Like many of his Madison Buccaneers AAU teammates, Eddie Oliver had a case of culture shock when he decided to attend Calvert Hall 40 years ago.
“Dress coat, dress pants and a tie, that was the dress code. We weren’t used to that growing up in the city,” said Oliver. “As time went on, we got used to it, but most importantly, we had to keep our grades up. The rest is history.”
Oliver was a key character in arguably the greatest chapter in Baltimore high school basketball history. He became a Baltimore hoops immortal Wednesday with his induction into the Baltimore Catholic League Hall of Fame.
Oliver was one of 12 new members recognized in a ceremony at Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City. Fellow Cardinal Chris Devlin and former Calvert Hall principal and assistant coach Lou Heidrick joined Oliver along with Bob Dillon (Archbishop Curley), David Gately (Mount St. Joseph), Reggie Holmes (St. Frances), former Curley coach Dan Popera, Tremaine Robinson (Archbishop Spalding), Matt Rum (Loyola Blakefield), Calvin Scruggs (Towson Catholic), Matt Tanner (St. Maria Goretti) and Mark Valderas (Cardinal Gibbons).
Oliver played three seasons for Calvert Hall, starting with the 1981-82 season as a key reserve for the 34-0 Cardinal mythical national championship team, regarded as the best in the 52-year history of the BCL, and is on the Mount Rushmore of Baltimore prep boys basketball squads.
Legendary Calvert Hall coach Mark Amatucci said Oliver along with Vernon Hill were the final pieces to that 1982 squad that included Duane Ferrell, Marc Wilson, Mark Kauffman and James “Pop” Tubman. The Cardinals became just the second BCL team to win the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament at Frostburg State, a feat not matched again until St. Frances in 1996.
“Those two came in and picked things up right away. They believed in the mentality of the program,” said Amatucci. “Eddie ran the break. Defensively he was a beast, unselfish.”
Oliver was part of the inner-city pipeline that helped turn the Towson school into Baltimore basketball royalty. Many of Oliver’s former teammates at Calvert Hall and Madison including best friend Ferrell, a member of the inaugural BCL Hall of Fame class in 2011, was in attendance Wednesday.
Oliver, who has been a referee at the rec, high school and college level for many years, was elated to share his special moment Wednesday with his family, especially mother Dorothy. Oliver helped guide Calvert Hall to a 84-17 mark with two BCL regular season and tournament championships.
“What we did was amazing. Guys from the inner city coming to suburban Catholic school trying to build a dynasty,” said Oliver, who went on to play collegiately at San Jacinto Junior College and West Texas State University after graduating from Calvert Hall in 1984. “It was a whole different language.”
Devlin, a 1972 graduate, was a three-sport standout (football and baseball) at Calvert Hall. As a senior, he guided the Cardinals to the inaugural BCL tourney final and was selected to the all-tournament team.
Gately was a two-year starter at Mount St. Joseph, averaging 23 points and nine rebounds in his senior campaign. He went on to Loyola University where he played for Amatucci, starting in 1983. Gately graduated in 1987 as the Greyhounds’ second all-time leading scorer (1,706 points), earning induction in the Loyola Hall of Fame (1994) as well as St. Joe’s (2002).
Heidrick served in various functions during his 48-year tenure at Calvert Hall. He was an assistant under Joe “Snooky” Binder on Cardinal squads that reached the first three BCL Tournament finals (won title in 1973). Heidrick was Calvert Hall’s principal from 2001 until his retirement in 2013.
Holmes played two seasons at St. Frances, earning All-BCL first team honors in the 2003-04 season and helped the Panthers to the tournament crown in 2005. He went on to Morgan State where he became the program’s all-time leading scorer and guided the Bears to their only two NCAA Tournament appearances (2009 and 2010).
Robinson was a major part of Spalding’s first championship foundation in the late 1990s. He was selected to the BCL all-tournament team as the Cavaliers claimed their first tourney crown in 1999 and repeated in 2000.
Rum led Loyola to its first BCL Tournament final in 2009 and was selected to the BCL first team in his junior and senior year. He went on to William & Mary where he’s the program’s all-time leader in games played (127).
Scruggs helped author one of the biggest surprises in BCL Tournament history, leading No. 6 seed Towson Catholic past three higher seeded squads to the 1989 championship. He was selected to the all-tournament team and was an All-BCL second team pick in his junior and senior season.
Tanner guided Goretti to BCL Tournament finals in 2001 and 2002, winning tourney MVP in 2001 as the Hagerstown school claimed its first crown since BCL Hall of Fame great Rodney Monroe led the Gaels to the 1987 title. Tanner was BCL Player of the Year in 2002.
Valderas was synonymous with Gibbons basketball in the 1970s. Mark Valderas was named All-BCL first team as a junior before graduating in 1977 as the program’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing brother Robert, who was inducted into the BCL Hall of Fame in 2014. Mark, who was the Alhambra Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player in 1976, played and graduated from Loyola after starting his collegiate career at Princeton.
Dillon led Curley to its lone BCL Tournament final in 1978 and was named to the all-tournament team. He was a three-year starter, and later, an assistant under longtime Friar coach Dan Popera.
Dillon said Popera, who started the Business program at Curley, was the reason he became a Certified Public Accountant.
Popera passed away suddenly during the BCL Tournament weekend in early March.
“Dan’s time on this earth was special,” said Dillon. “I believe this describes Dan’s life: A good life is when you assume nothing; you do more, you need less; you smile often; dream big, laugh a lot and realize how blessed you are.”
Popera’s grandson, Matthew Roberts, wearing Popera’s trademark plaid jacket, accepted his Hall of Fame trophy.
BCL commissioner Jack Degele announced the BCL Tournament’s Sportsmanship Award will be named in Popera’s honor.
“Dan was blessed. He had his faith, his loving family and was surrounded by friends and thousands of players and students he impacted,” said Degele, a longtime friend and former teammate at Mount St. Joseph. “While he was in the Curley Hall of Fame and the BCL Hall of Fame, Dan Popera was a Hall of Fame person… I know the lessons that he taught will live on in everyone he impacted.”