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UMBC men’s basketball prepares for new, fast paced offense

It was another rough season for the UMBC men’s basketball team in 2015-16. For the seventh consecutive season, the Retrievers failed to reach 10 wins, finishing with a 7-25 record. This year, new head coach Ryan Odom looks to reverse the trend and help secure the first winning season for UMBC since 2007-08.

Prior to his hiring, Odom coached at Division II school Lenoir-Ryne University. Under Odom, the Bears improved from 8-18 in 2014-15 to 21-10 last year. In 11 of the Bears wins, the team scored at least 90 points. For comparison, UMBC scored 90 or more in just two games overall last year. Odom’s LRU team relied heavily on the three-point shot. A season ago, the Bears led all Division II schools in three-pointers made per game.

“[Shooting the three] will be an emphasis for us this season”, Odom said. His Lenoir-Ryne team also finished in the top ten in D-II in three-point attempts (934) and three-point percentage (41.1). Coach Odom hopes to bring that same level of scoring to UMBC.

Three point shooting was one of the problem areas for UMBC a season ago. The Retrievers were tied for 185th in the country in three-point attempts (652). They also finished 246th in three-point percentage (33.1).

Among the other issues for the Retrievers, defense, rebounding and turnovers. UMBC ranked second to last in the America East Conference in field goal percentage allowed (49.6), and last in three point percentage allowed (38).

The Retrievers ranked 332nd in the country in points allowed per game (80.6). UMBC also ranked 326th in rebounds per game. The rebounding and defense may be a little problematic for the Retrievers given the lack of size on the team.

The pieces certainly seem to be in place for coach Odom’s faster pace system. Of the 16 players on the roster, 13 are guards, although one is a “swingman” (a player that can play guard or forward). Only three players are 6’9″ or taller, which gives the time “some quickness,” as Odom put it.

UMBC houses several players that should fit in well with another year under their belt. Virginia Commonwealth University transfer Jairus Lyles returns for his first full season in the gold and black. The Silver Spring native debuted on Dec. 19, 2015 against Howard University and started a streak of 10 straight games scoring in double figures.

Lyles only had two games where he did not score at least 10 points. In 21 games, Lyles averaged 23 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Lyles also finished with a .472/.342/.698 shooting line and a 24.9 player efficiency rating (PER, 15 is the national average).

Junior guard Rodney Elliott is projected to join Lyles in the starting backcourt. The Baltimore native lowered his turnovers per game from his freshman season (2.7 from 3.6) while maintaining his assist per game (3.6). Elliott also averaged 12.8 points per game with a .402/.298/.814 shooting line.

Junior forward Will Darley looks to help the Retrievers space the floor. The Timonium native averaged 11.9 PPG and led the team in three-point percentage (43.4).

Sophomore Joe Sherburne hopes for more consistency this year. The forward from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin started off strong, averaging 14.8 PPG and shooting 38 percent from downtown. However, Sherburne struggled in the final 20 contests. In that span, Sherburne averaged 7.9 PPG and made only 31 percent of his threes.

The Retrievers also added four new players to bolster the depth chart, particularly at guard. “We feel good about the guys we brought in,” Odom said.

Wheeling, West Virginia native David Park was a former McDonalds All-American candidate. Park averaged 15 points and 7.9 boards during his high school career. At 6’5″, Park is one of the lankier guards on the team. Coach Odom added another 6’5″ guard in Bridgeport, Connecticut native Arkel Lamar.

Junior college transfer K.J. Maura comes to UMBC after putting up tremendous numbers at the College of Central Florida. Maura led all of the junior college league in assists per game (9.6). For comparison, UMBC’s entire team averaged 12.3 dimes in 2015-16.  Maura’s play also earned him JUCO All-American honors and his passing and shooting ability (.475/.446/.783) will benefit the Retrievers in the fast break.

Hooksett, N.H native Max Curran is one of three forwards on the team. Coach Odom praised Curran’s versatility and ability to stretch the defense with the three. Curran averaged 19.2 points and eight rebounds per game during his senior year at Pembroke Academy.

The preseason coaches polls in the AEC has the Retrievers slated to finish sixth in the conference. However, there is room for improvement for the Retrievers. The team may struggle against larger teams, but this guard heavy rotation has a chance to put plenty points on the board.