One year ago UMES coach Frankie Allen was looking forward to welcoming six new players onto the Hawks' roster.
Today, just one member of that six-man class -- sophomore guard Louis Bell -- remains in Princess Anne. UMES has just four returners coming back off last season's 9-22 team.
Allen was a busy man this offseason in putting together his 2011-12 roster. He added former Colorado and Northern Illinois coach Ricardo Patton and Marlon Terry as assistants, and recruited a seven-man class.
The new additions to the Hawks are: Olatunji "T.J." Kosile, a 6-foot-11 center from Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Miss.; Pina Guillaume, a 6-foot-9 power forward from Blinn College in Texas who played his freshman year at Binghamton; Ron Spencer, a 6-foot-9 forward who transferred from Tennessee-Martin; Akeem Anderson, a 6-foot-7 forward from Northwest Mississippi Community College; Gregory Womack, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Redlands Community College in El Reno, Okla.; Percy Woods, a 6-foot combo guard from Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pa.; and Ishaq Pitt, a 6-foot-3 point guard from St. John Vianney in New Jersey.
Allen spoke to Recruiting Report this week about his 2011 recruiting class.
Last year you brought in a six-man class, but just one of those players remains. Because of those departures, you’re bringing in another big class of seven guys this year. What happened with last year’s group, and how will you integrate this incoming class with your four returners?
As we spoke last year at this time, [I was] very excited about the incoming class. It just didn’t seem to pan out the way we anticipated. I have to look back every year and analyze where we’re headed with the program. The recruiting process, it’s not an exact science. Obviously there were some issues with performance as well as some issues with [us not having] very good team chemistry. At the end of the year, we basically had to make some decisions with some players not coming back, transferring to other places. So we’re bringing in another big recruiting class. It’s not an ideal type of thing, but I think I got it right this time in terms of recruiting the right kinds of kids with the right kind of chemistry, and maybe just a little bit better talent level. Obviously, time will tell. We’ll proceed with things this year with a little more cautious optimism. Maybe I misread my team a little bit, expecting a little bit higher than what they should have been. Then factor in what was just not a really good mix with last year’s team. So basically, we’re starting with another bigger class.
Kosile was the lone fall signee. What do you like about his potential?
[He’s] 7-foot and a strong defender, capable around the basket offensively. I thought we were not big enough last year and not tough enough. So I had to address that in my recruiting needs. I wanted more size and I wanted more versatility and I wanted more toughness. T.J., as far as his size and his toughness and the work ethic that he displays, that makes him a really strong recruit for us. He basically was under the radar a little bit because he had been injured. He’s coming out of junior college but he’ll have three years of eligibility. He missed a year because of injury. I really feel good about his presence in the middle.
Guillaume has already had some success at this level. Is he an instant-impact guy?
I think so. He’s a 4-man at 6-9. I’ve been watching some tape. One of my assistants saw him in the recruiting process. He’s very versatile. When I talk about size, versatility and toughness as being three components we wanted to add in this year’s recruiting class, [he has them all]. At 6-9 he can put it on the floor, dribble and [shoot the] jump shot. I think he’s a very capable defender and rebounder. Like I said, he’s got good skills offensively with his back to the basket and facing the basket. He can step out and shoot the mid-range jumper and be an outside threat. I really feel very fortunate that we were able to get him. He has played at the DI level, things didn’t work out there, he went back to the junior college level, and we were able to get him to come up here and play on the Eastern Shore. He has good size for a 4-man, obviously with a lot of versatility and again, with toughness.
Spencer’s another guy with DI experience under his belt. Will he factor in to the rotation once he’s eligible?
We tried to recruit Ron out of high school our very first year, coming in as a new staff. But Ron is very athletic. At 6-9, he can really run the floor, can play the 4 or the 5 position. He just has a high motor. He really gets up and down the floor. Defensively, he’s a presence, a good rebounder, shot blocker. He brings a lot of energy. That’s what I really admire about Ron. He’s got a good work ethic. He had shoulder surgery, which set him back at Tennessee-Martin. He’s from New Jersey and saw an opportunity to get a fresh start here, only about two-and-a-half, three hours from his home. Ron can come in and give us a lot more size than what we’ve had in the past.
