New coach Bobby Collins hasn't coached a Division I game since 2010.
But after a successful stint in Division II with Winston-Salem State, Collins is back in college basketball’s top tier and looks to turn around a UMES program that hasn’t had a 10-win season in four years.
“I honestly have high expectations for this year’s team,” said Collins, 49, who was hired to replace Frankie Allen in April. “Like any team … you’re looking for that chemistry and camaraderie.”
Winston-Salem State was a Division I team when Collins was hired as head coach in 2006, but the team struggled against the competition and moved down after four seasons. In Division II, Collins led the Rams to a 79-35 record in his last four seasons there.
UMES, will be without its top three scorers from last season, a group that included promising guard Hakeem Baxter, who led the team with 14 points per game. The All-MEAC rookie team selection transferred to the University of Alabama Birmingham this summer.
Collins bolstered the Hawks’ frontcourt by adding junior college transfers Mike Myers and Dominique Elliot. The coach expects the two 6-foot-9 forwards to score inside and open more space for the team’s 3-point shooters, led by senior guard Devon Walker.
“I’ve always wanted players that can shoot the basketball, and that’s what we have,” Collin said.
Collins doesn’t expect his changes to produce results right away. But depending on how quickly the players can adapt to each other, he thinks the Hawks could be a more formidable opponent by the end of the season.
“This year’s team is a work in progress, for sure,” Collins said. “It’s about how fast we can jell. And if we happen to jell fast, we can be very special at the end of the year.”