(Baltimore Sun photo by Jed…)
For a guy who just lived through a 1-31 season in his first year as a Division I head coach, Pat Skerry seems oddly optimistic.
But for the second-year Towson men's basketball coach, staying positive is a surprisingly easy thing to do. Just steps away from his second-floor Towson Center office, construction continues on the state-of-the-art Tiger Arena, which is scheduled to open Aug. 1, 2013. Skerry says he couldn't be happier about the support his program receives from the athletic department and the university's administration. And the former Pittsburgh, Providence and Rhode Island assistant is bringing in a group of players that he thinks can potentially turn around Towson's on-the-court fortunes in a hurry.
For the 2012-13 season, Towson returns leading scorer Marcus Damas, a junior small forward, sophomore point guard Kris Walden, and sophomore center Jamel Flash. The Tigers also add three Big East transfers in center Bilal Dixon (Providence), shooting guard Mike Burwell (South Florida) and power forward Jerrelle Benimon (Georgetown).
Skerry's highly touted 2012 recruiting class, which NBCSports.com named one of the best under-the-radar groups in the country, features: Roanoke, Va., point guard Jerome Hairston (Rivals.com's No. 121 prospect nationally); Bridgeport, Conn., forward Timajh Parker-Rivera; Wilmington, Del., center/forward Barrington Alston; Reading, Pa., wing Marquis Marshall (son of former NBA player Donyell Marshall); and wing Rafriel Guthrie, a D.C. native who played last year at College of Southern Idaho. Petersburg, Va., guard Frank Mason, who signed with the Tigers in November, is not expected to be at Towson this year. The Tigers are also expected to welcome one of their top players during the 2010-11 season back into the fold.
Skerry spoke with The Sun this week about the 2012-13 Tigers.
Let's break down the roster by position, starting at point guard.
We’ll have Hairston, who’s obviously the most talented guy we signed. He’s got a chance to be really good. He’s got next-level size and great vision. Him, and obviously Kris Walden, can play both guard spots for us. [Walden’s] had a really good spring. His body’s changed. So I’ve been excited about those two guys.
How are things shaping up at shooting guard?
We’ll have Burwell at the guard spot. We’re expecting big things from him. Big East kid, he’s a legit 6-5, athletic, he can shoot. He’s still got to take hits better, but he’s talented.
More than likely, if summer goes as expected, [RaShawn] Polk is going to come back as a grad student. [Editor's note: Polk was suspended last year after facing assault and burglary charges]. He had a great year academically and he’d like to come back. So we’re going to go through the summer. He had a pretty good career until he had a blip on the radar, and obviously with all that stuff, he’s been fine and cleared of all that.
Are you impressed that he kept working despite his suspension?
I am impressed – one, the way he’s handled his academics. He’s well above a 3.0. The other piece is that he wants to get a master’s, get involved with counseling with kids. He wants to be here at Towson. Now he’s had a long time off, not having practices and all that stuff. But we’ll try to get him back in to Summer 2 and evaluate that. We’re working on him getting accepted into grad school now that he’s graduated. So there’s a strong possibility he’ll be back with us. So that makes us markedly deeper in the backcourt than we were a year ago.
How do you envision things shaking out at the 3?