Q&A with Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman

Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman will have a lot of new players to work with during the 2010-11 season.

Reggie Holmes, the Bears’ career scoring leader, has exhausted his eligibility, along with versatile wing Troy Smith and reserve big men Buford Foote and John Long.

Point guard Danny Smith, meanwhile, is still in school but not on the roster. And sources say guards Sean Thomas and Joe Davis are also off the team. Thomas and Davis are reportedly facing a situation similar to that of former UNLV forward Matt Shaw.

Despite those departures, Bozeman has a talented group of veterans returning in addition to a promising group of newcomers. Morgan State has three scholarship freshmen on its roster in Justin Black, a 6-foot-2 combo guard from DeMatha, Ian Chiles, a 7-foot-1, 265-pound center from Paterson (N.J.) Catholic and Jake Lockhart, a 6-foot-3 wing from St. Andrews School in Boca Raton, Fla. Justin Jackson, a 6-foot, 175-pound freshman point guard from Digital Harbor, has joined the team as a walk-on.

Bozeman has also added three juniors to Morgan’s roster: Tola Lawal, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard from Erie (N.Y.) Community College, Larry Bastfield, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound point guard who graduated from Towson Catholic in 2008 and spent the past two years starting for Toledo, and Aric Brooks, a 6-foot-7 small forward who graduated from St. Frances in 2007, began his college career at Jacksonville (Fla.) and redshirted for the Bears last season after his transfer.

Bozeman spoke to Recruiting Report last week about Morgan’s new additions.What kind of player is Justin Black and what do you expect from him?

DeMatha High School is probably one of the premier high school programs in the country. If you can get a young man that’s not only from a program like that, but when you can get kids that are from high-profile programs with great coaching, they’re just used to the expectation of hard work and the sacrifices and the intangibles it takes to win. Guys that are used to winning and used to what goes into winning, that always helps. So he’s a very talented player and can really score the ball. He’s a strong guard.

Is he a guy you’re counting on this season?

I would never say that. You’ve never heard us talking about freshmen as guys you count on. Now, he’s going to contribute. How much, I’m not sure. But we have enough returning guys where we don’t have to put that pressure on a freshman.

Ian Chiles is a guy who has been on campus for a year. Talk about what you’ve seen from him.

He was a non-qualifier. We started recruiting him [after we] got his name from someone in New Jersey. I sent an assistant coach up to see him. He had some potential, he could run and catch and block shots. That’s what you kind of look for with guys that size. Then we just gave him an opportunity. He played with the Playaz, one of the most prestigious AAU programs in the country. He played against top players every year. So he’s going to be a tremendous asset to our program. With his size and length, he’ll cause some problems for some teams. He’ll have that adjustment as a freshman. But like we said, we’re trying not to put pressure on freshmen with what they bring to the table. He’s going to contribute, but how much, I’m not really sure. But he’ll help us with rebounding and defense.

Talk about Lockhart’s journey to Morgan and his game.

Jake’s originally from London. He spent two years at Country Day High School in Detroit, then two years in Boca Raton (Fla.). An AAU coach called me about him. We came through and saw him. He’s a very active player and can shoot the ball. And we’ve always had a guy around that size that can play multiple positions at the guard. He kind of fits that mold. He’s like a Rogers Barnes, a guy that can guard different players. As a freshman, he’ll contribute, but how much is to be determined. But he can shoot the ball. He’s got a nice stroke and is very, very active.

Lawal has had some success, so what do you see him doing in his first year at Morgan?

He’s a junior college transfer. He was an All-American at Erie Community College, originally from Brooklyn. His parents are Nigerian and he can really score the basketball. He’s a combo guard and he can really score the ball. He’s a junior college transfer, so he has two years of college basketball under his belt. And we’re looking for him to kind of bring what Joe Davis brought to us, which is scoring and being able to play the point guard as well.

Of the newcomers, which do you really see making an immediate impact?

