Thursday, December 31, 2009

Peacocks Show Progess in Loss To Siena

Saint Peter's fell to a 6-7 overall record and a 1-2 mark in conference play after a 64-53 loss to Siena at Albany's Times Union Center in a late-afternoon New Year's Eve game, but from the looks of things the Peacocks won't be sub-.500 for long.

And, its play here at the TUC, where the Saints have won 27 straight games (tied for the nation's third-longest home-court streak) clearly indicated Saint Peter's should be a dangerous team when the conference's post-season tournament is held here in March.

Here are some points in the Peacocks' favor:

- They were within a point with 11:51 remaining, still within two with 9:28 left and had a chance to get to within three with five minutes left when their junior forward John Belin missed an under-pressure fast-break move that got to the rim. After Belin's miss, the Saints scored seven of the next eight points to finally get some breathing room for the final two minutes.

- Saint Peter's work was done a man short, and a good one. The visitor's standout guard Wesley Jenkins, their most-gifted offensive player and leading scorer (14.0 points per game), was held out while recovering from a mild concussion suffered in his team's victory over Stony Brook on Monday.

- Saint Peter's work, too, was enough to convince Siena coach Fran McCaffery to play the entire second half without giving his starters a break.

"I just preferred to go with my experience," said McCaffery about his lack of second-half substitutions. "I felt like it was that type of game that we needed to go with our experience."

Siena was held to its third-lowest point total in a game this season. Only in a 59-53 victory over Northeastern and a 74-61 loss at Georgia Tech did the Saints score fewer points.

Credit some of that to the visitors' inclination to rush back on defense rather than try to track down offensive rebounds, plus a defensive tenacity in the half court.

"I was really pleased with our effort, particularly coming without one of our best players," said Saint Peter's coach John Dunne. "In the past we hadn't competed well enough up here.

"And, we could have come in here with our heads down, especially without Wesley. But, we competed."

Credit much of that to a team considerably more experienced than when it was one of the younger Division I programs in terms of overall age last season.

Dunne, though, said his team is still going through some growing pains, that the consistency of the type effort on display against Siena has been lacking in some games.

His team has been impressive in a two-point loss against Seton Hall and with a conference victory over Iona. And, then, St. Peter's has also been the only team to lose a game against Wagner thus far this season.

"I've told our guys that we can't just keep talking the talk," added Dunne. "Like we did in this game, we have to come out and not only compete but compete with courage."

But, teams evolve as seasons progress. If Saint Peter's can compete every night like it did against Siena ... that, and Jenkins' impending return should ensure Dunne's team will be considerably better in 2010 than its 6-7 record to date indicates.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Canisius and Big Man Gadley Part Ways

Another player loss for a conference team, this one at Canisius where 6-foot-9, 320-pound center Chris Gadley was dismissed from the program.

Here's the press release issued today (Monday) by Canisius:

Canisius College Director of Athletics Bill Maher announced today that senior center Chris Gadley (Amherst, N.Y.) has been released from his scholarship and will not participate with the team in 2010. Gadley, who has not practiced with the team or played in a game this season, averaged 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last year in 24 games played. Gadley sat out the 2007-08 campaign after transferring from Hofstra University, where he played his freshman and sophomore seasons.

Gadley had not played for Canisius this season, missing the first semester in order, according to published reports, to concentrate on academics. There is no indication whether or not Gadley's academic standing at the school is the reason for his dimissal from the program.

The Golden Griffins are 6-6 on the year.

Gadley had been mostly a role player for Canisius, but had one spectacular effort getting 25 rebounds in a game last season. That total matched the conference's all-time single-game record, and provided a measure of Gadley's potential that went otherwise untapped.

Although the press release indicates that Gadley will not play for Canisius in 2010, his eligibility to play on the Division I level is over after this season. This would have been his fifth year as part of a Division I program, the maximum allowed by the NCAA. Theoretically, though, because Gadley did not play this season he could play one more season at a lower-division program.

