Hawks finalize class of six new faces for 2022-23

Recruiting class boasts, size, athleticism, depth

PRINCESS ANNE, Maryland — Heading into the 2021-22 season, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore women’s basketball program had an abundance of returning talent but was fresh off a year away from hardwood competition.

The team’s attempt to recapture the magic from a 2019-20 MEAC Tournament run, was derailed in part because of key injuries that depleted the frontline. The season’s end saw the departure of five Hawks who ran out of eligibility or graduated, and one transfer, necessitating the need for the coaching staff to address the holes in the roster while adding size and athleticism.

Courtesy Photo

The result is a class of four early-period signees, who were joined by a junior college transfer and another from Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rival Delaware State. The six new faces will join nine returning players with just 10 full seasons of experience between them.

“One thing I like about the class is that I think they all bring something different individually and address issues and concerns that we are going to have moving forward,” head coach Fred Batchelor said. “We are going to be young and big, which is going to be really great for us moving forward.”Courtesy

Eastern Shore added four players to the fold back in late 2021 including a pair of high school teammates in Ja’la Bannerman (Baltimore, Maryland) and Dakieran Turner (Annapolis, Maryland), a shot-blocker in Laney Allen (Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania), and a multisport standout in Ashanti Lynch (Hookertown, North Carolina).

Turner and Lynch will help add to a frontcourt that includes the MEAC All-Rookie Team and Third-Team All-MEAC selection Ariana Seawell (Bronx, New York) who missed the final six games of the season due to injury.

“The two post players we added each can play both positions,” Batchelor said. “It will be challenging moving forward for us to find ways to take advantage of that. I think they are different. Just like Ari is different from Lesley Thomas (Brown’s Summit, North Carolina) and Lesley is different from JaPria Grady (Washington, D.C.). Both will be good additions in an area we were thin.”

When Batchelor thinks about Turner, it is her motor that stands out. She’s a physical post player who runs the floor well and can score, but it’s her high energy on the court that distinguished her to the coaching staff.

She has a skill set that can get you 5-10 points and 8-10 rebounds on a given night. She provided an inside presence for Saint Francis Academy (Baltimore, Maryland) that complemented Bannerman’s perimeter play.

The Shore hasn’t seen a true shot blocker on the roster since Alexis Udoji (Randolph, Massachusetts) left after the 2015-16 season as the program’s all-time leading shot-blocker (253). That could be changing.

‘One of the things I like about Laney is that she gives us something that we haven’t had in a while — a shot blocker,” Batchelor said. “None of the kids we have now are real shot blockers. Laney is 6-foot-2, athletic, has long arms, has quick-twitch muscles, has great anticipation, and gets off the floor quickly. She is going to be a kid whose future upside is huge. In high school, she was the biggest kid on the team so she played the post, but I really think her development projects more as a stretch four. I think she will be able to put the ball on the floor and stretch the floor a little more as opposed to a back-to-the-basket post.”

Bannerman is an explosive guard who can play all three perimeter positions. She is capable of running the point and scoring, and Batchelor thinks improved shooting could make her even more dangerous.

“She is a get-to-the-basket type of guard,” Batchelor said. “Other than Zamara Haynes (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), we don’t have a guard who can get to the basket and she can do that. She is quick, aggressive, and has a skill set that doesn’t limit her to going in one direction. Like her teammate, she has a high motor. She’s very explosive.”

Bannerman is a triplet who grew up playing with her two brothers. It gave her a different type of edge to her game. And she is tall enough that she is a true combo guard who has the leadership ability to run the point but will play minutes in a variety of roles.

The final member of the early class is North Lenoir High School’s Lynch who was also an all-conference volleyball player and finished fourth in the state in the shot put in Class 2A.

“She is probably one of the best rebounding guards we ever recruited and she gets to the basket,” Batchelor said. “We’re really excited about her. She is a helluva basketball player, but she’s just an incredible kid too.”

One of 17 kids in her family, she stands out off the court and in the community as well. She ranked near the top of her class, was senior class president, homecoming queen, sings in the church choir and volunteers.

She is also the most decorated athlete in her school’s history. She reached 1,000 career points before the end of her junior year — where she averaged 27.9 points, 8.5 steals, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. As a senior, she got to play with her sister Shamaya, a sophomore who was the team’s second scoring option.

