Posts Tagged ‘Transfers’

Q & A with UMBC head coach Aki Thomas

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
UMBC head coach Aki Thomas served as a master motivator during his first season at the helm at UMBC, now he must become a miracle worker rebuilding the roster (Photo by Sam Perkins)

UMBC head coach Aki Thomas . OBW file photo / Sam Perkins

To say the least, the past two years have been a helter-skelter whirlwind for UMBC head coach Aki Thomas.

On Oct. 10, 2012, UMBC’s then-head coach Randy Mornoe abruptly resigned after eight years running the show and nearly two decades on the coaching staff. At just 33 years of age, and only two days before the official start of practices, Thomas was thrown into the fire as the interim head coach of a team that had won a total of seven games over the past three season’s combined – a task akin to taking the helm of a sinking ship with a hole-riddled hull in the middle of a monsoon, and charged with sailing it out of the gale while simultaneously bailing water.

During that first season, the undermanned and over-matched Retrievers won seven regular season games, equaling their total from the previous three seasons combined. After Thomas had the interim tag removed and had his contract extended for one year at the end of the regular season, the Retrievers followed that up by out-fighting and out-toughing third-seeded Hartford in the America East Tournament for the program’s first tournament win since 2009.

Expectations were high for Thomas and the Retrievers heading in to the 2013-2014 season. With several highly-touted local recruits suiting up for the Retrievers, for the first time since 2008-2009 season — the year after UMBC went to the NCAAs in 2008 – there was noticeable buzz and excitement around the program. After showing some promise during the non-conference slate, Thomas was signed to a two-year extension by new athletic director Tim Hall.

However, while UMBC improved upon their win totals from the previous season, winning nine games and competing with several bigger programs during the non-conference (Duquesne and George Washington among them), there was a feeling of unmet expectations at season’s end: UMBC finished sixth in the standings, posting their best finish, best overall record and best conference record since 2008-2009, but the season ended in disaster and disappointment. Following the final game of the regular season, junior guard Joey Getz left the program.

A week later, just before the team headed to Albany for the conference tournament, senior forwards Brett Roseboro and Chase Plummer, along with freshman wing Charles Taylor, were suspended for what was deemed a “violation of team rules,” leaving the Retrievers with just seven players in uniform. What followed was an 86-56 bludgeoning at the hands of Albany (the tournament’s eventual champion) in the first round. After seeing freshman guard Bryan Harris leave the program halfway through the season, UMBC also saw forward David Kadiri (who never lived up to his preseason billing) transfer out of the program.

However, underneath the debris of disappointment – much of which could be attributed to the senior class, brought in under the previous head coach — if you dug a little bit, there were still several positive signs, chief among them point guard and league Rookie of the Year Rodney Elliot, whose freshman season (15 ppg, .452 FG%, 3.6 apg, 3.9 rpg) ranks among the best rookie years (statistically) of the past decade.

Beyond the individual play of Elliot, the team made huge strides defensively. After ranking dead last in the America East in defense in conference play in Monroe’s final three seasons, and eighth out of nine teams in 2012-2013, the team finished fifth in the league in Thomas’ first season without the interim tag.

Thomas, who played three seasons of college ball at BCS program Colorado, before using up his final year of eligibility at Howard, sat down with OBW to discuss the team’s struggles last season, their goals moving ahead, the development of last season’s recruits and a glimpse of this season’s newcomers. He also talked about the dynamics of overseeing a staff that includes a former player and several former peers of his, the juggling the demands of being a head coach with the responsibilities of being a father, how he decided to hang up his sneakers and join the coaching ranks, and the revolution that assistant John Zito seems to be training for. (more…)

Exodus in Orono: Fraser, Meshgna follow Edwards out the Door

Monday, April 29th, 2013
OBW First Team All-Conference selection Alasdair Fraser is leaving Maine early (Photo by Sam Perkins).

OBW First Team All-Conference selection Alasdair Fraser is leaving Maine early (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Orono, Maine) – For three years, University of Maine center Alasdair Fraser has left the earth quaking, backboards shaking and a trail of battered opponents, bruised egos, bent rims and busted basket supports in his wake.

On Tuesday, Fraser once again shook the earth at the University of Maine, but in a very different fashion.