Disappointment? Not For Siena's 7-4 Start

As a former journalist, your humble blogger is usually reluctant to criticize those in that capacity, with this qualifier: As long as they’re responsible and offer well-founded opinions.

Otherwise, they’re fair game.

The latest case of a lack of a well-founded opinion: Andy Katz, a college basketball writer with ESPN.

Here’s an item from a recent Katz’ offering, taking a look at the early portion of the season:

Biggest disappointments: Siena and Creighton
"Siena can still win the MAAC and fulfill its goals, but the Saints were supposed to be better than they've been. Fran McCaffery's team missed out in each of its nonconference chances, losing at Temple, to St. John's in Philadelphia, at Georgia Tech and at Northern Iowa. There isn't a bad loss in that group, but like Creighton, Siena doesn't have a signature win to tout. "

To that, your blogger will say this: The only people who think Siena’s start to the 2009-10 season is a disappointment are Andy Katz and the die-hard, green-colored-glasses wearing Siena fans whose knee-jerk reaction is utter despair after every loss.

Those who truly know college basketball recognize that Siena’s play to date is far from disappointing.

Siena is off to a 7-4 start prior to its Dec. 29 meeting with St. Joseph’s. It would take an extremist to classify any of those four losses as “disappointing.”

Here they are: to Temple, to St. John’s, to Georgia Tech and to the University of Northern Iowa.

All on the road.

Cumulative record of those four opponents as of the morning of Dec. 28: 37-7.

Georgia Tech is clearly one of the top three or four teams in the ACC this season. Northern Iowa has every player back from a 23-victory NCAA team last season. Temple is probably the second-best team in the Atlantic 10 and recently beat No. 3-ranked Villanova. And, this is the best St. John's team in a decade with a roster of the type Big East-level athletes Siena doesn't have.

In each of those games, for those who notice, Siena was the underdog in betting lines.

Yet, somehow Siena’s start is considered, by a writer at a major sports internet outlet, as one of the two most-disappointing starts by any of the 330-plus Division I programs nationally.

Just amazing ... amazingly shortsighted.

Maybe the disappointment is about Siena not living up to some preseason hype (one very unresponsible outlet tabbed the Saints as No. 15 nationally in its preseason prediction, another put Siena at No. 20).

Could it be that the preseason hype was the problem, and not Siena’s play thus far?

Could it be that the early expectations were unreal and unmerited for a mid-major program that wasn’t in anyone’s top 30 nationally last season, even after a first-round NCAA tournament over a solid, at best, Ohio State?

And, remember, Siena lost its best player (Kenny Hasbrouck, the MAAC’s Player of the Year) after last season.

Where did the overly lofty expectations come from? Mostly from outlets that rarely, if ever, see Siena play, have rare contact with the program’s coaching staff and players and have never witnessed the team in a practice setting.

This point has been made countless times in this forum, and needs to be stressed again: For real perspective about any mid-major level program, a level all but overlooked by the national media outlets, one needs to read the respective home town newspapers covering those programs. For Siena coverage/perspective, my friend Pete Iorizzo of the Albany Times Union is far and away the best at what he does.

Of course, those seeking that type of mid-major level perspective about this conference in particular could do far worse than to check in here regularly, too.

It says here that a 7-4 start to Siena's 2009-10 season was surely a far more realistic expectation than a foray into the nation's Top 25 polls.

The only disappointment is directed toward those who fail to see that.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Siena Breezes in Showdown with Rider

The early "showdown" game of conference play, Ride at Siena on Wednesday night at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., became a "show-off" game for the Saints.

The meeting of teams picked by coaches in their preseason poll to finish first and third in conference play this year was rarely in doubt. Siena broke away from a 23-20 lead with 9:40 left in the first half to take a 46-30 lead at the intermission.

The Saints had a 30-point advantage, 73-43, with 10:10 remaining and everything after that was extended mop-up time in Siena's 84-62 victory.

Somewhere midway though the second half, one particularly loud fan yelled "Hey Dempsey, do you still think you've got the No. 1 team in the league?"

