Sunday, October 30, 2016

Shane Richards selected by Erie BayHawks in NBA D-League Draft

Shane Richards becomes latest Manhattan alumnus in professional ranks, as the Jaspers' all-time leading three-point shooter was taken 24th overall by Erie BayHawks in NBA D-League Draft. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

Shane Richards fought long odds for four years on the road to a professional career.

Today, he has finally defeated them.

Manhattan College's most prolific three-point shooter and eighth all-time leading scorer will begin his journey at the next level with the Erie BayHawks, the developmental affiliate of the Orlando Magic, who selected him with the No. 24 overall pick in Sunday's NBA D-League Draft.

"Shane is going to be a great addition to a team because of his terrific basketball IQ, relentless work ethic and high character; combined with the fact that he is an elite-level shooter, will make for a terrific professional basketball player," Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello said shortly after Richards' selection was announced.

Richards, who concluded his career in a Jasper uniform with two Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships to supplement 1,472 career points and a school record 312 three-point field goals during his time in Riverdale, becomes the sixth player coached by Masiello to play professionally, joining former teammates Michael Alvarado, George Beamon, Rhamel Brown, Emmy Andujar and Ashton Pankey. In his final season at Manhattan, he averaged a team-best 17.2 points per game en route to being recognized with first team all-MAAC honors.

"Anytime you have a guy with his size, his attitude and his ability to shoot the basketball, you know something really good is going to happen," Masiello remarked. "I think his game has evolved in other areas as well. It was a great four years for him, a great four years for us. We're so proud of him, we're so happy for him. He deserves all the credit for putting in the work, putting in the time to make himself a better player and a better person, and he's benefiting from that now."

Friday, October 28, 2016

Greg Herenda and FDU unfazed by specter of pressure to defend NEC championship

Greg Herenda sits with local scribe Robert Elkin, discussing his FDU team's chances to repeat as Northeast Conference champions. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

BROOKLYN, NY - Winning a championship and defending are two distinct challenges.

Coaches will agree on the latter often being more difficult. In our ‘scripted’ coach-speak, we often hear the titlists of March, or April should one be as fortunate, talking about taking the floor in the new campaign with ‘a bullseye on our back.’ “Uneasy is the head that wears the crown,” a bard of lore warned us.

FDU coach Greg Herenda does not subscribe to those theories. Herenda realizes teams will take their best shot to dethrone the champion Knights. To Herenda, it comes with the territory and doesn’t bother him.
“Do I feel pressure?” Herenda repeated an inquiry during the Northeast Conference media day at Barclays Center. “No. I said from day one when we came into the program the day-to-day goal is to just be as good as we can be. Just improve as players and a (coaching) staff day to day.”

Herenda noted a championship was a goal when he took over three years ago. Getting it last March was quite a surprise to him, as well as fellow coaches in the conference. “A year ago we were picked for ninth and won it all,” he said. “The coaches were wrong. This year, I hope they are right.” Herenda was alluding to a preseason NEC coaches’ poll with FDU chosen as number one.

The title run of last year is over. Regardless, the entire team maintains a hunger. “In our intrasquad scrimmage, (last Saturday) it was evident we need to get healthy,” Herenda said, “but it showed our hungry our team is. Not just in the scrimmage but coming to practice everyday. That carries to our games, as those who see us know we value every possession and play every possession on both ends of the floor very hard.”

The FDU mentor admitted defense and rebounding need improvement this season. Last season, the defensive efficiency yielded by the Knights in NEC play was 107. A number of 100 is the cutoff, with over that mark showing a need to tighten up on defense. Even en route to the championship, all three opponents in the NEC tournament showed an offensive efficiency in triple figures. Rebounding numbers saw the Knights with a minus-3 average differential in conference clashes.
The group is without a senior. They are far removed from inexperienced, though, as four starters return, as do a host of veterans with appreciable minutes logged. In August, a two-game trip to Montreal proved invaluable, as the team had an early opportunity to jell. “We bonded as a team,” said junior guard Darian Anderson, the leading returning scorer (16.2 PPG). “We had the chance to get out and play two teams that were physical, similar to what we see in the league.” FDU came home with a split and an immeasurable asset in getting a late summer jump on the season.
Looking over his roster, Herenda realizes he has options. “We can drive and shoot threes,” he said. “Inside, we have Mike Holloway, who is a force (6-7, 250). “We have some really good guards giving us a lot of versatility.” Not just the aforementioned Anderson, but junior swingman Earl Potts Jr., a 14.7 PPG scorer and MVP of last March’s NEC Tournament.

The recent memory of the run, an NCAA trip and the excitement generated on the campus all remain a vivid and fond memory. For the coach, there was another honor to be proud of long after the basketballs were put in storage. Last spring, FDU finished with the highest team GPA in the NEC for the second consecutive year. From day one at FDU, Herenda preached excellence in the classroom as well as the court.

Due to hard work and diligence, he has both.

Mullin: "We have a bunch of gym rats who love the game"

Chris Mullin takes questions from local media at St. John's media day Thursday. (Photo by Vincent Dusovic/St. John's University Athletics)

By Jason Schott (@JESchott19)

Chris Mullin is looking forward to the start of his second season at the helm of the St. John's Red Storm, which gets underway at Carnesecca Arena on November 11 against Bethune-Cookman.

