With the calendar about to flip to a new month and a new year, basketball begins to work its way into the forefront of attention in sports. The Maryland Eastern Shore Hawk men’s basketball team loaded up their non-conference schedule with teams from the Big 12, the SEC, and the Big Ten.
There are still four non MEAC games remaining including Tuesday night’s at St. Joseph’s and Jan. 2 at Pitt of the ACC. Recently, I had a chance to talk with head coach Bobby Collins about his team, scheduling, and some personal details about himself.
Pencek: The MEAC is on the horizon. What are your thoughts as you wrap-up the non-conference portion of the schedule?
Collins: Our league is doing a very good job non-conference wise. Everybody has played some Power Five Conference teams. Everybody has competed and has done a nice job for the most part. So all of us will be battle tested going into conference play.
We’ve had to play in some to some hostile environments. Michigan State had a hostile environment. Maryland had a very hostile environment. So did Kansas State and Missouri, all those teams had very hostile environments. So when we go into our league and the environments are hostile, the new guys on my team who have not experienced playing in MEAC play they will get a chance to see how it really is. We try to create that chaos in practice so when we get into conference play that they will be used to the chaos.
Pencek: The recent stretch in non-conference play, you were playing top five teams. What benefits can you take from those type of games?
Collins: For the most part we competed in a lot of stretches in those games. It made us realize that we if can get consistent we’ll do well in our conference. With the exception of Michigan State, they’re a very good team, they’re the number one team in the country and they were playing on a high. They had no mental lapses.
When we went to play the University of Maryland, I thought we played a very good stretch in the first half and a little bit in the second half. Obviously with them being in the top ten, they stoop up and made the plays they needed to make to put the game away.
It was a really good experience for our young men. It gave our university exposure. We’re in the process of trying to build a winning culture. That’s a process. In a process you are going to go through some ups and downs, some trials and tribulations. If you are going to to do that, you might as well go through the best.
Pencek: Did this schedule produce the intent you had in mind when you crafted it at the beginning the year?
Collins: We have to find that out. We have to play our conference schedule and once we play that we will look back at the end of the year at our non-conference schedule to see what it did for us. We’re intending for it to work the way we intended it.
Pencek: Last year was the first winning season since the 1990s. What do you attribute the turnaround in just year one of your tenure as head coach?
Collins: Year one, the young men that were here were hungry for success, they were hungry for change. They embraced and they trusted and believed in what I had . My track record said I was a winner and they embraced it.
Anytime we try to change a culture and try to create a winning program it’s a process. We’re going through year two of our process and we will get this thing going in the right direction. I just don’t want to have a one hit wonder, I want to build a winning program. When you do that we have to go through the things we are going through right now.
Pencek: In your second year, is there anything different in terms of comfort level?
Collins: Our success last year was a blessing and a curse. Now everybody is preparing to beat the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. We are no longer that team others ink in an automatic win. They have to prepare to play us because on any given night we can come in and beat any given team.
Pencek: Outside of basketball, what is something fun that you are willing to reveal about yourself?
Collins: We’ll there are a lot things about me. I’m fun, I’m loving, I’m caring and I’m sharing. I have a son who is three years old, he is my why. On my wall there is written “What is your why?” My son is my why. That is the reason why I come to work hard everyday. I know what my purpose is in life. There’s a lot of times people go through their whole life not knowing what their purpose is, I know what my purpose is. It is being here, helping young men make a difference in their lives so when they go out into society that they will be productive.
Pencek: This is also year two for you living in Delmarva. What are your impressions?
Collins: It’s great place. It’s a diamond in the rough. It can be an even better place. We’ve just got to win and build a winning environment here. I would love to get to the NCAA to create that environment and make people see how that feels.
I ask my guys, “Do they have a goal,” they all said yes. I asked, “Do they have a plan to achieve that,” they all said yes. I asked, “Have they written it down,” they all said yes. I said I have a goal too and I have a plan and I also have written it down. When you write it down there’s a good chance it can happen.
That’s the way I am. I am a very optimistic positive person in life.