The reference was to the lone vote Rider got in the preseason coaches' poll to win this year's conference crown. That vote was cast by Dempsey, its own coach.

And, it probably wasn't a fair question at this point, two games into league play for both teams.

"Was this a statement game? I don't believe in statement games," said Siena coach Fran McCaffery, addressing that issue. "It's a long season. You can make a statement one night and get blown out the next night."

Whatever statement was made was that for a night, anyway, Siena was far superior. in just about every aspect.

Senior forward Alex Franklin finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while junior guard Clarence Jackson also had 22 points for the Saints.

Siena also got a 13 and 8 effort from senior forward Edwin Ubiles, a 12 and 10 night fom junio center Ryan Rossiter and a 12-assist/3 tunover performance from senior guard Ronald Moore. And, Siena might have found some backcourt depth. Kyle Griffin, a transfer from La Salle, made his first appearance of the season and had five points and played intelligent, under control ball in 13 minutes.

The night's events also illuminated some issues the Broncs need to address.

Siena seemed to play with considerably more intensity. Although that issue wasn't addressed vocally afterwards, maybe it was by Dempsey through his player substitution pattern that saw two of his starters, forward Novar Gadson and guard Justin Robinson, on the bench for the first several minutes of the second half.

Rider struggled mightily on the offensive end, connecting on just 35.6 percent of its shots. In the first half, while the game was still in doubt, the Broncs failed to hit a single one of their 15 three-point attempts. Gadson and Robinson each shot 5-of-17 fon the field, and combined on 1-of-16 shooting from 3-point territory.

And, preseason Player of the Year choice Ryan Thompson, continued to struggle with inconsistent play. The 6-6 guard scored just four points on 1-of-8 shooting from the floor. It was his third sub-par offensive production in Rider's last six games. He scored just a single point in a Dec. 6 contest with Marist and had just eight in a meeting with Monmouth on Dec. 19.

"It starts with me," admitted Thompson. "I haven't had the season everyone expected me to have, or that I expected of myself. But, you turn the page and get ready for the next game."

Dempsey noted that his teams have overcome relatively slow starts in past seasons. After an 8-6 start to last season Rider finished 23-11.

"Ou teams have gotten better in the second halfs of seasons, and I expect the same for this team," said Dempsey.

"We knew coming up here was not a life or death situation. It's a December game, maybe a chance to see where we are. But, both teams are still trying to settle rotations and find some bench strength. Now, we know where we are and it's not good enough. But, come late January and February we'll be a better team."

For a night, though, Siena was far the better team.

"You always hope that you have the focus and concentration that we had tonight," added Siena's McCaffery.

But, it's only a single night.

Thoughts On New Tournament Site

By now you know that the MAAC's post-season basketball tournament has been awarded to Springfield, Mass.'s MassMutuel Center for the three year block of 2012 through 2014.

Prior to that, the event will be played at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y. this season and, then, at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., in 2011.

Some observations about the event's future in Springfield:

- Financially it makes sense. Sources have indicated that Springfield was able to secure considerably more corporate sponsors to help finance its bid than the Albany market, for instance, ever has. The result is that the Springfield bid has guaranteed a financial amount to the MAAC that's more than the conference reaped from the event last year even as overall attendance for the tournament was an all-time record.

- Here's a telling comment about the conference's intent for future tournaments, as made by league commissioner Rich Ensor at Wednesday's announcement of Springfield's successful bid:

"In reaching this decision the MAAC membership concluded it is time to take the championships to a neutral site arena. The MAAC has built the event to the level where the next step in its evolution is a neutral arena in a destination city."

If that is indeed the case, then this year's tournament will be the last time the Albany area will ever host the event. As Siena's home court, the Times Union Center is hardly a neutral arena. And, Albany isn't exactly a "destination" city.

Ditto for Bridgeport. It would appear that the next step to a destination city would mean the league would like to move the event to New York City, Boston, Baltimore or Philadelphia. Unless your blogger is having a brain camp, those appear to be the only "destination" cities proximitous to conference schools.

