"THE NEW U" UMES MEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM READY FOR 2013-14 SEASON
Nov. 6, 2013
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - The "NEW U" University of Maryland Eastern Shore men's basketball team is only a few days away from its season opener at Columbia University of Saturday, Nov. 9. The team features both a blend of solid returners and promising newcomers, with a handful of versatile guards that can play with opponents of larger stature. The Hawks are brimming with athletic ability and have put together a solid out of conference schedule to get them ready for Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play.
"We have a solid nucleus this year," said Head Coach Frankie Allen. "We are very versatile and have several guys that can play multiple positions. There is a good combination of returners and an infusion of new blood. We are much more skilled this year and our scoring will be much improved."
Let's take a look at this year's squad:
UMES will look to its backcourt to lead the way. The team has eight student-athlete guards on the roster and will play many three guard sets this year. Depending on the matchup, the Hawks will run out the necessary amount of guards to counter the attack of their opponents. The group dominates nearly 75-percent of the roster and Head Coach Frankie Allen will have a large selection to choose from.
"I think our guards are going to be special," said Allen. "We have a healthy Kyree and two newcomers that I am really excited about in Hakeem (Baxter) and Isaac (Smith). We are going to be playing a lot of three guard sets this year."
Baxter is a versatile 6'1 guard with the ability to score, rebound and pass. Courtesy of a phenomenal prep career and solid 2013 preseason, he was named the MEAC Preseason Newcomer of the Year by Lindy's Sports. The Philly native spent four seasons with P.E.T. Charter and averaged 22.6 points-per-game in the Public League. He was named to the All-Public League First Team as a senior and scored 1,000 points in his career. He stands as the all-time leading scorer in school history.
Joining Baxter in the frontcourt is Jones, who is UMES' top returning scorer from a year ago. He led the team in scoring in five of the first eight games of 2012, including a season-high 28 points against Houston Baptist in the Hawks' second game of the year. His 13.6 ppg average and 87-percent clip from the free throw line (39-of-45) helped him attain College Hoops Daily First Half All-Conference Team laurels. His scoring ability should pay dividends for a Hawk squad that averaged just 54 ppg last year.
Junior transfer Isaac Smith III (Chicago, Ill.) enters his first year at UMES after transferring from Lee College (Tex.). He brings an interesting dynamic to the Hawks as he has the ability to shoot from the perimeter, penetrate the middle and drop the ball in the post. UMES also will be looking at junior Ishaq Pitt (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and junior Devon Walker (Philadelphia, Pa.) to compete for starting spots in the front court.
Pitt appeared in all 28 games for the Hawks a year ago, averaging 5.8 ppg and 3.7 rbp with a 39-percent clip from the field. He has been known for his hot hand early in the season and that was true after he dropped 15 points on Hawaii in UMES' season opener in 2012. Walker is a left-handed transfer from Globe Tech and is another recruit of Assistant Coach Marlon Terry. He was an All-Region Second Team last season and was NJCAA Division I Basketball Player of the Week last February.
UMES returns three of its big men from last year's squad. With UMES having to play smaller at times, the positions in the paint will be important to the Hawks' success. There are five student-athletes listed as forwards or centers, with one transfer and one freshman looking to make a splash.
"Francis has improved a lot since last season," said Allen. "He has a great presence this year and he has much more confidence. He is healthy and now gives us legitimate size in the low post. I like what I have seen in Iman (Johnson) and Shane (Randall) and they will play valuable roles. Pina (Guillaume) will also be returning soon and that will an important addition."
Ezeiru begins his second season with the Hawks after spending his freshman and sophomore campaigns at Monroe Community College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The 6'10 center made the most of his opportunity with the Hawks last season as he started in 11 of the 13 games he played in, averaging 3.7 ppg and 5.8 rbp. He has showcased a physical presence in the paint this preseason with the ability to go get the ball and control the rebounding game.
Snyder has collected two preseason laurels already this season in MEAC All-Conference Third Team and College Sports Madness All-MEAC Second Team. He played several different positions for UMES a year ago and provides a versatility that the Hawks will need this year. He was second on the team with an average of 11.9 ppg and started in 27 games a year ago. The UW-Green Bay transfer ripped down 6.8 rbp (183 total) and shot 36-percent from the floor.
Johnson is an Eastern Oklahoma State transfer and averaged 5.4 ppg in 15 games with the Mountaineers. He had three games with double-digit points. The 6'5 forward has dazzled fans this preseason with his offensive prowess and has showcased his athletic ability with several impressive dunks. Randall comes from Rise Academy in Philly and averaged 15 ppg as senior.
Senior Pina Guillaume rounds out the group but is currently out with a leg injury. He will miss the first few games for the Hawks this season, but once healthy, Guillaume's 6-9 presence will be a welcome addition.
The "NEW-U" Hawks are full of versatility and athletic ability. A significant improvement from last year is expected as several players have returned from key injuries that contributed to last season's struggles. A mixture of transfers and freshman recruits will be also be valuable to the Hawks success this year.
The frontcourt will guide the team and the Hawks will have to rely on Baxter and Jones to lead the way. With such depth at the guard position, the big men in the paint will need to hold their own on the glass to keep UMES in games. There are many options for Allen to go with at each position and that should prove its worth, especially late in the season.
For complete recaps, results and news of Hawk athletics, please visit www.umeshawks.com