In a story first broken by One-Bid Wonders, the junior center and OBW All-Conference First Team selection officially requesting his release from the university, bringing to an end his Black Bear career before his senior year. Fraser will either sign an overseas contract and begin his professional career, or transfer to another Division I institution to use up his final year of eligibility.

And with that, the dark days in Orono have turned pitch-black; the hurricane already raging has now grown into the storm of the century.

Listed at 6’7” 230 (and weighing in closer to 260) pounds of muscle, Fraser has stood tall for the Black Bears as a Scottish Wall on defense and immovable object on offense. As a junior Fraser averaged 13.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, ranking eighth, fourth and second in the conference, respectively. Fraser also finished fifth in scoring in America East Conference games at 14.3 points per contest.

Sheer numbers do not do Fraser justice or accurately encompass his impact: Arguably the league’s most dynamic center, Fraser displayed a brilliant and diverse arsenal of low-post moves as well as a silky-smooth jumper out to the NBA 3-point line. He also ranked as one of the most efficient players in the league using NBA-style advanced metrics, despite drawing nightly double – and often triple – teams every trip down the court while playing in a chaotic and dysfunction system in which he was criminally underused and overlooked.

He was also the rarest of rare-breeds: a Black Bear player who continued to grow, develop and improve every year in Orono. Fraser made the leap from a bruising bulldozer and America East strongman as a freshman, to a cerebral big-man with a refined low post game and automatic mid-range jumper as a sophomore, before making another stride as a junior, adding a 3-point shot and deft passing touch.

Fraser showcased the depth of his talent and abilities in a January 22nd upset over Vermont, just missing a triple-double; pouring in 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting, ripping down 10 rebounds and dishing out eight assists while swatting a pair of shots.

Maine was already dealing with the crippling blow of losing its top scorer, most athletic player, and best raw talent in high-flying wing Justin Edwards, who announced his decision to transfer out of the university a month ago. Edwards led league in scoring at 16.7 points per game despite only scratching the surface of his raw abilities.

While Edwards’ departure sent the Black Bears to the mat for an eight-count, it is Fraser’s that might KO the program for the upcoming season – and beyond. (more…)

Vermont lands transfers Hector Harold and Ryan Pierson

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

(Burlington, VT) – The University of Vermont moved quickly in replacing departing players Brendan Bald (leaving the team, remaining in school), Chris Santo and Ryan McKeaney, landing potential impact transfers Hector Harold and Ryan Pierson, as confirmed by multiple team sources.

Both Harold (6’7” wing/forward) and Pierson (6’10” center) give the Catamounts length and size, and both are transferring into the program from a higher level; Harold from Pepperdine (West Coast Conference) and Pierson from Northeastern (CAA).

Harold, a 6’7” 205 pounder who can play the three and four is billed as an athletic shooter who can run the floor and finish above the rim, and who could be a potential match-up problem in the America East. As a sophomore, he played in 27 games, averaging 3.2 points and 2.3 rebounds in 14.1 minutes per game.

Listed at 6’10” 260, Pierson came to Northeastern with tremendous promise and hype, and was billed as being the first dominant rebounder to lace them up on Huntington Ave since America East alumn Sylbrin Robinson (2004). A legit 6’9”, he has the size and talent to make a significant impact at the America East level.

In his freshman season, Pierson earned CAA All-Rookie honors, averaging 7.9 points and 3.7 rebounds in just under 26 minutes per game. However, during his sophomore campaign, the St. Louis native appeared to fall out of favor with the Huskies staff, and saw his minutes and production drop dramatically; averaging just 1.9 points and 1.1 rebounds in 8.7 points per game.

Both players must sit out the 2012-2013 season as transfers, but will have two years remaining of eligibility. Both have the potential to make a significant impact in the AE, but both have yet to tap their potential at the collegiate level.

News and notes: AE offseason kicks into high gear

Monday, April 4th, 2011

It seems like just yesterday that the leaves were changing, the breeze getting colder and the air filled with excitement of the America East season which lay just around the corner. With the season now in the rear-view mirror, the inevitable off-season reports of players departing America East schools are beginning to flood in. The big blow so far has come from the conference’s northern most institution, as Maine talent Murphy Burnatowski has left the school. America East has been decimated during previous off-seasons by outbound transfers; while losing Burnatowski hurts, the AE should consider itself lucky if he is the biggest loss for the conference this offseason. Here’s a look at some moves (and potential moves) so far around the conference: (more…)