Mount St. Joseph basketball star Valentine staying home, commits to UMBC

Mount St. Joseph’s Ace Valentine was a big reason the Gaels swept the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League Tournament basketball championships last season. The rising senior guard recently gave a verbal commitment to UMBC. (photo – Sports Majors)

by Derek Toney

Ace Valentine said he’s never felt pressured to follow in his parent’s footsteps as Division I basketball players. The Mount St. Joseph High guard has carved a path to become a Division I recruit, and, like his parents, will be showcasing his talents in the DMV region.

Valentine, a rising senior, committed to University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC). The 6-foot-3 combo recently announced his decision on his Twitter page.

“The facilities are amazing. I see myself fitting in that environment. I’ve been living around here my whole life so it would be an easy transition,” said Valentine. “I feel I can strive with their style of play. They showed the most love out of all the schools.”

Valentine pledged to the Retrievers over East Tennessee State, Loyola, Niagara, North Carolina A&T, St. Peter’s and William & Mary. He said he made an unofficial visit to UMBC in late June. 

Valentine, an Ellicott City resident, said playing collegiately in the area, “wasn’t a major factor” in his decision, but being able to have support from family and friends will be a plus.

“It’s a when you know, you know situation. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Valentine responded when asked about deciding to commit early. “I went over the pros and cons. I have no regrets.”

Valentine’s parents, Craig and Kacy, are both among Howard County’s best all-time prep hoopsters. Kacy (nee Williams) was a three-time All-Met first-team guard at Hammond, which won Class 2A state titles in her sophomore (1992) and senior (1994) seasons.

Kacy, the All-Met co-Player of the Year and Baltimore Sun’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1994, played collegiately at Georgetown, where she graduated (1998) as the program’s all-time assists leader (currently No. 3).

Craig was a key member of Towson University’s (then-Towson State) 1990 and 1991 NCAA tournament squads. A nationally-renowned speaker, Craig is Wilde Lake’s all-time leading scorer.

Ace said watching game film with his parents helped lay the groundwork for a breakout junior campaign last season.

“It was a gradual increase in noticing what I can do and confidence started building,” said Valentine. “Once that confidence started building I turned the corner being that person that can help the team win.”

Last season, Valentine averaged 13 points, four rebounds and three assists for Mount St. Joseph, which won the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League titles. The Gaels finished No. 1 in VSN’s final Top 20 poll.

“He was crucial to our success,” said longtime Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey. “He took on the toughest defensive challenge. He embraced the moment.”

Clatchey said Valentine performed well at the University of Maryland Team Camp and DMV Live Tournament at DeMatha Catholic, a major recruiting event, last month.

Valentine, who plays AAU with Mid-Atlantic Select, thinks Mount St. Joseph is primed for another huge campaign in the coming season. Valentine, Amani Hansberry, the reigning VSN Boys Basketball Player of the Year, and Austin Abrams return from last winter’s starting five. 

The Gaels won’t have forward Bryson Tucker, who transferred to national powerhouse IMG Academy in Florida. Tucker, a rising junior, is widely considered a Top 5 recruit in the Class of 2024.

“He (Tucker) provided a big scoring role, but now it’s more opportunities,” said Valentine. “We got some great guys. We’re only going to keep getting better.”

Valentine said he has his mother’s speed, defensive acumen and playmaking ability and father’s ability to create his shot. His sister, Satori, was a 1,000-point scorer at Mount Hebron and runs track for Towson University. 

“They’ve (parents) been coaching me all my life,” said Valentine. “Everything I’ve gotten I’ve worked for. It’s good to get the chance to play Division I basketball.”