One coach's underachiever is another's cornerstone.
Ronald Timus has gone from being the life of the party at Morgan State to the most vital player in the Bears' turnaround, as first-year coach Todd Bozeman is getting strong production from a post-grad who was dismissed from the program by his predecessor.
"Just because somebody gets divorced," Bozeman said, "doesn't mean that they can't have a good relationship with somebody else."
Listed at 6 feet 6, Timus is closer to 6-4, and has a varied game, too, starting the first 13 games at power forward and the past four on the wing. Timus is averaging team highs of 14.2 points and 34.8 minutes, plus 5.6 rebounds.
If Timus had done this last season, Butch Beard still might be coaching Morgan State.
"Me and Butch had our clashes," Timus said. "He always let me know I was a hell of a player. It was what happened off the court, not what happened on it. He thought, with my off-the-court habits, I wouldn't be able to lead the team. He gave me the boot."
Said Beard: "I didn't want to do it. He was the first kid who committed to the program."
That was in the spring of 2002, when Beard had completed his first season at Morgan State and Timus was a senior at Woodrow Wilson High in Washington, with a broken ankle that scared off higher-profile teams.
Morgan State, which last had a winning season in 1988-89, went 14-16 two years ago. Timus got less than 20 minutes a game off the bench, as Beard, who played in the NBA All-Star Game in 1972 and started for the 1975 champion Golden State Warriors, felt that his commitment didn't match his talent.
"I'm nutty. I was looking at him becoming an NBA player when I got him out of high school," Beard said. "I was trying to get him to understand what it takes to get to that level, but he didn't buy into it. He would never get in the gym on his own, to work on his ball-handling, work on his shot."
Beard, who spoke from New Jersey, where he is recuperating from a hip replacement, had a regular practice time of 6 a.m.
"Butch ran it like the military," Timus said. "The thing I messed up, I considered my teammates grown men. I figured, 'Do as I say and not as I do.' I didn't realize that those freshmen look up to you."
Before last season, Beard dismissed Timus.
"You can't burn the candle at both ends," Beard said. "It wasn't good for him, and it wasn't good for the program. The crazy thing is, I saw him in the weight room more last season than I did the three previous years."
With no scholarship seniors last season, the Bears lost a school-record 26 games.
"It was rough," senior guard Joe McLean said. "Ron would have helped."
Timus has other things going for him besides basketball. A child soprano, he toured Europe with the D.C. Boys Choir. He also excelled in the classroom, getting his Morgan State degree in telecommunications, with an emphasis in public relations, in four years.
He intended to enroll at Bowie State and begin work on a master's while using his final year of NCAA eligibility in Division II, but Bozeman replaced Beard and worked a tip from Morgan State women's coach Donald Beasley.
"Boze," Beasley said, "the best player around here is Timus."
Having been out of the game for a decade after violating NCAA rules at California, Bozeman is all about second chances.
The Bears (6-11, 4-3) can make it five wins in their past seven games Saturday at 4 p.m., when they play UMES at Hill Field House. An eight-man rotation includes five players who weren't with the Bears last season, and Timus has done the most to accelerate Bozeman's timetable.
Timus, who has begun work on a master's in city and regional planning, has the speed to run the floor, the strength to finish inside and the self-assuredness to pat an official on the back after a game. He doesn't take bad shots, can get out on the ball and bring it up against full-court pressure.
Like Beard, Bozeman wants more.
"He takes breaks," Bozeman said. "Sometimes, I have to get on Ron, remind him to stay focused the entire time he's on the floor. But he's getting better at that."
Driving the baseline or going after an offensive rebound, however, Timus plays with abandon.
"I used to complain about the morning practices, but last season made me miss those days," Timus said. "Sitting out made me realize how much I love the game."