The more things change, the more things stay the same for veteran Mount Saint Joseph (Baltimore, Md.) boys’ basketball Coach Pat Clatchey.
With a twist.
Another 30-plus win season (33-6)...another Baltimore Catholic League regular season title...another elite Division I recruit in sophomore big-man Jalen Smith, a prime Terps' target for 2018.
But this year Clatchey added even more to his lengthy coaching resume, with a tournament trip to Hawaii (the Iolani Classic) for four games in eight days in December. It was a tourney which featured teams from as far off as California, Florida and even China.
"You never think about that as a high school coach that we can play in a tournament in Hawaii. Just a great experience. I highly recommend it," Clatchey quipped.
Well, add even another twist to this year's exploits: Clatchey had his first NCAA Tournament champion (Phil Booth of Villanova) cut down the nets last month, and Booth became his second Final Four participant (Will Thomas of George Mason being the first).
All for the modest program on Frederick Avenue in Baltimore, which keeps on humming along under Clatchey, amassing titles and noted alums.
"Just as a high school coach it is great to see one of your guys get to that level. And then to perform like that (22 points in the title game over UNC) on that stage, well it was just an awesome experience," Clatchey said. "So I just so happy for Phil and his family, and Villanova and their staff, I have a lot of respect for those guys. But they got hot at the right time, and really put a whooping on Oklahoma. And as a college basketball fan, I don't know if you can ask for a better championship game."
Clatchey said the onetime Terps target (Dion Wiley snatched the scholarship first), Booth will have a more expanded role with the seniors moving on, "and I think the next two years he will have more opportunities to have games like in the championship game. The people here really enjoyed it, the school has gotten a lot of positive publicity, and we are all real happy and proud of him."
Meanwhile, MSJ -- led by the 6-9 Jalen Smith -- will visit team camps at both Maryland and Villanova this summer, while Maryland saw Smith last week in New York at the Nike event. They, along with Syracuse, Villanova and others, were expected to visit during open gyms at MSJ this month during the evaluation period.
Smith, who has been to College Park, Md., a few times in the last year for games and visits, turned it on even more as a sophomore this season, Clatchey said.
"I thought he had a really good sophomore year. He averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds a game, and in the second half of the year I just thought he became a guy who was close to a double-double every game," Clacthey said.
Clatchey said Smith expanded his game even more. He is a long, run-jump athlete with excellent floor vision and passing ability, rare for such a young big who often thinks pass first.
"His perimeter shooting, I think he made like 11 out of 16 threes this season. And he reminds me of that often," Clatchey joked. "But the fact he has increased his range, he can step out and shoot it now. He shot over 50 percent from the floor, 78 percent from the line. Just real solid numbers. But I think he just matured as a player, he learned how to compete and play hard and avoid early, silly fouls to stay in the game longer. So we have extremely high expectations the next two years for him."
Clatchey said he has often told Smith to use Anthony Davis as a role model, "because he is a tremendous young player in that mold. And I have always told Jalen that is the kind of guy you should model your game after a bit."
Clatchey said Smith is a hair under 6-9, just turned 16 years old last month, and "as he physically matures and his game continues to improve and evolve, I think he has a chance to be a big-time player for sure."
Maryland, which Clatchey said remains "very strong in the mix" for Smith, as well Villanova, Syracuse, Virginia, Miami, Wake Forest, all have offered.
"Maryland is definitely strong in there," Clatchey said. "It's the local school, and I certainly think they have his attention for sure. He spent a day down there on an unofficial in the fall and really enjoyed himself."
Just as well, the Villanova title game, with Booth leading the way, caught his attention, too, Clatchey joked.
Clatchey thinks Smith's college decision may go to the fall of his senior year.
For now, MSJ, and Smith, will have open gyms, summer leagues, AAUs, etc., as the spring and summer recruit season heats up. He said both Smith, and John Carroll (Bel Air, Md.) sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley, who Maryland is also looking at, stood out most to him in the league this season.
From Will Thomas and Dino Gregory, to Henry Sims and Eric Atkins and Cam Williams, to now Phil Booth and next up, maybe Jalen Smith: Pat Clatchey keeps producing winners over at Mount Saint Joseph.