The Towson men's basketball team will take on a new look next season with the addition of six players to its roster.
Towson coach Pat Kennedy spoke with Recruiting Report recently about the Tigers' new additions.
Talk about the two new guys you're bringing in, and the four redshirted players that will be eligible this year.
I'd term this the most important recruiting class since I've been here, obviously because it is year four and we need to turn a corner, but most importantly because of the quality of guys. We've upgraded the quality of our team.
We're going to have two freshmen, one of which is Troy Franklin, the 5'11 point guard out of Mount Carmel, the hometown product who had a terrific senior year. He was one of those kids that we think is going to have a terrific four-year career. He visited St. Bonaventure, Central Florida and ourselves, so the significance of that is competing against the Atlantic 10 and Conference USA. So he was probably one of our best and highest ranked recruits.
The other player for the freshman class will be Ricardo Brown, who's really a recruit from a year ago, but he sat out to bolster his academics. Ricardo is 6'5, a powerful, powerful guy. Those two guys will be our freshman class.
We'll have three sophomore transfers who we think will have ... a very strong impact right away. These are guys we recruited, but really weren't able to get when we first recruited them. We got them on the second go around.
Brian Morris is a 6'6 point guard out of the University of Richmond. He played the most minutes [on the team] his freshman year at Richmond, and we see him as a very important recruit. He can play any position. He's got 3 years to play. When you have a freshman and sophomore backcourt like Troy Franklin and Brian Morris, it's pretty neat.
The next two youngest [newcomers] are Jarrel Smith, a 6'7 youngster from Los Angeles that transferred from Colorado State. He's going to be a major impact player in our conference, maybe like a Junior Hairston-type impact. His twin brother, Jimmy Smith, is 6'5 and he can play the 1, 2 or 3. Both will be sophomores.
And then we recruited Calvin Lee, a 6'8 youngster from the famed Allegany Community College. They didn't have a great year, but they've got great tradition going back to Stevie Francis. But we're really excited about Calvin. He's a prototypical forward, can play inside and out. He's really still developing, but he posted really good numbers -- 18 points and eight or nine rebounds.
So those are the six new players for us. So it's undoubtedly our largest recruiting class. Quite frankly, there was so little to sell at Towson [when I first started here]. We had no one coming to the games, no radio, no television. We were really short on things to sell, but we were really fortunate to get Gary Neal and Dennard Abraham, then Josh Thornton, Junior Hairston. But we think these new six guys collectively will start taking us to the level where we need to be. I'm very excited about it and they're a great bunch of kids.
What do you expect from Franklin in his freshman year?
I really am excited about Troy. I've had a lot of outstanding four-year guards that have had a lot of wins. Troy's as quick as any player I've ever coached -- I put him in the same category as Charlie Ward at Florida State and Rashon Burno at DePaul. He's quick as a cat. He's a game-changer, a jet with the ball in his hands. He makes good decisions, so we expect a major impact from him right away. He'll be in the rotation, there's no doubt about that.
How important is it to land a Baltimore product like Franklin?
There's no question [it's important]. We've gotten some really good Baltimore, local players that we're really excited about. People say we've got a few here and a few there. Now we're seeing it consistently. Troy will be a Towson graduate in four years, and then he can tell another [Baltimore] point guard four years from now, 'I picked Towson, stayed home and had a great career.'
What does Lee bring to the table? What do you expect from him?
The nice thing here is the fact that he went to a junior college in Maryland -- a great community college program with great tradition. And he's a local youngster out of the state of Virginia. ... [But Calvin] is 6'8 and still developing. We've got to put some beef on him, but he's tremendously athletic, can rebound, block shots and he's also a very good mid-range scorer and shooter. We expect him to be a key contributor his first year.
Who was your main competition for Lee?
For him there was a lot [of competition] because a lot of the time with those kids, they're signing late. We convinced him to sign early. But he had Duquesne, Wichita State, South Carolina [recruiting him]. Those three and LaSalle -- those are the ones that stand out, but there were a lot of schools sniffing around. He had a good, solid core early on and we just recruited the heck out of him to sign early and [have him] concentrate on his academics [in junior college], which he did.
How did you convince the Smith twins to leave the West Coast for Towson?
They were not necessarily recruited like Brian and Ricardo. These two guys came by way of my own background. Jimmy and Jarrel's father, Jimmy Smith Sr., who's a great guy -- he writes a lot of commercials, he's a writer -- he's a very close friend of George McCloud. [McCloud] played for me at Florida State and played in the NBA. He, of course, was not involved in the recruiting process, but he turned me on to the fact that the two kids were leaving Colorado State. The longer you do this, the longer you get those kinds of referrals. And of course you do your homework and call and check on these kids, which we did.
They went around and visited a bunch of places [after leaving Colorado State]. Oregon, Oregon State, Southern Cal. My point with Jimmy and Jarrel is that they visited a lot of different schools on their own dime. But I think the big key on them was their father wanted them to be very comfortable because they had such a bad experience at Colorado State, and I think knowing the mutual friendship was a more personal thing.
Who did you beat out for Brown and how has he progressed during his first year at Towson?
Ricardo really would have to be ranked as one of our top recruits since we've been here. He worked on his academics and did really solid work. Coming out of high school, he was a top five player, I thought, in the state of Pennsylvania. He's strong as an ox and can play inside-out for us. The schools hot on him were LaSalle, Drexel and I want to say VCU. He was actually eligible by NCAA standards, but we sat him out for a year to get much stronger academically. [We'll sit a kid out a year] if it makes more sense to concentrate on academics, as long as other people in the family support it, and in our case it worked out very well. The great thing about Ricardo is that he's a year older and a year stronger. He's a big-time athlete. You'll see him. He's still very raw -- he almost looks like a middle linebacker. He's a high-level Division I athlete.
How did you land Morris the second time around?
Well Brian was my top recruit when he was coming out of high school. I loved Brian Morris. He visited West Virginia, LaSalle, Towson and Richmond. Those were his four visits. That unto itself tells you the level of player he is. ... If you do a good job of recruiting a youngster and they feel they were treated properly, if all of a sudden it doesn't work out at the other school -- I always believe not to burn bridges. So it just didn't work out at Richmond, and he played the most minutes on the team as a freshman, and I think he might've led the team in 3-pointers. But they ran that Princeton offensive system, and he's really a 6'6 lead guard and more of an up-tempo style suits him well.
Has your progress on the court made recruiting easier? Have you seen a big difference on the recruiting trail in your four years?
I think it's a collective progress. When I got here the youngsters knew my background. They were a little curious on why Coach Kennedy comes to Towson. Then they see our program, then all of sudden we're on WBAL and now we're building a new arena. Gary Neal is over in Europe doing really great, and so is Dennard Abraham. We didn't have a bunch of knock-your-socks off results, but kids could see legitimate improvements and positives in our program. And we recruited hard. Troy Franklin, every time he played, we were there. Central Florida wanted him bad as their lead guard. So I think it's a collective progress. Just the whole thing at Towson has been so exciting. But know we've got to make some major steps. And I think these guys will make a difference.
Sun photo of Pat Kennedy by Glenn Fawcett