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Local College Hoops Preview

November 11, 2008

Can UMBC head coach Randy Monroe take his Retrievers back to the NCAA Tournament?  (Sabina Moran/PressBox)


Coach: Ron "Fang" Mitchell 
Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic 
Last Year: 16-21, 7-9, MEAC
Despite returning just one starter from a 16-21 team, Ron "Fang" Mitchell's Eagles should not be overlooked this season. That's because that one returning starter is senior guard Tywain McKee, the reigning Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player and first-team All-MEAC selection.

Few thought the Eagles had a chance to win the MEAC title last year as Coppin entered the tournament with a 7-9 conference record. The seventh-seeded Eagles knocked off Howard in the opening round and followed with wins over Hampton, Norfolk State and top-seeded Morgan State in the final. For the first time in 11 years, the Eagles reached the NCAA Tournament, where they fell to Mount St. Mary's in the play-in game.

McKee is certainly a good player to build a team around. He averaged 16.6 points last year while shooting 44 percent from three-point range and 87 percent from the foul line.

A possible starter with McKee in the backcourt is sophomore Vince Goldsberry, who averaged 3.8 points last year. Mitchell also brought in four new guards, including two local players -- Jordan Lee, a big-time scorer at Loch Raven High School, and Justin McCoy, a graduate of Mount St. Joseph. 

Up front, Mitchell has several options but little experience. He could go with sophomore center Ceslovas Kucinskas, who averaged 2.2 points and 1.5 rebounds last year. Sophomore Eddie Hayden and senior Brian Chesnut are other options in the middle. Freshman Michael Harper can play small forward when the Eagles go three guards. 

As usual, the Eagles have a tremendously difficult schedule. Coppin faces Purdue, Kansas, Richmond, Morgan State, Loyola (Md.), Dayton, Wisconsin, Syracuse, Oklahoma and Missouri on the road.

In late December, before facing Oklahoma, the Eagles travel to Honolulu to compete in the Rainbow Classic, featuring teams highlighted by Pepperdine, Hawaii, Colorado and George Washington.
Coach: Derek Brown 
Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic 
Last Year: 22-12, 13-3 MEAC

Coppin State looks to return to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years, but the task will be extremely difficult for 10-year coach Derek Brown, who must replace one of the best backcourts in school history. Rashida Suber, a first-team All-MEAC selection who averaged 17.9 points, and Shalamar Oakley, who averaged 17.5 points and was named MEAC Player of the Year, have graduated.

The key to this year's team will be the backcourt as junior Sesalie Johnson, sophomore Arielle Townes, freshman Shinaa Cross and sophomore Shante Cummings will compete for time.

What the Eagles lack in backcourt experience, they make up for in height. The Eagles have three 6-foot-3 players returning and have two freshmen listed at 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-4, respectively. 

Picked fourth in the preseason MEAC poll, Coppin will rely on a frontcourt led by three senior starters. Danielle Anders, the leading returning scorer, averaged 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds last season. She is a preseason All-MEAC second-team selection. Center Whitney Cunningham was selected to the preseason first team after averaging 10.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots per game. The third returning starter is forward Jennifer Martin, who averaged 6.3 points and 7.7 rebounds.

Coppin State will be very busy in the first month, on the road for their first eight games. The Eagles will travel to Florida, Wake Forest, Pepperdine, Drake, South Florida, George Washington and UMBC. 
Coach: Jimmy Patsos 
Conference: Metro Atlantic Athletic 
Last Year: 19-14, 12-6 MAAC

Jimmy Patsos enters his fifth season at Loyola, and he has done everything in four years that could possibly be done to turn around the program, save for one thing -- earn a trip to the postseason. Loyola was close last season, winning 19 games, a first for the school in Division I competition. 

