Do you remember when your life peaked? Maybe it hasn’t yet, but it’s probably just as likely that it has and you aren’t aware of it yet. If you’re a young(ish) Morgan State basketball fan, it might well have been late in the first decade of this century, when the Bears went 42-6 over three seasons in conference play and made back-to-back NCAA tournaments under Todd Bozeman. That momentum petered out and the program has been trying to recapture anything resembling the same magic since.
Morgan State hired Todd Bozeman - the coach who guided them to their most successful period since they won the D2 national championship in 1974, which is still definitely within the timeframe to be considered pertinent to modern games - off the back of an eight-year show-cause penalty that he received from the NCAA for various improprities while he was the head coach at Cal. They declined to renew Bozeman’s contract after the 2018-19 season and replaced him with Kevin Broadus, who hadn’t had a head coaching job since he was at Binghamton from 2007 through 2009. Broadus was fired from Binghamton after different players in his team beat a fellow student into a three-month coma, stole merchandise (it was Magnum condoms, no word of a lie) from Wal*Mart and assaulted a 66-year-old woman who called him on it, stole a debit card from a fellow student a bought a bunch of stuff (but no condoms) with it, got caught with weed, and got arrested for dealing crack. It was a mess. There was also a bunch of academic fraud and recruiting violations, but in comparison to the violent felonies and drug dealing, it kind of seems like small potatoes.
Anyway, that’s the guy at the helm of Morgan State right now. He’s 42-38 in three seasons in charge, playing a fast, semi-attractive style of basketball. His teams haven’t been able to shoot that well, but they fly to the offensive glass and have done alright in getting to the free throw line. His defenses try to force turnovers and generally do so very successfully. This comes with some trade offs, namely getting crushed on the glass and giving up a ton of looks from deep. It’s a work in progress, and so far one that has come without any major scandals, so... a step in the right direction, I guess.
Gone from a team that finished 13-15 last year is leading scorer Lagio Grantsaan. He put up a 10.6/5.9/1.3 line as a high-usage, low-efficiency big man. Keith McGee was a bench gunner who came into the game locked and loaded. He averaged 9 PPG and didn’t look to do much more than lift at every opportunity.
Those two guys ran out of eligibility (as far as I can discern); taking a less traditional way out is big man Chad Venning. He averaged 7.2/3.0/0.4 and is taking that productivity to St. Bonaventure. Also taking that route is PG Sherwyn Devonish, who led the team in assists before settling on Rogers State to continue his career. Guard Trevor Moore (not that one, RIP) is also out the door to Minnesota State, and recruiting phenom turned random guy who went to college for free Seventh Woods has run down his eligibility.
How about the guy who led the team in PPG and RPG and was second in APG? That’s 6’4” wing Malik Miller, who missed a couple of stretches of games through injury but was the team’s best player when he was available. He crushes the glass at both ends and is a very good defender. His game on offense involves only the lane; he only made two more threes last year than I did.
Also back is De’Torrion Ware, who has an insurmountable 48 three lead on me. It came down the sheer persistence for Ware, who shot .345/.316/.688 on his way to 10.6/4.8/1.4 per game. Apparently possessing the greenest of lights despite a gruesome 39.7% EFG%, he led the team in FGA. He doesn’t distribute to any great effect, but he’s at least good on the defensive glass. Guard Isaiah Burke is also returning. He was the team’s best three-point shooter at 38.8% and a solid defender; he averaged a respectable 8.6/1.7/2.0 per game.
Joining is big man Lewis Djonkam, late of Radford and VCU. The 6’9”, 245-pound big man averaged 5 and 2 at Radford last season, which is right in line with his career averages. He has never attempted a three-point field goal. JuCo guard Kevon Wiggins joins from Lamar Community College. He shot almost 40% from deep there last year on his way to 20.2 PPG.
Also joining from the two-year college ranks is 6’8” forward Khalil Turner. Turner spent last year at Miami Dade College, where he averaged 14.2/6.7/2.9 and 1.9 blocks per game. He shot .397/.317/.673, which is objectively not great. Combo guard Daiquan Copeland comes in from Santa Monica College. Stats are hard to come by from there, but he’s 6’6”, 207 and out of Philly. That’s about all I’ve got.
Probably not great. They return some solid pieces, but they were from a team that was more or less treading water. If the defense isn’t able to create a lot of turnovers, it’s not clear that they have the horses to score consistently in the half court. They were a middle of the road MEAC team last year, and I’m guessing that’s where they’ll settle again this season. As they try to integrate their new players in the season opener, they’ll only be a challenge for Xavier if something has gone fairly wrong in Cintas.