The leading scorer transferred during the offseason, as did the top rebounder. Graduation took one of the program's all-time point-getters, and the best big man on campus wasn't available the first five games because of academic reasons.
The cupboard was almost bare when Michael Holmes took over as the Morgan State basketball coach, but he did find consistency in an unexpected corner. When the Golden Bears go to Coppin State tomorrow (7:30 p.m.) to try to knock off the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions, they'll rely on Glenn Smith, a sophomore forward from City who has been a pleasant surprise.
Smith was a second-team All-Rookie choice in the MEAC last season, but for most of the 1989-90 campaign he was regarded as the third-best freshman forward at Morgan State, behind Jamaine Williams, who has since transferred to North Carolina A&T, and current running mate Steve Haynes.
This season, Smith has been a beacon for the young Golden Bears (2-14), who played their first 12 games on the road. He leads Morgan State in scoring (16.8 points a game); rebounding (7.5); field-goal percentage (51.1); steals (1.5); and minutes (33.3). He's second in blocks (0.8) and assists (2.8).
The 6-foot-6, 190-pounder has a soft touch, an eye for the open man and a willingness to mix it up inside. He's perplexed only at the free throw line, where he's shooting 56.2 percent. Still . . .
"I didn't expect to be doing this well when I came here two years ago," Smith said. "With all of the transfers and a new coach, it was like a fresh start for me. I saw it as my turn to step up and be a leader."
Smith is handling that role much better than he did as a high school senior. His last year at City started well enough, as he played high school football for the first time and started at wide receiver for the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference champions.
Smith was a varsity basketball starter since his sophomore year, and he was expected to lead City in 1988-89. Two-thirds of the way through the season, however, he was kicked off the team by coach Warren Schwartz.
"In a nutshell, it got to the point where he was bigger than the team," Schwartz said. "He wasn't mature enough to handle the responsibility of leadership. He was getting a lot of interest from a number of mid-level Division I programs, and most of them were scared off."
Nat Frazier, then the Morgan State coach, wasn't. Glenn was interested in the Golden Bears because his father was a student there two decades ago. The son is pretty much following in his father's footsteps, since Larry Smith, a physical education instructor at Carver High, also played football at City in the late 1960s.
"I've heard a lot of stories about Marvin Webster, and what a power this place was when he was here," Smith said. "But I've probably heard more talk about City-Poly football."
If Morgan State is going to relive its basketball glory days any time soon, it will need an infusion of talent. In his first stab at recruiting for the Golden Bears, Holmes already has letters of intent from five prospects for next year. However, Smith, 19, figures in his plans.
"It's up to Glenn how big he'll be in the picture," Holmes said. "He is working, don't get me wrong, but he's probably at about 60 percent of his potential. He can shoot, rebound and pass, but his defense isn't as sound as it should be.
"There are other deficiencies, sure, but he has all the skills. It's just a matter of applying them. I know he wants to play, and he has that drive and aggression you need to win."