When the college basketball season tips off tonight for many teams around the country, it will end the seven months of recruiting, off-season conditioning, summer workouts, practice and pre season scrimmages. And if you ask just about any one of the 351 Division 1 coaches, to a man they will probably say it wasn’t enough time.
"We’re a little behind where I’d like us to be," says Towson University Head Coach Pat Skerry. "For us to be successful we have to guard and rebound. We haven’t been as consistent defensively as I’d like us to be—referring to a couple pre-season scrimmages—but the upside for this group is very high."
Enough time or not, Towson will open its season on the road against LaSalle University of the Atlantic 10 on Saturday afternoon. After the first home game of the season against Morgan State on Monday night, the Tigers will participate in the Gildan Charleston Classic next week. The Tigers will open the classic against Oklahoma State, and depending on the result of that game and other opening games, the next opponent will either be George Mason or Ole Miss. Other potential opponents in the field include No. 6 preseason Virginia, Bradley and Long Beach State.
Skerry, who is entering his fifth season as the Tigers coach will be working with a team that returns seven players who averaged over 15 minutes a game last year and returns players that made up 70% of the starting minutes last year.
"They are young but not inexperienced," Skerry says referring to his trio of sophomores, Mike Morsell, Bryon Hawkins and Eddie Keith who all averaged over 18 minutes a game as Freshman. They have all made great strides in many areas since this time one year ago when they arrived as true freshman.
"We are all a lot more mature in everything we do, both on the court and off the court," Morsell said after a recent practice. Morsell turned 19 less than two months ago, which means he was only 17-years-old when he stepped the Towson campus last fall. "Last year, as a 17 year old, I wasn’t prepared for the physicality of it—the practices and games—it was a big shock. I’m much more prepared this year, I’ve gained some weight and strength in the offseason. All three of us—including Keith and Hawkins—are much more mature in everything we do, both on and off the court."
Morsell averaged 6.4 games last year, but scored in double figures in seven of the final 11 Colonial Athletic Association games , including 18 points in the season ending overtime loss to Elon University in the CAA Tournament.
Along with Morsell’s ability to score, the Tiger’s biggest impact on offense could come from Wake Forest Transfer Arnuad William Adala Moto. Moto is excited about the opportunity at Towson, "After the coach that recruited me got fired, I decided to look for a place where I could make an impact and felt comfortable. Coach Skerry and the staff made me feel that. I like what we have here with the young guys."
Moto averaged 6.9 points and 5.2 rebounds a game as a sophomore at Wake Forest while playing 19 minutes a game last year. He has two years of eligibility left at Towson.
The Tigers were picked to finish in seventh place in the 10 team CAA. Skerry feels confident about the potential of this team and feels the strength of schedule will help in the long run, "There is no better experience than game experience. The question is, are they—meaning the young team—ready to beat a Northeastern or William and Mary who has older guys, as sophomores. Time will tell."
That time will unfold over the next week as the season begins, over the next six weeks of non conference play and finally in January and February during the conference season.