Well I think Aric Brooks, he’s basically a newcomer, and I think all those guys have something to bring to the table. And you don’t just replace Reggie Holmes. But that’s just how it goes in college. You have guys that leave and graduate. Some guys have kind of waited their turn, and now they have the opportunity to step up.

You’ve lost talented guys before, but talk about making up for the production lost by losing Holmes and Troy Smith.

We like to think we’ve built a program. So that’s kind of what happens. I remember the year we lost my star point guard, Jerrell Green, Boubacar Coly, the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, and Jamar Smith, our leading scorer. [So we thought], how are you going to replace Boubacar’s defense, and how are you going to replace Jerrell as the starting point guard, and who’s going to replace Jamar Smith, who led the conference in scoring? And up steps Rogers Barnes, Itchy Bolden and Marquise Kately. And Itchy was pretty much the heart and soul of our team. Marquise and Reggie made the all-conference team.

Then guys stepped up again last year, like Kevin Thompson. Reggie Holmes took on an even stronger role, then we had the emergence of a freshman in DeWayne Jackson. So we lose Reggie and Troy Smith, but that’s an opportunity for DeWayne Jackson to take on a bigger role. Aric Brooks will play a big role. Rodney Stokes is a senior, Gene Johnson is a senior. It’s just another opportunity for guys to step up and make their mark. Ameer Ali is back, so we have some veterans that have some experience under their belt.

I always say that when you can get a guy that has NCAA tournament experience, once they go, they just want it all the time. They drink from that cup, and you have that kind of motivation. We’ve been fortunate enough to have some guys experience that. Rodney Stokes has played in three postseason tournaments since he’s been here. Same with Gene Johnson. And Kevin’s been here two years, going into his third season. He’s played in two NCAA tournaments.

There’s a void at point guard with some of the departures you’ve faced. Who do you see stepping in there?

Well, that’s to be determined. Guys will have an opportunity, so it could be anyone. We do have another new guy in Larry Bastfield, a transfer from Toledo. Between Larry, who started two years at Toledo, Justin Jackson, Justin Black and Tola, it could be any one of those guys.

Will Bastfield be eligible to play this season?

We’ll know whether he gets the waiver in another week or so. Sometimes you can get a waiver to play right away.

If Bastfield gets the waiver, what do you expect from him?

Well, I just see someone who’s a pure point guard. The point guards we’ve had here have statistically done very well in the league. And so I don’t think he’ll be anything different. He doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s just used to running the show, and that’s what we need. When you have guys around you that can score, you need someone to be the general. Both Justins will have an opportunity to compete, so it’ll be an open spot with guys that have to compete, for sure.

Brooks fared very well at the Baltimore Summer League at Loyola. Are you looking for him to fill some of that scoring void?

Aric definitely can score. He has a great mid-range game, he has high basketball IQ and I expect Aric Brooks to make an immediate impact. He’s a guy at 6-7 who can rebound. He’s similar to Marquise Kately and what Marquise brought to us. He brought us a very versatile player who played the point against Maryland, played the 2, the 3, and the 4. He can play any of those positions and cause matchup problems. Aric Brooks is very similar.

How big was it for you to get a player of Justin Jackson’s caliber as a walk-on?

Well, it’s big. If I had one to give him, I would give him one. We just don’t have it. So it is big. It’s big to have a player with that kind of ability and that kind of experience. He’s a tough kid that’s got a lot of swagger. He can score when he wants to. This is a different level, but I think that he’s ready for the challenge.

You’re coming off two straight NCAA tournament appearances and three MEAC regular-season championships, but you’re obviously losing one of the greatest players in Morgan history and some other rotation guys. So what are your expectations for this season?

I never make predictions. I just want to continue to take that next step. That’s all I want to do, just take that next positive step. I want us to be prepared, want us to play hard. Those are the things that I always want. Whatever comes from that, it’s to be determined. We want to keep producing quality teams and being a quality program. I want to continue to build the program. When you have a quality program, you’re able to sustain losses of significant players.

AP photo of Todd Bozeman / March 18, 2010

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