Friday , Nov , 03 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

College Basketball Preview – Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) –
OUTLOOK: After dominating the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 2005-06, the
Delaware State Hornets return their entire starting lineup and are poised for
another run at the league title. Behind the Hornets, however, it’s anybody’s
guess as to how the MEAC will pan out. One factor that will certainly play into
how the conference standings shape up is the transition of three new head
coaches to the league. Perhaps the biggest name is new Morgan State front man
Todd Bozeman. A former coach at the University of California, the 42-year-old
Bozeman has been out of college basketball for eight years following a
recruiting scandal at his former program. Irregardless of his past, Bozeman
brings some recruiting prowess to a school that has gone three decades without
a conference title. At Hampton, Bobby Collins stepped down despite winning last
year’s MEAC Tournament. In his place steps former Clemson assistant Kevin
Nickelberry. South Carolina State lost Ben Betts to an assistant coaching
position at Oklahoma, leaving former Tennessee State assistant Jamal Brown in
charge of a program with plenty of potential. South Carolina State, along with
the likes of Florida A&M and Norfolk State could contend with Delaware State.
Behind them, Hampton, Coppin State, Howard and North Carolina A&T could also
emerge as contenders under the right conditions. Schools like Bethune-Cookman,
Morgan State and Maryland-Eastern Shore appear to be a few years away from
turning things around.


PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Delaware State, 2. Florida A&M, 3. Norfolk State,
4. South Carolina State, 5. Hampton, 6. Coppin State, 7. Howard, 8. North
Carolina A&T, 9. Bethune-Cookman, 10. Morgan State, 11. Maryland-Eastern Shore


DELAWARE STATE – The Hornets are fresh off a strong season in which they set a
school record for wins (21) en route to capturing another MEAC title. With the
entire starting lineup returning, the Hornets are locked and loaded once again
for 2006-07. None of those returnees will be counted on more than Jahsha
Bluntt, the conference’s reigning Player of the Year. Last year, Bluntt
averaged a team-leading 14.6 ppg and 4.7 rpg. Point guard Darrin Shine (8.2
ppg, 4.4 apg) and forward Joe Dickens (8.6 ppg) headline the remainder of the
starting lineup, along with big men Aaron Fleetwood and Troy Roundtree.
Cincinnati transfer Roy Bright also figures to push for significant playing

FLORIDA A&M – A pair of seniors will be counted on to help the Rattlers
challenge for the MEAC crown, as guard Brian Greene and center Rome Sanders
will command plenty of attention from the opposition. Sanders, who checks in at
6-8, 240 pounds, is coming off a fine season in which he averaged 11.1 ppg
along with five rebounds per game. He is extremely efficient at the offensive
end, as evidenced by his league-leading .578 field goal percentage. While
Sanders should hold down the fort in the frontcourt, 6-5 guard Brian Greene
(11.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) is poised to accomplish big things in the backcourt. Greene
shined in last year’s MEAC Tourney. Key new additions include Darius Glovers
(11 ppg in 2004-05), who returns after redshirting last season, along with juco
transfers Ernie Maul (21.1 ppg) and L.C. Robinson (13.3 ppg).

NORFOLK STATE – The list of returnees from last year’s squad does not bring a
whole lot of scoring to the offense. Tony Murphy (15.6 ppg) accounts for the
team’s only double-digit scorer from 2005-06. Murphy is a preseason MEAC First
Team selection and will no doubt be counted on for his offensive capabilities.
Behind Murphy is center Calvin Brown, who returns after averaging 9.5 ppg and
5.6 rpg. The only other players with significant starting experience include
senior forward Tynell Dunkley and guard Al’Davon Thomas. However, Thomas had a
few too many turnovers for coach Mike Deloach, who is counting on point guard
Dwight Freeman to push Thomas.

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE – The Bulldogs are coming off a 14-win season and a third-
place finish in the MEAC. Around the South Carolina State campus, few were
expecting coach Betts to leave for greener pastures after such a season. In any
case, the athletic department believes it found a quality replacement in Jamal
Brown. One player who Brown will be counting on is All-MEAC selection Brian
Mason, who averaged 14.3 ppg and 6.1 rpg in 2005-06. Mason has displayed solid
shot selection along with a knack for always being in a position for a rebound.
Point guard Derrick Davis has two years of starting experience. The frontcourt
was a bit suspect last year, as a large majority of the team’s offensive
production came by way of outside shots and dribble penetration. Newcomers
Marcus McCants and Jason Flagler figure to make contributions on the offensive
end from the start.