At St. John's media day Thursday, Mullin spoke of the progress his team has made over the past year. "The talent level has improved tremendously,” he said"Our focus has been on practice, daily improvement and working together. The biggest advantage has been the guys who returned [know what we’re looking to do within our system]. That experience is invaluable.
“One of the biggest advantages we will have this year is being able to play multiple lineups. We practice different lineups to see who functions well together and we’ve liked a lot of different combinations. We might want to force another team to play big or small and we have the ability to do that now.”
The Red Storm went just 8-24 in Mullin's first year as head coach. They look to make significant improvement on that after a productive offseason in which they added freshman guard Shamorie Ponds and junior guard/forward Bashir Ahmed.
Ponds was chosen by the Big East Conference coaches as the Preseason Rookie of the Year.
Ponds is a consensus Top-50 recruit, rated as high as number 32 in the Class of 2016. He was a 2,000-point scorer at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, and he averaged 29 points, eight rebounds, and six assists as a senior.
Mullin said of Ponds, “Physically, [Shamorie] is probably like most kids coming out of high school. He’s doing a good job working in the weight room and that will just be a natural process. I like the way he plays. He has great instincts on the court and has a natural feel for the game, both offensively and defensively.”
Ponds said of his relationship with the team, “The coaches made me feel welcome. [When I] came in here, it felt like a family environment and I got used to that. I really gelled with my teammates and we just had a bond.”
The four-star prospect was named to the 2016 Jordan Brand All-American Team. He competed in the 2015 Under Armour Elite 24 game.
Ponds was invited to the USA Men's Basketball U-18 National Team Training Camp.
Sophomore guard Federico Mussini said of Ponds, “I really like his game. You can tell he’s really smart. He’s always ready to steal the ball and get easy points. He’s a great shooter and can do a lot of different things.”
Ahmed is a transfer from from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. The 2016 Jayhawk Conference Player of the Year, Ahmed is a two-time NJCAA All-America honoree. He was a Division I First Team All-American in 2015-16, averaging 20.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists.
“Bashir is more of an old school player," Mullin said of Ahmed. "He’s a very aggressive offensive player who likes to attack the rim. He has a lot of different skills we can use, he’s working hard to expand his game and he’s mature physically.”
In 2014-15, Ahmed was selected Freshman of the Year for the Jayhawk Conference and a NJCAA All American Honorable Mention. He averaged 16.4 points and 7.1 rebounds as a freshman.
One other freshman that could be a surprise is Richard Freudenberg, a 6-foot-9 forward from Germany.
“He’s a really good shooter," Mullin said of Freudenberg. "He’s going to be able to space the floor for us. As the season goes on, you will see his game expand. He can take it to the basket and he can rebound and push it. I think you’ll see natural progression from him.”
Mullin likes the makeup of his team and said of the quality of the group, “We have a bunch of gym rats that love the game. It’s fun being around guys who just had a two hour practice and after they’re just shooting and hanging around the gym.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Seton Hall media day quotebook: Delgado, Carrington, Rodriguez, Sanogo, Thomas

From Seton Hall's media day Tuesday, here is the second part of our quotes, as we spoke to each of the Pirates' four returning starters and incoming point guard Jevon Thomas, who is eligible to return to the court in December:

On a potential championship hangover:
"I can't say it was last year because it was still this year, but it's already in the past. Right now, I'm focused on getting another ring on my hand."

On getting stronger in offseason and potentially breaking out to be a household name:
"Of course. I've been working all summer on that, and I hope it works when I'm in the game too. That's all I did in the summer so I could be a guy who could do more on the court."

On improving his offense:
"That too, but I could never forget what I do best, and that's rebound. I'm going to play the hardest I can this year, because I really want to be the best on the court."

On who steps up to replace Isaiah Whitehead and Derrick Gordon:
"Everybody. Nobody wins the game with one person on the team, two people. Everybody's got to step up. It's not like we depend on Angel to score 20 today, it's not like that. I can score six today and if the team wins, I'm still the same as if I score 20. That's how I feel."

On potentially playing point guard and whether it suits his game:
"I think I could play either one, whatever he (coach Kevin Willard) wants me to do, I'll do it. Last year, I played the point a little bit but not as much because we had Isaiah, but this year I think I could step into that role and kind of get guys going, get myself involved also."

On a potential championship hangover:
"No, definitely not. Coach makes sure of that. It was great winning the Big East last year, but this year is a new year, We have goals that we need to accomplish, so there's not really any hangover from last year."

On more big games looming following his coming-out party in the Big East Tournament:
"I definitely see myself going for outings like that more this year. I think I need to step up more scoring-wise and getting guys involved more, and more just being an alpha dog, just being a leader on the team."

On possibly winning Big East Player of the Year honors:
"That's definitely a goal of mine. I think I can do it, I think I'm one of the more talented guys in the league. You've got to go out and play, and when you play, the focus should be (on) winning. If that comes out winning, then that's the main thing. You're not going to get it if you don't win. The focus is winning games."