Now Patsos is tasked with replacing three starters and 42 points per game from last year's squad. Fortunately, there is an abundance of talent returning and coming in, even if 10 of the players on the roster are sophomores and freshmen. The most difficult player to replace will be Gerald Brown, who led the MAAC in scoring at 22.2 points per game. 

Patsos always seems to find transfers who can score. Remember Andre Collins, the Maryland transfer who averaged 26.1 points per game? This season, that key transfer is sophomore Jamal Barney, out of Southwestern High School and Providence College. An explosive wing, Barney will fit well as a replacement for Brown. Junior Brett Harvey and sophomore Brian Rudolph comprise the rest of the backcourt. Harvey is the team's second-leading returning scorer at 8.2 points per game. 

Rudolph came on in the second half of the season to average 7.1 points per game and solidified the point guard position by dishing out 143 assists. Senior Marquis Sullivan will also play a big part in the backcourt, most likely off the bench. The smooth-shooting Sullivan averaged 12.2 points last season and is the school's all-time leader in three-pointers made. He shot a blistering 44 percent from beyond the arc last season.

Up front, the Greyhounds have a few more questions as they have to replace last season's top two rebounders, Michael Tuck and Omari Isreal. Junior Jawaan Wright will be a key factor to the team's success. Wright redshirted last year after playing sparingly his first two seasons. He should be able to contribute as a shot-blocker and rebounder. Sophomore Isaac Reid, a highly-regarded player out of Texas, is a solid rebounder who missed the second half of last season. Maryland transfer Shane Walker could have been a huge help in the middle this year, but is ineligible until next season.

Patsos has a large freshman contingent led by Anthony Wimbush from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., and high-scoring guard Jhared Hall from New Rochelle, N.Y.

Loyola's non-conference schedule features Boston College, N.C. State, Duke, Vermont and a road trip to UC-Davis.
Coach: Joe Logan 
Conference: Metro Atlantic Athletic 
Last Year: 13-17, 7-11 MAAC

Joe Logan returns three starters from a squad that finished tied for sixth in the MAAC last season. Unfortunately for Logan, he loses his top two scorers off a team that had issues putting the ball in the basket. Loyola averaged just 58.2 points per game and did not have a player average over double figures. 

Three key players will be missed this season. Averaging 9.1 points and six rebounds, forward Meghan Wood was a steady player while center Vika Sholokhova came off the bench to lead the team in rebounds. Tynisha Davis was a strong guard who averaged 7.2 points and shot 46 percent from the floor. 

For the Greyhounds to succeed this season they'll need their veteran guards to come through. Sophomore guard Candice Walker, named to the preseason All-MAAC second team, led the team in assists last year with 83 and led all freshmen in the conference in minutes played per game (32.7). 

Also returning is senior guard Siobhan Prior, who averaged 8.2 points last season and shot 32 percent from three-point range. Freshman guards Miriam McKenzie and Mallory Lawes could make impacts right away in the backcourt. Up front, Loyola returns junior Kaitlin Grant, who averaged 6.1 points and 4.4 rebounds. 

Loyola got a head start on most teams by touring Italy in August, going 3-1 in four games. The Greyhounds' non-conference scheduled is highlighted by road games against Maryland, George Washington, La Salle and South Florida.  
Coach: Todd Bozeman 
Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic 
Last Year: 22-11, 10-6 MEAC

The biggest story of Baltimore basketball last season wasn't about the two teams that went to the NCAA Tournament (UMBC and Coppin State). At least those schools have had success in the past in Division I. The Morgan State Bears, who are still looking for their first trip to the NCAA Tournament, went 22-11 last year and 14-2 in the MEAC, earning a trip to the NIT. An opening-round blowout loss at Virginia Tech couldn't put a damper on a tremendously successful season for Todd Bozeman, who turned the program around dramatically in his first two seasons. This year, Bozeman's squad will have to live with expectations as the Bears are selected to win the MEAC despite losing three starters. 