HAMPTON – The Pirates lost the lion’s share of their offensive production from
a year ago. Those departures left incoming coach Kevin Nickelberry with some
work to do in the recruiting department. And the new coach did not disappoint,
as this year’s recruiting class is among the conference’s most reputable. The
headliners include guards Jon Ntoko and Vincent Simpson, along with forwards
Matt Pilgrim (6-8) and Oluwaseyi Oseni (6-10). If last year’s tournament MVP
Rashad West (10.1 ppg) continues his development from the tail end of the
season, coach Nickelberry will be a happy man. West has three-point range and
also possesses the ability to consistently draw fouls and get to the free throw
line. Others with starting experience include Adrian Woodard and brothers
Lionel and Junior Peohua.

COPPIN STATE – The Eagles turned some heads by finishing second in the
conference last year. This year’s squad is again young, but one that is filled
with potential. Leading the way is reigning Freshman of the Year Tywain McKee,
who paced the team in scoring with 15.4 ppg (17.1 ppg in conference games).
Sophomore Talmadge Bell is a sharp-shooter who must be respected out on the
perimeter after last year leading the league in three-point percentage (.417).
Junior Darryl Roberts returns as the team’s second-leading scorer after
averaging 10.3 ppg as a guard. A pair of freshmen were recruited to eventually
add some punch to the frontcourt. Ethan Kennedy (6-7) averaged 20 points and
eight rebounds as a senior at Highland High School in New Mexico, while Earl
Knight (6-6) hails from perennial New Jersey state championship contender LEAP

HOWARD – After compiling a 7-22 record in 2005-06, there is plenty of room for
improvement for the Bison. Such a dreary win-loss ratio tends to keep folks
from making championship predictions for the following season. While the MEAC
title is likely not yet in the cards for the Bison, the team does have a few
positives to build on for the upcoming season. For one, head coach Gil Jackson
is entering his second year at Howard and is no doubt more comfortable with how
his players fit into his system. One of Jackson’s top priorities in the
offseason was to recruit a solid rookie class, something he was very successful
in doing. Jackson signed a point guard, a wing player, and a trio of 6-8
forwards. In addition, the team returns five of the top six scorers from a year
ago, led by forward Darryl Hudson (12.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and three-point
specialist Will Gant (10.6 ppg).

NORTH CAROLINA A&T – Injuries and academic problems played a significant role
in the Aggies’ dismal 6-23 record last year. However, coach Jerry Eaves
believes last season’s trials and tribulations helped build character for his
young team. Junior Jason Wills (14.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg) is a preseason First Team
All-MEAC selection and the team’s top returning player, and he will be
surrounded by a few players back from injury. Two of those players are juniors
Demetrius Guions (12.8 ppg) and Austin Ewing (11.6 ppg). Senior Greg Roberts
(nine ppg) adds some depth. Coach Eaves plucked a pair of talented players from
local Greensboro high schools in 6-7 forward Robert Johnson and point guard
Tavarus Alston. He also landed UNC-Asheville guard Steve Rush and Bowling Green
transfer Nick Wilson.

BETHUNE-COOKMAN – The Wildcats are coming off a third-place finish in the MEAC
and their best season in 30 years. The fairy-tale run came to an end with a
57-55 loss to Hampton in the quarterfinal round of the conference tourney. It
also came to an end with the loss of two all-conference selections and four
additional seniors who all played vital roles in last year’s rare non-losing
season. The leading returning scorer becomes forward Sam Barber, who
contributed 10.8 ppg and 5.3 rpg in 2005-06. Coach Clifford Reed was busy
recruiting in the offseason, with his biggest acquisitions being a trio of
transfers who will be counted on to make an immediate contribution. That trio
includes center Aaron Nelson and guards Demetrius Coleman and Jimmy Hudson.

MORGAN STATE – The Bears have nowhere to go but up following last season’s poor
4-26 showing which earned them a spot in the MEAC cellar. New coach Todd
Bozeman is best known for his recruiting tactics, which also played a role in
why he was dismissed from Cal. Eight years removed from his last coaching gig,
Bozeman wasted no time bringing in a dynamite recruiting class. And with the
shapeup of the current Morgan State roster, several of those new faces could be
thrown right into the fire. In all, eight freshmen signed on to play under
Bozeman. They will mix in with senior guard Joseph McLean, who was the MEAC’s
fifth-leading scorer last year with an average of 14.7 ppg.

MARYLAND-EASTERN SHORE – The Hawks were a very young team last year and it
showed, as the squad posted a 7-22 mark and finished in a tie for last place in
the conference. That said, the experience gained by a pair of freshmen who
landed on the conference’s All-Rookie team should pay dividends for the
upcoming season. Jesse Brooks (9.4 ppg, 4.9 apg) flashed his scoring potential,
and also impressed with his passing skills. Ed Tyson (9.6 ppg) provided some
additional offensive production. However, the team lost Troy Jackson (12.7
ppg), who was arguably the top freshman in the conference a year ago. Senior
forward Antonio McMillan (10.2 ppg) is the team’s leading returning scorer.