The success for the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks during the 2014-15 season was well-documented. Their 18-wins were more than they had in the previous three years combined, and they were invited to the 2015 CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Their success led to an increase in optimism heading into the 2015-16 campaign, which was Bobby Collins‘ second as the head coach of the team. Forward Michael Myers, a CCR Mid-Major All-American following the 2014-15 season, was the only notable player to be gone from the roster. So, the Hawks were flying high in advance of the 2015-16 season.
What goes up, must come down.
Instead of building off of their success, the Hawks fell flat in 2015-16, struggling out of the gate and never being able to recreate the magic from the previous year. The Hawks won just once in their first 11 games, and were never able to dig themselves out of the hole they dug for themselves.
After taking a step backwards this past season, the Hawks must return to the drawing board and get ready for the 2016-17 season. Even with the struggles of this past year, there is still reason to believe the Hawks can contend for a MEAC title in the coming years.
2015-16 Season in Review
Each year poses new challenges for teams, and you never really know what will happen until each game is played out. On the surface, it looks as though the Hawks took several steps backwards based on their record alone.
If you dig a little deeper, one can see that the team improved in some statistical categories this season, but regressed in some others. Here’s a look at how the 2014-15 edition of the Hawks compares to the 2015-16 edition.
Both teams put together four-game winning streaks, but the 2015-16 edition of the Hawks were unable to bounce back after losses. They had four losing streaks of 4 or more games last season.
It was on the defensive end of the floor where the Hawks fell apart this past season. They had a -6.9 point differential this season, which is never a good sign. Allowing 7.8 more points per game than the year prior was a big factor in their eight-win dip.
However, the 2015-16 season could have been much different for the Hawks. They found themselves on the wrong end of some close games, 12 of them to be exact. Twelve of the Hawks’ 22 losses this season came by 10 points or less. If they were able to come away with even a few of those games, things would look vastly different for the Hawks.
But, ‘close’ only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, and the Hawks weren’t able to come away with the close wins.
Maryland-Eastern Shore didn’t win their first game of the year until November 27th, when they took down the Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash in their second of back-to-back home games inside Hytche Arena, 70-57. They followed that up with six straight losses, and were unable to right the ship the rest of the way.
After starting the season 1-10, the Hawks went 9-12 the rest of the way, which is a much better figure when all things are considered.
The Hawks were led by seniors Devin Martin and Dominique Elliott for the majority of the season, while junior Bakari Copeland put together an impressive first season with the Hawks after transferring from Kilgore C.C.
It took a while for Elliott to get rolling in 2015-16. The pre-season All-MEAC First Team selection struggled out of the gate, recording a combined 9 points and 10 rebounds in the Hawks’ first two games. In the game against the Red Flash, Elliott put together his first strong performance, recording 21 points and 9 rebounds in the Hawks’ first win of the season.
On the year, the big man from Savannah, GA averaged 14.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game while appearing in all 32 games. He was 1 of 30 players to be named to the CCR Mid-Major All-American list, and the only player from the MEAC to crack the list.
He quickly established himself as a dominant big man with the team in 2014-15, and teams took notice. Elliott often saw double teams on the offensive end of the floor, and was matched up with some of the nation’s best big men on a nightly basis. His graduation will leave a big hole in the front court for Coach Collins next season, without question.
In the back court, it was Martin who led the way in terms of offense. The senior guard out of nearby Baltimore, MD averaged a team-best 16.8 points per contest to go along with 4.6 rebounds, 2,1 assists, and 1.3 steals.
Martin appeared in 30 of the team’s 32 games, missing the last two regular season games of the year before putting up 7 points in 22 minutes against the Morgan State Bears in the MEAC Tournament.
When Martin stepped on the floor for the Hawks to start the 2014-15 season, he instantly became a fan favourite. With his strong offensive game, he put the team on his back some nights and led them to victory. Over his two year in Princess Anne, MD, Martin amassed a total of 912 points, averaging at least 14.0 points per game over that time frame.
Both Elliott and Martin will be missed, but they undoubtedly left their mark on the program during their two seasons.
What Does 2016-17 Have in Store?
Coach Collins and the Hawks will look for a rebound year next season, and it all starts with a pair of returning guards.
Ryan Andino suffered through a sophomore slump in 2015-16, one that was painful for some to watch at times. As a freshman, Andino averaged 7.3 points and 1.0 rebound per game while shooting 42.3% from three point range. He took home the MEAC Freshman of the Year award as a result.
Fast forward to 2015-16, and Andino looked like a different player. He struggled to find his shooting stroke some nights, and averaged 6.1 points and 1.2 rebounds per game while shooting 35.2% from three point range. While it’s not a significant regression, it’s substantial enough considering many expected him to take on a bigger role in 2015-16.
Look for Andino to take on that role in 2016-17. The talent is there, without question. If he can get off to a hot start in November and find his groove early on, the Hawks can soar back into contention in the MEAC.
He won’t have to do it alone, as Copeland also returns on the wing and can take on some of the scoring load that Martin and Elliott left behind. In his first year as a Hawk last season, Copeland was third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points per contest.
He also added 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while seeing the court in all 32 games.
Copeland played one year with the Charleston Southern Buccaneers before transferring to Kilgore C.C., and then onto Maryland-Eastern Shore. Standing at 6’6”, Copeland brings size to the front court on the wing. He has the shooting ability to stretch the floor and create match-up problems for his opponents, and isn’t afraid to drive to the basket and finish in contact.
Three players are looking for new homes, as the likes of Isaac Sutton, Stephen Spurlock, and Joshu’a Warren are all leaving the program. Spurlock appeared in 13 games during the 2015-16 season, while Warren appeared in 10.
Neither player had a significant role with the Hawks, but the sheer element of experience and familiarity with the team’s systems will be missed.
With Coach Collins at the helm, you know the team will be well-prepared each and every time out. He hold himself, his staff, and his players to the highest standards, and will push everyone to be the best they can be. That’s exactly what you want in a coach.
After last season, some may find it hard to remain optimistic about the Hawks’ chances in 2016-17, but try. The returning players have another year of experience under their belts, and know what it takes to win. They’ve been through the ups and downs, and have the talent to get the team back into contention.
Hang tight with the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks, as more positives look to be on the horizon. Learn from the losses, and turn those lessons into victories down the road.
In 2016-17, expect the Hawks to do what they preach each and every day.