There will be a mix of new and old on the roster of the defending MEAC champions this season.
Nine players return from Morgan State’s NCAA tournament team, but Bears head coach Todd Bozeman is adding five new faces to the mix.
Point guard Danny Smith (5-11, 190 pounds), combo guard Joe Davis (6-0, 180), shooting guard Jarrod Denard (6-2, 185), power forward DeWayne Jackson (6-8, 210) and center Anthony Anderson (6-10, 235) will all suit up for Morgan State this season.
Smith, a Randallstown native and Woodlawn graduate, will have two years of eligibility remaining after playing at Western Nebraska Community College the past two seasons. Davis, a junior from Warrensville, Ohio, sat out last year as a transfer from Cleveland State, where he averaged 8.8 points per game in his first two seasons. Denard was a highly touted shooting guard from Philadelphia’s Freire Charter School. Jackson, a Bowie High graduate, and Anderson, a LaPlata alumnus, both enrolled at Morgan one year ago and sat out as non-qualifiers. They will each have four years of eligibility remaining.
Bozeman spoke with Recruiting Report recently about Morgan State’s incoming class.
Knowing that you were losing Itchy Bolden, Marquise Kately and Rogers Barnes, how did you approach this recruiting class?
Well we had three guys sitting out. We had Joe Davis transfer from Cleveland State, and he’s a guard and was [close to] a double-digit scorer at Cleveland State. And we had Anthony Anderson, 6-10, from LaPlata, Maryland sitting out. He was a non-qualifier and he just sat out for last year. He’ll be a rebounder. He’s just a big, physical kid, and he’ll provide us with depth on the front line.
DeWayne Jackson is a 6-8 player from Bowie High School who also sat out as a non-qualifier. So both those guys will be eligible. And [DeWayne’s] a multidimensional player. DeWayne Jackson is that guy that can play any position from 2 to 4, and he’ll definitely give us depth on both the front line and backcourt. He can shoot from outside, he can guard and he can play the 4. So he’ll be a good player. We’re excited about having him.
The other young man we actually signed was Danny Smith from Woodlawn High School. He was at Western Nebraska Community College. He had a good two-year career there, and he’ll be looked upon for leadership. He gives us a different look in terms of the other guys that we have coming in. He’s 6-2, has good size, and we’ve had Jerrell Green and Itchy Bolden, and both of those guys are smaller guards, so Danny gives us a different look. He had a good summer. Danny and DeWayne played in the Kenner League down in Georgetown. I was getting reports that they both had a good summer.
How did Joe Davis end up at Morgan?
His dad just called us and he ended up transferring. They also had some history with [Morgan State assistant coach] Kevin McClain. Kevin McClain actually recruited him to Manhattan. We thought about recruiting him here when I hired Coach McClain here. But we went the junior college route, so that’s when we took Jerrell Green. So that’s kind of where the history came from with him.
What do you expect out of him considering he’s already produced at the Division I level?
Well we’ve had that with Marquise Kately. I mean Marquise was an All-Freshman guy in the Pac-10. So that in itself was big. So we’ve had [someone who’s excelled at the DI level and then transferred here] before, but it helps now. It’s a big loss with those three, but just like I think they did a pretty good job, you’ve got to remember the year before, we had the MEAC defensive player of the year (Boubacar Coly) and the MEAC player of the year and our starting point guard (Jamar Smith). And our guys responded pretty well, so I think they will respond comparatively this time around. At least that would be my hope. But you never know. Each team is different and each team takes on a personality of its own.
When did you get involved with Danny Smith?
With Danny, we watched him all year. He’s from Woodlawn, so we already knew him. I liked him in high school but academically he wasn’t ready. So he went the junior college route. Some guys choose to come in and sit out, but some guys want to go and play for their two years, so that’s what he did. He got bigger and stronger and had a chance to really expand his game. So obviously it’s our benefit and we were fortunate to get him to come back home.
Do any of your incoming recruits remind you of anybody specifically?
Not anybody that we’ve had. They’re different. DeWayne has a multidimensional aspect to his game. Jarrod Denard, he’s a quality guard. He’s very, very good. People in Philly, they all have nothing but good things to say about him. He’s 6-1 and can play multiple positions. He’s very aggressive defensively. But he can play the 1, 2 and 3.
Which of these new guys will you expect to contribute immediately?
I’m just expecting them to come in and work hard. That’s all we ever really expect -- for our guys to really come in and work hard and be open to the fact that they’re probably going to work harder than they’ve ever worked in their life. They just have to be willing to work. From that standpoint, once we get into the season, we’ll [assign] roles and it’ll be another piece of the puzzle.
How have you been able to expand your recruiting into different areas of the country?
Well it’s always about relationships. It’s about the relationships you have with people and whether people trust you with their particular players. When you have the history and the track record, all those things play into it. Unlike when we first got here, we have something tangible to sell to kids. The fact that we’ve done it, competed in the [NCAA] tournament and won the conference regular-season title two years in a row. So there’s history. We have an attractive package in terms of a lot of guys returning. We have nine guys returning, so that’s attractive in itself. They can come in and be a part of it. You don’t have to carry the whole load like the guys we had when we first got here. There’s quite a bit of competition that goes along with that and the success we had. Going to the tournament was huge, with the amount of attention that the guys received.
What kind of effect did making the NCAA tournament have on your class?
We felt good about. I wouldn’t say it [had a huge effect on this class]. I’m not downplaying it because the tournament was of great significance for us, and hopefully it plays bigger dividends for us in the next recruiting class, but it was something we were heavily involved with at the time. It’s just a matter of signing on the dotted line, and you can’t sign until April. So young people can say they’re coming [much earlier], but you really can’t sign them until the spring. So they [were already committed before the tournament].
Was it difficult recruiting with your contract situation unsettled? (Note: Bozeman signed a five-year extension in April)
No, it didn’t really come out like that. That didn’t really play into it, because it wasn’t a matter of whether I had an opportunity to come back or not. It was just a matter of when I was going to sign a contract. We negotiated in good faith and it was just a matter of working out the details. That pretty much was it. I guess to answer your question directly, it wasn’t a factor.
How will this class fit in with your returning players and what are your expectations for this season?
I think they fit in well. Danny, in terms of depth for us at the point guard spot, Jarrod Denard, with Rogers Barnes leaving, and Joe Davis with our scoring. Those guys will learn their roles. With DeWayne, [he’ll fill in for] Marquise in terms of versatility. So those guys kind of fill the void for us in those areas. They won’t have the experience those guys had. Joe Davis is close to it because he’s already played Division I ball for two years. But all of that will be positive for us. We’ve got nine guys returning and some of those guys have won the regular season championship two years in a row. They’ve gone to the postseason two years in a row and they played in the NCAA tournament. That should play to their advantage, and give them confidence. When you go to the tournament and you’re coming back, it really adds to your confidence, because you’ve done it and you feel good about it. Guys get confidence from that. That’s what you look for when you go to the tournament and you have guys returning.
Sun photo of Todd Bozeman by Karl Merton Ferron / March 18, 2009