When will he be eligible to play?
His first game will be in December, right after the first semester ends. He can play after the 16th of December. I think we have a game on the 17th. We’ve got a couple other games during the Christmas holiday. He’ll be there for the full MEAC season.
What are you looking for in terms of contributions from another JUCO guy in Anderson?
Akeem can play the 3 or the 4. He’s a great defender, obviously is a good scorer and has good handles. He can put it on the floor, get to the basket, and he’s an excellent rebounder. He can guard positions 1 through 4. One of the things I like about him is how he defends. We were trying to address certain needs, and he’s an excellent defender for us. So many teams in our league have a quality 3-man. For the perimeter position in our league, [we hope Anderson can] really get out and defend some of the other teams’ better wing players.
Womack comes in with a reputation as a strong 3-point shooter. Can he help you out with that right away?
He’s got good size also, but he can really stretch the defense with his 3-point shooting. Teams are now playing a lot more zone defense. Teams are having some success playing the zone, and we as coaches go as the trend goes. … So sometimes the best way to crack the zone defense is with outside shooting. Gregory can do other things. He’s a good rebounder, a solid defender, and just a solid player. He’s kind of a no-nonsense type of guy that gets the job done for you. He played on a really outstanding junior college team. He’s leaving after his freshman year, so again, he had three years of eligibility remaining.
What does Woods bring to the table? Do you see him as a combo guard?
He’s a combo guard that can really score and defend. I think we got a lot better defensively from last year to this year. He can really defend, but he can also score. He’s got great quickness, he’s athletic, he takes the ball in traffic and at 6-1 can dunk it. Coming out of high school down there in Prince George’s County, he was an All-Met performer. We’re really excited about him.
Pitt’s the lone true freshman and the lone true point guard. What are your expectations from him?
He’s a quality point guard with a great body at 6-3, 6-4 and 200-plus pounds. He can really defend, and he really just knows how to play. He’s a pass-first point guard looking to get other players involved. He just has an excellent basketball IQ. The kid’s a winner with a tremendous work ethic. He loves the game. He’s come by our office – these guys were here for summer school, just trying to get acclimated before the start of the fall semester. He’s the kind of guy who wants to come in and talk with you. He’s been working out in the weight room. He’s just a tremendous kid to be around. And he exudes leadership. He’s a freshman coming out of prep school, so he’s a little bit older than a normal freshman. But on our squad, because of the position he plays and in talking with him and being around him, he’s just one of those natural leaders. He’s the type of young man that other players really rally behind. I’m really excited about his future.
Overall, do you feel this class addresses all your needs? And which of these newcomers will be counted on right away?
I’ll tell you what: I really see all of those guys making significant contributions. We only have four guys returning from last year’s team: our leading scorer, Hillary Haley, he returns; Tyler Hines returns, who was a starter for us; Lou Bell, who played in a reserve role; and Mark Robertson, who played in a reserve role but also started. You have seven new guys and four guys returning. It’s going to be a competition out there for those positions. I really feel like everything’s really wide open with the new guys coming in. I feel like we got a shot in the arm with this recruiting class. Recruiting is the lifeblood of a program. I really feel with these new guys and their work ethic, they’ve been doing the strength and conditioning thing, these guys are on their own and I really just see these guys bonding. I look for it to be a very competitive preseason. The most important thing right now is having the right kind of kids with the right kind of mindset. That’s probably what I’m most excited about.
What are your expectations for this season?
Obviously as a coach, we’re talking about the first week or so in August. I’ll try to proceed with cautious optimism. The MEAC is really a strong conference. There are a lot of good teams in our league. My second year here we came very close to getting in the top half of the league. There are 13 teams in the league now, but in years past your top five teams have gotten a bye in the tournament. But obviously we haven’t finished in the top part of the conference among the top-tier teams. That’s what we’re really trying to set our sights on – being in the top level of the league. I know our work is cut out for us. With a lot of new players, we’re trying to get these guys to mesh. Hopefully by the time we get into conference play in January, hopefully we see the fruits of our labor in terms of recruiting. I know only time will tell. I’m cautiously optimistic, but I do feel good about this group. Hopefully this season is a breakthrough season in terms of getting in the top tier of the conference.