FROSTBURG, MD -
The Frostburg State men’s basketball team has tasted the sweetness of victory and also endured the agony of narrow defeat in the past two years.
A stunning run to the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference championship as well as a runner-up finish in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament in 2001 was followed by a heartbreaking 102-99 overtime loss to rival Pitt-Bradford in the AMCC title contest a year ago.
With the return of 11 members from last season’s 16-12 squad as well as the addition of several talented players, the Bobcats look to once again climb to the top of the conference and earn their second postseason berth in three years.
Fourth-year head coach Webb Hatch welcomes back three starters and six of the top nine performers from last season. With the addition of two players who redshirted last season and three solid newcomers, the Red and Black understandably have high expectations for the 2002-03 season.
"This is definitely the most experienced team with potentially the best depth of any squad in my four years here," said Hatch, who has led FSU to a 42-41 overall record, including a 36-22 mark over the last two years.
The returning corps of players features seniors Pierre Bowery (Kensington, Md./Albert Einstein), A.J. Ernst (Minster, Ohio/Minster) and Robert Jones, Jr. (Ft. Washington, Md./Friendly).
Bowery, a talented guard/forward, led FSU last season with a career-high 21.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as well as 50 blocks en route to earning first-team All-AMCC honors for the second straight year.
He paced the team in scoring 22 times, topped the squad in rebounding 15 games, hit a team-best 50.6 percent from the floor and sank a school-record 150 free throws.
Bowery enters his final season ranked eighth on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,295 points and looks to build on his school career-record 124 blocks.
"Pierre has worked very hard over the past three years to become a complete player, and we expect another great year from him," Hatch said. "We feel we have a lot of people who can score for us this season, but he’s obviously still our go-to guy."
Ernst, who transferred from Edison Community College last season, established himself as one of the AMCC’s top long-range shooters despite battling a bad ankle the entire year. He knocked down 54-of-140 shots (38.6) from three-point range and hit an impressive 40-of-42 (95.2) from the free throw line. He also scored in double-digits 12 times.
"A.J. is probably our most fundamentally sound player," Hatch commented. "He should have a great senior season now that he is fully recovered from last year’s ankle injury."
Jones averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in his debut season with the Bobcats after transferring from Prince George’s Community College. He developed into a tough defender and rebounder and looks to be even more of a force in the front court this year.
"Robert gives us a versatile player who, at 6-5, can defend any position on the floor," said Hatch. "If he continues to improve on offense, he will be a major factor in our success this season."
Other key returners include junior Ryan Grabill (Boonsboro, Md./Williamsport), junior Dustin Robinson (Leonardtown, Md./Leonardtown) and sophomore Kamillo Rosenthal (Munich, Germany/Catholic (Va.)).
Grabill moved into the starting point guard position the second half of last season and emerged as a true team leader. He finished second on the team with 93 assists and averaged 5.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
"Ryan is an unselfish player with excellent court awareness," said Hatch. "He has all the skills needed to become a very good point guard for us."
Robinson, who averaged 4.3 points and 1.6 rebounds per game in limited action, is regarded as perhaps the best pure shooter on the team, and his height (6-5) allows him to easily hit the three-pointer over smaller guards.
He made the most of his late-season opportunities, scoring a career-high 17 points and grabbing seven rebounds in FSU’s 83-74 win over Penn State Behrend in the AMCC semifinals. He knocked down three-pointers on three consecutive trips down the court to snap a 53-53 tie and propel the Bobcats into the league championship game.
"Dustin had an amazing stretch there against Behrend, and his ability to knock down the three makes him a threat to score any time he touches the ball on the perimeter," Hatch added.
Rosenthal began the season as a key reserve for the Bobcats before moving into the starting lineup in 12 of the last 13 games. He also picked up his play, averaging 11.9 points and 8.1 rebounds while posting three 20-point games in that stretch.
He finished the season second on the squad in both made three-pointers (51) and three-point shooting percentage (44.7).
"Kamillo plays as hard as anyone on the team and is a good fit for our up-tempo style of play," Hatch said.
Other returning players include junior guard Jamal Peterson (Landover, Md./Laurel), junior forward Jamar Nolan (Mechanicsville, Md./Chopticon), sophomore guard Chris Vaughn (Manchester, Md./North Carroll) and sophomore forward J.T. Murphy (Williamsburg, Va./Jamestown).
All four players saw action on the junior varsity squad to begin the year before earning spots on the varsity team for the second half of the season.
"Jamal, Jamar, Chris and J.T. all gained valuable experience last year," Hatch said. "I believe each of them is now ready to contribute more for the varsity this season."
The Bobcats will receive added boosts with the return of forwards Dustin Long (Accident, Md./Northern Garrett) and Doug Bucci (Bethesda, Md./Whitman) from red-shirt years.
Long appeared in seven games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, while Bucci sat out to concentrate on his studies.
"Dustin is still rehabbing his shoulder, and we hope to have him back on the floor for the second semester," said Hatch. "Doug is a versatile guard/forward who gets better each practice, and we believe he can be a good player for us as he gains experience."
Newcomers T.J. Dorsey (Round Hill, Va./Loudoun Valley, Myro Small (Berlin, Md./Stephen Decatur) and Kevin Jackson (Canton, Ohio/Camp McKinley) will look to push for playing time.
Dorsey transferred from Blue Ridge Community College, while Small comes to FSU from Cecil Community College. Jackson is the lone true freshman on the squad.
"T.J. is an excellent shooter and has great leaping ability for a guard his size," said Hatch. "He has picked up things very quickly and will give us great depth at the guard position."
"Myro is our only left-handed player, and we envision him playing at small forward," Hatch continued. "He is a hard worker, and his junior college experience has prepared him well for our style of play."
"Kevin has a wealth of raw talent, it’s been a lot of fun watching him develop during the preseason," added Hatch. "He has unlimited potential, and we feel he could develop into quite a player for us in the future."
The Bobcats will once again face a challenging schedule that should prepare them for the rigors of another run at the AMCC championship and possibly a second postseason berth in the last three years.
FSU will open the season by hosting the Bobcat Tip-Off Tournament and will face a stiff challenge from Waynesburg. A possible championship match-up with Indiana (Pa.), which advanced to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight a year ago, awaits.
A tough non-conference slate is again in store for the Bobcats. For the second straight season, FSU will take on national powerhouse Christopher Newport, with the teams squaring off December 22 at the Show Place Arena in Marlboro, Md.
The Bobcats also play Muskingum, Shenandoah, Westminster, Grove City, Waynesburg and Bethany (W.Va.) and will face a challenging field at the Catholic Invitational.
Things don’t get any easier as FSU tips off its AMCC slate in January. The Bobcats will look to battle Pitt-Bradford, winners of each of the last two regular-season league crowns, and Penn State Behrend, regular-season runners-up the past two years, for conference supremacy and the right to host the AMCC Tournament.
Added talent at Pitt-Greensburg, La Roche, Penn State Altoona and Lake Erie should make things interesting throughout the year.
"Our goals for this season are probably the same that most teams have," said Hatch. "We want to improve each game, we want to compete for the AMCC title and we want to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament. If we all stay on the same page and play hard and smart every game, I think we have a good chance of achieving those goals."
The Bobcats open the 2002-03 season by hosting Waynesburg in the FSU Tip-Off Tournament Friday at 8:00 pm at Bobcat Arena.
For further information on this release, contact:
Office of Sports Information
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-2303