- The other side of that is that there is precedent for Albany stepping in if a host community/faciility seeks to rescind its commitment.

This 2009 event was scheduled to be played at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, N.J. But when administrators of that venue asked to be released from that commitment for a variety of reasons, the tournament retured to Albany's TUC.

Clearly, deals to host the tournament aren't necessarily etched in stone, if you'll excuse the cliche.

If Springfield discovers its financial outlay doesn't justify the benefits, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Albany will again be a home for the MAAC's post-season tournament.

But, just don't expect it. The MAAC wanted to award a three-year block, in this case, to allow a community's acceptance of and interest in the tournament grow over the length of the contract.

This blogger most certainly hopes the MAAC's decision pays dividends. If a new venue and a new audience will benefit the conference, the residual effect iis that it also benefits its member institutions.

The MAAC has always had forward and innovative decision makers. Proof of that is how the league has progessed over its 29-year existence to become a very well-run, well-espected mid-major level conference.

And, that's the ultimate goal here ... for the MAAC to continue to get better.

Big Blow for Marist: Drummond Is Out

Marist got the proverbial lump of coal in its early Christmas stocking when it was revealed earlier this week that 6-foot-10, 270-pound center Casiem Drummond, a transfer from Villanova, won't play this season.

Drummond was to begin playing for the Red Foxes in their next game. Instead he was declared academically ineligible, by NCAA standards, for the remainder of this season.

Here's a link, from the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper, to more information about Drummond's situation:

Drummond's presence might have brought a measure of respectability to Marist on the court for the rest of the season.

Marist is currently 0-2 in conference play and 0-9 overall and, now, there isn't much reason to expect significant improvement this season.

Still, the program has some good young players and it should be interesting to watch their development as this season progresses.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Siena-Rider First Conference Showdown

It's an early Christmas present for college basketball fans in the upstate New York area, the first real showdown of conference play, when Rider plays Siena at the Saints' Times Union Center home court in Albany, N.Y., Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

It's a meeting of the only two teams to receive a first-place vote in the coaches' preseason poll, although that's hardly the whole story about that.

Siena received nine of the 10 first-place votes. The one vote the Broncs got came from their own coach, Tommy Dempsey.

So, tonight marks Rider's first opportunity to back up its coach's confidence. Siena, on the other hand, will be out to show that Dempsey is full of holiday stuffing ... or, something like that ... when it comes to his preseason prognostications.

By all accounts, though, these are two of the MAAC's top three teams, with Niagara also being in that rarified territory this season. At some point, though, Fairfield might have something to say about that, too, and its early season work indicates that it might be a legitimate four-team race for the conference's top spot.

It's also an individual match of the two players most expected to contend for conference Player of the Year honors, Rider's 6-foot-6 point guard Ryan Thompson and Siena's 6-6 small forward Edwin Ubiles.

Neither, though, has done much yet to solidify their respective candidacies.

Thompson has been wildly inconsistent, scoring a single point in a game earlier this year and getting just eight points in the team's most-recent contest, a victory over Monmouth. On the year he averages 15.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists with 33 total assists against 34 turnovers.

Ubiles, hindered for a couple games early (including one missed contest) with some knee soreness, is averaging 12.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest.

The game also features the nation's leader in assists, Siena's Ronald Moore with 8.0 per contest.

And, it brings a matchup of two of the better post duos. Siena has 6-9 Ryan Rossiter (9.0 rebounds per contest) and 6-5 Alex Franklin (7.8), while Rider counters with the 6-7 tandem of Novar Gadson (7.8) and Mike Ringold (7.8).

The two teams split last season's regular-season meetings. Rider's home-court 90-88 victory in the series was one of just two regular-season losses suffered by Siena all season.

Speaking of home court ... Siena has an active 24-game home winning streak on the line tonight. That's the third-longest nationally, trailing only Kansas (47) and Pitt (25).

The teams are both 1-0 in league play. Only Fairfield and Niagara (each 2-0) also remain unbeaten in conference play thus far.

