Q&A with UMBC coach Randy Monroe
It will be a new era of sorts for the UMBC men's basketball program this fall.
Gone from the Retrievers’ roster are point guard Jay Greene, UMBC’s all-time assists leader, and forward Darryl Proctor, the school’s all-time leading scorer. Greene and Proctor were instrumental in guiding UMBC to an NCAA tournament appearance in 2008, and a runner-up finish in the America East tournament last spring.
In the place of Greene and Proctor will be six newcomers to Catonsville. Retrievers coach Randy Monroe will welcome four freshmen to the UMBC roster: St. Mary’s point guard Nick Groce, Windsor, Conn., small forward Adrian Satchell, Red Bank, N.J., shooting guard Brian Neller and Suffolk, Va., shooting guard Jamar Wertz. Groce averaged 13.6 points and 3.6 assists per game in leading St. Mary’s to the MIAA B conference championship, Satchell contributed 13 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per for Windsor’s Class LL state title team, Neller scored 14.2 points per game in helping Christian Brothers Academy to the New Jersey Non-Public South A sectional championship, and Wertz put up 14.2 points per game to guide King’s Fork to a Virginia state title
Monroe will also welcome two players who sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. Robbie Jackson, a 6-foot-11, 255-pound center from Aberdeen began his college career at Marshall, and Chris De La Rosa, a point guard from the Bronx, played his freshman year at Siena.
Here are Monroe’s thoughts on UMBC’s incoming class.
You’re bringing in a four-man class (plus two transfers) after losing Jay Greene and Darryl Proctor. How do you feel about the class overall?
Well I’m very excited about this group. I think they’ve come from very successful high school programs under very good coaches and they have an idea of what it takes to be successful. And I think there’s something to be said for having youngsters from programs that have not just been good for one year, but have been good on a consistent basis. So I’m ecstatic with the young men we have coming into our program. Not only do I feel they’re good players, but I feel they’re high quality, high character young men, which is of extreme importance to me. It’s not just about the ability to play basketball, but it’s also about being a fine future representative of UMBC.
Was it the plan all along to make it a bigger class?
Well, I mean it’s a situation where we knew at some point in time we were going to have to bring in a big class. Those things happen. And once again, I think that’s the beauty of college basketball. Sometimes guys panic and ask, ‘Why are you bringing in all these kids?’ But you don’t bring them in just to sit them down. You bring them in with the feeling that they’re going to get meaningful minutes. And a lot depends on how they adjust to the college game, how they adjust to the academic rigors of college life and how they adjust to the social aspects of college. With that being said, I think at some point in time, we were going to have to bring in a big class, which doesn’t bother me. I just think, once again, it helps the program and that means the future will be bright.
Nick Groce committed last summer. How important was it to land someone of his caliber so early in the process?
I thought it was important because Jason Greene was in his junior year and we started recruiting Nick early. We followed him for a couple of summers and we liked his on-court savvy. I think he has high basketball IQ and I think he’s a passionate player. He’s a very cerebral type of player also. He doesn’t get easily rattled. I think he takes a lot of things in and studies the game. And I think he’s going to be a fine college basketball player.
Will he be expected to take over for Jay Greene?
I always look at it this way: I never say someone’s going to be the heir apparent to the next player. I never say, “He’s going to be the next Jay Greene or Darryl Proctor.’ I never mention it to these young men because I don’t think it’s fair. I want them to be who they are. If they are who they are, then we’re going to be a successful basketball team. I will never compare them to other players in our program, because I don’t think that’s a fair assessment.
Is Groce expected to compete for Greene’s spot?
Well I think he certainly has an opportunity to do that, as well as Chris De La Rosa, who sat out last year. I think there’s two guys who are certainly capable of running our basketball team.
What will Neller and Satchell bring to the table, and are you looking for one or both of them to log major minutes right away?
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t determine [if they’ll play right away]. That’s something that the players determine. It’s going to be up to them to see what happens. I’ll never promise a young man how many minutes he’s going to play. When I recruited Jason Greene, it was the same thing. The minutes are going to be up to you. You’re going to determine that. As far as what they will bring, Brian Neller can flat out shoot the basketball. He’s a young man who has a good feel [for the game], coming from a really good high school program in Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey. He’s always playing, always competing, so we’re definitely looking for Brian to come in and knock some shots down.
I think Adrian is a basketball player. I don’t think he has a completely defined position right now. Adrian does a little bit of everything. He goes to the offensive boards and does a good job rebounding on both ends. He’s improved his outside shooting and his ballhandling is getting better. He’s a young man who’s getting better [all the time]. We’ll look to play him in a couple different positions. He has that kind of ability.
Wertz was your last signee. Was he a guy you were monitoring throughout the year, or did he pop up on your radar late?
He was a young man that popped up on our screen later, and he was a young man I was very impressed with. He really loves the game of basketball. I don’t think you can have enough shooters in the game today. He also has very good athleticism. He’s a fiery guy, he’s got pretty good quickness and he’s hungry. He plays with a vengeance. I think he’s a young man who can definitely help us, especially when he gets going shooting the basketball.
What was your competition like on the recruiting trail for this class?
We signed most of these guys early. Adrian had some MAC interest and some America East interest. I know Nick, we jumped on him very early, and kind of got it done early. So there were some other schools in our league that liked him. But when he committed to us, he had some America East and Patriot League schools involved. And then Brian Neller had all kinds of interest. It was just a wide variety, from schools in the MAC, to some America East schools to some Division II schools. Jamar had schools like Rhode Island, and a school in Texas, Stephen F. Austin, that had shown a great deal of interest.
Talk about Chris De La Rosa and what you expect from him.
Chris De La Rosa transferred from Siena. He has three years to play. We actually recruited Chris when he was in high school at All Hollows in the Bronx. Chris is really someone who’s very, very quick with the ball. He’s very good in the open court. He can shoot the basketball from 15, 16 feet. And he’s really, really an effective player. He really knows how to win. I think he’s a winner. And I’m really excited about being able to have him possibly step in and fill the role that Jason did for us.
Talk about what you’ve seen from Robbie Jackson during this past year.
Well Robbie’s a big guy. He’s got a chance to be a very good player. He’s got terrific hands, a very good outside shot, and he can score and rebound the basketball. He likes contact, and he’s about 6’11, 255 pounds. He gives us a very huge presence in the middle, which I’m very excited about.
Overall, do you feel this class will fill your needs?
Yes I do. Once again, I’m excited about this group. They’re excited to get started. It’s also new blood, too, and I think that’s always a refreshing thing. New guys are coming in, and they kind of rejuvenate the coach, too. It makes both he and his staff look forward to getting started as well. Don’t get me wrong, [I’ll miss the departed players]. But it happens to everyone across the country, where players move on to future basketball careers or get started with their futures in other careers. So I’m totally excited about this group.
AP photo / Dec. 13, 2008