On whether the Big East Tournament was the best basketball he's played:
"Yeah, definitely. I'm working towards that goal. I've had a few big games and I was also hot, but that's definitely what you should expect to see this season."

On whether people are sleeping on Seton Hall:
"I said it last year, the preseason polls are the preseason polls. Everybody still has to go out and play, so all that stuff doesn't really matter to us. It just adds fuel to the fire. Everybody still has to play. I think we're a great team, and we can show it this year."

On a potential championship hangover:
"We just want to get back to where we were last year. I definitely think we can do it again with our team that we've got this year. All we've got to do is just play hard, push each other and make each other better every day in practice."

On having an all-conference-caliber impact on offense:
"I have to. I've definitely got to step up my game, and I've got to push my team. I'm a junior now. I feel like I could lead this team really well, and it means just getting everyone better, not me worrying about myself, being selfish, getting my teammates the ball. I definitely think we could be a very good team, high-level team, just winning our road games and taking care of business."

On how he channels his intensity:
"I just feel like I'm getting older and I'm growing as a person. If I do what Coach tells me to do, it's all going to fall into place. I'm definitely a high-intensity player. I love it, it gets our opponents intimidated and I just like going hard, that's just me. I bring energy to the team. If I don't bring that energy, I feel like I've failed my team, so I've just got to bring the energy every day and push my team to do better."

On SportsCenter Top 10 plays:
"This season, I'm shooting to get about five. I had one my freshman year and two my sophomore year, so definitely five."

On how much big-game atmospheres help Seton Hall:
"Isaiah was definitely a big piece and we lost him, but we don't want to look at it like that. We've still got to move forward without him, so we're going to go as far as our work ethic takes us. Each of us has to make each other better, and it starts with our juniors this year and leading the younger guys, getting them to where they've got to be at on the court, just making everyone better, and us just being level-headed. Last year was last year and we want to think it's a big accomplishment, but this year, we've got to take care of business."

On whether people may be sleeping on Seton Hall:
"That happens every year. It happened when Isaiah was here last year, they slept on us and we won the Big East championship. That motivated us a lot, so it's definitely a big help for us. When everybody doubts us, we just love it. It makes us want to prove people wrong."

On non-conference schedule and what he's looking most forward to:
"I'm looking forward to Orlando more, just to play Florida and getting a chance to play Gonzaga again. We'd like to get revenge on them, so I'm definitely looking forward to Orlando more."

On Seton Hall's mindset this season:

"To do the same thing and make a deeper run into the NCAA Tournament."

On whether people may be sleeping on Seton Hall:
"Definitely, they're sleeping on us, and honestly, that's the way we like it so we could come up and surprise people."

On improving his defense:
"I've improved on that a lot, just working on getting stronger. I'm able to guard bigger players and working on my foot quickness so I could guard faster guards."

On NCAA rule changes affecting his game:
"Not me at all because I've never really three-quartered the post, that was the main rule change. I always used my quickness to get around the player."

On Myles Powell:
"Oh, he's progressed a lot. They say I'm the hardest worker, he may be the hardest worker on the team. He lost 45 pounds in the summer, that's incredible right there; plus he was up with me putting up shots, almost 1,000 a day. That's crazy."

"You should definitely expect a lot from him. Teams are not going to know what's coming, and even if they do, it's hard to prepare for a kid like that."

On what drives him:
"It just came from me. Being a kid, I was affected by Hurricane Katrina, and that had a huge impact on my life. We were, me and my family were homeless for a while and that caused me to grow up early, and I didn't want my family to go through anything like that, so it forced me to work hard to get where I want to be."

On Isaiah Whitehead:
"I've never met a person that approached the game so serious. He had a goal to go to the NBA and win, and he did it. And his approach, his energy and his vibe, he was just positive the whole year. I like how he prepped for games, how he prepped for practice, prepped for workouts, how he approached things. That gave me a different aspect. I've never really been around a pro. Coming in and seeing him after the freshman year that he had; and how he changed and evolved, that really helped me. It gave me a better understanding on how to handle things. Seeing how he dealt with Coach, Coach was on him nonstop. This year, Coach is on me nonstop. I saw how Isaiah responded to it, he had a great year, so this year I'm just taking everything in."

On Whitehead's success inspiring this year's team:
"Absolutely. He showed that it's possible. You see a lot of guys get drafted in your class, but you never really get a guy drafted that's right next to you, on the same team, from the same area. I've been playing against Isaiah since we were kids, so seeing that happen; coming from a program that a lot of people doubted, it's just helped us all and shown that we could do it."

On defense being his calling card:
"Absolutely. I think that's one of my strengths. I think I could come in and change the game defensively, add a little experience, a little passing, getting players involved. I just think that's my strength: Coming in, adding a little pressure and just being hard-nosed, like Isaiah."

On Derrick Gordon being a mentor:
"It helped a lot. I'm more of an on-ball defender, but just seeing Derrick and how he played the passing lanes, he was big on being verbal. I never really talked. I was more like a selfish defender, just played my position; but seeing Derrick come in and seeing him talk on the help side, telling a guy he's out of place on certain things, he was real big. He talked a lot and that helped me out a lot."

