Thomas said he plans to recruit Baltimore more than UMBC has in the past. In terms of style of play, the Retrievers will be a bit different than they were under Monroe.

"I'm not really a run-and-gun guy, but I definitely like to score in transition when we can," Thomas said. "I think we can rebound, and when you rebound you can run a little bit. ... Those will be the major changes."

-- Matt Bracken


Losing two starters to broken hands in the same game last season was a low point for UMES, which finished 9-22 on the year.

This season the Hawks, who were picked to finish 10th in preseason polls, are healthy and equipped to surprise a few teams in the MEAC.

"We really feel like we had a solid recruiting class," said UMES coach Frankie Allen. "We brought in some fresh blood."

It's a class sorely needed after UMES lost its top scorer from a season ago in Hillary Haley and five players overall. The loss of Haley, who graduated, especially hurt the Hawks after they struggled to score last season (59 points per game).

"We really felt we had to do better than that," Allen said. "Especially in the MEAC."

Allen added a scoring point guard in junior college transfer Kyree Jones and some serious length in 6-10 center Francis Ezeiru from Nigeria.

But the biggest impact on offense could come from Prince George's Community College transfer Donald Williams. Allen described the 6-4 guard as someone who can "ignite off the bench."

In the team's exhibition match against Salisbury, Williams came of the bench and led the Hawks offense with 18 points in helping them to a 76-66 win.

The Hawks return guards Louis Bell and Ishaq Pitt, the starters who broke their hands against Howard on Jan. 29, 2011. Allen is also excited about the health of junior Ron Spencer, a power forward who was second on the team in rebounding with 7.7 per game last year.

UMES will open its season in Honolulu, taking on Hawaii before facing the likes of Houston Baptist and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. But after the games in Hawaii, the schedule turns to anything but paradise.

The Hawks face a grueling non-conference slate. During December the Hawks will play Maryland, Cincinnati, Connecticut and Ohio in four consecutive games. But despite the daunting schedule, Allen is looking at the bigger picture.

"If we can go in and match their toughness and physicality it's going to prepare us for MEAC play," Allen said.

-- Chris Trevino