Bozeman has never had a problem obtaining talent, and this year is no different. The squad is led by senior Marquise Kately, the Cal transfer who is one of the most talented players in the MEAC. Kately, a first team preseason All-MEAC selection, averaged 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds last year. 

The Bears will have to replace guard Jamar Smith, who was injured late last season but was the team's top scorer. Junior guard Reggie Holmes is capable of stepping up. The Baltimore native who played at St. Frances High School averaged 12.9 points last season and shot 38.2 percent from three-point range.

Also returning is senior Jermaine Bolden, who averaged 5.4 points and 2.7 assists per game. Bolden should compete with freshman Desmond Thomas and Sean Thomas for the starting point guard spot.

The Bears add nine newcomers, including redshirt freshman Kevin Thompson out of Walbrook and juco big man Buford Foote from Pensacola Community College.  The Bears' non-conference schedule is highlighted by road games at La Salle, Ole Miss, DePaul and Maryland. Morgan will also compete in tournaments in Daytona Beach and in the St. Mary's Tournament in California.
Coach: Donald Beasley 
Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic 
Last Year: 19-12, 10-6 MEAC

Donald Beasley has Morgan State on the right track, winning 18 games in 2006-07 and 19 games last season. He is now getting respect from coaches around the league, who chose the Bears to finish third in the 11-team MEAC this season. 

One reason for optimism is the return of leading scorer Corin Adams. A preseason first team All-MEAC selection, the junior guard put up 16.6 points per game and 4.3 assists. She also led the league in steals with 123. 

Joining Adams in backcourt will be sophomore Brittany Dodson, who was third on last year's squad with 7.5 points per game. More potential help in the backcourt comes from UMBC transfer guard Stacy Hunt and sophomore Erin Hawkins, a transfer from Richmond. 

Up front, the Bears have to replace Britney Griffin, who led the team in rebounds and blocked shots. Sophomore Theresa Davis will have to step up her 6.4 points and 5.7 rebounds this season. Beasley adds some height with the additions of two 6-foot-3 freshmen in Allison Lester and Brittney Barber. 

Morgan State's non-conference schedule features games at VCU, and at the Marshall and UNC-Asheville Tournaments, along with home games vs. La Salle and American.  
Coach: Billy Lange 
Conference: Patriot League
Last Year: 16-14, 9-5 PL

Navy returns four starters from a 16-14 squad that finished just one game out of first place. Navy has been an afterthought in Patriot League play lately, but coach Billy Lange appears to have the Mids back on track and competing with the elite of the conference.

Navy will have to replace just one senior, but he was the leading scorer. Small forward Greg Sprink led the Mids and the league in scoring at 21.8 points and also averaged 6.3 rebounds.

Thankfully, senior guard Kaleo Kina and junior guard Chris Harris don't lack the ability to put the ball in the basket. Kina averaged 14 points last season, while shooting 39 percent from the field and 33 percent from beyond the arc. Haris led the team with 3.7 assists per game while averaging 14.5 points and shooting 43 percent from the field. The Mids also have strong shooters in seniors Clif Colbert and Adam Teague, a post player who can shoot from long range (39 percent from beyond the arc).

Up front, sophomore center Mark Veazey returns after starting 19 games as a freshman. He averaged just 3.7 points and 4.1 rebounds but led the team in blocks with 38. Sophomore wing Romeo Garcia started 26 of 28 games last season in Navy's four-guard attack.

The Mids added Idaho transfer O.J. Avworo, a sophomore point guard who averaged 3.6 points and 3.1 assists for the Vandals two seasons ago. The Mids lacked a true point guard last season and Avworo will allow Harris to return to his natural position of shooting guard.

The non-conference schedule features Penn, Virginia Tech, Canisius, William & Mary, Towson and Villanova on the road. 
Coach: Stefanie Pemper 
Conference: Patriot League
Last Year: 7-23, 3-11 PL

Stefanie Pemper takes over a program that was 19-40 over the last two seasons. The Mids haven't had a winning season since 2002-03 (16-12). Pemper had an outstanding record at Division III Bowdoin, going 235-48 while taking her team to the D-III NCAA Tournament eight straight times. 