On his intangibles:
"I just bring the best out of players. I feel like that's my calling. Offensively, just keeping somebody ahead of the game, doing all the little things."

On rejoining the team in December:
"I see that as a gift. I need more reps. Right now, I'm not ready to play in November. I sat out for a lot of months, so I think that by December, I should be ready."

On coming back to the New York area and feeling he has more to prove:
"I try not to play my game off that, trying to prove people wrong. I'm just going to come back home, where I'm more comfortable. Unfortunately I had to transfer, but I think I transferred for the better. It's going to help me out, but I don't think I've got to prove anything to people. Me coming to college and being here proved them wrong already."

On what to expect from him on the court:
"Just being a hard-nosed player, being tough, being a leader, vocal, helping others get better, being a second coach on the floor. That's what I really want to bring, just be able to be a second coach in game situations. Coach, in practice, would give me the freshmen and the players that didn't play last year, and it's helped me become a better point guard and helped them become better."

NEC in NYC: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

BROOKLYN, NY - The Halloween store across the street was doing a booming business. The air inside the arena was on the chilly side as preparations were made for that night’s Islanders-Canadiens game. Holidays and hockey aside, the main event for the day centered on basketball, and not the Nets either. The college game was on the menu on this day, specifically the Northeast Conference media day.
The car ride through the borough can be insufferable. A silver lining is a route passing two member schools, St. Francis Brooklyn and LIU Brooklyn. Just driving past the two participants of the ‘Battle of Brooklyn’ quickens the pulse as anticipation toward the start of the season is heightened.
Inside Barclays Center, there is a great deal of activity. Amidst the exchange of pleasantries and catching up on the past few months, electronic and print interviews are held at two different locations. A buffet lunch is very quickly partaken of as the order of business takes precedence.

The NEC is one of the few conferences inviting the ten member men’s and women’s programs to share the spotlight. Each member school has a player and representative. It is a way to afford the women’s programs more well deserved attention.

In the final analysis, there is a stark similarity to other media days. Everyone is undefeated and optimistic about what the following weeks and season will bring. Sure, there are bumps in the road regarding practice injuries and a challenging non-league slate. Beyond that, the attitude of players and coaches alike remains decidedly upbeat. The media day, especially on the NEC side, is a combination of productive, informative and social. And in the case of Brooklyn, if you take public transportation, all the better.

Outside Barclays Center on NEC media day:
Central Connecticut State head coach Donyell Marshall and guard Chris Williams, during an interview with NEC Front Row on-air talent Dave Popkin and Joe DeSantis:
An interesting contrast, as the jumbotron trumpets the NEC despite hockey being the order of the night:
A "Mount Rushmore" of the local basketball scene, if you will: From left to right are legendary Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio, FDU coach Greg Herenda, former New Jersey Net Albert King, and longtime CBS News editor/Inside the Big East executive producer Sammy Albano:
Bryant head coach Tim O'Shea discusses the Bulldogs' prospects with Ryan Peters of NYC Buckets:
LIU Brooklyn women's head coach Stephanie Oliver and all-conference selection Shanovia Dove moments before meeting the media:
Our neighbors to the north setting up shop, as the Montreal Canadiens were in town to face the Islanders: (Photo by Ralph Ventre/Northeast Conference)

Braica likes potential of young St. Francis Brooklyn squad

Glenn Braica and Yunus Hopkinson field questions on NEC Front Row during conference media day Wednesday. (Photo by David Gansell/St. Francis Brooklyn Athletics)

By Jason Schott (@JESchott19)

The St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers have a new look this season, as they have one returning senior; Yunus Hopkinson, six sophomores that will see more playing time, and three new freshmen, including New York City products Rasheem Dunn and Gianni Ford.

Head coach Glenn Braica, speaking at NEC Media Day at Barclays Center on Wednesday, said he is optimistic about the potential of his young team.

"I think it's a work in progress," he said. "I think it's a very different team than what we've had the last couple of years. The last few years, we've had better and more big guys than I ever thought we'd have here when I took the job, and they were productive."

"This team is probably more like the type of team that I thought I would have when I started here. We're probably guard-oriented to start, and I like our big guys, it's just that they have no experience. I think they're going to be alright. We had a tough blow the other day, we lost (sophomore center) Cori Johnson for the year. He got hurt, knee injury, and he was a big, strong kid."

"I think we're going to play faster and try to get after people a little bit. We have a lot more guys that can make plays on the perimeter. In the past, we had Brent Jones or Yunus (Hopkinson), end of the shot clock off a ball screen. Glenn Sanabria, you know, his first year, now we have multiple guys. I think our guards can really score and make plays, and our big guys just got to get some experience and develop, and I think we have a chance to be okay as the season goes on."

Rasheem Dunn led Thomas Jefferson High School to their first PSAL AA championship in 62 years and was named the Co-Most Valuable Player after scoring 23 points in the title game at Madison Square Garden. Jefferson also won the program's first state federation title last season. He averaged 16.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists last season.

Gianni Ford went to Boys and Girls High School, where he averaged 18.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in his senior year, and he averaged 25.0 points per game in the PSAL playoffs Ford is regarded as one of the top shooters in New York City, and he scored 21 points in the Unsigned Hype Senior Showcase at Westinghouse High School in Brooklyn.

