2015-16 College Basketball Previews: Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks

On the heels of making the CIT a season ago, senior Devin Martin and the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks are out to prove that last year was no fluke, and look to contend in the second season under head coach Bobby Collins.
On the heels of making the CIT a season ago, senior Devin Martin and the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks are out to prove that last year was no fluke, and look to contend in the second season under head coach Bobby Collins.

When you haven’t reached double-digit wins in a few years, and a new coach is leading the way, it usually doesn’t end well.

Nobody told the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks that, and they proved everyone wrong in the process.

Last season, the Hawks finished the year with an 18 – 15 record, recording more wins than the previous three seasons combined. Their new coach took home conference Coach of the Year honours, and suddenly, the Hawks are flying high in the MEAC.

In 2015-16, the Hawks will be a different looking team. They will be without their star forward, and will rely on some underrated, unproven players to keep up their new level of success.

The one question around the Hawks this season is a no-brainer. What will the Hawks do for an encore in 2015-16? With the season officially under way, and teams being able to officially practice, the curtain will open on the season for the Hawks and we’ll have our answer in no time at all.

Below, get yourselves ready for what the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks will bring to the hardwood this season.

Who’s Missing

Coming off a record season for the program, the 2015-16 edition of the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks will be without a handful of key pieces from their 2014-15 team. From the team that went 18 – 15, the Hawks will say goodbye to two of their top three scorers, and three of their top six overall.

The key departure is none other than senior forward Michael Myers. The Hawks’ big man took home Second Team All-Mid Major honours and First Team Fan Voted All-Mid Major accolades from College Court Report after a stellar 2014-15 season. He led the Hawks in scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest. He was a big reason for the resurgence of the Hawks, helping them reach post-season play and garner more wins than they had in the previous three seasons combined.

Losing Myers will leave a big hole for the Hawks to fill, both in the lineup and in terms of overall statistical production. If you want to follow Myers’ professional career, he has signed on to play for the Helsinki Seagulls in Finland for next year.

Also gone from last year’s team is senior guard Devon Walker. The 6’4” guard from Philadelphia, PA was the team’s third-leading scorer, averaging 9.4 points per contest to go along with 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists. He shot a respectable 39.3% from three point range last season. Walker appeared in all 33 games for the Hawks a year ago, and the Hawks will be hard-pressed to find a player who can step in and play those kind of minutes while producing at a respectable clip.

Fellow guard Ishaq Pitt, the team’s go-to point guard, is also gone from the back court. The Canadian, who calls Toronto, ON his hometown, averaged 5.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists as a senior. Since arriving at UMES, Pitt has averaged at least 20 minutes per game over his three seasons, logging some serious minutes for the program.

Forward Iman Johnson, who many expected to take on a bigger role in 2015-16, transferred from the program following the 2014-15 season. He has committed to Samford, where he will be eligible to play in 2015-16 upon graduating from UMES.

The Hawks will have some new faces on their roster in 2015-16, but the familiar ones who are returning have the talent to keep the Hawks in contention in the MEAC.

Who’s Returning

Now, the Hawks lost a fair bit after last season, including their offensive leader in Michael Myers. However, plenty of talent returns in 2015-16 to help lead another charge. Plus, a certain someone will look to lead the Hawks to another record season in just his second year with the program.

The most notable returnee isn’t a player, but a coach. In fact, head coach Bobby Collins will be the force that keeps the Hawks in contention this season. In just his first season on campus, Collins was able to turn the program into a contender after years of being an afterthought in the MEAC. Due to his hard work and dedication to the team, Collins took home Coach of the Year in the MEAC, an award that was well deserved. A repeat performance in 2015-16 will be a bit tougher, but you can be sure that Coach Collins will get the best out of his players, and they will bring it game after game over the course of the season.

On the court, the two most notable returnees can be found in the back court. Senior guard Devin Martin and sophomore guard Ryan Andino are back to lead the offense from the back end. Add in senior forward Dominique Elliott, and the Hawks return a core group of players who know what it takes to excel and win at a high level.