Pemper inherits a team that struggled last season, going 3-11 in the Patriot League. The Mids return leading scorer in sophomore center Cassie Consedine, who was named to the preseason All-Patriot League team after an impressive freshman campaign in which she averaged 13.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and a team-high 72 blocks in 29 games. 

The young Mids will take the court with their top nine scorers from last season. Junior guard K.C. Gordon was second in scoring with 7.5 points and started nine of 30 games. Sophomore guard Angela Myers finished second in rebounds at 5.3. Myers, who had 104 assists last season, could run the show, or Pemper could lean toward senior Kalen Kropa, who dished out 108 assists to lead the team. The Mids will have to improve their shooting, as they shot just 36 percent from the field and 27.5 percent from three-point range.

The non-conference schedule features Dayton at home and Penn, Air Force, UMBC and Towson on the road. 
Coach: Pat Kennedy 
Conference: Colonial Athletic Association 
Last Year: 13-18, 7-11 CAA

Pat Kennedy enters his fifth season at Towson and for the first time has all his own recruits.

Returning for the Tigers is senior forward Junior Hairston, who was second on the team in scoring last year with 12 points and first in rebounds at 8.9 per game. Hairston had help last year up front from forward Tony Durant, the older brother of 2007-08 NBA Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant. Hairston and Durant were two of three players Kennedy suspended for violating team policy. Durant will sit out the season opener and Hairston will sit out the first three games. 

Colorado State transfer Jarrel Smith can play all three frontcourt positions. Another potential impact player up front is sophomore Robert Nwankwo, a walk-on from Parkdale High School who showed tremendous progress over the summer.

In the backcourt, Towson needs to replace wing Rodney Spruill, who played in just 10 games last year and ended up transferring during the summer. Towson brought in sophomore Richmond transfer David Brewster as a long-range threat. Another Richmond transfer, Brian Morris, who sat out last season, led the Spiders in three-pointers (44), assists (85) and steals (30) as a freshman. He'll start out as the point guard, replacing the speedy C.C. Williams, who led the Tigers in assists with 147 and had just 66 turnovers.

At shooting guard, junior Georgetown transfer Josh Thornton led the team in scoring last season at 13.2 points and made 43 percent of his three-point shots. Freshman point guard Troy Franklin, a speedster from Mount Carmel High School, should see time in the rotation.

Towson's non-conference schedule features St. Joseph's, Villanova, Lafayette, Bowling Green, N.C. State, UMBC and Niagara.
Coach: Joe Mathews 
Conference: Colonial Athletic Association 
Last Year: 22-10, 12-6 CAA

The Tigers reached several milestones last season in Joe Mathews' seventh season as coach, becoming the first Towson women's team to win more than 20 games and the first to reach the CAA semifinals. 

This year, the challenge for Mathews will be to replace leading scorer and top defender Holly Mahan, who averaged 13.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and led the team in steals with 88.

With Mahan gone, the Tigers will rely more on junior guard Shanae Baker-Brice to lead the way. Baker-Brice averaged 11.7 points and led the team in assists with 134. As a point guard, she must tone down the turnovers (126 in 32 games).

Sixth-year senior Alis Freeman has had numerous knee surgeries but, while limited athletically, she is the team's leader and smartest player. Freeman averaged 6.1 points and was second on the team in assists last year with 116.

With Freeman expected to be limited early, Towson will need sophomore guards Simona Petronyte and Meredith Kennedy to step up. Each could start. Mathews will look to Omara Parker, who appeared in 24 games last year, averaging 2.8 points, to be a major contributor on offense with Mahan and Jamell Beasley having graduated from the wing positions.

