Groce points the way

Nick Groce, a talented and cerebral 5-foot-10, 168-pound senior guard at St. Mary's of Annapolis is one of the better point guards in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas in Class of 2009.

Groce is averaging 12 points, four rebounds and three assists a game for coach Brian Konik and the Saints.

"He is a traditional point guard, but we also count on him to be a scorer," Konik told ESPNRISE.com. "At times, Nick has struggled a bit with the idea that we need him to score because he is a pure point guard who would prefer to pass the ball and get the other kids involved. He is very unselfish in that regard, but he is a very good shooter, can score in transition."

Groce played a key role in St. Mary's 49-44 win over MIAA B Conference rival Severn School on January 24.

"Nick hit some key free throws down the stretch, he scored 17 points and played well on both ends of the floor," Konik said. "There are three-to-four teams at the top of the conference: St. Paul's, Pallotti, our team. … Nick has played a key part in our success."

In June of 2008, Groce verbally committed to University of Maryland - Baltimore County (UMBC).

Retrievers head coach Randy Monroe directed UMBC to a tremendous season in 2007-08 as the Baltimore County school went 24-9, won the American East championship and gave Georgetown University a tough battle in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

"I'm really excited about going to UMBC," Groce told ESPN.com shortly after announcing his college choice. "I'm glad to get the recruiting over so I can focus on my senior season at St. Mary's and focus on winning a championship -- enjoying the year academically and not worrying about where I'll be going to college."

Groce said he chose UMBC over Vermont, Loyola and American University.

"It was just a great fit, all around," Groce said. "I have a chance to come in and play early at point guard. The starting point is a junior, so I can come in and play early. I liked coach Monroe and the staff and it is a good academic school. Their basketball program is really good and having success. Also, UMBC is close to home so my parents and friends can see me play. It was just a good fit."

Groce averaged 15 points, three assists and three steals for the Saints as a junior in 2007-08. He earned All-MIAA B Conference and All-County honors and helped Konik's squad to a 20-10 record.

A three-year varsity player, Groce was a standout sophomore on the St. Mary's team that went 27-7 and won the MIAA B Championship in 2006-07.

James Quinn covers high school basketball for MDVarsity.com