Baltimore, Md.-- UMBC men's basketball embarks on their 34th Division I season looking for their fourth straight 20-win season when the season kicks off against Valley Forge on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Last year, the Retrievers reached the America East Championship game for the second consecutive season.
The ultimate goal for the Retrievers remains the same, getting back to the NCAA Tournament, but this year, the Dawgs want to not only be raising an America East Tournament Championship banner, but a regular-season one as well.
Coming off a historic season in 2017-18, the Retrievers just missed out on a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, falling to Vermont in the title game.
Head coach Ryan Odom returns for his fourth year at the helm of the Retrievers in 2019-20 and will have a bevy of veteran experience at his disposal, not just returners from last year, but transfers that will make an immediate impact.
UMBC once again held serve at home going 13-4 at the UMBC Event Center, losing just one conference home game during the year. Hosting two home America East Tournament games for the second year in a row, UMBC dispatched UAlbany in the quarterfinals 62-54 and needing two overtimes to defeat a veteran Hartford squad, 90-85, to reach the finals.
Joe Sherburne led the team averaging 13.9 points per game, connecting on 38.7 percent of his three-point attempts in 37 minutes per game. Senior K.J. Jackson (Missouri City, Texas) was the only other Retriever in double figures at 12.8 points per game, leading the league in steals per game (2.3) and total steals (77).
Defense was the name of the game for the Retrievers a season ago, as they went from 288th in scoring defense in '17-'18 to 25th nationally last year. The Retrievers held opponents to just 64.0 points per game and forced 15.6 turnovers per game.
The Retrievers will have to replace an all-conference performer in Sherburne, but a bevy of veteran talent returns for 2019-20, including Jackson who was named America East All-Conference Second Team and All-Defensive Team a year ago. Joining Jackson will be seniors Arkel Lamar (Bridgeport, Conn.) and Max Curran (Hooksett, N.H.) who both played major minutes during the NCAA Tournament run and have been key pieces over their four-year careers.
Lamar averaged 9.3 ppg and 4.9 rpg last year, while Curran will be coming back after missing time with a hand injury that kept him out of a majority of the season. Prior to the injury, Curran averaged 9.1 ppg, shooting just under 50 percent from the floor.
The Retrievers will also get Daniel Akin (London, England) back after missing time with an injury. Akin appeared in just seven games scoring 7.4 ppg and collecting 8.0 rpg in those games. R.J. Eytle-Rock (London, England) returns for his sophomore campaign that saw him earn America East All-Rookie Team honors for his strong play during the conference season after averaging 5.1 ppg and 1.8 apg.
Ricky Council II (Durham, N.C.), who played in all 34 games a year ago returns for his senior season and will look to help bolster the team's veteran presence along with junior Brandon Horvath (West River, Md./Southern) who had a breakout season last year averaging 9.1 ppg mostly off the bench. Jack Schwietz (Frisco, Texas) also returns for UMBC after playing in a dozen games during his freshman campaign.
UMBC welcomes six newcomers to Baltimore for the 2019-20 season, including a trio of local products. Darnell Rogers (Baltimore, Md./Indian Land (SC)/New Mexico JC), Marcel Thompson (Baltimore, Md./Baltimore Polytechnic/South Plains College) and L.J. Owens (Annapolis, Md./Severn School/William & Mary) will return home to don the Black and Gold.
Rogers spent last year at New Mexico Junior College after playing at Florida Gulf Coast two years ago. He averaged 14.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg and 3.7 apg last year. Owens comes to UMBC by way of William & Mary where he played in every game last year for the Tribe, averaging 6.9 ppg. Thompson, a walk-on to the squad, comes from a South Plains college team that won the JUCO National Championship in 2018.
Junior Dimitrije Spasojevic (Vrsac, Serbia) comes to UMBC after playing two years at East Carolina, and will be immediately eligible to play this season. During his time with the Pirates, Spasojevic played in all 61 games, making 40 starts while averaging 4.9 ppg and 3.0 rpg. Junior college transfer Keondre Kennedy (Atlanta, Ga.) comes from Labette Community College where he earned Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) Freshman of the Year honors.
Nathan Johnson (Adel, Iowa) is the lone freshman on the Retriever squad. He produced a strong prep career at Waukee High School and most recently Sunrise Christian Academy last year.
The season gets underway on Tuesday, Nov. 5 when the Retrievers welcome the University of Valley Forge to the UMBC Event Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. as part of a doubleheader with the women's team, who takes on Gettysburg at 4 p.m.