Hawk Youngsters Aim to Grow Up Fast
PRINCESS ANNE, Maryland -
With four seniors to replace from last year's MEAC semifinal squad, Maryland Eastern Shore men's basketball dipped deep into the recruiting well for the 2017-18 season. The Shore added four true freshmen to an already young roster; of the 13 Hawks who suited up for the first day of fall practice, eight are underclassmen.
"I'm excited about his group," said Hawks head coach Bobby Collins about his fourth crop of players. "In our practices we talk about effort and playing hard, and that's one thing I don't have to do with this group. They give 100 percent every time."
Guards Cameron Bacote and Sean Hoggs will complement a backcourt that returns a pair of senior leaders in Ryan Andino and Logan McIntosh. To replace First-Team All-MEAC forward Bakari Copeland and defensive stalwart Derrico Peck in the frontcourt, the Hawks turn to a pair of freshman Thomases: 6-8 Miryne and 6-10 LeAndre.
Hampton, Va.-born Cameron Bacote arrives in Princess Anne after a decorated career at Bethel High School. The 6-3 guard averaged 20 points per game as a senior, including a 40-point outburst against Ocean Lakes, on the way to crossing the 1,000-point threshold for his career. Bacote led the Bruins to the 5A state championship game, picking up several postseason honors along the way, including a first-team all-state selection and 5A Region Player of the Year.
"The 757, as they call it, is one of the most highly-recruited areas in the country," said assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Huckaby. "Cam can do a lot of things: he can score, he can handle, he can defend. For us to get a player with his accolades from that area speaks volumes of how well we're starting to recruit for the program and the directions Coach Collins is taking us."
Sean Hoggs joins the Hawks after competing in the inaugural season at the Isaiah Christopher Academy in southern New Jersey. The 6-0 guard from Lawrenceville, N.J. became one of several ICA graduates to transition to the Division I ranks. Prior to his postgraduate season, Hoggs played three seasons at Notre Dame High School, averaging 12.4 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in 2015-16.
"Sean had a really solid postgrad year," said Huckaby. "He's going to be a strong contributor to the program. He's a smart, hard-working young man who's a good fit in the locker room."
Playing in the backyard of one of basketball's greats - he even laced up for King James AAU -Miryne Thomas put up big man numbers at Cleveland Central Catholic High School. The 6-8 forward posted a double-double as a senior with 18.4 points and 10 rebounds per contest, picking up Division II second-team all-state and North Coast Player of the Year laurels along the way. Thomas led the Ironmen to a district championship last March, scoring the last five points in a 55-52 overtime win over Benedictine.
Despite getting looks from Ohio programs Cleveland State and Youngstown State, Thomas decided to take his talents to the Eastern Shore.
"Miryne is an intangible player," said Collins. "He can play the three and the four, and even a little bit of the five. He's long, he's athletic, he can shoot the basketball. We're definitely asking a lot from him and asking him to grow up early."
At 6-10 and 245 pounds, it will be hard for Hawk fans not to notice forward LeAndre Thomas. Born in St. Petersburg, Fla., the young big man made his bones with programs across the Mid-Atlantic. After a stint at Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md., Thomas capped his high school career at Friendship Charter Academy in Washington, D.C. He then polished his skills at Virginia's esteemed Fork Union Military Academy before signing with Eastern Shore last November.
"We liked [LeAndre's] physicality," said Huckaby. "You can't teach 6-10, but he's really well-coached. He really is going to help us on the glass."
In addition to the four true freshmen, the Hawks will see a pair of redshirt guards lace up for their first collegiate action. Berlin-born Colen Gaynor returns to the court after missing 2016-17 with an injury; as a senior at Parkside High in Salisbury, he led his team to the 2A East Region title. Princess Anne's own Montraz Oliver digs in for his first taste of college basketball after a decorated career at Washington High.
"Colen is very athletic and can really stroke the basketball," said Collins. "We're asking him to be another intangible player for us. In order to have any success on the team, you have to have a player that can guard the one, the two, and the three, and we feel like he can do those things."
Sophomore guard Ahmad Frost also returns to the active roster this season. A late-season injury two years ago derailed his solid freshman campaign and cost him all of last season.
With an influx of youth and experience returning in key spots, the Hawks will look to grow up fast and build on their success of the past few seasons as they chase their first MEAC championship since 1974 and first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
"[Last year] left a taste in our mouth, and we want to finish our meal," said Collins. "The guys are really excited. We didn't talk about going to the semifinals again this year, we talked about winning a championship. They know that's what we have to do, and we're going to work towards that goal."
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