New Season, New Identity for the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks

During the off-season, the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks moved away from the UMES acronym, releasing a new brand. Sophomore forward Isaac Taylor models the new jerseys for the Hawks in 2016-17. Source: UniWatch on Twitter)
During the off-season, the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks moved away from the UMES acronym, releasing a new brand. Sophomore forward Isaac Taylor models the new jerseys for the Hawks in 2016-17. (Source: UniWatch on Twitter)

With the 2016-17 season set to kick off on Remembrance Day / Veteran’s Day, the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks will have a new identity, both in terms of their brand and on-court personnel.

During the off-season following the 2015-16 campaign, the Hawks underwent several changes. For starters, they switched from Russell to Nike for their athletic apparel.

Then, they went through a re-brand for the entire athletics department. According to Shawn Yonker, the Assistant Director of Athletics for Marketing and Media Relations, the department wanted to move away from the ‘UMES’ acronym for various reasons.

With that, the new-look Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks were born. On their basketball jerseys, ‘Eastern Shore’ is featured prominently across the chest, with ‘Hawks’ down both sides of the shorts.

However, the brand isn’t the only thing that’s new for the men’s basketball team in 2016-17. The roster itself will look vastly different than it did a year ago, as the team’s biggest stars from last season have graduated, leaving two big holes to fill.

Guard Devin Martin and forward Dominique Elliott were the top two scorers for the Hawks last season. Martin led the team with an average of 16.8 points per game, while Elliott chipped in with 14.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per contest.

Elliott has moved on to play professional basketball in Slovenia, while Martin is putting in work each day while looking for his next opportunity.

Losing one high-calibre player for a smaller is program is tough, but losing two players of a higher-calibre is something that would spell a ‘rebuilding year’ for some programs. But, with the group that they have, the Hawks are confident that they can bounce back and fill the shoes of both Martin and Elliott.

2015-16 Season in Review

Back in 2014-15, Bobby Collins was named the newest head coach of the Hawks. He took over a team that had struggled mightily in the previous few years. The players bought into the system early on, and the Hawks were one of the biggest surprises in the entire nation.

Collins led the team to 18 wins, more than the previous three seasons combined (15). The Hawks appeared in the 2015 CollegeInsider.Com Tournament, falling to the High Point Panthers in the first round.

Their success led to a ton of optimism for the 2015-16 season. Unfortunately, a slow start to the year deflated the expectations for the program. Eastern Shore won one of their first 11 games, a stretch that included losses in their first four games of the season.

A four-game win streak from January 23rd to February 6th sparked some optimism for the future. The Hawks finished the season with a 7-9 record in MEAC play, but suffered a first-round exit in the conference tournament at the hands of the Morgan State Bears, a team the Hawks had beat in the regular season finale just five days earlier.

Overall, the Hawks finished with a 10-22 record.

While it’s not hard to speculate about ‘what could have been‘, the record for the Hawks could have easily been better. From January 6th to the end of the season, the Hawks went a combined 7-9.

All nine of their losses over that span were by 7 points or less.

Any of those games could have gone either way. The Hawks were competitive night in and night out, which has led to an increased level of optimism once again in Princess Anne, MD.

2016-17 Season At A Glance

Along with the departures of Martin and Elliott, the Hawks also said farewell to three players via the transfer market. Stephen Spurlock (Mercyhurst), Isaac Sutton (Warner), and Joshu’a Warren are also gone from the team.

Senior forward Bakari Copeland and junior guard Ryan Andino will be looked upon to lead the team in 2016-17. Copeland is the top returning scorer for the Hawks from last season, as he averaged 10.5 points in his first season at Maryland Eastern Shore.

The 6’6” forward made 30 starts for the Hawks as a junior. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor and a mid-range game that is one of the best in the MEAC. Down the stretch last season, Copeland scored in double-figures in 16 of the Hawks’ final 21 games, and he’ll be looking to pick up where he left off on Friday night.

As for Andino, he’ll be looking for a bounce-back year on a personal level. After earning MEAC Freshman of the Year honours in 2014-15, Andino took a small step backwards in 2015-16.

He battled several early season injuries, but appeared in 31 of the team’s 32 games. Andino averaged 6.1 points per game, down slightly from his 7.1 points per game average as a freshman. Over the course of the year, Andino connected on 35% of his attempts from three point range.

