Baltimore natives team up at UMass
It’s extremely rare for a Division I collegiate basketball team to have two players from the same city.
Take Massachusetts basketball players Ricky Harris and Terrell Vinson, who both come from Baltimore, home to basketball greats like Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Juan Dixon and Sam Cassell.
“I think Baltimore, even though it’s a big city, it’s not that big,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “All of the basketball players know each other, and it’s funny. They all have a competitive spirit, and the kids down there are always competitors and usually pretty tough. I think it holds true for both of our guys.”
Harris, the only senior and the leading returning scorer in both the Atlantic 10 and Kellogg’s Minutemen, will look to mentor a young player like Vinson, who looks to significantly contribute to the UMass starting five.
“I see Ricky as not only as a mentor to Terrell, but to a mentor of all of these young guys because it was painted for him when he came here. He didn’t play as a freshman, and he did an extra year to get recruited at this level. He is definitely the kind of kid who has made himself into a player.”
Harris graduated from Calvert Hall College High School in Baltimore County in 2005, leaving the team as the Cardinals third all-time leading scorer, behind Dixon. After a prep year at the Winchendon School, he played under former Minutemen Mike Byrnes, and then came to the Minutemen in the fall of 2006. He played in 32 of 33 games, averaging 4.5 points per game in 10.8 minutes per night as a freshman. As a sophomore, he was named the conference’s Most Improved Player, and last season broke out as one of the best players not only in the A-10 but also in the NCAA.
With all the success Harris has had so far, he considers Vinson an intricate part of the Minutemen, and sees the Baltimore connection as a bonus.
“It’s big to have him here because my first couple of years here, there were a lot of guys from New York. Having someone on your team from the same place as you, it’s easier to relate to them,” Harris said. “It’s a good recruiting method, because you can get other guys from Baltimore to come up here, and Terrell’s a good kid. He listens, he pays attention and he just wants to learn.”
UMass is lucky to even have Vinson, a top 50 recruit, who initially signed to play for Loyola-Marymount under former UMass guard and assistant coach Bill Bayno in November of last year. After Bayno left the Lions with an illness, Vinson was granted a release and signed with the Minutemen in April.
“They know each other very well. When I told Ricky I was recruiting Terrell, he was really excited because he was another Baltimore guy,” Kellogg said.
Vinson saw it as a good choice as well. He loves the diversity of such a big school like UMass, even if it is surrounded by farmland.
“It was a last-minute decision, but I’m glad that I came here,” Vinson said. “It’s good because you know that someone will always have your back, so to be from the same city is big. We knew each other prior to school, so it’s been a fun experience to come up here with Ricky.”
Coming out of Saint Frances Academy in Baltimore City after spending three years at national powerhouse Montrose Christian in Washington, D.C., Vinson averaged 23 points and eight rebounds per game, leading the Owls to a Baltimore Catholic League Championship and a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association title.
Harris and Vinson are not the only two UMass players to hale from Baltimore. Donta Bright, a former McDonald’s All-American, went to Dunbar, the same school as Muggsy Bogues and Reggie Williams and had a successful career at UMass. A member of the 1996 Final Four team, Bright averaged 11.6 points per game and 5.4 rebounds over his tenure, and went on to play professionally overseas.
Despite being thrown into the limelight and collegiate basketball early on in his career, Harris, with Kellogg, feels that Vinson will develop into a strong player at the collegiate level, and will hope the Minutemen get back to the NCAA Tournament.
“This offense fits him perfectly with the dribble-drive motion,” Harris said. “He likes to get to the basket, establish contact and is a physical player. Being from Baltimore, it kind of sets him apart. He played at a high level in high school, so I don’t really see him struggling.”
David Brinch can be reached at email@example.com.