Gary Grant (SMCM men's basketball)

Thomas Stone High School graduate and St. Mary’s College of Maryland student Gary Grant returns this season to help lead the Seahawks’ men’s basketball team.

While the Capital Athletic Conference already canceled its winter league schedule and tournaments for men’s and women’s basketball for the 2020-2021 season, the St. Mary’s College of Maryland men’s and women’s basketball teams are preparing to play 10 to 12 non-conference games each through March 1.

Last Friday, Jan. 8, marked the first day of practices for both the SMCM men’s and women’s teams as both squads prepared for the non-conference games, primarily against intra-state foes. While the schedules have not been finalized, SMCM men’s basketball coach Chris Harney said he was optimistic that the Seahawks will have a busy slate in February.

“Once the CAC nixed the regular season and the tournament, that left us open to basically play an independent schedule,” said Harney, a 1997 SMCM alum and former Seahawks player. “Right now we’re looking to finalize games with state schools like Morgan State University and Towson [University] and maybe Howard [University]. We’re hoping to land a few more schools out of state, if they can travel, but overall we’re looking at 10 to 12 games.”

Harney is perhaps most excited to be back on the court this winter, not just for the practices but for the potential games on tap. His former assistant, Matt Howerton, is now the interim coach of the St. Mary’s College of Maryland women’s basketball team, which also began practices earlier this month. The teams will play on separate days during the week, but will play doubleheaders on Saturdays, all presumably sans audiences.

In November, St. Mary’s College became part of the Coast-To-Coast, or C2C, conference, morphing somewhat from its former Capital Athletic Conference. In doing so, St. Mary’s College joined the University of California-Santa Cruz, Christopher Newport University in Virginia, Finlandia University in Michigan, the University of Mary Washington in Viriginia, Mills College in California, Mount Mary University in Wisconsin, Pine Manor College in Massachusetts, Pratt Institute in New York, Salisbury University and Southern Virginia University.

The shift from the Capital Athletic Conference to the Coast-to-Coast conference was designed to broaden the horizons of the sports programs geographically, extending, as its name implies, from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific. The rebranding of the conference was developed by Skye Design Studios and launched SMCM into unprecedented territory.

Heading into the potential start of the season, which will be limited to games ending on March 1, Harney has high expectations for senior Albert Scott and sophomore Gary Grant, last year’s CAC rookie of the year as a freshman. Scott is the lone senior on the Seahawks returning roster, while Grant, a Thomas Stone High School graduate, is a rising star in the North Eastern Athletic Conference.

“Albert is a smart kid,” Harney said. “He’s a straight-A student whose already getting full-time job offers. He’s going to do very well professionally. Gary is a great player. He’s also a great kid. He works hard and he’s got a 3.8 GPA. We’re going to be a young team for a few years, but I’m excited to be building the team around those guys and some of the incoming freshmen.”

While SMCM is gearing up for an abbreviated season, the College of Southern Maryland men’s and women’s basketball teams have had their practices placed on hold. The Hawks, who ended the first round of practices before Thanksgiving, were scheduled to return to the gym on Jan. 4, but those practices have been postponed until at least Feb. 1.

Twitter: @TedSoMdNews

Twitter: @TedSoMdNews