"They're talented kids, they're going to be really good," Braica said of Dunn and Ford. "You may see four guards or four point guards on the court at times for us a lot this year. Those guys are talented, they still don't know what we're doing, so they got a long way to go (he said laughing), again, they're guys that can make big plays like Yunus (Hopkinson) and Glenn (Sanabria). So, I think the more guys you have that can make plays, whether it be one-on-one or off the ball screen or in transition, the better team you're going to be. Those guys have a lot to learn, obviously freshmen, it's tougher. I tried to explain to them that it took Yunus a couple years to figure it out and now he's a terrific player. Glenn Sanabria, he didn't play his first five games of his college career, you know, he just wasn't ready, so you never know when it clicks."

"I do think those guys are very talented, though, and they give us, you know, Gianni gives us another guy who can shoot the ball, and Rasheem is just a bull going to the basket, you know, it's something we haven't had. We haven't had a guy get to the rim like that, get to the free throw line from the perimeter. I think this year we're going to have to get a lot of our paint touches from drives, whereas in the past it was run something and get it inside, and I think now, it's gonna be a lot of our paint touches are going to be from the perimeter, and that's good."

Josh Nurse, a native of Laurelton, had some big moments in his freshman season, as he had three rebounds in their victory against Mount St. Vincent, and had four points (all at the free throw line), five rebounds, a block, and a steal in a win against St. Francis (PA). For the season, he averaged 4.7 minutes, 0.3 points and 0.9 rebounds per game.

Braica said of Nurse and which forwards it looks like he will rely on the most this season, "Josh (Nurse) has had a good preseason, he's a different player than he was last year. Last year, you know this time of year, he looked out of place and he really wasn't ready for this, but this year he looks like a player and he shows flashes of being very good. It's still going to be a learning process, so I don't want to put too much on him because he's an inexperienced guy, but he can run too. He's got all the tools; he's got great feet, great hands, he can pass the ball, and he's got a nice little post game he's developing. We just need him to hold down the fort and rebound and guard the post. He's got to play, we're throwing all those guys to the wolves and they just gotta respond. We've got some guards who are tested; we don't have any big guys who are tested."

St. Francis has a freshman forward, Robert Montgomery, who produced 13.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game at Mount Zion Prep in Baltimore. Before that, the Montgomery Village, Maryland native went to Takoma Academy, where he averaged 10.7 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks as a senior. Out of more than 25 male teams from across the country, Montgomery helped his team win the SWAU Annual Tournament in Texas and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the event.

Braica said of Montgomery, "He's an undersized big, a little like Jalen Cannon. I'm not saying he's as good as Jalen, but he's in that mold that he's undersized. He rebounds, played pretty well the other day when we brought refs in and he's very explosive. I think he has a chance to be a good player, as does the kid Jahmel Bodrick as well."

St. Francis opens the season at North Carolina State on November 13, the first of six on the road before their home opener on December 5 against Lafayette.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Seton Hall media day quotebook: Kevin Willard

Kevin Willard fields questions in press conference portion of Seton Hall media day. (Photo by Thomas Chen/Seton Hall University Athletics)

Seton Hall held its preseason media day Tuesday afternoon on its South Orange campus, and as was the case at Big East media day two weeks prior, all eyes were on how Kevin Willard and the reigning conference champion Pirates would handle life without Isaiah Whitehead following his transition into the NBA. Below are quotes from the day's festivities:

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard on team personality without Isaiah Whitehead:
"You know, it's been interesting. I think everyone's trying to take a little step forward with their game to try to fill the void that Isaiah's left. We've become a little bit more balanced of a basketball team offensively. I think where we're really trying to find our personality right now is towards the end of the shot clock, where last year, we got very comfortable with him having the basketball in his hands towards the end of the shot clock. I think we're trying to find our personality now of 'where are we with under 12 seconds on the shot clock?' What are we going to do? Who's going to be ready to step up and not make a shot, but make a play for somebody else?

On being more reliant upon the three-point shot:
"I think it really depends on our lineup. I think that's something where we're a little bit deeper than what we were last year. Adding guys like Myles Powell, Veer Singh; who's had a very good offseason, gained some weight, his confidence is really well shooting the basketball now. I think different lineups are going to give us chances to play different ways. We could go small and be very aggressive defensively full court, we could go bigger and be a really good zone team, so I think we will shoot the basketball probably better than we did last year, but I think it will depend on the lineup we have out there at times. If we have Myles and Veer with Khadeen (Carrington) out there, it's a very good shooting lineup. We're also experimenting with having Veer at the four spot a bit with certain lineups, when we have guys who technically aren't good shooters out there, to keep the defense honest."

On Myles Powell:
"We knew we were getting a very talented player. Everyone told me we were really going to have to push him to work hard and get in there, but that's probably been the farthest from the truth. He's a gym rat, he knew what he had to do to get on the basketball court. He's lost close to 45 pounds now, he looks phenomenal, his game is even better than it was before because he's quicker. He's doing a much better job trying to guard, that's something all freshmen really struggle with, but his attitude...he's probably the best offensive scorer as a freshman that I've coached. He's that skilled offensively to score the basketball, so he's been a great surprise, and his work ethic is phenomenal."

