When the University of Maryland Eastern Shore basketball team takes the court this season, none of the five top starters from last season will be back. And that's probably good, because the Hawks were 5-23 in 1990-91.
Coach Bob Hopkins is starting anew. He's doing it with five junior college transfers, four of whom are in the probable starting lineup. The only returning player who will start is shooting guard Simon Edwards. Only four players have Division I experience.
The toughest loss for the Hawks may be point guard Dondre Phoenix, who was on the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference all-rookie team last year. He was declared academically ineligible this season. That leaves Roderick Caine, a transfer from McCook (Neb.) College, at the point.
"We are really hurt in leadership," Hopkins said of his inexperienced team.
The Hawks, who finished last in the MEAC with a 3-13 record a year ago, also lost Shawn Johnson to academics. Leland Kent and Derrick Purnell, who started as juniors last season, were cut, Hopkins said.
What's back is a total of 12.4 points per game.
Hopkins' hope to lead his new team is small forward Marlin Kimbrew (22.2 ppg, 7.0 rebounds per game last season at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh). Playing shooting guard, Kimbrew was an all-Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference selection last season. In 1989-90, he was the sixth man on Allegheny's national championship team.
"I would be very disappointed if he didn't score 20 or more a game for us," Hopkins said. "He can do it all. He's a good defensive player. He's Mr. Excitement. He's outside. He's inside. He hits three-pointers just like free throws."
Up front, the Hawks will have to improve their rebounding, Hopkins said. Last season's team finished seventh in the MEAC with a minus-five rebounding margin.
Hopkins is looking to junior-college forward Mike Harris (11.3 rpg at Camden County (N.J.) College) and center Lachland Richards, one of the top rebounders last season at Union County (N.J.) College, along with Kimbrew.
"Rebounding was our biggest weakness last year," Hopkins said. "We had a center weighing 185 pounds going against guys 225 inside."
Size should be no problem this year. Harris is 6-8, 220; Richards is 6-9, 230; and Kimbrew is 6-4, 215. The Hawks also have a freshman, Greg Hudgins, who is 6-6, 240.
But Hopkins, who until Aug. 1 was barred by the NCAA from off-campus recruiting because of rules violations while he was coach at Grambling, said defense is the biggest question for the Hawks this season.
"Defensively, we're not as far along as we'd like to be," he said. "Some of the young guys have a tendency to let the offensive man receive the ball and then play defense, rather than making it hard on him to get the ball.
"We can score, but how well we can stop people is another question."