By Keith Mills
In the spring of 2007, when some of the numerous college coaches recruiting Sean Mosley started to back off, there was one who was always there, always supportive and never wavered in his desire to bring Baltimore's best high school basketball player to College Park.
"Keith Booth," Mosley said. "He stuck in there the whole time with me. I probably had some bad games that summer, and a lot of other coaches shied away because of my test scores. He never did."
"Having played for Gary Williams, I know the University of Maryland's not the best place for everybody," said Booth, a former All-American at Maryland and now an assistant coach. "But Sean Mosley is a great player and quality person, and it never crossed my mind not to want to bring him down here. I truly believe he will have a great career here."
Ask Williams the most important player he recruited at Maryland and he'll tell you it was Booth. Ask him the two players he recruited that reminded him the most of the former Dunbar High standout and he'll tell you Juan Dixon of Calvert Hall and Mosley of St. Frances.
"Sean is a lot like Juan and Keith in that he is very mentally tough and knows how to play the game," said Williams, who is celebrating his 20th year as Maryland's coach. "He's a lot like Greivis Vazquez and Juan Dixon in that when he walks in the office, or walks in a room, it lights up. He doesn't talk as much as Juan, but he's very personable.
"As a player, Sean reminds me a lot of Keith Booth. Keith wanted the ball. He wanted to guard the opposing team's best player. He wanted to grab every big rebound. Sean has the same toughness, that ability to score inside. All of the things that made Keith Booth such a great player."
When Bob Wade -- who had previously spent 10 years coaching at Dunbar -- coached Maryland in the late '80s, he brought in Baltimore area players Rudy Archer of Southwestern and Mitch Kasoff of Pikesville. When Wade was asked to resign in May 1989, Evers Burns of Woodlawn had signed with the Terps and decided to stay, eventually playing four solid years under Williams.
But because of what happened with Wade, the pipeline from Baltimore to College Park dried up. Top Baltimore players, like Larry Gibson and Ernie Graham, were no longer looking to go to Maryland. That was until Booth, in the spring of 1992, turned down Kentucky and Duke, went against the advice of many who watched him at Dunbar, and signed with Maryland.
"Keith is as loyal as they come and he was easy to hire as an assistant coach," Williams said. "We have a different relationship now. We're friends, peers and when we hired him I asked him what really motivated him to come to Maryland, when so many people didn't want him to because of what happened to Coach Wade. He told me it was because of Len Bias.
"He said he had a poster of Len Bias in his room when he was a kid, and in the back of his mind he wanted to make up for what happened with Bias. And to show that it was just one of those things, and that it wasn't always going to happen to every kid that went to the University of Maryland. That was big in Keith's decision.
"I don't know if I'd still be coaching at Maryland if Keith Booth didn't come here because he showed a lot of other players -- Joe Smith, Rodney Elliott, Steve Francis, Lonny Baxter, Chris Wilcox, Juan Dixon -- that it was okay to come to Maryland."
"I came here because of Coach Williams," said Booth. "He's a winner. And coaching with him now, you see why. He really gets guys going. He's a great teacher and he loves the game. People sometimes give us a lot of heat because we didn't recruit this guy or didn't recruit that guy. But I know Coach Williams. You have to have great talent but if you're not the person who we feel as a staff can represent themselves and the university, then it's not a good mix.
"Having played for him, I think it really helps me know the guys he likes. There's one thing that makes him the coach that he is. When he has a team that 'has been counted out,' he's at his best. He did it with us when Joe and I were freshmen and he'll do it again. He's the same now as he was my freshman year. He just loves to compete."
This is Booth's fifth year as an assistant and his impact has been immediate in his hometown. Mosley is the third Baltimore player Booth and Williams have brought to College Park in the last three years, joining Mount St. Joseph's Dino Gregory and Calvert Hall's Braxton Dupree.
"Being a local guy from Baltimore, automatically a lot of attention will be placed on them," Booth said. "Larry Gibson, Ernie Graham, myself, Rodney Elliott, Juan Dixon -- we all had a great deal of success down here. Some guys can handle it, some can't. We are very happy with the three guys we have now and we feel they will represent themselves, their families and the university very well."
Booth and Williams are ecstatic with Mosley, who was the area's premier player a year ago, leading St. Frances to the Catholic League championship. He finished his high school career with 2,933 points, second only to Rodney Monroe, who scored 3,047 in his four-year career (1983-87) at St. Maria Goretti in Hagerstown.
But why did Mosley choose Maryland?
"The coaches," said Mosley, who played for Will Wells and former St. Frances standout Mark Karcher at St. Frances and picked Maryland over Clemson, Syracuse and Florida State. "I wanted to build a relationship with a coach, one that I could feel comfortable talking to. Coach Williams, Coach Booth, we have a great relationship. I'm close to home. My family can come to every home game. It's just a real good situation for me.
"My dad wanted me to come down here since my junior year. For me it was a just a feeling of being comfortable with the coaches and getting a chance to play."
After a strong preseason, Mosley was labeled a starter before a sprained ankle slowed his progress and forced him to sit out Maryland's Nov. 8 exhibition blowout win over Northwood University of Florida.
"Sean was really playing well before he twisted his ankle," Williams said, "but he will see a lot of minutes for us. He's very smart and very tough."
Now Mosley is one of a trio of Baltimore players who will be given every opportunity to help the Terps get back to the NCAA Tournament. Mosley, Gregory and Dupree were rivals in the Baltimore Catholic League but are together on a team that was picked to finish eighth in most preseason ACC polls.
They were arm-in-arm and wore smiles the size of the Comcast Center as they posed for pictures last month at Maryland's media day, again looking to show the ACC that Baltimore area basketball has lost none of the true grit that is its trademark.
"It's a toughness you just can't be taught," Mosley said. "You have to be born with it. Keith Booth had it. Juan Dixon had it. Carmelo Anthony, Donte Greene. The only advice I got from those guys growing up was never back down from anyone."
And he hasn't, despite juggling a full load of classes and spending life away from his East Baltimore home for the first time.
"Everything's going well," Mosley said. "The first couple of weeks were hard. I had to make an adjustment. I came to summer school and took two classes to make me feel more comfortable. It's getting a little harder now, but I need to just buckle down and get it done."
Through it all, Booth and Williams have been there.
"You don't want anyone beating around the bush when they're recruiting you," Mosley said. "Just come out and say what you have to say. A lot of coaches were telling me stuff just to get me to go to their school but Keith and Gary Williams sat me down and told me how it was going to be. They didn't guarantee me a starting spot. They told me I had to earn it. And that's been my mentality. Just come in and work hard."
Working hard is nothing new to Mosley, and it's a big reason for his success.
"He's very impressive," Williams said. "Right away you see why he was so successful at St. Frances. I give coach Will Wells and Mark Karcher a lot of credit. And I give Sean a lot of credit."
Issue 131: November 2008