“I was able to spend some time in Kinston, North Carolina and everyone knows Ashanti,” Batchelor said. “Her coach took me around the community and at the local rec center, the guy there was telling me how she was just the day before playing with the guys. She can shoot, but she doesn’t do much right now because she can get to the basket for more high-percentage shots. That will change.”

She also has a bit of a sense of humor, stringing Batchelor along on the day she was due to make her decision. She first thanked him for a myriad of things — sometimes a sure sign you are being let down easily — before finally telling him that she “decided to become a Hawk.”

“She really messed with my emotions,” Batchelor said. “Her family was all getting a little laugh in the background — they are all great people and a very tight-knit group.”

Later in the year, the Hawks added a pair of transfers in Amiaya Morgan (Sicklerville, New Jersey) and Kiarra Kennedy (Bronx, New York) who will have four and three years of eligibility respectively and add seasoning to what will be a very young roster.

Morgan will make the short trip down US 13 from the Hornets. While it is unusual to get a transfer from another school in the conference, her circumstances are quite different. Recruited to the Hornets by former coach David Caputo, she never played under current coach E.C. Hill after being injured in training before the 2021-22 season.

When she entered the transfer portal at a time when the Hawks staff were looking to fill holes in the roster, it seemed meant to be. Especially since this wasn’t the first time they had considered her for a spot on the roster.

Former Hawk men’s basketball player Tyler Hines runs a basketball academy out of Morgan’s hometown — tylerhinesbasketball.com — and had tried to pitch her to Batchelor and staff before. But coming off a year of opting out due to COVID there were no available scholarships.

“We looked at her the previous summer,” Batchelor said. “I watched her on tape and thought she could play. She can score and she has good size. That is one of the reasons we decided to take her. Tyler originally tried to get her here, but we didn’t have anything available.”

The staff expects her to fill some of the outside shooting voids that was left with the departure of Amanda Carney (Old Bridge, New Jersey) and Brooklyn Bailey (Rock Hill, South Carolina).

“She is a bigger guard that can put the ball on the floor a little bit and is a pretty good shooter from the perimeter,” Batchelor said. “I had a lot of respect for Caputo’s ability to recruit. When we saw her, we knew why he had recruited her. And then it turns out that (assistant) coach (Sidney) Raikes and her dad played high school basketball together. There was just connection after connection, so it seemed right. She’s a kid I think can come in and challenge for a starting position based on what we are returning.”

The final addition to the class is Kennedy who despite two years of junior college experience will have three years left to play as a Hawk because of COVID.

Last season, she averaged 19.8 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists at NJCAA Division III Fulton Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, New York. As a freshman, she averaged 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds at NJCAA Division I Saint Petersburg College in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

“I think she fits in well with what we need, a perimeter player who can play inside and also rebound,” Batchelor said. “That is the thing l like about her most. I think she is unlike anybody else that we have on the roster currently, based on her ability to play the stretch four position and put the ball on the floor. I was most excited watching her rebounding and starting a break. She kind of puts you in a mindset of someone like Draymond Green who can rebound the ball and play on the perimeter. I think she is only going to get better.”

Kennedy is a natural three that will play some power forward as well but will provide length on the wing that was lost with the departure of Carney and Jamaya Blanks (Greensboro, North Carolina) who transferred to UNC Asheville.

“The thing I liked was she had some big games and played her best games against the best competition,” Batchelor said. “She is a high-character kid and a good student. I was most impressed with the characteristics outside of basketball including family, how she valued her academics and what she wants to do going forward.”

Batchelor valued the honesty of her coach at Fulton-Montgomery who could have kept her for another season but knew she was ready to move on to bigger challenges.

With assistant coach Casey Monroe-Gaskins taking care of her very young son Sebastian during this recruiting cycle, Batchelor said there was a lot of pressure on Raikes on the road recruiting, but he came through big.

“He really did a good job,” Batchelor said. “Five of the six kids were players he recruited. The one player he wasn’t involved with recruiting was Lynch.”

Eastern Shore finished last season with a 12-16 overall record, was 7-7 in conference play, and defeated Coppin State in the MEAC Tournament before a semifinals loss to eventual champion Howard ended the season.

For more information on Eastern, Shore Athletics visit http://www.easternshorehawks.com/.

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