the Washington area in the NCAA tournament need look no further than the first round. In four games Tuesday and Wednesday, eight players with local ties will get their two hours of fame as they try to advance to the round of 64.
Some are at schools quite unexpected. When Boise State, for example, tips off Wednesday night against La Salle, the Broncos will depend on their lone senior, 6-7 Kenny Buckner, to provide dirty work inside. Few are better equipped for hard knocks.
According to the Idaho Statesman, both of his parents were killed before he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest D.C., where Buckner was better known as a first baseman for the school's baseball team.
Buckner went to junior colleges in three different states, first to play baseball, then basketball and drew the attention of Boise, where he has been a fixture in the lineup for two seasons, averaging 5.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game this year.
Also playing Wednesday night are LIU-Brooklyn seniors and high school teammates Jamal Olasewere (Springbrook), the Northeast Conference player of the year who averaged 18.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, and C.J. Garner (Springbrook), who averaged 16.1 points.
North Carolina A&T, which played Tuesday night, includes starters Jeremy Underwood (Coolidge) and Bruce Beckford (Montrose Christian) and reserves R.J. Buck (St. Mary's Ryken) and Lawrence Smith (McNamara).
The best performance turned in this year by an area product was that of Indiana guard Victor Oladipo (DeMatha), who averaged 13.6 points and 6.4 rebounds for the top-seeded Hoosiers. Indiana also has injury-riddled Maurice Creek (Oxon Hill), who averaged 16.4 points as a freshman, but now is a junior reserve.
Other Washington area players in the tournament include a trio from Pittsburgh, starters James Robinson (DeMatha), a point guard who averages 6.1 points and 3.5 assists, and Talib Zanna (McNamara), who averages 9.8 points and 6.0 rebounds, and 6-foot-9 reserve Dante Taylor (National Christian).
Notre Dame is guided by junior Jerian Grant (DeMatha), a second-team All-Big East choice who averages 13.4 points and 5.6 assists per game. Grant's younger brother, Jerami Grant (DeMatha), is a reserve at Syracuse.
Locals starting for Georgetown are junior guard Markel Starks (Georgetown Prep), who averages 12.5 points per game, and 6-9 sophomore Mikael Hopkins (DeMatha). Coming off the bench is 6-9 Moses Ayegba (Progressive Christian).
Duke was propelled by the rapid development of point guard Quinn Cook (DeMatha), a third team All-ACC choice who averaged 12.4 points and 5.2 assists per game. Also in the Blue Devils' rotation are guard Tyler Thornton (Gonzaga) and forward Josh Hairston (Montrose Christian).
Kansas State is led by 6-4 guard Rodney McGruder (Carroll), an all-Big 12 choice who averages 15.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
The top scorer at VCU is sophomore Treveon Graham (St. Mary's Ryken) who averages 15.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.
Senior guard Christian Webster (Landon) has been a four-year fixture in the lineup of Harvard, averaging 8.4 points per game this year.
In the starting lineup of their respective teams are Pacific senior Colin Beatty (DuVal), Oklahoma senior Andrew Fitzgerald (Owings Mills) and Middle Tennessee senior Bruce Massey (Seneca Valley).
Players in reserve roles include Akron freshman Carmelo Betancourt (Montrose Christian), Bucknell freshman Ryan Frazier (Blake), Florida Gulf Coast freshman Leonard Livingston (Princeton Day), Villanova senior Maurice Sutton (Largo), Memphis junior Antonio Barton (National Christian), Saint Louis sophomore John Manning (Chantilly) and Oregon junior Waverly Austin (Courtland/Progressive Christian).