On team identity:
"I think that's something that will always be our backbone, our defense. We lost a big part with Derrick (Gordon) and Isaiah, two big guards that were physical guards, that were able to let us play a little more aggressively at times at the end of last year; not from a pressing standpoint, but more from a man-to-man, being able to switch from big guys. Madison Jones has really added what Derrick was able to do for us. He's not as physical as Derrick was, so I think our biggest thing is we're trying to shore up our inside defense, our pick-and-roll defense to get a little better, it was a weakness towards the end. But if we can have that same defensive attitude and get guys like Desi (Rodriguez) on the break, Khadeen on the break, it really helps us offensively. We were really good offensively, I think we scored 80-plus points in nine of our last ten Big East games, it was a record for the year. But that all started with our defense and how we created turnovers. I think everyone's going to have to adjust to the rules a little bit, the way they're going to call the game, especially early in the year."

"I don't expect anybody to have an offensive impact, I expect everyone to have a small improvement of what they did last year. If everybody has a small improvement of what they did last year, we're going to be a pretty good basketball team. I think everyone's going to be more involved this year, but there's not one person that fills a void that was left when Isaiah left. No one's going to replace that void, and they all understand that. We'll be much more balanced offensively than we were last year, because these guys can handle the offensive load and they understand they have to get a little better."

On who has stepped up to lead in the absence of Whitehead and Gordon:
"The leadership role has been kind of done by the four returning starters. They've all taken on a bit of leadership in different ways, whether it's...Khadeen is great with individual instruction, Ish (Sanogo) in practice every day, Angel (Delgado) with his intensity, Desi going up and being more of a leader. I think all four of them have really taken a role in trying to help some of the younger guys, but it's a team that's a little bit more mature that doesn't need one singular voice. They all kind of are holding each other accountable, which is nice."

On Michael Nzei:
"I won't say Mike's been a big surprise, but the way Mike's playing and what he can bring to us, he kind of complements Ish and Angel really well on the inside. He gives us an opportunity to be aggressive on pick-and-rolls, to do different things on pick-and-rolls. He's really worked hard on scoring the basketball. Last year, just being a freshman coming off injury, my confidence in him and his confidence wasn't overly great. The summer he's had, he hasn't added much weight but he's added strength, he's able to sustain his energy. He's one of the best high-energy guys, him and Ish. We'll play him and Ish together a lot, I think it's going to give us a chance to be creative on defense and the way we press, but he's a guy that was playing 12 minutes a game. He's going to be up in the 20-22 range just because of all the things he can bring us."

On Jevon Thomas:
"I never coached Paul Gause, but I watched a lot of Paul. Jevon is that type of defender. He can really disrupt the game from a defensive standpoint, he's lightning quick, can put pressure on a defense in transition; but more than anything, he gives us an opportunity to have someone, with him and Madison at the front of the press, to really be able to press in January and February where we haven't been able to press in January and February before. Offensively, it's going to take him a little time getting back on the court. It's my biggest worry. I think his first game is going to be Rutgers, and then he's going to have to play at Creighton, so that's going to be a big adjustment of him just getting back on the court, but he gives us a unique dynamic that we haven't had in a while."

On Ismael Sanogo's development:
"Ish is a hard-working fool, and I mean that in the best compliment possible. There's not a time when he's not putting up extra shots, he's not working on his handle, he's not getting back in the gym after an individual. I think it goes to any kid that this is someone who wasn't overly, highly recruited, someone that didn't get a whole lot of chance to play offense his first couple of years; and now through his hard work, his dedication, it shows any kid that if you put your mind to it and you put the work in, you're going to improve. That was the biggest thing I had with him early in the summer. He was getting frustrated because he would make shots in individual instruction, but when we played open gym, he wouldn't make shots, and I just told him, 'it's all about a learning process.' And he stayed with it, stayed with it, and before he got hurt the other day, he was really playing with a lot of confidence and starting to understand where to take his shots, where not to take his shots. It's just a matter of, I say it all the time, good things are going to happen, and he's proof of it."

"He sprained his MCL last Wednesday. He'll miss this Saturday's scrimmage, he should be back for next Saturday's scrimmage."

On Angel Delgado's maturation:
"Angel was only 18 when he got here, so he was young. A lot of American kids coming out now are 19 or even 20 during their freshman year of college, so they're older. Being away from his family is very difficult. I think he's matured leaps and bounds, but he still has a long way to go. He still has to understand he's not done with the journey, the journey's still very much in front of him and he has to continue to work to get better, emotionally, physically, mentally."

St. Francis Brooklyn building toward what they can become

Glenn Braica has made a career of overachieving at St. Francis Brooklyn, and hopes to do it again this season as Terriers welcome six new faces to program. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

By Jonathan Reyes (@werdynerdy)

After experiencing an historic 2014-15 season, when St. Francis Brooklyn tied a program record with 23 wins and earned their first Northeast Conference championship since 2003-04; plus an appearance into the National Invitational Tournament for the first time since 1963, finishing off 2015-16 with a 15-17 record was a step back of sorts, and early indications from college basketball insiders seem to think another may be on its way this year. 

