Questions abound for several in-state Division I college basketball team as their regular-season schedules begin Friday.
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Two first-year coaches — UMBC's Aki Thomas and Mount St. Mary's Jamion Christian — will be tasked with starting the rebuilding processes in Catonsville and Emmittsburg, respectively.
Around the MEAC, Todd Bozeman's Morgan State squad hopes it will recapture its postseason form of three years ago, Fang Mitchell's Coppin State team welcomes nine newcomers to the Eagles' roster, and Frankie Allen's UMES group is eyeing a long-awaited jump up the conference standings.
Here's a look at storylines for every DI in-state team — excluding Maryland — heading into the 2012-13 season.
The top five scorers from Coppin's 2011-12 roster are gone, meaning it'll likely be a year of transition for Fang Mitchell's Eagles.
In the absence of Tony Gallo (17.1 points per game), Akeem Ellis (12.6), Michael Harper (11.8), Logan Wiens (10.1) and Antonio Williams (8.9), Mitchell will first look to a senior transfer who's a familiar face to local basketball followers.
"I do have some decent players, but there's no one that has really performed at the level where I would have that expectation [to pick up the scoring slack], other than Troy Franklin," Mitchell said. "The way it seems to me, we're probably going to have to lean on him to get some leadership and scoring from him. Basically, we're only bringing back 15 points a game. We averaged around 77. So that's losing a lot. We're going to have to go through somebody. Troy might as well be the one."
A Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro player out of Mount Carmel, Franklin spent two-plus seasons at Towson. Eight games into his junior season, the 5-foot-11 point guard left the Tigers and announced his plans to transfer. Franklin, who is Coppin's only senior, averaged 8.8 points at Towson, making 48 starts in 69 games.
"We're going to need some quality leadership from him," Mitchell said. "We're in a situation here where we're bringing in new players. It's really like starting at the ground level. We're going to need someone they can look up to and believe in."
The Eagles return sophomore point guard Taariq Cephas, sophomore power forward Brandon St. Louis, junior small forward Michael Murray, junior shooting guard Collin Johnson and junior shooting guard Mike Simpson. Mitchell has been especially impressed so far with Cephas (5.7 ppg) and Murray (5.3 ppg).
Among Coppin's nine newcomers, Mitchell likes the shooting ability of 6-3 guard Andre Armstrong, the versatility of 6-5 guard Patrick Cole, the inside presence of 6-7 forward Zach Burnham and the potential of 6-9 junior-college transfer Charles Ieans. While there is optimism about the Eagles' newcomers, Mitchell is realistic about Coppin matching its 14-16 record of a year ago.
"As I tell people, this is not a situation where positive things are going to happen early," Mitchell said. "It's going to take some time [for the team to] understand what I want and move forward from that point on."
As they sat in their team's dressing room inside CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh after losing to Ohio State in the opening round of last season's NCAA tournament, Loyola basketball players Erik Etherly and Dylon Cormier wore different expressions.
Etherly, then a junior, was downcast, to the point where tears filled his eyes. Cormier, a sophomore, was bouyant, a smile creasing his lips. But they shared a similar determination, one built as the Greyhounds set a Division I school record for wins (24) and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years
"We've come miles since the beginning of the season," Etherly said at the time.