Q&A with Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman
Last season was far from the norm for Morgan State men's basketball coach Todd Bozeman.
For just the third time in a nine-year head coaching career, a Bozeman-coached team missed the postseason . The Morgan State coach -- who has been to three NCAA tournaments with Cal and two with the Bears, plus an NIT appearance with MSU -- doesn't plan on making that a habit.
With a veteran team returning and a solid recruiting class coming in, getting back to the promised land seems a reasonable goal for the Bears, who finished 17-14 last season. Bozeman has added five players to Morgan's roster: Blake Bozeman, a 6-foot-2, 165-pound guard from Bowie; Jeremy Canty, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound guard from Norcum High in Portsmouth, Va.; Shaquille Duncan, a 6-foot-9 forward from Philadelphia's Frankford High; Thair Heath, a 6-foot-9, 215-pound forward from Compton, Calif., who played last year at San Bernardino Valley College; and Anthony Hubbard, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound wing from Woodbridge, Va., who starred last season at Frederick Community College and originally committed to Iowa.
Bozeman spoke to Recruiting Report last week about Morgan's 2011 class.
When Hubbard decided to leave Iowa, how did you get involved with him?
Well, we recruited him initially, so he wasn’t foreign to us. My assistant coaches really liked him a lot. Like in some cases, it appears that it won’t work out for you. He went out to Iowa, and decided he actually preferred to be closer to home. We were really involved with him, and we knew a lot of the same people, so this was just a matter of us laying out for him what Morgan State had to offer. The fact that we can help him reach his dreams and goals and accomplish the same things by being close to home, it just worked out for us. I think it’s a good fit for him. He’s obviously very talented and brings a wealth of experience to us.
What, specifically, do you like about his game?
Well the fact that he can really create his own shot and can really get to the basket. He’s really strong, so he rebounds and can play three positions – all three perimeter positions. And he’s motivated. He has a burning desire to succeed. Those are the things that you really want. He’s carrying a basketball around with him everywhere on campus. He’s on a mission.
Hubbard spent almost four years in prison for his role in a burglary. Were there any concerns about his past, or are you confident that’s all behind him?
Well yeah, everybody has a past. It’s just a matter of some folks’ past are different than others. We are who we are based on experiences we’ve gone through. He made a mistake and he moved on. He paid for it and he moved on. There's not a whole lot left to say about it.
Canty was a really accomplished high school player who won two state titles. What do you like about his game?
Well again, I like his energy level. All the guys that we’ve brought in have a high energy level. I really like that [all the recruits] have high basketball IQ. Anytime you can get a player of Jeremy’s caliber that has won that much, it says a lot because he has seen [winning] first-hand as opposed to you telling him about it. He’s done it at a high level. He’s played in high-level games. He’s been well-coached. So I’m very excited about Jeremy. When we started recruiting him, he was a guy that was a very explosive scorer. But like all the freshmen, it’ll take time for him to get comfortable in the system. Some move faster than others.
What does Shaquille Duncan bring to the table?
Well I like his energy level, I like his basketball IQ. He just kind of goes hard. He’s just a tough, physical guy that just goes really hard. I’m really excited about bringing another big into the program that has that energy level. He’s active. Shaquille is really active. And he can score and is really a tremendous rebounder and a very, very good defender. He can defend guys 6-3 on up. He brings a lot to the program.
We also signed my son, Blake. He played at Solebury Prep. The thing that he brings is he’s got high basketball IQ. He’s a guy that can run all day and really shoot the ball. He can add depth to our backcourt as well.
How did that recruiting process with your son play out?
I tried hard not to put pressure on him because I can imagine it’s tough to just tell your dad no. So I wanted him to be able to make the decision on his own. Obviously, it’s special for me to have an opportunity to coach him. And I wanted him to feel comfortable for himself. We’ve been winning, and he knew he would get a fair shot with the coach, and then he would learn a lot because he’s been learning a lot already. It really just fit. So I’m excited about the opportunity to coach him. He made it known he wanted to play for his dad. I coached him in AAU ball as well. He was raised to not think he’s owed something just because he’s my son. He’s been working hard doing his preseason work. And he’s just one of the fellas. He doesn’t call me dad whenever I’m around them. It’s Coach.
Any other newcomers?
We also have an addition of a young man Thair Heath, 6-10, from San Bernadino Community College. He’s here as well. He’s one of those kids that’s just a tenacious rebounder. He throws his body around a lot. We really believe in his defense and rebounding.
With a veteran group coming back and these newcomers, what’s the expectation this season? How will this team be different than last year's group?
Well I thought last year we had a good group. I just thought that for the first time other than the very first year, we had to count on first-year guys, and we typically haven’t done that. We’ve always had guys that were kind of waiting their turn. If you look at it, every guy in his second year played in the postseason for us. Jerrell [Green] played in the NIT his second year. Itchy [Bolden] played in the NCAA tournament his second year. Sean Thomas played in the NCAA tournament his second year. Hopefully with Larry [Bastfield], that trend can continue. It’ll be his second year at the point for us. Last year was the first year, and it’s kind of tough on first-year guys because it takes some time to learn the system, get comfortable with it and adjust to those things. With Aric Brooks, he’ll be a year more experienced and, as a senior, have three years of college basketball under his belt. Larry Bastfield is the same. Larry’s been a Division I starter for three years. And then [you have] Justin Black, coming off an All-MEAC rookie campaign with another year of experience. I really like this group. With the addition of Hubbard and the three freshmen, I like the group. It’s an athletic group of talent.
How does this team stack up with some of your previous Morgan teams?
Top to bottom, I definitely think it’s the most talented team we’ve had.
Baltimore Sun photo of Todd Bozeman by Karl Merton Ferron / Dec. 4, 2010