The chip has not changed for Nukiya Mayo.
Nearly a year removed since the Towson women’s basketball team was voted to finish eighth in the Colonial Athletic Association’s preseason poll, the Tigers clapped back at their doubters by capturing the league championship and advancing to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. This year’s preseason poll has not been released, but Mayo, a senior guard-forward, is already bracing for a certain amount of disrespect.
“We have a chip on our shoulders,” she said Tuesday afternoon at the Baltimore Basketball Media Day at Coppin State’s Physical Education Complex. “So it doesn’t really put a lot of pressure on us. We’re going to come and play like who we are. Nothing’s going to change that.”
Towson (20-13 in 2018-19) graduated only one starter in center Maia Lee and lost only two of its top six scorers. But coach Diane Richardson added seven newcomers to the roster to fortify the team’s depth and alleviate some of the burden on starters such as Mayo, redshirt senior guard Qierra Murray (Milford Mill) and redshirt junior guard Kionna Jeter.
“I told Nukiya and Q. Murray and those players, ‘Listen, I’m going to go out and get you some help. You’re not going to play 35 minutes a game.’ And we did that,” she said. “And I see that we’ve got more depth and we’ve got more skill, and I think we can make runs.”
Richardson said she wants the players to “build on” last season’s accomplishments, but not to grow content because of them. In that same vein, Mayo said the returning players have kept chatter about last year to a minimum.
“We don’t talk much about it,” she said. “It’s a new year, and everything starts over for us. It’s a new beginning.”
Richardson’s work in turning around the women’s program in a little more than two years has not been lost on Tigers men’s coach Pat Skerry.
“I think they’ve done a remarkable job recruiting,” he said. “They’re high energy, and they’re obviously doing a great job. I think they’ll have even potentially a better team.”
Getting old is good for Mount men
Mount St. Mary’s men’s coach Dan Engelstad has a saying: “It helps to get old.”
This winter, the Mountaineers will return all five starters, their top seven scorers, and 98% of last year’s point production. That is a far cry from his coaching debut a year ago when he inherited a squad that had only two players that averaged double-digit minutes in playing time.
Engelstad said the biggest difference has shown up during practices when the coaches are running players through certain drills.
“Last season, we just had to repeat ourselves over and over again, and as coaches, that’s tough to do when you’re trying to implement and you’re trying to advance at the pace that you need to advance to play high-level competition,” he said. “So for us, we were doing a lot of that on the fly. There was a lot of head scratching at times, and it was tough. You’d watch the film, and you’d be like, ‘Are we getting and grasping this?’ Now it’s to the point where when they make a mistake, they know that they’ve made it already and they can kind of correct themselves. That alone is good to see.”
Terp vs. Terp
The home-and-home series between Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference archrivals Coppin State and Morgan State already figures to be circled on calendars on both sides. But the games on Jan. 25 at Coppin State and Feb. 29 at Morgan State might be noteworthy for Maryland fans because of the coaches.
The Bears’ Kevin Broadus, a former Terps assistant coach, succeeded Todd Bozeman in the offseason. On the opposing sideline will be former Maryland standout shooting guard Juan Dixon in his third season with the Eagles.
Broadus acknowledged having mixed feelings about facing Dixon.
“It’s going to be strange before the tipoff, but once we get going, it’s basketball,” he said. “He’s on the other side and both of us have a common goal. We’re going to try to beat him just like he’s going to going to try to beat us.”
Dixon returned the favor, saying: “He’s going to focus on his guys, and I’m going to focus on our guys. We’re going to be out there coaching our hardest.”
Motivation for UMBC men
Players such as senior forwards Max Curran and Arkel Lamar and junior forwards Daniel Akin and Brandon Horvath (Southern) played on the 2017-18 UMBC men’s team that captured the America East title and became the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Those players are more than a year removed from that historic run, but coach Ryan Odom said memories of that experience fuel them — and those who did not have that chance.
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“We still have some guys that were a part of that moment, and I think that drives certainly those guys, and it drives those guys that weren’t a part of it because they want to be in that conversation as one of the teams that could make the NCAA tournament and potentially do something when they get there,” he said.