After taking his team from 3-25 to 12-15 in his first year as coach at Maryland-Eastern Shore, some might think that Rob Chavez has just about completed his resurrection of the Hawks' basketball program.
Chavez, though, thinks he has just knocked on the door of respectability and doesn't even have a foot inside. That's what he's hoping for this year.
"We're still trying to play consistent every night," he said. "Develop the things we stand for to help us in recruiting. We have to break down some barriers here locally and with high school coaches. We've got to establish ourselves as a program kids want to be associated with and people in general and on the Eastern Shore in terms of supporting us. I feel we're on the right track. It takes time and patience."
And players. Since the Hawks' program hasn't reached the level credibility Chavez would like, he has recruited where he could. "We couldn't get in on a lot of the high school kids we felt could help our program," he said. So the former West Coast junior college coach, partly from necessity and partly by design, brought in five junior college transfers this year.
But one recruit who won't appear on campus until next year may be the most significant: Dunbar's 6-foot-8 Alexander Mobley signed with the Hawks earlier this month. Mobley's choice suggests that Chavez has gained access to top players in prestigious high school programs; to Baltimore City; and that UMES has appeal as a program on the rise.
Another good sign for a program in transition is that, "We didn't have any unexpected losses," Chavez said. The Hawks' top three backcourt players, Zack Allison, Aaron McKinney and Dale Harrison, "gave us stability last year and are returning this year."
Six of his expected top 10 players are newcomers, one of whom is a 6-7 freshman, Lawrence Garrison. Another, 6-5 swingman Rob Howard from Allegany Community College, is expected to be a major factor but is coming back from a sprained ankle. A third, 6-6 Mike Smith (St. Francis), will sit out the first five games for violating team rules.
Chavez has set modest goals for the Hawks, who finished sixth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Confernce last year at 7-9.
"We'd like to get over the .500 mark," he said. "That hasn't been done here since they turned Division I in 1981. They've never won a MEAC tournament game. We'd like to improve throughout the year and put ourselves in that position. I really don't know what to expect in our early games."
UMES AT A GLANCE
Coach: Rob Chavez, second season, 12-15.
Affiliation: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
1992-93 record: 12-15, 7-9 MEAC (sixth).
Starters lost: Marlin Kimbrew, Mike Harris.
Outlook: Improving Hawks won't be able to sneak up on conference foes this year. Backcourt appears strong and experienced with returnees Dale Harrison and Aaron McKinney and JuCo transfers Andre Miller and Terrell Harris. Physically overmatched last year at power positions, help must come from Kenya Mobley, Travis Griffin, Lawrence Garrison, Mike Smith and swingman Zack Allison. Could take time for talents to blend. Projected to finish in middle of MEAC.
Returning players Name .. .. .. .. .. Yr. .. P .. Ht. .. Fast breaks
Zack Allison ... .. Sr. .. G .. 6-4 .. 14.2 ppg, All-MEAC honorable mention Mike Arnold . .. .. Jr. .. G .. 6-0 .. Savvy walk-on from DeMatha
Dale Harrison .. .. Sr. .. G .. 6-2 .. 10.3 ppg as point guard
Aaron McKinney . .. So. .. G .. 6-3 .. Second-team all-rookie in MEAC
Mike Smith .. .. .. So. .. F .. 6-6 .. Improved ball-handling and shooting touch
Corey Snowden .. .. So. .. C .. 6-8 .. Depth up front with finesse game
Damon Cordew ... .. Fr. .. F .. 6-6 .. Good ball-handler with soft touch
Lawrence Garrison . Fr. .. F .. 6-6 .. Will have an impact and provide depth
Travis Griffin . .. Jr ... C .. 6-9 .. Shot-blocking JC transfer
Terrell Harris Jr. G 5-11 Quick defensive specialist; 18.3 ppg in JC
Robbie Howard .. .. Jr. .. G-F . 6-5 . Highly recruited, from
Jerry McDaniel . .. So. .. G .. 6-1 .. Redshirt last year plays both
Andre Miller ... .. Jr. .. G .. 6-3 .. JC transfer will play a lot
Kenya Mobley ... .. Jr. .. F/C . 6-9 . Transfer shot-blocker will play
Rick Wallace ... .. Fr. .. G .. 6-4 .. Walk-on swingman from LaVale