It's hard to imagine the MCI roster being much stronger than it already is. Three of the players who began the season at MCI were on talent scout Bob Gibbons's list of the top 150 players in the high school class of 1991—Rhodes; 6'7" forward Derrick Carroll, who will play for Florida State; and 6'8" forward Dan Buie, who is still unsigned. "Some people will tell you that the only school that had a better recruiting class than we did was Michigan," says MCI coach Max Good.
That kind of talent is nothing new at MCI or at about a dozen prep schools like it in New England. Forward Dave Johnson, Syracuse's leading scorer, spent a postgraduate year at MCI. Guard Sam Cassell, who is currently the leading scorer for Florida State, also played for the Huskies, although he failed to get a 700 and later had to spend two years at San Jacinto (Texas) junior college. Several other New England prep schools also have distinguished alumni. New Hampton (N.H.) produced Syracuse guard Lawrence Moten, perhaps the Big East's top freshman, and Arizona State's star forward Jamal Faulkner spent a year at Cheshire (Conn.) Academy after originally signing with Pitt and then falling short on the SAT.
But none of those schools has a more impressive record than MCI, on the court or on the test. Good, a Maine native and MCI alum who was head coach at Eastern Kentucky for eight years before returning to his old school in 1989, teaches old-fashioned values—defense and rebounding—but he also believes that "you don't have to pass the ball 12 times to get a good shot." The Huskies averaged a robust 123 points per game this year, with eight players averaging in double figures. "I remember somebody once asked a coach what his delay game was," says Good. "His answer was, 'We put more arc in our shots.' That's us."
Despite the Huskies' high point totals, the numbers that make MCI a major player in the college recruiting game are these: In Good's first two seasons 14 of the 19 players who went to MCI needing a 700 on their SAT achieved it, and 15 of the 19 eventually played for Division I programs. This year, Good's third, three of the six players who needed to get the 700—Carroll, Bohannon and forward Mario Mullen—have already done so. The others still might.
That's why Maryland, Massachusetts and Old Dominion are among the schools that have steered players to MCI. And it's why Arizona, Syracuse, Connecticut and others go there looking for talent. (More than 230 coaches from 150 college programs descended on MCI during last fall's open recruiting period.)
"Blackboards and backboards," Good says as he crunches across the snow to his seventh-period health class. "That's the way we like to sum up our program. I mean, look around. It's not like there are a lot of distractions up here. These kids know what they're here for. They didn't come here from all over the country for the scenery or the nightlife. To them it's all about blackboards and backboards."
The prep school option is such a logical recruiting tool, the only surprise is that more colleges don't take advantage of it. "I don't think everyone has a firm grip on what it's all about yet," says Good. "One coach said to me that if he had known how good our program was, he would have sent his son here even though it would have cost him a year of eligibility. Of course, it wouldn't have cost him any eligibility at all."
But some coaches, like John Calipari at resurgent Massachusetts, seem to be ahead of the game. Two current UMass players, Mike Williams and Ted Cottrell, were MCI postgrads, and the Minutemen are said to be in the recruiting hunt for 6'6" forward Donta Bright of Dunbar High in Baltimore, who is one of the top high school seniors in the country but has yet to make 700 on his boards. "If he signs with UMass and needs a prep school, I'd feel pretty good about our chances of getting him," Good says.
MCI is particularly attractive to a school like Massachusetts or to any other program looking for a place to stash a player without the risk of having him recruited away by another school. If a college steers a player to the Huskies, Good makes sure that other recruiters don't contact that player while he's at MCI. That's a service that's not provided at many other prep schools and is unheard of at junior colleges.
Mullen, a 6'7" forward from Virginia Beach who was the Virginia Player of the Year last season, was steered to MCI by Old Dominion. When he began to show improvement in Maine, he caught the attention of several recruiters from other schools, including Connecticut. Mullen, a bit star-struck at seeing coaches like Jim Boeheim, Lute Olson and Lou Carnesecca in the stands, told Good he wouldn't mind talking to them.