Like Copeland, Andino found his stride down the stretch, scoring in double-figures in four of the team’s final seven contests.

Biggest Strength: Guards

Even with the departures that the Hawks have had to endure since the end of last season, the back court will be the biggest strength for the program.

Returnees like Andino, Dontae Caldwell (below), Derrico PeckThomas Rivera, and Ahmad Frost bring a wealth of experience that will prove to be invaluable as the season progresses. Peck also adds size to the back court, standing at 6’7” tall. His size allows for versatility with the back court, as he can play as a guard or on the wing, giving Coach Collins some options with his lineups.

The Hawks added a trio of JUCO transfers to add even more depth to the back court.

Randell Pickett comes to Maryland Eastern Shore from Southeastern Illinois College, where he averaged 8.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per contest last season.

Michael Chambers brings his talents to the Hawks after a strong career at Cape Fear C.C. In 2015-16, Chambers finished second in scoring for the Sea Devils, averaging 14.5 points per game while making 25 starts. He also averaged 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per contest.

Rounding out the trio of JUCO guards is Logan McIntosh. The transfer from Northwest Oklahoma A&M C.C. averaged 12.8 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game last season while making 33 starts.

All three guards should play significant roles for the Hawks in 2016-17. Maryland Eastern Shore is incredibly deep in the back court, which will be a huge asset moving forwards.

Biggest Weakness: Front Court Size

Size in the front court was an issue for the Hawks last season, as well. With Elliott’s ability to stretch the floor and shoot from three point range, they were able to create more opportunities on the offensive end, and make up for some of their lack of size at the forward spots.

However, that may not be the case this season.

The tallest player listed on the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks’ roster is sophomore forward Isaac Taylor (6’8”). As a freshman, Taylor averaged 1.4 points and 1.3 rebounds per game, while averaging under 6 minutes of court time per contest.

Taylor and freshman Tyler Jones (6’7”) will likely see their fair share of time in the front court this season. Look for Peck to be used more at the 3- or 4-spot due to his size.

Collins will need to get creative with his lineups on a nightly basis to try and make up for the team being significantly shorter than the majority of the Hawks’ opponents this season in the front court.

As a freshman in 2015-16, Dontae Caldwell asserted himself as one of the top up-and-coming stars in the MEAC. Source: Charles LeClaire - USA Today Sports)

As a freshman in 2015-16, Dontae Caldwell asserted himself as one of the top up-and-coming stars in the MEAC. (Source: Charles LeClaire – USA Today Sports)

Breakout Candidate: Dontae Caldwell

Last season, as a freshman for the Hawks, Dontae Caldwell showed that he has a bright future ahead of him on the hardwood for the Hawks.

Despite playing just 13.3 minutes per game, Caldwell appeared in all 32 games for the Hawks. He finished fifth on the team in scoring, averaging 5.1 points per contest. Caldwell put up a career-high 25 points in the Hawks’ 83-81 win in overtime over the Coppin State Eagles on January 30th.

At year’s end, Caldwell was named to the All-MEAC Rookie Team, and he took home MEAC Rookie of the Week honours for the week of December 14th-20th.

Over the course of the year, Caldwell showcased his effectiveness from all areas of the floor. He finished the season shooting 40.8% from the floor, 81.8% from the free throw line, and 34.8% from three point range.

With the personnel changes for the Hawks this season, and with how he played as a freshman, playing time for Caldwell is sure to increase. He’ll have every opportunity to be a leader on the team, and all signs point to a breakout campaign for the native of Santa Ana, California.

2016-17 Predictions

Various media outlets and publications have the Hawks projected to finish anywhere from 5th (College Court Report) to 11th in the MEAC this season.

Where they finish will depend on how well the newcomers mesh into the system, and how well the team can counter-balance being undersized in the front court. The guards will carry the bulk of the offense, and they will need to hit their shots. If they can do that, the Hawks could steal a win or two from stronger teams in non-conference play.

Maryland Eastern Shore will play six of their first seven games on the road, including a five-game road trip from November 15th-30th.

The Hawks open up the regular season on November 11th on the road against the George Washington Colonials, while their home opener is two days later, on November 13th, against the UMBC Retrievers inside Hytche Arena.

– T. Bennett