Pan Karalis (@karalispan)
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Myles Douglas (above) got a waiver from the NCAA so he could be immediately eligible this season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
When Myles Douglas decided to leave the University of Central Florida after two years and enter his name into the transfer portal this spring, he received a phone call with a familiar voice on the other end.
It was that of Saint Joseph’s assistant Brenden Straughn, a coach with whom Douglas has had a relationship with since he was in his early teens. Straughn had previously been an assistant with Team Takeover, a Nike EYBL program based in D.C., and coached Douglas through his AAU years.
The two stayed connected when Douglas, a lanky 6-foot-8 wing, went to UCF in the fall of 2017, and after Straughn entered the college coaching world on the staff of Loyola (Md.) a year later.
Straughn was brought on to new Hawks head coach Billy Lange’s staff when Lange was hired to replace Phil Martelli in April, in part because of his roots in the DC-Maryland-Virginia AAU scene. He connected Douglas and Lange, and Douglas committed to the program by mid-April.
“It’s very important, in this business you want to make sure everybody that you’re dealing with is genuine and has the best interest for you, what you want to do after basketball, why you’re here,” Douglas said last week, before St. Joe’s season officially got underway. “Coach Straughn, he knew my game, he knew who I was as a person off the court... the biggest thing for me was being able to play my game here and being comfortable on the court.”
The dividends of hiring Straughn paid off immediately for Saint Joseph’s, helping land two valuable DMV recruits just weeks into his tenure on Hawk Hill; DC-area product Cameron Brown’s commitment followed a few weeks later.
Although Douglas never found a rhythm on Johnny Dawkins’ UCF squad, playing sparingly as a freshman (8.9 mpg, 2.0 ppg) and sitting out his sophomore year with an injury, it was his desire to come back north that led him to seek a transfer.
“I had injuries, (was) a little out of position,” he said, but “really it was just the bug, being closer to home.”
He received offers in his home state from Towson and Mount St. Mary’s, and also from Drexel, but ultimately decided to join a rebuilding St. Joe’s team where he felt comfortable with the coaching staff and his prospective role on the court. So comfortable, in fact, that SJU was the only official visit he took during his most recent recruitment period.
It was the team Lange had and the role he could offer Douglas that was most attractive to the 21-year-old. “I was looking at the basketball aspect of the team, how my game will be able to translate to this new school,” he said.
He was less concerned with the “oohs and ahs” of the facilities and campus as he was when he was visiting schools in high school. The redshirt sophomore decided on sociology as a major at his new school. “It’s just interesting to me, to see how the mind works, how everybody thinks.” And does he try to use what he learns in the classroom on the court? “Any advantage I can get, man.”
Douglas is also learning a “new position, a new role” at St. Joseph’s, developing his game as a ball handler and leader on the court. “(Lange) wanted me to play point guard here. That was one of the biggest things when I came in, me having the ball in my hands, being able to playmake.
“Playing point guard I’m learning a lot, learning how to run a team, learning how to get the guys organized and still be myself and be aggressive,” he added.
With the transfer or graduation of the entire contributing backcourt from last year’s team –– Jared Bynum transferring to Providence, Lamarr Kimble to Louisville, Troy Holston to Morgan State and Chris Clover finishing his eligibility –– Douglas is expected to shoulder a heavy production burden and play significant minutes from his first games in a Hawks uniform.
But learning a new position and preparing to play more minutes than he has since high school wasn’t the only challenge faced by Douglas this offseason; there was also the status of his eligibility, which, despite his waiver being submitted early in the offseason, remained in question until only a few weeks before the season started.
Although Douglas tried not to think too much about it, “as the summer wears on, you start to think about it day by day by day,” he said. Players across the country were getting waivers approved all offseason, and Douglas had to continue to wonder whether or not he’d be able to suit up in competition this season. “I tried to ignore those things, but it’s like, you see a lot of waivers getting approved, and you don’t want to see yours not get approved. It was kind of frustrating seeing that.”
But a few weeks before the Hawks’ season was set to tip off, he got a call from Lange; Douglas thought he was calling about practice or to talk about his defense.
“He (Lange) was just like ‘I got some good news for you; your waiver’s been approved,” he said. “Once it came, I was the happiest kid alive.”
With his transfer, waiver process and the offseason behind him, Douglas was able to shift his attention ahead to the 2019-20 season.
“I think I proved I’m going to be a starter on this team already,” he said, but he’s willing to fill any role he needs to. “I’m cool with running the lanes, filling the lanes, making an extra pass.”
On a team with so much ball handling acuity, it’ll be a committee effort on the ball. Delaware transfer Ryan Daly, who scored exactly a thousand points in his two seasons on Martin Inglesby’s team in Newark, is accustomed to having the ball in his hands. Freshmen Brown (Roosevelt High, Md.) and Rahmir Moore (Rise Prep, Ont.) also ran some point during their high school careers, and Maine graduate transfer Dennis Ashley, a 6-1 point guard, will be available off the bench.
But when St. Joe’s won the tip during a preseason exhibition at Hagan Arena against Arcadia, it was Douglas who was immediately handed the ball by his teammate. He went on to log over 32 minutes and score 18 points in his first regular-season game with the Hawks, an 86-81 victory over Bradley on Tuesday.
And despite the media rumblings and low external expectations on the program, Douglas came to Hawk Hill to win now. Many have picked St. Joe’s to finish at or near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 this year, the league’s preseason coaches’ poll landing them ahead of only Fordham.
“Preseason rankings don’t really mean too much to us,” he said. “We’re just trying to go out and prove every day that we’re the better team.
“We’re not really focused on too many people’s opinions...I think we got a good team, a good group of guys. I think we can shock a lot of people.”