UMES looking for shot in the arm

The Baltimore Sun

Meredith Smith had the basketball program at Baltimore's old Southern High rolling in the early 1990s, when the Bulldogs won three state titles in four seasons.

"Smitty" also saw to the academics of his players, as Corey Beasley (Boston College), Kwame Evans (George Washington), Johnny Hemsley (Miami), Melvin Scott (North Carolina) and other Bulldogs didn't need prep school to be eligible as freshmen.

Smith will lean on that background as he attempts to revive the dormant program at UMES, where he was named interim coach in March.

The Hawks have had one winning season since 1982. Off the court, their inability to retain and graduate players has them on the NCAA's watch list for possible scholarship cuts, so Smith grasps the urgency of upgrading and stabilizing his roster during the spring letter-of-intent period that ends today.

"We had success at Southern, in terms of kids qualifying for freshman eligibility, and that was not an accident," Smith said. "Some prospects coming out of high school may have the intelligence, but not the survival skills. It's up to us to help them."

Smith, 64, retired from the city school system and joined the staff of Larry Lessett, who resigned in March with a three-year record of 13-75. The Hawks were the final team in the nation to win a league game last winter, and Smith needs some new faces to boost their stock in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

UMES has one incoming freshman, Ishmawiyl McFadden, a 6-foot-5 wing out of Philadelphia's Simon Gratz High, and three players who were on campus last year but did not play for assorted reasons: Gary Lee, a 6-foot-6 wing who's a transfer from Northwestern; Marc Davis, a starting guard on Walbrook's state 4A champion in 2005; and 6-4 Ahmad Nicholson of Camden, N.J.

A look at roster additions for the state's eight other Division I men's teams:

Coppin State --Ron "Fang" Mitchell has multiple needs after his second 20-loss season in two decades with the Eagles. Vincent Goldsberry, out of St. Elizabeth High in Wilmington, Del., could help at the point. Junior college transfers Chuka Iloegbu of Suffolk (N.Y.) and 6-5 A'Daeron Duncan of Merced (Calif.) are wing players. Mitchell has one more scholarship, and could use a post player.

Loyola --Isaac Reid, a 6-5 forward who signed with the Greyhounds in November, averaged 24.6 and 13.2 rebounds as a high school senior and was named the Texas 4A Player of the Year. Two guards were on campus last winter but didn't play. Joe Miles, a transfer with two seasons of eligibility remaining, made 94 three-pointers in two seasons at Marshall. Freshman Tony Lewis, a quick 6-2 left-hander, was injured in the preseason and red-shirted.

Jimmy Patsos has one more scholarship to offer.

Maryland --Gary Williams mined Montrose Christian and the Baltimore Catholic League to replenish his roster, which lost six seniors, including three starters.

Calvert Hall's Braxton Dupree and Dino Gregory of Mount St. Joseph were both first-team All-Metro. Both are 6-8, and at 250 pounds, Dupree can bang inside. Adrian Bowie, a 6-3 guard, and 6-9 Shane Walker teamed at Montrose Christian, the Rockville prep school. Cliff Tucker, a 6-5 wing from El Paso, Texas, was the most recent addition to the class.

Williams has one more available scholarship.

Morgan State --Todd Bozeman lost three seniors from a team that was within a basket of the MEAC final, but his first full recruiting effort for the Bears should fill some holes.

Last week Bozeman got Lamarcus Lowe, a 6-10 center from Flint who grew into one of the top prospects in Michigan. From Baltimore, the Bears will get 6-8 Kevin Thompson, a veteran post player from Walbrook High who missed part of last season with a knee injury, and Desmond Thomas, a point guard from St. Frances. The incoming class will include a third freshman, Ameer Ali, a 6-5 wing from Philadelphia.

Marquise Kately, a 6-6 wing who was a starter at California in the Pacific-10 Conference, sat out last season as a transfer.

Mount St. Mary's --Coming off the Mount's first semifinal appearance in the Northeast Conference tournament since 2000, Milan Brown will add three freshman forwards in the 6-6 to 6-7 range. Marlin Cribbs started for DeMatha. Shawn Atupem, from Newport News, Va., will rejoin his brother Sam, who has two years left with the Mountaineers. Danny Thompson led Charles H. Flowers to the Prince George's County 4A league title.

Navy --His newcomers don't sign national letters of intent, but Billy Lange expects 6-11 Mark Veazey and 6-10 Jeremy Wilson to be among the Plebes to arrive in Annapolis next month. Veazey, from Atlanta, is a finisher, and Wilson, a native of San Antonio who spent a year at the Naval Academy Prep School, has back-to-the-basket moves.

One-time starter Corey Johnson has switched sports, as he played spring football.

Towson --Preparing for life after Gary Neal, Pat Kennedy added Vernon Carr, a 6-2 guard out of Pensacola (Fla.) Junior College who began his college career at Texas-El Paso.

Carr is one of four transfers. Tony Durant, from Butler (Kan.) Community College, is the older brother of Kevin Durant, the Texas freshman who was the National Player of the Year. Junior Hairston, 6-8, was a bit player at the College of Charleston, and 6-2 shooter Josh Thornton will be eligible at the end of the first semester after moving north from Georgetown.

Ricardo Brown is a 6-5 small forward out of Harrisburg (Pa.) High.

UMBC --Randy Monroe will bring in two freshmen, 6-6 Marcos Tamares of Queens, N.Y., and Frank McKnight, a point guard from Springfield, Pa., but three transfers who were on campus last season will have an immediate impact.

Darryl Proctor, 6-4, averaged 13.6 points and 7.4 rebounds for Coppin State in 2005-06. He'll join the Retrievers as a junior, while two others have one season left after coming up from James Madison University. Cavell Johnson, a 6-8 forward, was a double-figure scorer for the Dukes, and 6-2 Ray Barbosa comes with 160 career three-pointers.

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