A family affair
Andrew Lee joins father, brother in playing for Mappas
Playing basketball for John Mappas has become a Lee Family tradition.
It started in the early 1970s, when Eric Lee was a key performer on La Plata High School teams coached by a 20-something Mappas. It continued during Mappas’ first coaching stint at Chesapeake College from 2000 to 2004, when Eric’s son, Jerrold, came over to the Eastern Shore to play for his father’s coach.
And it continues today as Jerrold’s younger brother, Andrew, leads what has become the most successful Chesapeake College men’s basketball team in school history. The sophomore transfer, a wing player playing inside because that’s where Mappas needs him, is averaging 20 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game for the 22-3 Skipjacks.
"We have a lot of good players on this team and we have one great player," said Mappas, whose second-seeded Skipjacks host 15th-seeded College of Southern Maryland in the first round of the state tournament Tuesday night at 7 p.m. "When you have one great player surrounded by a lot of good players, you’ve got a chance to be successful."
Andrew said he met Mappas for the first time in 2001 when the first-year Chesapeake coach came to the Lee home to recruit Jerrold for the Skipjacks.
"He seemed like a nice man," said the lanky Andrew with the smile he usually sports on and off the court. "As soon as he came into our living room, he looked at me and said, ’A couple more push-ups and you could play Division I.’ "
Mappas knew Andrew had good basketball genes.
"His Dad was known as a great football player who also played basketball, but in truth he was a very good basketball player, too," said Mappas. "At the end of every game, you’d see he had scored in double figures, grabbed seven or eight rebounds, drawn two or three charges, and shut down the other team’s top offensive player."
Eric who, with wife Susie, is a fixture at Chesapeake games recalled Mappas as a coach who was very much a teacher.
"He was the kind of coach that would take you under his wing," said Eric. "If you listened to him, he would teach you a lot."
With the family history already established, Mappas recruited Jerrold out of La Plata High School. During Jerrold’s three years at Chesapeake, including a red-shirt season in 2001-2002, the Skipjacks put together a 60-29 record. By his third season, Jerrold blossomed into a strong insider player for the height-challenged Skipjacks.
"Jerrold grew as a player and turned it around as a student," said Mappas. "He became an outstanding student and was one of the best kids we’ve had here."
Jerrold said his father encouraged him to play for Mappas at Chesapeake.
"He told me it was just the best experience for him," said Jerrold, adding that his father did indicate Mappas was an "old-school" coach. "It was either his way or the highway, and you respected that."
Jerrold said he enjoyed playing for Mappas.
"He was a great basketball teacher," said Jerrold, who is scheduled to graduate from Bowie State University this spring with a computer science degree. "He helped me understand the game at a greater level."
Jerrold and Mappas seemingly finished their respective Chesapeake careers at the same time, with Mappas resigning just days after the conclusion of the 2003-2004 season. Mappas, however, came back after a two-year hiatus and immediately began recruiting Andrew, who decided to sit out the 2006-2007 season after leaving Division I Morgan State University.
Jerrold, who has already accepted a federal government position at an I.T. specialist that will start after he graduates from Bowie State, said he recommended Chesapeake to his younger brother.
"If it wasn’t for Chesapeake, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today," said Jerrold. "Both the academics and the basketball were wonderful experiences for me."
Andrew who was at Morgan State for two years, including a red-shirt season spent his year out of school working as a forklift operator to help support his young son.
"As soon as summer hit, Coach (Mappas) called me," said Andrew. "Working for $7.50 an hour wasn’t cutting it, and I decided I wanted to come here (Chesapeake) because of Coach Mappas."
Mappas was thrilled to get Andrew, who averaged a team-high 15 points per game the one semester he played at Morgan State before encountering academic difficulties.
"I tried to get him a year earlier," said Mappas. "I knew he could be as good as anyone I’ve ever coached."
Mappas said it’s Andrew’s versatility that makes him such a special player.
"I’ve had better scorers, better rebounders and better passers, but he does everything well," said Mappas. "And he’s unselfish, just like his brother. When your best player is unselfish, it sets the tone for the team."
Andrew said his versatility often helps him take advantage of individual match-ups.
"If I have a bigger man on me, then I take him outside," said Andrew. "If I have a smaller man on me, I take him inside. It makes no difference to me."
Andrew said he’s enjoying his lone season with the Skipjacks.
"My teammates make it hard for teams to double-team me," said Lee. "They (opposing teams) have to stay out on our shooters and that leaves me wide open."
Andrew said he could tell in the preseason that the Skipjacks had an opportunity to be a special team.
"I knew Aubin (Reeves) and Preston (Faulk) could play," said Andrew of the Skipjacks’ starting guards, who also played their high school basketball in Southern Maryland. "And they talked to me about Ty (Newman, from Easton High) when I saw him, I could see he could play, too.
"I knew we could be good I just didn’t know how good because I didn’t know the strength of the rest of the league," said Andrew. "I could see we had talent on the court and on the bench."
When four players, including two starters, became academically ineligible for the second semester, the Skipjacks lost a lot of their depth. Andrew, however, felt the team could still win with seven players.
"I thought we might slack off and get tired quicker, but we’ve been playing pretty good basketball," said Andrew.
Eric said he’s been impressed with what the Skipjacks have accomplished with just seven players and he credits Mappas for being able to change with the times.
"He was much more defense-oriented when I play for him," noted Eric. "They don’t play as hard-nosed defense as we played, but I think he’s done a remarkable job with seven players. They really listen to him."
Meanwhile, Andrew is happy he followed in the family tradition.
"I like it here. The teachers here are great. They really like to teach," said Lee of Chesapeake’s small-college atmosphere. "And I like this team. It could turn out to be very special."
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