The Sweet 16: Ranking Baltimore's best Division I college basketball players

College BasketballSportsBasketballCollege SportsDePaul Blue Demons UAB BlazersGeorge Washington Colonials

For the second straight year, The Baltimore Sun has counted down the best returning Division I college basketball players from this area. Players were chosen based on previous college accomplishments and projections for the 2012-13 season. College coaches, sports information directors, writers and others were consulted in compiling this list

t-No. 16: Omar Strong, Texas Southern

The 5-foot-9, 176-pound point guard was Texas Southern's leading scorer at 13.3 points per game, shooting 38.9 percent from 3-point range. The former Douglass star, who transferred from Cecil College, also averaged 2.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and one steal during his junior season, earning second-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference honors.

t-No. 16: Terence Jones, UAB

After three seasons at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Jones will get a shot at a more high-profile college hoops existence this year at UAB. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound combo guard will be eligible to play immediately for the Blazers after graduating from TAMCC and enrolling in a graduate program at UAB. Jones (Lake Clifton) started 29 of 30 games for the Islanders as a redshirt junior, averaging a team-high 13.7 points.

No. 15: Tommy Brenton, Stony Brook

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound River Hill grad started all 32 of Stony Brook's games during the 2011-12 season, averaging 7.8 points (53.9 percent from the field) and 8.09 rebounds. A first-team All-America East selection and the conference's Defensive Player of the Year, Brenton was also selected to CollegeInsider.com's mid-major defensive team, and was named the America East Player of the Year by the website.

No. 14: Isaiah Armwood, George Washington

Armwood left Villanova last August and headed down I-95 for D.C., where former Vermont coach Mike Lonergan was set to start his first season leading the Colonials' program. "At Villanova, I was more of a role player," said Armwood, a Montrose Christian grad from Baltimore. "We always had great guards there that Coach [Jay] Wright leaned on the most. Here at GW, Coach Lonergan talked about leaning on me the most."

No. 13: Terrell Vinson, Massachusetts

As a junior last winter, the former Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selection helped the Minutemen to a 25-12 record, including a 15-1 mark at home. Vinson (St. Frances) emerged as UMass' third-leading scorer at 9.9 points and second-leading rebounder at 5.1 in just 26.2 minutes per game.

No. 12: Greg Whittington, Georgetown

Whittington, who finished his freshman season averaging 4.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game, is likely in line for more playing time as a sophomore. The Oakland Mills grad carved out a niche for himself as a versatile defender off the bench who could score as needed. The 6-foot-8, 212-pound forward presented all sorts of problems for opponents on the defensive end.

No. 11: Dylon Cormier, Loyola

An All-Baltimore Catholic League player at Cardinal Gibbons, Cormier was Loyola's second-leading scorer last season at 13.4 points per game. The 6-foot-2, 183-pound combo guard shot 46 percent from the field and grabbed 3.3 rebounds per game in leading the Greyhounds to the MAAC championship and their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1994.

No. 10: Antonio Barton, Memphis

During a four-game stretch at the end of December leading into January, the 6-foot-2 ½, 180-pound combo guard led the Tigers in scoring in three games: 16 points in a 67-58 win over Charlotte; 19 points in a 69-51 win over Tennessee; and 13 points in a 60-58 win over Southern Miss. As a sophomore, Barton (Lake Clifton) averaged 21.9 minutes, starting 19 of Memphis' 34 games and contributing 6.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.

No. 9: Isaiah Philmore, Xavier

A redshirt junior from Bel Air, Philmore is expected to play a major role for a Xavier program that has made seven-straight NCAA tournament appearances, but could be in store for a rebuilding year thanks to the graduation of three starters and the unexpected departures of two others. The John Carroll graduate, who sat out last season with the Musketeers as a transfer, averaged 15.3 points and 7.0 rebounds for Towson during the 2010-11 season.

No. 8: Andrew Fitzgerald, Oklahoma

At 6 feet 8, 235 pounds, Fitzgerald, a senior power forward who played at Owings Mills as a junior, is one of Oklahoma's steadiest performers. After averaging 12.6 points and 5.0 rebounds as a sophomore, Fitzgerald put up 12.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per game as a junior.

No. 7: Damion Lee, Drexel

Lee averaged 12 points and 4.4 rebounds as a freshman, playing crunch-time minutes for a 29-win team. The 6-foot-6, 200-pound shooting guard from Calvert Hall was a factor on the Dragons' roster from the very beginning of the 2011-12 season, and a relatively clear-cut choice as the Colonial Athletic Association's Rookie of the Year.

No. 6: Brandon Young, DePaul

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior was DePaul's second-leading scorer at 14.5 points per game and top assist man with a 4.7 average during his sophomore season. Young, a Randallstown native and Friendship Collegiate (D.C.) grad, shot 42.3 percent from the field and averaged 1.6 steals as the Blue Demons' starting point guard.

No. 5: Devon Saddler, Delaware

Saddler, the reigning CAA Rookie of the Year, faced double-teams and more physical treatment off the ball as a sophomore. But the Aberdeen grad still put up 18.8 points per game, shooting 39 percent from the field. Saddler was the CAA's second-leading scorer and ranked 27th among all Division I players.

No. 4: Nick Faust, Maryland

A natural wing, Faust started nine games for the Terps at the point after Pe'Shon Howard tore his ACL. The former City star averaged 13.4 points and shot 45 percent from the field playing the 1. On the season, he averaged 8.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.0 steal in 27 minutes per game.

No. 3: Eric Atkins, Notre Dame

Atkins, a 6-foot-1, 184-pound junior, went from a part-time player as a freshman with modest statistical averages (5.8 points, 3.2 assists, 1.8 rebounds) to one of the Big East's steadiest point guards. The Mount St. Joseph grad finished his sophomore season with averages of 12.1 points, 4.1 assists and 3.2 rebounds. He shot 39.4 percent from the field, including 37.5 percent from 3-point range.

No. 2: C.J. Fair, Syracuse

Fair, who graduated from Brewster (N.H.) Academy after three years at City, appeared in all 37 of the Orange's games as a sophomore, starting nine. But despite coming off the bench, Fair averaged the second-most minutes (26.4) on the team and was the Orange's fifth-leading scorer (8.5 points) and second-leading rebounder (5.4 rebounds).

No. 1: Cleveland Melvin, DePaul

Melvin probably snuck up on more than a few teams during a 2010-11 season in which he was named Big East Rookie of the Year. But there was no element of surprise last season, when the Lake Clifton grad put up 17.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for the Blue Demons.

"I always wanted, ever since I was young, to be in the position I'm in now," Melvin said. "All I knew was just to work hard and stay out of trouble in Baltimore, because my mom, she [brought] me in to playing basketball. And ever since then, I've just been growing and growing."

mbracken@baltsun.com

twitter.com/mattbracken

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