Saturday, September 24, 2011

News and Notes, from Around The MAAC

MAAC news, notes and disjointed thoughts from a cluttered mind ...


Your hoopscribe is very impressed with the two new men's coaches entering the league this season, Manhattan's Steve Masiello and Fairfield's Sydney Johnson.

Johnson has already been identified as one of the better mid-major level coaches nationally, for his previous work at Princeton, by one college basketball guru. Johnson fits the recent method of conference schools of hiring former head coaches from elsewhere.

Masiello, though, doesn't. He has never been a head coach before, but appears to have the necessary apprentice work, not only as an assistant in the program he now directs (he served under Bobby Gonzalez from the 2001-02 through the 2004-05 seasons), but also as a Louisville assistant under Rick Pitino. And, it would be difficult to find a coach anywhere with the enthusiasm and optimism of Masiello.


Moreso than any time in recent memory will transfer players have an impact in the conference this season.

The initial thought here is that Rakim Sanders, the 6-5 senior swingman at Fairfield, will be the best of the incoming group with previous experience at other schools. Sanders already has more than 1,000 career points through three seasons at Boston College and has drawn raves from his coach, Sydney Johnson, for his work ethic and on-court intelligence. He also joins a program that will benefit from his ability to score points, so look for him to be among the conference's leading scorers as well.

But, he's not alone, not even on his own team. Point guard Desmond Wade (formerly at Houston), a junior, was in the starting lineup for the Stags' summer trip to Italy and is likely to get significant minutes during the upcoming regular season.

Then, there's Chris Prescott (St. Joseph's) at Saint Peter's, a 6-2 guard who will likely be among the conference scoring leaders this season.

Also, there's Jeff Jones (Virginia), at Rider who scored 555 points in his previous three seasons and is likely to be an impact player for the Broncs.

And, Ra'Shad James, a 6-1 guard (St. Thomas Aquinas), at Iona who one practice observer claims might have been the Gaels' best guard in practices last season.

The strong incoming group will be followed up by a similarly strong, if not better, group the following year.

Among those will be Freddie Asprilla, a 6-10, 275-pound center (Kansas State) at Canisius, Jordan Latham, a 6-8, 245-pound power forward (Xavier) at Loyola, Desi Washington, a 6-1 guard (Delaware State) at Saint Peter's, and Lamont "Momo" Jones, a 6-0 guard (Arizona) at Iona.

Iona is awaiting a hardship ruling by the NCAA on Jones that would allow him to play this coming season. The thought here is that Jones won't get early eligibility and won't be allowed to play games for the Gaels until next season. But, one never knows.


The best non-conference game this season? Pencil in Nov. 14 at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., when Providence comes to town to play Fairfield.

That game marks the return of Ed Cooley, the Fairfield coach for the past five seasons whose resume there includes this past season's regular-season title.

Cooley is now Providence's coach, but as part of the buyout agreement to be released from his Fairfield contract there was an agreement that Cooley had to bring his new team in for a game this season.


Among the most-experienced staffs in the league is the new one in place at Fairfield. Not only does new head man Sydney Johnson have successful work in his previous position at Princetown, but brought in two highly regarded assistants, both with past MAAC connections, Tony Newsome and Brian Nash.

Newsome, a 1993 graduate at Niagara, also served as an assistant in the conference at Siena (two seasons) and Rider (six years). He has also coached at Holy Cross (two years) and or seven years at Princeton.

Nash only spent one season in the MAAC as a Siena assistant 2000-01, but also brings to Fairfield experience as a head coach from five seasons running the program at St. Francis of N.Y.


Don't expect Saint Peter's, last season's representative from the conference to the NCAA tournament, to fall off too far this year despite the loss of our significant seniors from 2010-11.

There are some nice role players, ready to step into bigger roles, returning. And, then, there is one of the conference's strongest groups of incoming players, led by Prescott. Also joining the program and expected to make significant contributions will be junior college transfer 6-7 forward Karee Ferguson and 5-9 freshman point guard Lamin Fulton, who has drawn high praise for his work there so far.

And, in a league of strong coaches, the Peacocks' John Dunne is among the best.


The likelihood is that Iona's 6-7 forward Mike Glover will be the conference's choice as its preseason Player of the Year, but the player nicknamed "Optimus Prime" is getting notice on a national level, too.

Glover has been rated the seventh-best power forward nationally by Lindy's College Basketball Preview issue.

Glover has only been in the league for one season so far, but based on what we've seen he might be the conference's best true forward since Lionel Simmons' days at La Salle.


And, of course, it's time for a commercial announcement: The top college hoops preview magazine of its kind is now available at newsstands everywhere. That would be The Sporting News' preview issue, which includes a comprehensive look at the MAAC, written by your blogger. The MAAC preview also includes my choices for how the league will finish, top players, best newcomer and best coach. A sneak look: I picked Iona to win the regular-season title, followed by Fairfield. Glover was my choice as the league's top player.

For more ... you'll have to buy the magazine.


And, there's this preview of coming attractions ... Schedules are out. You can find every team's full 2011-12 schedule on each's individual website, or on the MAAC's website.

But, if you're looking for a detailed look at every team's non-conference list of opponents, then Keepin' Track of the MAAC is your perfect destination. We'll start providing that later this month and into early October.

And, early October means the start of preseason practices. Not long after that (late October, early November) we'll provide our team-by-team preseason previews for both men's and women's programs.

The college basketball season, the best time of the year, is almost here.

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