The Towson University men's basketball team recorded its second straight 20-win season this year.
With a 19-12 overall record and 11-7 mark in conference play, Towson earned the No. 3 seed in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. After an impressive 82-54 tournament win against Northeastern March 4, the Tigers' season came to an end with a 67-59 loss to College of Charleston in the CAA semifinal March 5.
Still, head coach Pat Skerry is pleased with his team's steady progress.
"At our level, winning 20 is never something to take lightly," Skerry said. "The ultimate goal is obviously the NCAA Tournament. I know our program is relevant; we've got the most wins in the [CAA] over the last five years, which is not anything to shake a stick at, especially based off where we were."
While the future looks promising for Towson, which will return 11 players from the 2016-17 roster, the program will lose two of its top scorers and rebound leaders in senior forwards John Davis and Arnaud William Adala Moto.
"Both of those guys bring such physicality," Skerry said. "Great rebounders and an ability to get to the foul line -- those two things will be missed. And just high-character leaders. We're very appreciative of that.”
Adala Moto transferred to Towson from Wake Forest in 2014. After sitting out the 2014-15 season due to NCAA transfer rules, the 6-foot-6 forward started 62 of his 65 games as a Tiger, averaging 13.5 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Davis has been a regular contributor during his four years at Towson. He had a breakout year as a sophomore in 2014-15, averaging 11.8 points per game even though he only started four out of 32 games played. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound forward has been one of Towson's most physical and versatile players, averaging 11.3 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game during his final three seasons.
Unfortunately, Davis' senior year was cut short after he was shot in the knee Feb. 11 in Philadelphia, his hometown. Skerry said it's hard to tell how the team's season would have ended if Davis had not been sidelined.
"There will be an asterisk as to what would've happened if John played," Skerry said. "The way I look at it, we were 3-3 in the last six games, in which we pretty much hammered teams and we lost in wars, but we were right there.
"He's such a high-character worker, great teammate, incredibly unselfish and he epitomizes Towson toughness."
Despite losing the duo, Towson will return 11 letter-winners, including a talented junior class that boasts three of the Tigers' top five scorers this year.
Leading the pack is guard Mike Morsell, who averaged 13.4 points per game, 27.2 minutes per game and also led the team in 3-point shooting, hitting 48-of-144 attempts. Joining him are transfer guards Desean Morman and Brian Starr, who contributed 9.9 and 6.0 points per game, respectively.
"Mike's been a very good player for us. He's our most gifted guy," Skerry said. "We've got a really good [rising] senior class. Desean Morman has been really good for us. Eddie Keith -- I think [Morman] and Eddie are our best leaders. Brian Starr had a really good year. Traditionally for us, junior college guys make a really big jump between their first and second year. It's a really good group."
With a young team returning, Skerry hopes to get over the hump and win the CAA Tournament to earn a coveted NCAA Tournament automatic bid.
"I think, on our part, we have to continue to do what we do -- keep growing guys," Skerry said. "I think our player development played a big part. We have to stay aggressive. We have to be a tough out in tournament play. The No. 3 team in three of the last four years, I think that's pretty exciting. We just have to keep investing in the program, stay up there with the Charlestons and Wilmingtons of the world. But make no mistake about it, we're a long, long way away from being the 351st team in the country. We need to appreciate and understand what that's taken. We're close; the goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament. That's why I came here. That's what the plan is."
Issue 231: March 2017