The Morgan State men’s basketball program is chock full of excitement. Coach Kevin Broadus starts his second season leading the Bears, and he’s prepared to win.
Morgan State, which went 15-16 last season, was selected to finish second in the Northern Division of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference after going 9-7 in the league in Broadus' first year.
Because of the return of top-flight players to the MEAC, Broadus expects the league to be at the top of its game. Howard, of course, is known for its signing of five-star center Makur Maker and the added emphasis on returning to Historically Black Colleges and Universities for Black athletes.
Both Morgan State’s men’s and women’s basketball teams will begin the 2020-21 season Jan. 2 at UMES.
“HBCUs teach from the same books, they have Ph.D. professors, we play on the same courts — 94 feet — and the basketball is round and orange,” Broadus said. “Why not come play at an HBCU, where people are going to love you for who you are? I always tell our kids, ‘Use the university, no matter where you go because the university is going to use you.’ When I say use the university, that means to get a good education.
“Don’t just come to Morgan State or Coppin State or Norfolk State or whoever, Howard, just to play athletics. [That goes for] basketball, whatever sports you play. Come here to get an education because this education is going to go with you for the next 40 years of your life. Basketball is not going to follow you for 40 years — your education is.”
One coach who was influential to Broadus was the late John Thompson Jr. Thompson led the Georgetown men’s basketball team from 1972 to 1999, winning the national title in 1984. He became the first Black coach to win the national championship with an all-Black roster.
Broadus served as an assistant to John Thompson III on Georgetown’s staff from 2004 to 2007 and again from 2011 to 2017. Thompson Jr. lent his wisdom during his son’s tenure as coach, so the elder Thompson’s death in August was tough for Broadus, who looked at him as a mentor. Thompson Jr. attended Broadus' opening news conference as coach of Morgan State and several games throughout the season.
“He was like a father figure,” Broadus said. “I always say, ‘Surround yourself with winners. As a kid, I’ve known the Thompson family. It’s two guys in my life — Will Jones and John Thompson and they molded a lot of my career. It’s kind of personal. He’s like a second dad to me and it makes you emotional just thinking about him. I just miss him.”
Broadus has a strong structure in place with senior forward Troy Baxter being selected to the preseason All-MEAC second team. Baxter led the team in scoring with 10.2 points per game and averaged 5.1 rebounds per game and 1.9 blocks per game in 30 games.
Ten players, including four starters, return from last year’s team. Morgan State guards Sherwyn Devonish-Prince Jr. (10.0 points per game) and Isaiah Burke (7.9 points per game) lead the charge from the backcourt with forwards Baxter and Jamar Brown (4.3 points per game) poised to make waves in the frontcourt. Guard Malik Miller (7.7 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game) and forward Lagio Grantsaan (5.5 points per game) are also returning.
Three transfers additionally make their way onto the northeastern Baltimore campus with sophomore guard Trevor Moore (Cincinnati), graduate student forward Troy Holston (Saint Joseph’s) and junior Sharone Wright (Wake Forest). Guard Naseem Khalid is the lone freshman on the squad.
Morgan State has done its due diligence preparing for COVID-19 with weekly tests and following protocols for MEAC play. Broadus mentioned that the program has “gone up to two times a week for testing." The program looked to be as safe as possible heading into the year and the hope is that the safety measures will continue into nonconference play.
“We’re gearing up for the thing that really matters and that’s the conference,” Broadus said. “The one thing that I’ve told coaches around the country that I know because I’ve been to different places is that this league is way better than what people give it credit for. You have some really good coaches and a lot of good players. The way that we’re preparing is to try to beat the top teams.”
Shall last be first?
The Morgan State women’s team was the last team to leave the court at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bears finished with a 17-13 record (12-4 MEAC), which was good enough for a second-place tie and the third seed in the MEAC tournament. On March 12, their season came to an abrupt halt after a 73-55 victory over a sixth-seeded Delaware State program. With a team that had so much promise and a chance to make it to the NCAA tournament, it became the ultimate bummer.
However, the priority was the safety of the student-athletes.
“The number one thing was to keep kids safe,” Bears coach Ed Davis said. “Everything, as far as basketball, went out the window. We kind of got through this thing the same way most coaches did with following the rules, understanding the possibility of the season coming or the possibility of the season not coming, trying to keep the kids that we wanted to come in and letting them know that things would be OK.”
This year brings new challenges and higher expectations for the Bears. They are picked to finish second in the Northern Division. Senior guard Dahnye Redd was selected to the preseason All-MEAC first team and junior guard Ashia McCalla was a second-team selection.
Redd generates the most offense for the Bears, leading the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game and averages 7.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game last year. She was selected to the All-MEAC third team, while ranking seventh in scoring and fifth in rebounding. Redd got into double figures 21 times and had five double doubles.
Eight players will return to the team for the Bears. Two graduate transfers — center Nina Carpenter from Cal State-Bakersfield and guard Takara Wade from Houston Baptist — join the program, with sophomore guard Adia Brisker transferring from Niagara.
Davis is ecstatic about his team this season and for good reason.
“Everything that we like to do as coaches is to get us to the highest plateau as a university,” Davis said. "Morgan has just always been in competition with so many other schools and especially when you look at the HBCU circuit, it’s just been hard to make sure that we can get those kids in. I feel that we reached the plateau last year — not so much with a great team, but with team chemistry and kids who bought into what we’re trying to do.
“This year, bringing back a few of those kids and bringing in a few kids we were able to bring in, I’m not a coach that says that I can take less than this because injuries come about, but our focus is to get back to the highest level we got and see if we can get further than that.”