Q&A with UMBC coach Randy Monroe
The past couple seasons have been extraordinarily difficult for the UMBC men's basketball program, but coach Randy Monroe believes the worst is behind his team.
The Retrievers, who finished 5-25 last season and 4-26 the season before, graduated forward Justin Fry, center Laurence Jolicoeur, guard Travis King and guard Bakari Smith. In their place is a six-man recruiting class.
UMBC this season will welcome Nate Basalyga, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound center from South Abington, Pa., Ryan Cook, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound transfer from Chestnut Hill who graduated from Pallotti, Joey Getz, a 6-foot, 170-pound guard from Philadelphia, Jarell Lane, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound guard from Elizabeth, N.J., Chandler Thomas, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound forward from Indianapolis, Jordan Wejnert, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound guard from Lavalette, N.J., and Will Wise, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward from Princeton, N.J., to its roster.
Monroe spoke with Recruiting Report this week about his 2011 recruiting class.
Overall, how do you feel about this six-man class?
Obviously, when you lose a big class like that, you have to bring in guys you feel that can help and contribute in some sort of fashion. I like this group of young men. They seem to be very self-sufficient. They do things on their own. They don’t have to be told a million and one times to do things. I kind of like that in a player. They’re very proactive and very assertive. So I like that when a player is able to do those things. This class, I’m excited about it because it’s an exciting time. Obviously, they’re freshmen, but they’re excited about being here and looking to turn the face of the program around. I’m just as excited about it because it’s an exciting time.
Basalyga seems like a big guy that’s battled some injuries over the years. Talk about his development and what you see in him.
He’s a big guy who’s got very good skills. He can shoot the ball out from 17 and 18 feet. He’s a big body who can do a big guy’s job posting on the interior. He’s got terrific hands. He’s a hard worker. So I’m definitely excited about him.
Cook is an in-state guy who is coming to UMBC from a DII school. How did his recruitment play out and what can be expected of him?
Well Ryan just enrolled in the school. We talked about it, and he wanted to try out. He did and [he made the team]. He played locally and is a terrific young man who’s been working extremely hard to improve his game and he’s done a terrific job of that in a short period of time. I’ve been totally impressed with his work ethic and his willingness to be good. He just plays hard every time he steps on the floor. If we can play as hard as he does, if everyone can do that on the regular, we can be fine. He just gives everything he has out there on the floor. That’s part of what makes him a good player. He’s certainly a very good athlete and he’s certainly improved his jump shot. So he’s definitely a young man that we’re very proud to have in our program.
Is he on scholarship?
He’s not. He’s actually a walk-on.
Do you think he’ll be a guy who gets minutes?
Possibly. He certainly has worked his way toward that. So it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
Getz has a reputation as a scoring point guard. What’s his story and what do you expect from him?
He’s a player that was the leading scorer in the Philadelphia Catholic League. He did everything for his team. He was the catalyst on his team. He really made his team go. He averaged about 20 points a game, which led the Catholic League. But at the same time, he was always able to get his teammates involved. That says a lot about his ability as a player, being able to score his own points and keep his teammates involved. He’s a guy at 6-feet who’s able to dunk. He can score in a couple different ways. He’s very competitive. He’s definitely one who will be able to play both guard positions.
Lane played with Chase Plummer at St. Patrick. Is that how you discovered him?
Yeah, we had seen Jarell play with Chase, and the thing I liked about Jarell is that when a lot of things seemed to be going haywire during the course of a game, he was able to keep his composure and lead his team, take his shots and pick his spots. He’s always looking to deliver the basketball to the open man. He’s always doing a good job of passing to the interior. He’s a very unselfish player. I think he’s a very poised player.
Does Lane’s game complement Getz’s style of play?
Yes, I think they do. They definitely would do a really good job of complementing each other. They both know how to win. That’s a valuable commodity.
Chandler Thomas was a late recruit for this class. How did you get involved with him?
Well, we had seen him a couple times on a DVD, and I’ve gone out to see him play. I was just impressed with his drive and his will to play on the interior against guys probably a little bigger than he was. He did a good job of rebounding the ball and knocking down shots and finishing around the basket. He just really played hard. He went to a very good high school in Cathedral Prep in Indianapolis. For a guy his size, he does a terrific job of rebounding the basketball. He really does have a nose for that. He’s also good with the fundamentals. A shot goes up, he blocks his man out and he does not allow him to get any scoring chance. I think he’s really good at that.
After a prep year, is Wejnert ready to contribute?
Well I hope so. I hope he is. He’s a basketball junkie. He loves to play. He’s a very competitive young man. He’s super athletic. And he works on his game constantly. He’s always trying to find ways to better himself. I hope he’s able to come and do that for us, coming in and doing that right away. He’s certainly going to come in and give everything he has because he’s a terrific young man.
Wise is another prep school guy. What do you like about him?
A couple things. One, his drive and determination. He’s got a strong will. He’s a very, very competitive person. He believes in himself, which is something I like a lot. He has a tremendous sense of humor. But he’s got a nice shot and he’s got good post moves. He passes the ball very well for a big guy. He just loves to play the game. He flat-out loves to play. He’s very coachable. And I think that’s so important nowadays. He takes things in, he listens, he digests things and then he goes out and does what he’s supposed to do. I’m really excited about him being a part of our program.
Which of these newcomers are you counting on to contribute?
I’m counting on all of them. I’m counting on all of them. Until you get them in the gym, and they’re all playing together, you just don’t know right now. But I’m high on all six of those guys. To say I’m high on one more so than the other, I couldn’t tell you that right now. But I’m extremely high on all of them.
Do you feel like you addressed all the needs you wanted to in this recruiting class?
I think we have addressed our needs. I think we have some size and I think we have some perimeter players. Now it’s just a matter of getting them all together and getting them to jell and play together, and I think that’s a big part of it right there. If we can do that, we should be well on our way.
Yes. Conway wanted to go back down to Florida, where he’s originally from. Groce is back in Maryland.
So you return Jamar Wertz, Chris De La Rosa, Adrian Satchell, Chase Plummer, Brian Neller and Jake Wasco. It seems to be a solid mix of veterans and young guys. What are you looking for from your returners?
Well those guys certainly have had a couple years of experience under their belt now. We’re definitely looking for them to provide the guidance and leadership that they need to help our young guys along. I think that’s very important. I think that’s very key. I think they’re chomping at the bit trying to get started with the new year. They’ve certainly proved that in the spring working out and making themselves better to prepare for the upcoming season. I’m looking for their guidance more so than anything else.
Do you think this group can help get UMBC back on the right track?
Yeah, I’m excited. People always say, ‘What’s wrong at UMBC?’ Certainly, it’s a good program just like anything else, but programs lose juniors and seniors. They have to replace those juniors and seniors. It’s hard some times when you’re replacing them with freshmen and sophomores. They need to learn how to play college basketball. That happens just about everywhere across the country. You’ll see teams deal with that and have to make those adjustments. Or they go through that transition period. I’m excited about this group and they’re excited about wanting to play and having a good season. So I’m definitely looking forward to coaching them.
Baltimore Sun photo of Randy Monroe by Steve Ruark / Feb. 9, 2008