Molloy trio making big waves in Division I

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To have three graduates selected to play Division I basketball is certainly an accomplishment any high school would be proud of. But to have all three make a major impact in their freshman year of college is a remarkable feat.

Such is the case for Boston College's Uka Agbai, Reggie Brown from the University of Richmond and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County's Justin Wilson, all from Archbishop Molloy. Each has not only adjusted to D-I ball, but has excelled as well.

"We're making him proud," Wilson said of legendary Molloy coach Jack Curran. "We're proving to everybody that Coach Curran knows how to coach. This is the results of his coaching."

Agbai, a 6-foot-8 freshman forward, could have chosen to become a big fish in a small pond and go to the bevy of mid-major Division I schools that were courting him. Instead, the Queens Village native sought the highest level of competition he could find when he signed a letter of intent to play at Boston College in the highly competitive Big East Conference, rated second behind the Big 10 as the country's toughest conference.

Through hard work and determination, though, Agbai has surprised many. He has started 25 of the Eagles' 29 games, averaging 6.7 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. He has also logged 27.6 minutes per game.

"I'm a hard worker," Agbai said. "The more I learn and the harder I work, I can get better and better. I haven't been playing basketball for that long, but I feel my game is getting a good form to it and I'm going to excel from here."

Agbai and the 13th-seeded Eagles face No. 4 Connecticut in the opening round of the Big East Tournament in a game scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

The joke about Reggie Brown was that the Flushing native never saw a shot he didn't like. That may have been true with the Stanners, but Brown has shown the maturity, especially of late, to play a lot smarter for the Spiders.

"The hardest transition was that everyone here is physically tough," said Brown, who has started 17 of Richmond's 28 games. "Everyone is big and strong here. It's kind of hard. But coach [John] Beilein stuck with me and started working with me and taught me a new technique. I didn't come in with a big head but I have a confidence I can help the team."

Beilein helped Brown alter his shooting form, a move that has paid major dividends for the 6-foot-4 freshman sharp shooter. After averaging 6.5 points in the first 18 games of the season, Brown has averaged 16.2 points in the last nine games. The freshman has been the team's leading scorer in six of the last 10 games, which included a 22-point performance in Richmond's Colonial Athletic Association semifinal win over James Madison. Brown, who was selected to the CAA All-Rookie Team, scored nine points as the Spiders lost 57-47 in the tournament championship game against UNC-Wilmington Monday night.

"Reggie has played well in February and March, the time of year that you want someone to play well," Beilein said. "He is a very intelligent young man. He went through a slump earlier this year, but knew that he needed to change his practice habits and he has."

Wilson had possibly the toughest transition to Division I basketball because of his position. As the point guard, Wilson is expected to be the team leader on the court, a tough job to ask of a freshman.

"He's a youngster who has taken advantage of a situation. When we first recruited him, I knew we were in need of a point guard, but we had two point guards at the time," said UMBC head coach Tom Sullivan. "We have to play Justin more than I'd like to but he'll go from a very good player to a great relaxed player in a year or two."

Wilson, who was named to the Northeast Conference All-Rookie Team, averaged 9.3 points and 4.2 assists a game. The 5-foot-11 Brooklyn native was a three-time NEC Rookie of the Week, and set a new UMBC single-season assist mark for freshman with 119. The Colonials (11-16), seeded eighth in the NEC tournament, lost to No. 1 seeded Central Connecticut State in the quarterfinals, 63-55.

"I could have definitely played better. I'm playing OK, but I could help my team in other ways, such as decreasing my turnovers and getting into a leadership role on the team," Wilson said. "Even though I'm a freshman, it doesn't mean I can't be a leader and that's what I want to be."

Despite playing in different areas of the East Coast, the three say they try and keep in touch with each other as much as possible.

"I always look up at the stat sheets and always try and see how they're doing because they're my two best friends," Wilson said. "I keep up with Uka every month. I tell him I watch him on TV all the time. I saw Reggie playing against Ranford. I'm just happy for them."

"While at Molloy we all became brothers," Brown added. "If you saw Uka, me and Justin weren't too far away. We're very tight. It's good to see that they're doing real well, especially Uka because people were skeptical about how he would do in the Big East."

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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