Martin is the team’s top returning scorer from a season ago. He appeared in 30 games as a junior in 2014-15, making 28 starts, and he averaged 14.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest. He brings with him a strong shooting range, as he shot 39.9% from three point range a season ago. His ability to make shots from all over the floor forces opposing defenses to keep tabs on him at all times. Martin should once again be a go-to option on the defensive end.

Ryan Andino enjoyed a strong freshman campaign, and made his case to earn some more playing time this season. He appeared in all 33 games a year ago, making four starts over the course of the year. He averaged 7.1 points and 1.0 rebounds per game, and will undoubtedly see his on-court production increase as he garners more playing time and experience.

In Elliott, the Hawks have an imposing big man who is an impact player in terms of both points and pulling down rebounds. Last season, the 6’8”, 260-pound forward averaged 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, while appearing in 32 games (17 starts). With Myers gone from the front court, Elliott will be the go-to offensive threat inside, and will look to become more of an impact player in his senior season.

To round out their projected starting five, the Hawks could very well turn to two of their incoming JUCO transfer players. Guard Thomas Rivera and forward Bakari Copeland could become impact players in their first season at UMES.

Rivera comes to UMES from Monroe College, where he played with Devin Martin in 2012-13 before Martin transferred himself. The familiarity between the two will provide the Hawks with a nice tandem in the back court, alongside Andino.

In Copeland, the Hawks get a player who excelled at Kilgore College, and has the talent to succeed at the next level. He averaged 10.3 points per game last season, and averaged more than 23 points per game in high school. The 6’6” forward gives Collins another big body up front, and could allow for some unique lineups moving forwards.

Projected Starting Five

Guard: Thomas Rivera (JR)

Guard: Ryan Andino (SO)

Guard: Devin Martin (SR)

Forward: Bakari Copeland (JR)

Forward: Dominique Elliott (SR)

Schedule Notes

Achieving the level of success that the Hawks did in 2014-15 will be hard to come by in 2015-16, as the team has scheduled themselves a tough slate for the 2015-16 season. Power conference opponents and lengthy road trips highlight their early-season schedule.

To open the season, the Hawks have a tough three-game road trip against Kansas State, Missouri, and Wofford. Kansas State and Missouri have both been hit hard by the transfer bug, but will pose tough tests for the Hawks. Then, the reigning Souther Conference champion Terriers will be a test in their own right. A win over any of these three teams would make it a successful road trip.

After the road swing, the Hawks return home for two of just three non-conference games inside Hytche Arena. The Hawks welcome both Fairfield and Saint Franci (PA) to Princess Anne, both of whom the Hawks should be able to knock off. With limited home games in non-conference play, these two games become more important as the Hawks then go back on the road for the next three weeks.

After a road date at Georgetown, the Hawks have two early conference games when they visit both North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T. After their conference foes, the Hawks have two gruelling four-game road swings with a home date with Central Pennsylvania separating the two.

The first four-game set is as follows: @ Maryland, @ Michigan State, @ Old Dominion, @ American.

The second: @ Saint Joseph’s, @ UMBC, @ Pittsburgh, @ Columbia.

Any wins in these games will go a long way for the Hawks in conference play, The wins will serve as a boost of confidence as UMES aims for another strong showing in MEAC play, and hopes to contend for the title in 2015-16.

Their strong season in 2014-15 put them on the map, and they scheduled tougher because teams are willing to play them. Here’s to hoping the Hawks can keep up their heightened level of success in 2015-16, and score an upset or two along the way.


 

The Hawks will have to be road warriors this season, as the majority of their non-conference games take place away from Hytche Arena. Fortunately for the Hawks, they excelled on the road last season, finishing 11 – 9 overall in road contests.

This season, the Hawks will rely on underrated players to get the job done. Coach Collins won’t have the talent he had last season, but he still has talented players in the rotation to make up for their personnel losses. With other top teams losing star players of their own (see NC Central and Norfolk State), the Hawks should find themselves in the thick of things once again in 2015-16.

– T.B.