03/09/04 — One big family of players at MOC

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One big family of players at MOC

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 9, 2004 1:57 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- "1-2-3-family!"

The Mount Olive men's basketball team shouted that phrase as it broke the huddle after Monday's practice.

Less than 24 hours before, the Trojans had learned they were invited to the Division II eastern regional for the first time in school history. They knew they were facing second-seeded Alderson-Broddus as the seventh seed on Saturday at host Pfeiffer University.

Maurice Horton

News-Argus/Kaye Nesbit

Maurice Horton has had to step up and take the point guard spot when roomate Janson Greene went down with an injury.

How they got here has had little to do with individual accolades, and almost everything to do with depth and a strong, family atmosphere -- on and off the court.

Sophomore guard Maurice Horton summed it up.

"There are no individual players on this time. When we say family, we really mean it," he said.

Mount Olive is 25th in the nation in scoring, but only preseason all-American Marcus West (14.7 points per game) is averaging double figures. Still, eight other players, including Janson Greene and Sharome Holloway (both injured) have over 6.5 points per contest. All but four players on the roster have started at least once.

Early in the season, the Trojans' ability to literally go 12 players deep devastated most of its opponents. Following a 65-62 win over Anderson, Mount Olive was 14-2 overall and a stout 8-1 in the Carolinas/Virginia Athletic Conference.

Then starting senior point guard Greene went down during the Feb. 2 loss to rival Barton at College Hall with a broken bone in his left foot.

The Trojans rallied around each other for three straight wins, capped by West's miracle 80-footer at the buzzer in a 108-105 win over Pfeiffer at home.

Greene's roommate, sophomore Maurice Horton, took over the point from his usual two-guard spot, responding with six double-digit scoring efforts and emerging as a solid floor leader.

He hasn't hesitated from taking some pointers from his injured roommate along the way.

"We talk all the time, so he is always there giving me advice," Horton said. "With him still being around, it wasn't that hard to do.

"The most important thing I can do now is be more vocal and show more leadership qualities."

Greene's status for Saturday's game is questionable, pending a physician's visit today.

"When Janson went down, and we put him (Horton) at point guard, he has worked more on learning the plays. Because he's a slasher, and it's a different mentality," Clingan said. "He's become a smarter player and really matured since Janson went down."

Just when it looked as if Mount Olive was fully adjusted to playing without Greene -- who despite missing the last 13 games is still second on the team in assists -- Holloway fractured his right wrist early in the Trojans' game at Belmont Abbey on Feb. 12.

A three-game CVAC losing streak followed, and Clingan saw a hint of doubt in his team with the pair of leaders absent.

"I think they felt empty because both of them were real leaders. When you take two leaders off of the court, they are trying to find somebody," Clingan said. "After we lost our third game, I told them, 'it was time to look at what you do have instead of what you don't have.'

"We've got enough right here to win the conference championship and tournament."

The skid was their longest of the season. But, when many teams may have packed up for good, Mount Olive answered the downturn with six straight wins -- including two huge victories in the conference tournament.

The key again was adjusting to new roles and increased minutes as well as believing that they were still a gifted basketball team -- even without a pivotal ball-handler and menacing post presence.

"We had to work together again. When you work a certain number of players, then you have to adjust to a different set of five and new people stepping in," Clingan said. "I've got to give a lot of credit to the team. They really stayed together."

Freshman forward Chris Bartley stepped up especially over conference tournament in the low post. Bartley admits it wasn't easy when the team first heard the news they would be without Holloway.

"He (Holloway) came in at halftime and said 'guys, I'm done.' I was one of the players who put their heads down, but I thought it over and decided it was time to step up," Bartley said. "I've just played my game since I've gone in."

"We need everybody to step up again now. Everybody has a big part in this and everybody knows that."