Luke D'Alessio has stocked his Bowie State basketball program with plenty of all-around talent this season and he can't hide his glee.
"We have three big-time guys coming off the bench and can go 10 deep," he said. "That's what puts this team over [the Bowie State team that advanced to the NCAA Division II final four] two years ago. Our starters are as good as they were two years ago."
Entering last night's 106-93 victory over Lincoln, the Bulldogs were ranked 12th in the nation in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II poll.
Unbeaten Bowie charged through its first five opponents by more than 30 points per game. Power forward Lee Cook, a preseason first-team All-American, averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds in the first three games before missing the next two with a thumb injury.
That injury to Cook, a 6-foot-10, 235-pound senior, prompted D'Alessio to call on slender forward Bakary Konate, one of his "big-time" reserves, as a starter. The 6-9, 190-pounder responded with a barrage of three-pointers and now leads the team with a 45.5 percent shooting percentage (10-for-22) from beyond the arc.
He's averaging 9.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game after being a starter on last season's 23-6 team that advanced to the second round of the South Atlantic Regional in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
"We didn't have a lot of talent last year," said D'Alessio. "I was only gearing up for this year."
Cook was scheduled to return after missing two games, and he joins another talented 6-10 player, Attila Cosby, up front. Cosby, a 230-pound center, leads in blocked shots with nine in five games and is second to Cook in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (8.4).
The starting small forward is Isaiah "Zeke" Johnson, one of Bowie's two Baltimore players. Johnson, who played with North Carolina's Melvin Scott at Southern High, averages 11.0 points and 6.6 rebounds along with four blocks.
Johnson left Southern his senior year for Maine Central Prep, then went to New Mexico for two seasons. He started one season at the College of Charleston and then landed at Bowie State.
"As long as we stay focused and give the effort, the sky's the limit for this team," said the 6-7 Johnson, who sat out last season as a redshirt.
The other Baltimorean is 6-4 junior forward Anthony Thornton, who played at Towson Catholic and Howard Community College. Thornton has averaged nine minutes in four appearances.
The starting backcourt includes 6-2 point guard Kevin Bell, who is averaging 5.0 assists, 11.8 points, and 5.2 rebounds, and 6-1 shooting guard Shaun Swan, who averages 6.0 points.