While the Tigers lost their top scorer, they gained a player that defenses will have to focus on in 6-foot-3 transfer Katrina Wheeler. The shot blocker from Georgetown averaged 8.1 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Hoyas in her sophomore season. Wheeler's presence will allow last year's leading rebounder, Kandace Davis, to play her more natural position of power forward.

Towson's non-conference schedule features Davidson and Duquesne at home with Richmond, UMBC and Bucknell.  


Coach: Randy Monroe 
Conference: America East 
Last Year: 24-9, 13-3 AE

Randy Monroe does not want his Retrievers to be a one-hit wonder. He didn't put in four years as a head coach and 14 as part of the UMBC basketball program to have one great season. The Retrievers won a school-record 24 games, captured the America East Conference regular season and tournament titles and competed in the school's first Division I NCAA Tournament.

This year, the Retrievers have to replace three key seniors -- leading scorer Ray Barbosa, third-leading scorer Brian Hodges and second-leading rebounder and leading shot blocker Cavell Johnson. Johnson and Barbosa, transfers from James Madison, played just one season but helped deliver that elusive America East title. Fortunately, another former transfer, senior forward Darryl Proctor, is back to grab loose balls and overpower taller players. 

The Retrievers also return point guard Jay Greene, who had his best season as a junior, averaging 8.8 points with 226 assists and only 68 turnovers. The America East Tournament Most Outstanding Player was the lone player to be ranked in the Top 5 in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (second, 3.47) and assists per game (fourth, 7.2 per game). 

Junior guard Matt Spadafora was a dynamite player off the bench last season, averaging 5.9 points while playing great defense from the wing. With more minutes, he should be a double-digit scorer. In the backcourt, sophomore guards Frank McKnight and Rodney Adkins will see more action after sitting behind two seniors and Greene last season. 

In the frontcourt, junior center Justin Fry will be counted on to score and rebound more after averaging 3.9 points and 2.6 rebounds last year. Sophomore forward Rich Flemming, redshirt freshman Marcos Tamares and freshman Jake Wasco will compete for minutes up front. Another freshman who could make an impact as a wing is Chauncey Gilliam, who played for prep powerhouse Brewster (N.H.) Academy last year.

The Retrievers' non-conference slate includes George Washington, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Nebraska on the road. They'll also face Morgan State and Towson. 

Coach: Phil Stern 
Conference: America East 
Last Year: 9-21, 5-11 AE

UMBC returns three starters from a 9-21 team that was just a year removed from winning the America East Tournament. Expectations are fairly high this season as the Retrievers were selected fifth out of nine teams in the Preseason America East poll.

Part of that optimism is due to the return of junior guard Carlee Cassidy, who led the team last year in scoring, averaging 17 points while shooting 33 percent from beyond the arc. The Princeton-style offense characteristically allows for three-point shots -- UMBC made 223 of 660 last season -- but the Retrievers also had issues with turnovers (479 in 30 games) and will have to limit that statistic. 

In addition to Cassidy, the Retrievers return senior guard Chantay Frazier, the team's third-leading scorer a year ago at 10.8 points per game, as well as 2008 America East All-Rookie Team selection Meghan Colabella. She averaged 10.4 points and shot 54.5 percent over the final seven games of the season.

The Retrievers need to replace guards Kristin Drabyn and Morgan Hatten. Phil Stern has brought in eight newcomers, including one junior college transfer in sophomore forward Tanishea Mack. Up front, the Retrievers need to replace senior Amanda Robinson at center. The Retrievers do add some height as they bring in freshman Tope' Obajolu, an All-Conference selection at Archbishop Carroll, and freshman Iman Kennedy, out of Charlotte, N.C. 

The Retrievers' non-conference slate includes road games against George Washington and James Madison, along with participation in the Seton Hall Basketball Classic, the Iona Thanksgiving Classic and the University of Virginia Marriott Cavalier Classic. 

Issue 131: November 2008