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Bozeman talks Morgan State's 2008 recruiting class

Todd Bozeman has a lot returning from Morgan State's 2007-08 team.

But he's also adding several talented newcomers to the Bears -- the reigning regular-season MEAC champions.

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Pensacola (Fla.) Junior College center Buford Foote, Hagerstown Community College forward John Long, Northeastern (Colo.) Junior College guard Troy Smith and Gwynn Park guard Sean Thomas are the new additions to MSU's roster. Philadelphia forward Ameer Ali, former Walbrook center Kevin Thompson and ex-St. Frances point guard Desmond Thomas all redshirted for Morgan last season and will be eligible this fall.

Bozeman spoke with Recruiting Report recently about the Bears' 2008 recruiting class.

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Bozeman talks Morgan State's 2008 recruiting class

Give us an overview of your class of newcomers.

Well there's only one freshman that we actually signed, the rest are junior college players. The freshman is Sean Thomas. He's a guard. I think he can play both spots but he's really a point guard. He's a tough, physical player, aggressive. I think that he is, physically, probably more prepared as a freshman just because he's physically strong and I think he'll bring a lot to the program. He comes from a good basketball program. He's been well coached. He's [a Washington Post] All-Met player and I think he's the first All-Met from the D.C. area to attend Morgan since probably Garcia Hopkins back in the 70s, so I'm sure it was the first one since then. ... But to get an All-Met player was significant for us, not that I recruited him because he was All-Met. But I'm excited for Sean to be a part of the program.

The junior college guys, one is Buford Foote from Pensacola Junior College. At 6'10", he gives us a shot-blocking [presence] and rebounder, especially losing Boubacar [Coly]. Having some size will be important. We can't replace Boo, but he'll bring a lot to us in terms of experience. Being a junior college player, he's already played against talent. He probably comes from one of the best JUCO leagues in the country down in the Panhandle. He's from Atlanta, Georgia. His length will be a big asset to us and he can shoot the jumper from the elbow and from the free-throw line.

The other one is John Long. John is probably the best athlete we have on the team. He's 6'7", really long arms and a really strong athlete. He was second in the country in rebounding [in] junior college, so again, that was important for us to try to replace the rebounding that Boubacar gave us. Boubacar was in the top ten in the country, but collectively by committee, that's how we'll try to replace that. But John is a rebounder and defender and that's what he'll bring to the table.

Troy Smith, he's a wing player that can score in transition. He can defend anyone, really. He comes from Northeastern Junior College in Colorado, but he's from Baltimore and came back home. Baltimore players have a certain grittiness that he certainly has, so it's been a big part of what we've been able to do, what we've built these last two years. But he can really finish in transition.

And I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to coach the other incoming guys. Those guys were already there. Desmond Thomas was the first high school player who signed after my first year. He was at St. Frances for high school and sat out last year as a non-qualifier. He's a real steady point guard, a real heady point guard. He has a lot of poise for a young player. And the other kid, Kevin Thompson, was a highly-touted 6'8" forward from Walbrook. He redshirted last year only because he didn't get through the [NCAA] Clearinghouse until halfway through the season, so we decided not to play him even though he would've been a big help to us. He's a very efficient low-post scorer. He will hopefully help fill the void of Boubacar in terms of scoring in the low post. And Ameer Ali is a tough, rugged wing player who also sat out last year. He'll bring a certain amount of toughness and high basketball IQ. So I feel good about the class. [Thomas, Thompson and Ali] weren't actually in the class, but they're newcomers just the same.

Has it been a strategy of yours to target junior college players?

Well when we first got out there that was a strategy because I didn't want to just rely on high school players because I knew that in order to build a program, we had to have some guys who had some experience playing and would physically be more mature. And that's the reason why the junior college guys were the ones of choice. But you do want to bring in some high school kids because you want to continue building the program. For high school players, it normally takes them a while because they need to understand how hard you have to play. Junior college guys, they're used to maybe playing against one player that's very good or a couple games before they come upon a really good player or team. High school guys, it's almost the same thing. When you get to college basketball, you have to bring it every day in practice and games. So it's not necessarily a strategy, but when you're looking for maturity, a lot of times you have to go the junior college route.

Smith is a Douglass High School grad, but he played his junior-college ball in Colorado. How did he end up there?

It's a ways away, but he's very close to Carmelo Anthony so that's why he ended up there. That was by his choice, so we didn't have anything to do with that. We recruited him out of high school, but he wasn't a qualifier, so that's why he went to junior college. So he chose that junior college, but he's friends with Carmelo, and his brother might be one of Carmelo's best friends. There's not a story behind it, but he did very well.

How important is it for you to keep local talent at home?

Well I just think that anytime you're in an area that produces an abundance of talent, you want to keep as many home as possible. We're definitely not unique to that approach. Baltimore always has had a tremendous amount of talent. You just think of Juan Dixon ... Donte Greene, Malcolm Delaney at Virginia Tech, Carmelo Anthony, as I said. The [David] Wingates, Reggie Williams, Muggsy Bogues, Reggie Lewis. There's always a ton of players in Baltimore. Just to have those kinds of players around, it only makes sense [to recruit the area]. You don't have to go that far to get good players. That was the focus when I got here, so fortunately [we've been able] to keep some of the guys home.

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Will your JUCO recruits be ready to play immediately?

That remains to be seen because for most junior college players, it takes a minute to get adjusted. Even Jamar Smith, who was the [MEAC] Player of the Year, it took him time to get adjusted. But that doesn't mean these guys can't have an impact. I don't predict -- you just don't know because it matters how soon they have to adjust to the consistent level of play that you have to get ready for in Division I, even in practice within your own team.

Do you expect any of the newcomers to make an immediate impact? Which guys are you counting on this year?

Not necessarily for the newcomers, but Marquise Kately will be one of the top players in the league. He was an all-league player last year. He has a very high basketball IQ. He'll dictate a lot of what happens with us this year, as will Reggie Holmes, who could end up being the leading scorer in the history of the school because he's been in double figures every year. Kevin Thompson in the post and Jermaine Bolden [at point guard], those guys will probably play significant roles, but everybody will play a part because we'll be a deeper team than we were last year. We were eight deep last year, but [this year] we'll probably have 10 or 11 guys that will possibly play every game.

What was the timeline for your recruits in terms of when they signed?

Buford Foote was the first guy this year. He was an early signing-period guy. The rest of the guys were late signing period. Sean Thomas went all the way down to the end of the season. He probably was the last guy.

Has your recent success made recruiting easier?

I don't know if recruiting is ever easy, so I would never say that. But in terms of the program, I think the fact that we've been invited to participate in the Bracket Buster, the first MEAC team ever to do that ... I think that speaks volumes to what the guys we had last year [accomplished], and even the year before that with the foundation they were able to lay. ... It's definitely a sign of growth at going in the right direction for the program. I think that just adds to the bricks being laid to build the program.

Baltimore Sun photo of Todd Bozeman by David Hobby / Nov. 25, 2006

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