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BY SCOTT ROUCH

bsu_bulldog

With a 5-1 record and ranked 11th in the Dec. 7 Division II Men’s Basketball poll, the Bowie State University Bulldogs are off to their best start since 2004 when they posted a 26-4 mark and advanced to the South-Atlantic Region finals.

"I’m excited about the start, but it’s just a start, we haven’t gotten into our conference games yet," said Bulldogs head coach Darrell Brooks. "Being ranked 11th is a nice honor for the team. I’m not worried about the ranking, I’m worried about playing as capable as we can and winning championships." The Bulldogs showed what they are capable of from the get-go as they beat two ranked teams in their first four games while not at full strength. Travis Hyman, the 2010 CIAA Defensive Player of the Year has yet to step onto the court while transfer guard Jay Gavin (VCU) has missed half of the season with foot issues.

"We get our big guy (seven-foot Hyman) back on the 19th for the rest of the year and our best guard (Gavin)," Brooks said. "(Hyman) changes the dynamic of the team with rebounds and blocked shots. He changes the look of the team." With just four returners from the previous season, all the players have bought into what Brooks is doing in his second year at Bowie and he has gotten contributions from all ends of the bench.

"We’ve got guys who do things the right way," Brooks said of how all the new players have been able to mesh thus far. "They’ve bought into how we want to play. On defense we want to press and push the ball on offense. We have to play a number of guys, so the guys know they’re going to have a chance to play." Three guards are leading the charge to-date. Returner -and only senior- Eric Vann leads four players in double figures averaging 19.2 points-per-game; transfer Darren Clark (Lincoln University, Pa) scores at a 17.7 ppg clip with three assists-per-game while Gavin averages 16 ppg. Forward Byron Westmorland (Baltimore City Community College) goes for 11.5 ppg and junior center Ali Djim (Lincoln Trails Community College) leads the squad averaging seven rebounds.

After their game on the 19th against Goldey-Beacom, the Bulldogs are off until Jan. 6 when they head to Fayetteville to begin the second half of the season "The next phase is the conference regular season,"Brooks said. The next goal is to win the North, go down to the tournament, play our best basketball and win the championship." The Bulldogs won the North in 2010, but after a first-round bye did not play their best basketball and were sent home by Elizabeth City State University in the quarterfinal matchup. The Vikings are off to a 5-1 start as well and traditional power Virginia Union was ranked 25th in the Dec. 7 poll.

"ECSU has all their guys back. They were picked first and should have been," Brooks said. "Shawn (Walker) is doing a great job down there," he added.

For the newcomers to the squad, there’s an easy lesson Brooks has been able to pass on about playing in the CIAA Tournament.

"It sucks leaving after the first game, that’s what I learned." Brooks said laughing. "I was motivated all summer long."

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