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Friday, September 6, 2013

Brandon Coleman, Lorenzo Waters' road from Accokeek, Md., to Rutgers, Part 1

Brandon Coleman (17) and Lorenzo Waters, both Rutgers starters, grew up minutes from each other in Accokeek, Md. (AP Photo)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

Part 2 — Part 3

FORESTVILLE, Md.  — Indian Head Highway stretches for 20 miles along Maryland’s southern border, hugging the Potomac River to its left.

It was first constructed to connect Washington, D.C., in the mid-1940s with a naval facility in Indian Head. That was four expansions ago, before the federal government handed it over to the State of Maryland.

Its southwestern passage lands in Accokeek, a place one person says is “a lot of trees — one of those kinds of towns.”

In Accokeek, a two-minute drive on Indian Head Highway separates Clover Park and Hunters Pointe, developments that have produced Rutgers’ Brandon Coleman and Lorenzo Waters, respectively.
Lorenzo Waters (21) met Brandon Coleman during late
high school through a mutual friend. (AP Photo) 

Neither knew it.

Coleman spent four years at Bishop McNamara in Forestville. Waters rode a chance encounter at a Pop Warner game to a career at famed DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md. They eventually latched on in Piscataway, where both are impact starters on a team with BCS aspirations.

They have car-pooled to Rutgers for training camps since, roomed together during early summers and swapped stories about the road that connects them. It is a far cry from as many as five years ago, when a mutual friend introduced two people who lived within shouting distance of each other.

“I knew he was tall,” Waters said of Coleman.

On Saturday against Norfolk State, Waters will start his 15th consecutive game at safety in Rutgers’ season opener. With 18 career touchdown receptions, Coleman is within striking distance of a new school-record 21.

If he breaks Tim Brown’s career mark Saturday, Coleman will do so in 17 fewer games.

When asked how Rutgers pulled off two starters from the same town — from out of state — that attended two different high schools, head coach Kyle Flood needed to hear the circumstances again.

“That's a hell of a statistic right there — good golly,” he said. “I can't tell you how it feels because I never thought about it that way. But the Maryland-D.C. area is an important part of the State of Rutgers. Recruiting, to me, at the college level, the State of Rutgers always begins with New Jersey — that's where it has to. And for us, that's the southern tip of our State of Rutgers before we go to Florida, and it's been a good area for us.”

For Coleman and Waters, the nearly 500 square miles that comprise Prince George’s County have been equally beneficial. It says as much about the lore of the sports-heavy area as it does them.

And there is plenty of lore.


Playing alongside Pitt's Talib Zanna, Brandon Coleman spent as much time in the winter on McNamara's home court in Washington's Catholic league. (Tyler Barto)

In a recent trip to Bishop McNamara, one thing becomes clear: If you’re looking for someone to speak poorly of Brandon Coleman, you should probably go somewhere else.

The athletic director glows about Coleman’s dunks in the school gym. The school president wishes Coleman would marry his daughter. Even a dean of students nods approvingly passing through the halls.

["That's a hell of a statistic — good golly. ... The Maryland-D.C. area is an important part of the State of Rutgers." — Kyle Flood]

Coleman is McNamara’s prized gem. Everyone knows it.

The only people that haven’t bought in are Zach and Tracy Coleman.

An early season game against St. Albans of Washington, D.C., during Coleman’s senior year made sure of it.

“He ended up catching a slant pattern and ran into the end zone, and as he crossed the goal line he kind of waved his finger in the air in a No. 1,” McNamara president Marco Clark said. “His dad was in the end zone, and boy, his dad got him. The athletic director, Tony Johnson, and I are getting excited and we shake (Brandon’s) hand and slap him on the back. (Zach) says, ‘Brandon will never do that again.’”

By all accounts, Coleman’s parents ran a strict but guided household grounded in religion.
Maybe it is why — on the verge of a marquee receiving record at an automatic-qualifying school — not even teammates know how close Coleman is to history.

“Is he No. 1?” quarterback Gary Nova asks.

It also led Coleman to McNamara, which Clarks says receives about 800 applications each year.

The limb-heavy Coleman impressed in two sports, defending atop McNamara’s 1-3-1 zone in basketball and making acrobatic catches at its nearby football field.

While Coleman’s 6-foot-6 build made college football a likely suitor, it’s quickly clear how much love he still has for the hardcourt.

A poster of Brandon Coleman hangs in basketball coach
Marty Keithline's office at McNamara. (Tyler Barto)
“I just marvel,” he said. “I love when college basketball comes around. I’m just like, ‘I played with him, I played against him.’ I love it. My god brother goes to Georgetown. He actually lives in Accokeek, too. Markel Starks is their starting point guard. He and I grew up together, so it’s crazy to see him doing his thing. He said the same thing about me, watching me. We grew up together. I played (against) Victor Oladipo, Quinn Cook, Jerian Grant, Tyler Thornton of Duke, the Grant brothers. It’s crazy.”

Basketball still reigns supreme in Prince George’s County. It has produced so much NBA and Division-I talent that it prompted ESPN to call it the nation’s new hotbed a few years ago.

Little has changed.

“In our conference, we have a lot of dual-sport athletes,” DeMatha head football coach Elijah Brooks said. “Many of the talented kids, they usually hold their own in both sports. I remember Brandon as … some kids are just special. It was apparent early on that he was going to be a special one.”

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