Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Around The MAAC ... News And Notes

News, notes and thoughts from Tuesday’s MAAC Preseason Awards Show … or, otherwise known as ATM (Around The MAAC).

-THE NIAGARA men might not contend for a league title this year, but head coach Joe Mihalich believes a return to that level isn’t too far off for his team. He has plenty of reasons to be otpmistic, particularly with 6-foot-3 Juan'ya Green, a freshman guard looking good in the preseason; and Josh Turner, a 6-5 freshman swingman who was recruited at a higher level, becoming eligible after the first semester.

- THE RIDER men, consistently solid in recent years, are picked for fourth place in this season’s preseason poll of coaches, and coach Tommy Dempsey doesn’t mind that at all. “I like being under the radar a little,” said Dempsey. The program has three starters returning, along with transfer Jeff Jones (Virginia), who Dempsey thinks is going to have a significant impact for the Broncs this season. One of the starters is 6-7 forward Novar Gadson, a preseason first-team all-MAAC pick. And, another is 6-7 forward Danny Stewart, last year's conference Rookie of the Year.

- TWO TRANSFERS to MAAC programs had their “hardship” waivers approved by the NCAA recently and are immediately eligible this season without having to sit out the traditional year required for a transfer. That situation applies to Iona’s Lamont “Momo” Jones, a guard who played two seasons at Arizona previously, and Jordan Latham, a forward who played his freshman season at Xavier. Jones has already had considerable success at a high levely and is widely hyped as he joins the Gaels. But, Latham? While he had a limited role for his Atlantic 10 Conference team a year ago, Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos believes Latham will help his program immediately. “He’s not going to be a big scorer for us this year, but he’s a true center (6-foot-8, 245 pounds). He’ll be our version of Kendrick Perkins.”

- CORIELLE YARDE of Marist is the women’s preseason player of the year, and this blog touts Loyola’s Katie Sheahin as a potential contender for that post-season honor. But Iona coach Tony Bozzella has another candidate, his own senior forward Kristina Ford. “She’s going to be the best player in the league this season,” said Bozzella. “I know Yarde is good, but you can’t believe how much better Kristina has gotten since last season. I feel strongly that she’ll be the league’s best player.” Ford, a first-team preseason all-MAAC pick, was pretty good last season as a junior, averaging 12.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

- THE IONA women look to return to the upper echelon of the conference’s standings, not only because Ford but also with the return of fifth-year senior point guard Suzi Fregosi, a true pass-first floor general, who suffered an early season hip injury last year and never returned. “She has looked great in the preseason,” said Bozzella. “She looks like she did before she got hurt.” Iona finished 11-20 overall last season after five straight years of at least 18 overall victories.

- THIS BLOG blog has already made several references about the possibility of Manhattan’s junior swingman George Beamon leading the conference in scoring this year, and support for that belief came from his coach, Steve Masiello. “He is absolutely ready to have a break-out season,” said Masiello, about Beamon.

- THERE IS at least some optimism around the Marist men's program, which has suffered through some tough times of late, including a 7-27 finish last season. It might not happen this year, but an exciting young backcourt has head coach Chuck Martin thinking positively about the program’s future. That would be a pair of incoming freshmen, 6-5 swingman Chavaughn Lewis and 5-8 point guard Isaiah Morton, both of whom should get plenty of playing time this season. And, Marist also has an emerging big man in 6-10 sophomore Adam Kemp, who was off to a good first season last year before an injury ended his year after 16 games. Kemp is one of the league’s few true centers.

- A QUICK assessment from Marist women’s coach Brian Giorgis about his team’s preseason as it chases its seventh straight league title: “We’re not nearly as big as we have been in the past,” said Giorgis. “But, except for Canisius, there aren’t a lot of big teams in the league.” Marist lost 6-4 forward Kate Oliver, who transferred out of the program, and essentially replaces her with 6-1 transfer Kristina Danella (from UMass). “She started slow for us in the preseason, but has really come on in our last few practices.”

- ONLY ONE coach didn't attend Tuesday's Preseason Awards Show in Springfield, Mass., and she had a good excuse. Niagara coach Kendra Faustin gave birth to a baby this weekend.

- SAINT PETER'S men's coach John Dunne sounded optimistic about his team's chances to be competitive again this season, despite the loss of four starters from the squad that advanced to the NCAA tournament a year ago. "We've got some nice players coming in," said Dunne. "We'll need Karee Ferguson (a 6-7 junior college transfer) and Chris Prescott (a transfer from St. Joseph's) to pick up a lot of our scoring." The Peacocks might also be using 6-11 freshman center Gaetano Spero extensively this season. "He only weights 200 pounds right now, and there are some things he can't do yet," said Dunne. "But, he's not a `project.' He can rebound and block shots right now."

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