Every so often, members of the Salisbury University men’s basketball team begin reminiscing about their time in high school. More often than not, those conversations trend toward memorable high school basketball games they participated in. And during those chats, many of the Sea Gulls are classified as “MoCo” by the other players on the roster.
“We talk about different games, rivalries and when we played each other. So most of the time it is, “Remember when we beat you guys?” senior starting guard Tim Harwood said. “And the other guys just make jokes.”
A year ago, Salisbury had one of its better season’s in program history, posting 19 wins before losing in the semifinals of the Capital Athletic Conference tournament. Now, midway through the 2013-14 campaign, the Sea Gulls sit in a different position than they did a year ago.
“I’d say we’ve been, for the most part, consistently competitive,” Salisbury coach Josh Merkel said. “Our young guys are getting better and that doesn’t always show up on the scoreboard. ... We’ve taken a step forward in every game and the guys are learning how to finish games out, how to win.”
Due to graduation losses, a strong conference and a difficult schedule, Salisbury has taken time this winter to rebuild following two consecutive winning seasons. At 7-10 (as of Tuesday) and playing well recently (winning three of four games), the Sea Gulls still have an outside chance to finish the season with another winning mark.
“It may not look good now with our record,” Harwood said. “But it’s what we got to do for the long run. It’s what we have to do to win every year and make the NCAA tournament regularly. It’s a reason why I came here.”
Salisbury plays fast and the system allows players freedom within the offense to drive, kick and take 3-point shots. Leading the way are several former Montgomery County high school players. Of the 16 players listed on the roster, 11 played at a local high school.
“It’s definitely neat especially with three Magruder guys here,” said Harwood, who is expected to graduate in May with a degree in physical education. He is looking into becoming a grad assistant next season. “We all knew of each other or played with or against each other in high school. I’ve known some of the guys my whole life.”
Harwood and freshman guard Charles Porter (Quince Orchard, Gaithersburg) lead the Sea Gulls in scoring, averaging 14.3 and 11.5 points per game, respectively.
“I didn’t expect to be where I am right now, I though I’d still be learning or behind an upperclassman,” Porter said. “Since everyone knows each other, it definitely made everything more comfortable adjusting to college. I mean, the furthest person away we have is from North Carolina. Everybody else is from Maryland.”
Additionally, Dominic Milburn (Montrose Christian, Silver Spring), Chris Viqueira (Clarksburg, Boyds), Kyle Savercool (Our Lady of Good Counsel, Silver Spring), Luke Ruland (Magruder, Olney) and Justin Witmer (Magruder, Rockville) have all started at least one game this season for Salisbury. Charlie Rogers (Sherwood, Olney), Nick Sparacino (Springbrook, Silver Spring), Derrick Miller (Poolesville, Olney) and Jacoy Gillum (Northwest, Germantown) have all played off the bench.
“We want to recruit from inside out and there’s great basketball from the area,” said Merkel, who credited his players relationships with each other as a key factor in recruiting “... We’ve recruited good people, good character guys.
With a familiarity with each other, players say the natural camaraderie has been beneficial on and off the court.
“It makes MoCo look good,” Porter said. “We are representing everybody from back home.”