HAGERSTOWN—The headliner going in to the 30th Mid-Atlantic Invitational Tournament has to be Rodney Monroe. Who the headliner is after Saturday’s championship game might be another story.
Monroe, the former St. Maria Goretti great and Maryland’s all-time leading scorer with 3,407 points, brings his SouthLake Christian Academy team to the Gael Center and tips off the tournament at 6:30 p.m. Friday against St. Mary’s Ryken.
In the nightcap, Goretti will face Bishop Walsh as the Gaels look for their first MAIT title since 2005.
A 1987 graduate and a member of the Goretti Hall of Fame, Monroe was the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year in 1991 at North Carolina State.
He has settled in to his position as director of basketball operations/head basketball coach at SouthLake in Huntersville, N.C.
“It will be a great experience for me coming back to Goretti under these circumstances,” Monroe said. “I’ve been back many times before but never in this capacity. It will be even better if we can come up to Hagerstown and win a couple of games. I’m also looking forward to seeing family and friends.”
SouthLake, 1-1 after a 75-73 loss Tuesday, has three upper-level college talents, according to Monroe.
“We have four starters coming back this season, three juniors and one senior,” Monroe said. “Three of the four players are getting some interest from Division I universities.”
Those players are forward/center Ralph McCollum, forward/guard Cody Cox and point guard Jalen Sanders. Monroe’s son, freshman guard Myles, is on the roster.
St. Mary’s Ryken, coached by Dave Tallman, has only two seniors but several juniors with experience.
The Knights made their only other MAIT appearance in 2010, losing to Benedictine (Va.) before defeating St. John’s Catholic Prep in the consolation.
Since its last MAIT title, Goretti has appeared in three championship games, including the last two seasons. With a season-opening, 106-43 victory over Washington Christian under its belt, Goretti coach Amrit Rayfield has plenty of optimism coming off a 19-13 record a year ago.
“You have to come in expecting to win,” Rayfield said. “We haven’t won (the MAIT) for some time. The kids are ready to get out and play.”
The most recognizable player returning for the Gaels is junior Martin Geben, who has added bulk to his 6-foot-9 frame and now carries 235 pounds.
“(Martin) is our go-to guy,” Rayfield said. Geben had 16 points and eight rebounds in Tuesday’s win.
Senior guard Tyrus Fleetwood had 22 points in the opener.
Bishop Walsh is making its second straight MAIT visit. It lost the opening game to Goretti last year 59-43 and the consolation match to St. Paul’s, 62-55.
The Spartans’ roster is dominated by nine seniors, including 6-foot-6, 240-pound Quincy Redmon, probably Bishop Walsh’s best player.