During his first season at Howard, Coach Kirk Saulny usually managed to keep smiling -- quite a feat considering the Bison began 0-12, won two consecutive games, then finished with a 13-game losing streak.

He wasn't smiling so much this fall, as off-court problems -- including an internal investigation into possible NCAA rules violations by the program -- clouded preseason practice and the future of his first recruiting class. Possible transfers Donte Lincoln, a 6-foot-6 forward from Los Angeles Technical Trade College, and Darren Kennedy, a 6-5 forward from Monmouth, were involved in the internal investigation and were being withheld from practice. In addition, 6-9 freshman center Nate Dodson has not been approved to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse, although Howard officials have requested a waiver for him.

Those three could help the Bison solve several of last season's problems. The Bison were outrebounded by an average of 8.8 per game and they committed an average of 20.2 turnovers per game, including 9.6 steals per game. They could handle almost no type of defensive pressure and opponents often waited until the second half before putting on some type of press, forcing a run of mistakes and getting a series of easy baskets.

Howard held a 61-48 lead in the second half of a midseason game against Hampton, but the Pirates put on a full-court press and scored the game's final 28 points. Later in the season, the Bison led Florida A&M by three points with 3 minutes 22 seconds to play, but the Rattlers scored the game's final 15 points for a 72-60 victory.

Junior point guard Ali Abdullah, who finished third in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in assists last season, again will run the offense. But after averaging over 36 minutes per game, he could use help. Jermaine Holloway and Antonio Michell will try to make up for the departure of Melvin Watson, one of two players who scored in double figures last season.

Data

Last season: 2-25, 2-16 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Coach: Kirk Saulny (second season).

Top returning players: G Ali Abdullah, 5-8, Jr. (12.6 ppg, 4.5 apg, 1.9 spg), F Jermaine Holliway, 6-5, Sr. (8.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg), G Antonio Michell, 6-0, Sr. (8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 33 of 66 three-point shooting), F Garrett McCormick, 6-8, Sr. (3.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg), F Bryen Alvin, 6-6, Jr. (7 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

Key departures: G-F Melvin Watson (14.1 ppg).

New faces: G Reggie Morris, 6-2, Jr. (transfer from Los Angeles Southwest Community College), G Jonathan Stokes, 6-2, Fr. (Los Angeles), G Ron Williamson, Fr. (Columbus, Ohio).

Schedule

November

20 at DePaul, 6

December

1 Lafayette, 7:30

3 vs. Michigan State*, 6

4 vs Eastern Michigan or Loyola (Ill.)*, TBA

6 at Georgetown, 7

21 at Delaware, 7:30

27 at LSU, 7

29 at Tulane, 7

January

2 at North Carolina, 2

8 North Carolina A&T, 4

10 South Carolina State, 8

15 at Hampton, 4

17 at Norfolk State, 7:30

22 at Bethune-Cookman, 4

24 Florida A&M, 8

26 at Morgan State, 7:30

31 at UMES, 7:30

February

2 at Delaware State, 7:30

5 Coppin State, 4

7 Morgan State, 8

12 at N.C. A&T, 7:30

14 at S.C. State, 7:30

19 Hampton, 4

21 Norfolk State, 8

26 Delaware State, 4

March

1 UMES, 7:30

3 at Coppin State, 7:30

6-11 MEAC tournament, TBA

*Spartan Classic in East Lansing, Mich.