I can’t stop thinking about this image.
When Malcolm Delaney (Towson Catholic) was playing at Virginia Tech, then coach (now ESPN analyst) Seth Greenberg told me what made him special was “Baltimore toughness.” The concept wasn’t difficult to grasp. A talented basketball player from Baltimore has typically had to work that much harder than their counterparts in D.C., Philadelphia, New York, etc. in order to get noticed and get opportunities. “Baltimore toughness” is the embodiment of that chip-on-the-shoulder mentality on the basketball floor. These players tend to be a little more willing to do the dirty work — defending, fighting for loose balls, battling for rebounds. They tend to channel being overlooked into never being outworked.
This image. This image is “Baltimore Tough.”
Orlando Ranson is Baltimore. He literally got his name (Bino) because of his father’s fandom for the most successful athlete in Charm City history. Babe Ruth was “The Great Bambino.” Orlando Ranson was “Baby Bino.” His legend as a basketball player resonates throughout the area. Bino was a baller. But he didn’t get the opportunity to play high level college basketball out of St. Frances. After an incredible career at Southern New Hampshire, he went right back to that “Baltimore Tough” mentality and just plain outworked his counterparts in the coaching business. He rose from being a high school JV coach to a high-level assistant and one of the sharpest recruiters in the sport.
It would be unfair to say that Darryl Morsell is only at Maryland because his friend Jalen Smith was a year behind him at Mount Saint Joseph. Morsell was viewed as a high-level prospect by most scouting services and would have garnered major interest no matter who his teammates were. But there’s also no doubt that he’s largely lived in the shadow of his, well, rather large teammate. He’s also been overlooked because he struggled offensively through his first two seasons. As a freshman he shot an impossible 12 percent from the 3-point line. As a sophomore he looked to drive more but managed just a paltry 67 percent at the free-throw line.
Yet, even as he struggled, he continued to work harder than many of his counterparts. He became the team’s top defender. He busted his ass every night and eventually became a more well-rounded offensive player as a junior.
And now he has a legacy that is so much more than “the guy who helped Maryland get Jalen Smith.”
That’s what this image is all about.
The significance of Maryland’s 74-73 win at Minnesota Feb. 26 is as symbolic as it is tangible. Tangibly, it was a narrow victory against a mediocre basketball team but one that gets them a step closer to a potential Big Ten regular-season title, which would be the most significant accomplishment for the program in a decade. But symbolically, it was a nearly impossible victory for a program that has far too often lost late-season games with the most at stake. A significant portion of a fan base was ready to scream out “here we go again!” just before ANOTHER stirring comeback.
Look, if players from Alaska and Austria and Azerbaijan were at the center of this magical Maryland season, we’d be thrilled. We’d embrace them and be thankful for them. But we can’t possibly hide our regionalism when it comes to what this team and this season have meant to us, specifically in Baltimore. It means that much more that this season has centered (pun intended) around the best Baltimore basketball prospect in years (Smith). It fortifies our belief that Maryland should constantly be recruiting the city and that if they could just get enough of the area’s talent on a semi-regular basis, they should be able to compete regularly as a program. It meant more to us when it was a scrawny kid from Calvert Hall who was making history on the best Maryland team of all time. And it means more to us that the team that has brought Maryland back to prominence is “Baltimore tough.”
This was a magical moment for Darryl Morsell. It was a magical moment for Maryland fans. And it was a magical moment for Baltimore basketball. Nothing could possibly sum it up better than a fatherly kiss on the forehead from the man who understands the significance of it more than anyone else.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox