Well, even though he didn’t play last year, he practiced with us the entire year, Troy Snyder. I think Troy is just a very solid basketball player. He’s somebody that I think can be a leader for us out there. I really feel that he showed tremendous improvement. Another young man who played a lot toward the end of the year, Ron Spencer. He’s a 6-10 kid, and he does the little things. He’s gotten stronger, picked up a few pounds. He’s got some great basketball skills. You start talking about those two guys who are all-purpose players for us. Last year, a guy who started a number of games and broke his hand and missed the last six or seven games is Ishaq Pitts. He’s a big, strong kid who can play the 1, 2 and 3. Even in a small lineup, at 6-4 he can play the 4. And then we had a kid Louis Bell. When things went bad for us, both Lou and Ishaq broke their hands in the same game against Howard. Lou is a capable scorer. He was coming along. The new kids, we’re really counting on.
One kid I didn’t mention that also had a great summer and is working hard to get better is a 6-10 kid named T.J. Kosile. He played well for us and got a lot better. He’s been able to work out in the offseason. In the summer we had six or seven guys getting stronger. T.J. is one of those guys. I really feel it helped our new blood, with four or five kids returning. We’re getting a pretty good nucleus of kids that can get out at the start of the season and get the ball rolling. We open up our season in the tournament out there in Hawaii. So I’m hoping that trip, being far away from home, helps guys bond and do a pretty good job of getting a lot of good experience. I’m excited. Hopefully we can do a lot better than what we did. Like I said, for a number of reasons, we just had a lousy finish last year. You always remember how you finished. Last year we just didn’t finish well for a number of reasons. People say life is 80 percent looking back and 20 percent moving forward. We’re looking forward 80 percent.
Did you think the program would be further along by now?
A little bit. I thought last year, if you know me, I’m pretty candid about things. I thought last year we did not take a significant step forward. In fact, with injuries, we didn’t do as well as the year before that. After my second year here, I really thought we had things going in the right direction. I thought my third year we kind of treaded water a little bit. Last year, for a number of reasons, we didn’t get the production out of the seniors I thought we would. We had some injuries. It was Murphy’s Law – whatever can go wrong will go wrong. But I thought last year we didn’t make the progress that I thought we needed to make, hence some changes and the infusion of new blood. I really feel good about the guys coming into the program. I know myself and my staff. We’ve worked extremely hard the last year to recruit the kind of talent I think you’re going to need to win in the MEAC.
The MEAC is an underpublicized at times, sometimes underappreciated, conference. Every now and then people take notice, like when Norfolk State beats Missouri in the first round [of the NCAA tournament]. A few years [prior to that game], Coppin beat South Carolina, and Hampton, more recently, beat Iowa State. We don’t get many chances in the MEAC to get on the national level. But for somebody like yourself that follows the sport, they don’t talk about it in College Park, but Morgan beat the University of Maryland. Sometimes our league, we’re out there and people don’t really take notice. But having coached in the MEAC for a number of years – this is my second stint after I was the coach at Howard and had some decent teams there – hopefully we’re building the program to the level of success I had at Tennessee State and Virginia Tech.
I consider myself a veteran coach. We have a very, very strong league in the MEAC, especially when you’re talking about point guards, shooting guards and small forwards. Sometimes at the national stage, the higher-level teams have more solid inside players at power forward and center. But I’m just really excited about the league in and of itself. There are a number of good teams there. Hopefully we can get up in the top tier of the league. I know we’re making progress toward having a much better program, and building the program to the level of being considered in the top tier within the league.