The Terriers have six new players, replacing four graduated seniors in Tyreek Jewell, Chris Hooper, Amdy Fall and Antonio Jenifer from their main rotation. Additions to the team are freshman guards Rasheem Dunn, Gianni Ford and forward Robert Montgomery. Forwards Jahmel Bodrick, Darelle Porter and center Cory Johnson are transfers.

Terrier basketball has become known for its defense under head coach Glenn Braica, who now enters his seventh season at the helm. He said they’re teaching the team, since almost half the roster is new, how to play to their defensive mindset first. As for offense, that will come naturally, because that’s where most of the talent lies.

“This is a challenging team and a fun one to coach, he said about how he’d describe the 2016-17 Terriers. “We have some guys who’ve established themselves and have had success in the backcourt like Yunus [Hopkinson] and Glenn Sanabria, who are very good players in the league. So we have those high-level players, and then we have some guys like Keon Williams, Gunnar Olafsson, Dagur Jonsson, who have experience and are kind of on the brink of being pretty good. We also have a couple of new really good recruits who have the chance to be special players, but they’re young: Rasheem Dunn and Gianni Ford.”

“On the perimeter, I’ll challenge anybody,” Braica continuedI’m not saying right now, but in January. The challenge we face is that we graduated three big guys who played all the minutes for us last year. We have returning 75 minutes of Division I experience between five guys, that’s not a lot. But they have talent and they have to learn what it’s about. We’re going to throw them to the fire, and we may get beat up a little bit early. If they could figure it out, we have a chance to be a tough out come January, February, we’ll see.”

Upon entering the NEC, or any Division I league for that matter, Braica said freshmen don’t realize how hard it is. In high school, he noted that if you were lucky enough to be on a really good team, there was only five or six chances of losing. Now in practice they go up against Division I players, and during game time, if they don’t guard their man for even a second, you’ll be scored on.

“What we tell them, and we say it numerous times, ‘If our standards are way up high, and you want to work below that, some coaches may drop their standards a little to allow that. We’re not doing that,” Braica said of his way of developing players. “Your job is to reach our standards and speed. Your speed, the one you’re used to, causes us to lose. If you play at our speed, you’ll be good, if you have talent.”

“We tell them the truth every day, we don’t drop out standards and we hold them accountable. That’s all we do. We don’t play mind games, we’re not belligerent towards guys, and if a guy is doing what he’s supposed to or not, we tell him. Simple formula.”

“You can’t give up. You have to go out there and give it all your heart,” Hopkinson said of his message to the freshman and underclassman Terriers. “A lot of young guys think they know it all, but high school and college are different. Learn as much as you can, play hard, don’t worry about making mistakes and everything will fall into place with work ethic.”

Once the new season is underway, Braica said he wants to move away from playing too big, which he said they’ve done the last few seasons. Instead, he’d like to balance the size, as they develop into scorers, along with their luxury at the guard position. With that style in mind, he mentioned maybe pressing the ball up and down the court more since they now have players who can play off the dribble and shoot at the end of a shot clock.

“I’m not excited about what our team is now; I’m excited about what our team can become,” he added. “There’s a high ceiling, we’re nowhere near it now and we may not be there for a while, but if they hang in there and keep the same right mindset, we could have a nice run.”

“The team is young, so we’re an underdog,” Hopkinson said, “but those can be a plus in some ways. I wish the season started yesterday, it’s taking its time, especially being a senior. We have to build that foundation with each other first before we can play. I’m just enjoying the process watching my teammates come into their own. I want to win a championship before I leave, I’m going to leave it all on the court.”

Monday, October 24, 2016

Rich Williams now applying his acquired knowledge to lead Manhattan once more

Rich Williams admittedly thought he knew all the answers as an underclassman, but has found them while undergoing transition from role player to team leader and one of more important pieces to Manhattan's success this season. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

There was once a time when Rich Williams let his effervescent personality get the best of him.

During one of the first practices in his sophomore year, Manhattan College's extroverted and gregarious swingman took a lackadaisical approach to a defensive drill, prompting head coach Steve Masiello to banish him from the Draddy Gymnasium court.

The Williams we see today is a far cry from the burgeoning talent we saw in 2014. Now a battle-hardened and experienced veteran, the Brooklyn native is quick to recognize the difference between the promising upstart who searched for the right method to channeling his vast potential and the complete package of an all-league player that now leads the Jaspers into what those around the program hope is a resurgence from last season's injury-riddled 13-18 campaign.

"I just got more mature," a humble Williams admitted when reflecting on his journey in Riverdale. "I understand the bigger picture now. I was a kid coming out of high school, thought I knew all the answers. Now I listen more than I talk, so I think that's a big part of my development, just listening and trusting guys around me, and believing what they talk about."

