Projected starting lineup:
G – Quinton Jones, Sr., 6’ 185
G – Bryan Harris, R-Fr., 6’2” 180
F – Malik Garner, Soph., 6’6” 220
F – Devarick Houston, Jr., 6’7” 190
C – Brett Roseboro, R-Sr., 6’10” 240
UMBC won seven Division I games last year. At season’s end, they graduated their two best players – one of them, Ryan Cook, who stood out as the best player of the 2013 America East Tournament. Over the offseason, UMBC had four players transfer out of the program.
In two years, they may be the conference favorite.
So drastic has been the change sweeping through Catonsville, spearheaded by head coach Aki Thomas, along with assistants and former UMBC Retrievers Jay Greene and John Zito. Last year the coaching staff motivated a previously downtrodden roster of cast-offs, walk-ons and Division III level players to bulldoze heavily favored Hartford in the America East Tournament quarterfinals. UMBC then gave Vermont everything it could handle before falling valiantly in the final minutes of the semis.
The Retrievers rocketed to the top of the league in 2008, winning the America East going away to punch the program’s first ticket to the NCAA’s. In 2009, Greene and Darryl Proctor suited up one more time to carry UMBC back to the championship game. But over the next three years, the Retrievers nose-dived, as then head coach Randy Monroe ran players out of the program at a staggering rate while flying the team into the ground.
Last fall, Monroe was terminated after eight years at the helm. Thomas, his former assistant, was promoted to interim head coach. The overwhelming assumption at the start of the season was the Thomas was a dead man walking and would be summarily dismissed at seasons end.
But then he did the impossible: Thomas motivated a previously mentally and physically beaten roster to believe in itself again. As the season went on, UMBC began to gel and compete. Then they began to win, setting the stage for their inspired run to the semifinals.
Despite spending most of the season recruiting under the interim tag – a hanging guillotine – Thomas and his staff landed every single one of their targeted recruits over the offseason, revamping their roster with talent from the DC-Metro beltway.
It may sound crazy, but from purely a talent perspective, there may not be another team in the league with as deep and as diverse a roster as the Retrievers. There certainly isn’t a team with a longer or more athletic one.
UMBC has the potential to run out more than a half-dozen different, legitimate, lineups depending on the situation. They can go big, small, athletic, spread the floor on offense or create anarchy on defense. (more…)