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Thanksgiving dinner has been catalyst for recent surge by UMES men's basketball

Recent 3-1 surge by UMES men's basketball began with team-bonding dinner on Thanksgiving.

A number of factors have contributed to UMES’ three wins in the past four games, but the team’s recent surge could be traced to the breaking of bread – or in the Hawks’ case, turkey.

All 15 players and the entire coaching staff gathered at first-year head coach Bobby Collins’ house on Thanksgiving Day and spent the day eating and watching football.

But the most important element involved simply spending time together.

“We have eight new players, and we’re still in the process of trying to learn each other,” Collins said Wednesday. “We really don’t know each other that well yet. ... It was just a day of Thanksgiving. It was more about us being together than about the meal.”

Since the holiday, UMES (4-7) is 3-1, including a 1-1 mark in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The team lost, 68-63, to reigning league champion North Carolina Central on Dec. 5, but rebounded with a 69-58 victory over North Carolina A&T three days later.

“It’s a process with this team,” Collins said. “We’ve got eight new players, and I have a whole new coaching staff. Nobody knows anything. So we’re just trying to take it one day at a time and just put ourselves in a position to win at the end.”

The Hawks have persevered despite the departure of their leading scorer in sophomore guard Hakeem Baxter (transfer to the University of Alabama Birmingham) and second-leading scorer in senior point guard KyRee Jones (illness). Collins credits the team’s success to the current players’ fortitude.

“We lost our leading scorer, our leading point guard, I have three players returning that didn’t play a lot, and we are where we are,” he said. “I attribute that to the guys buying in. I wish I could take the credit for it, but it’s been those young men saying, ‘Let’s take what Coach Collins has been saying.’ Really, it’s all on them how far we go.”

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