Being born into a culture of winning can be a baptism by fire, so to speak, and in the first part of Williams' career, it was. With the likes of Michael Alvarado, Emmy Andujar, George Beamon, Rhamel Brown and Ashton Pankey firmly entrenched in the rotation during Manhattan's back-to-back Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship runs, playing time was earned; and due to the immense depth of the Jasper roster, not always consistent. It wasn't until his junior season that Williams, along with the since-graduated Shane Richards, was able to truly carve his own imprint on the team; but when opportunity knocked, it was met with a warm embrace.

"Being an older guy, all the young guys look upon me," said Williams with regard to the increased responsibility of setting the tone on and off the court, in and out of the locker room, a role he shares with fellow senior Tyler Wilson. But his ability to be a leader and take initiative was cultivated long before this offseason, with one of the first true moments of clarity coming midway through his sophomore season when he approached Masiello about coming off the bench rather than occupying a spot in the starting five, his rationale being the need to merely provide a spark after feeling the opening minutes of a contest out to gauge the on-court intensity. Needless to say, the voluntary sacrifice paid off shortly thereafter, with the Jaspers punching a second straight ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

"I think that says a lot about his character that he wants to do what's best for the team," Masiello said back in January of 2015, when Williams first expressed his intent to switch gears. "He wants to do what it's about for the team, so I'm really happy."

"I'm just proud of his consistency, how he's grown into being a man and the leader he is off the court," Masiello elaborated recently, bringing the career of his latest precocious talent full circle. "Now he's the guy rooming with Aaron (Walker, one of Manhattan's three incoming freshmen), taking care of him, making sure he understands what's going on off the court. His growth off the basketball court is what I'm really proud of, just his development as a man, being a good son, being a good teammate, a role model in the community. Those are the things I'm really proud of. The basketball ability is at an elite level. We just want to build on that."

"I think the growth of Rich as a leader, you're going to see that emerge," the coach further intimated. "What's nice for him is he has guys like Zavier Turner, Tyler Wilson, Calvin (Crawford) and Zane (Waterman) around him, so that's only going to help him. He has a great supporting cast."

The high praise and lofty expectations still get Williams awe-struck from time to time, as after all, he remains a 22-year-old young man filled with the same sense of wonder a little boy may have when he wakes up on Christmas morning and sees his family's tree adorned with ornaments on its branches and presents underneath it. It is that enjoyment he carries with him into each day, a love of the game that is so often taken for granted, that makes his trials all the more rewarding, his meticulous and diligent labors all the more fruitful.

"I would have never thought I would be here," he said when summarizing his body of work to this point, doing so with his ubiquitous wide grin. "In my freshman year, for instance, Coach would say I was a player who didn't play that much. Every year, my role stepped up. I'm pleased to be where I'm at today, the opportunity that I have."

Upcoming season could be return to form for LIU Brooklyn

With familiar faces such as Jerome Frink (left) and Nura Zanna returning, head coach Jack Perri (right) is banking on upward mobility for his LIU Brooklyn team this season. (Photo by Bob Dea/Blackbirds Hoops Journal)

By Jonathan Reyes (@werdynerdy)

Since being named LIU Brooklyn's head coach in 2013, Jack Perri has seen his team teeter like a seesaw.

His first year showed off his ability toward continued success, and to no surprise due to his knowledge of the program after having spent seven seasons as an assistant under his predecessor Jim Ferry, the current Duquesne head coach.

Perri led his players to a 20-14 record in that 2013-14 campaign, which garnered the Blackbirds their third consecutive Northeast Conference championship and also rewarded him with the Joe B. Hall Coach of the Year award, given out annually to Division I first-year head coaches.

The second season of Perri’s tenure was riddled with injuries to the point where it shaved off eight wins from the year prior, finishing with a 12-18 record. Looking back at last season, the Blackbirds did improve by four wins and make it back over the .500 mark, ending the year 16-15. Can they build off that marginal uptick in wins despite what Perri noted as inconsistency being the problem? He thinks so, and it all has to do with a shift in mentality.

“If you saw us play some last year, we were a little inconsistent, very inconsistent,” he said. “We’d win one, lose one; win two, lose two. We did that within practice too; we’d have a good practice and a bad practice. This year, I see a different team. They’re much more consistent with their effort and focus. I attribute that to our seniors.

“There’s a sense of urgency they have that tells them, ‘This is it. There’s not another year coming up afterwards, now is the time. We have a good group of seniors and younger underclassmen that are going to have to help contribute, especially at the point guard position, and they’re ready to do that. I like their personality and characteristics that they bring.”

Part of that group of upper and underclassman Perri referenced transferred: Twins Trevon and Trevin Woods, Martin Hermannsson and Aakim Saintil. They’re being replaced by three freshman guards: Jashaun Agosto, Julian Batts and Ashtyn Bradley. So it’s a guards-for-guards exchange pretty much, which fits the M.O. of a Blackbirds roster comprised of speed and versatility by carrying eight guards, three forwards and four combos.

“We’re itching,” Perri said about the start season approaching closer with each passing day. “Our guys still have to get better and learn different things. So I’m ready to keep that first game off for a little bit until we get everything that we want to get in and get as good as we possibly could be at that point.

“It’s certainly an exciting time right now and our guys are just doing a really good job of staying in the moment and are focused on each and every day and getting better to kind of create that team identity. Every team takes on a different identity every year, it’s forming right now for us.”