And, despite the gloom-and-doom reactions to the early season non-conference loss totals of each (Siena is 6-4 overall, while Rider is 8-5), neither has done anything yet to indicate that they'll do anything other than contend for MAAC championship honors all season.

Siena has lost to four very good teams thus far, Temple, St. John's, Georgia Tech and Northern Iowa.

And, Rider's losses have also come against opponents from higher-rated conferences, including setbacks against Kentucky, Virginia, Sam Houston State, La Salle and Rutgers.

Wednesday's meeting should make for a very nice gift of college basketball on a cold winter's night.

Springfield New Site for Tournament?

The MAAC has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday in Springfield, Mass., which almost certainly means the MASSMutual Center has been chosen to host the league's basketball tournaments from 2012 to 2014.

While your blogger writes for the MAAC, league officials do not consult yours truly for advice or insight.

If they had, I probably would have suggested giving the three-year block to Albany, N.Y.'s Times Union Center.

Why does the Springfield facility make sense?

It truly is a neutral site.

It's located in the city where the sport was invented, and the Basketball Hall of Fame is one of the finest Halls anywhere. The strong guess here is that the athletes will be treated to tours of that facility during their stay in Springfield.

It isn't an inconvenient location. Compared to Albany, it's a slightly easier trip there for Fairfield, the New York City-area teams (Iona/Manhattan/Saint Peter's), Rider and Loyola. It's about the same for Marist.

Obviously, it's an inconvenience for Siena's supports who now will be on the road for a two-hour trip there, rather than a short drive to downtown Albany.

And, it adds miles and time for the western New York schools. It's all of 385 miles from downtown Buffalo to downtown Springfield, and more than a 400-mile trip for Niagara.


Two big ones: No home team, which means no guaranteed large crowds for the "home" team's games; and, no developed audience for the league.

My guess is that it's a rare Springfield resident/basketball fan who has witnessed a MAAC game in person in the past.

As someone who actually was employed in that city for a brief period ... its college basketball interest leans strongly toward the Atlantic 10 (UMass is close), the Big East (UConn) and the ACC (Boston College). The city also aligns itself closer to mid-major level Boston-area programs (Boston University, Northeastern and Holy Cross, among others) than it does to any MAAC school.

My personal concern is whether attendance figures for the MAAC tournament will be closer to the all-time low turnouts for the event than the record crowds that turned out in Albany for this past season's event.

Then again, there's probably a very good reason why this blogger isn't on the MAAC's advisory committee.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Iona's Fast Start Includes Providence Win

The Iona men's basketball team might be 0-2 thus far in conference play, but it's 7-4 overall and those wins include a victory over Big East opponent Providence ... AT Providence, no less ... recently.

You're not-so-humble blogger will take a pat on the back for knowing this was coming.

While conference coaches picked the Gaels to finish ninth in this year's standings, yours truly opined that Iona would finish sixth and had this to say:

6) Iona. Five returnees who all saw some time in last season's starting lineups, two solid red-shirt freshmen become eligible and four touted freshmen ... if it all comes together, Gaels could be better than this.

"Better than this," indeed. Iona's two losses in league play so far are to Saint Peter's (56-54) and to Siena (60-73), both picked to finisher higher than the Gaels in the preseason poll.

Yours truly watched the Siena-Iona game via an internet feed, and the Gaels were close for much of that contest.

Since then, Iona has won three straight, including the 82-73 victory at Providence.

And, the Gaels are likely to get better as the season goes on. Iona has six freshmen on its roster (two are red-shirts, meaning they were in the program last season but did not play), and the 19th youngest team on the Division I level.

"Beating a Big East team on the road, it helps to do those things you're trying to do," Iona coach Kevin Willard told the New York Post after the Providence victory. "It helps solidify things like recruiting and establishing ourselves as a good program."

It has been a few years since Iona's team could claim to be that. Its last winning record was in the 2005-06 season when it finished 23-8 and was the conference's representative to the NCAA tournament.

Since then, starting with 2006-07, its records have been 2-28, 12-20 and 12-19.

Iona is getting good again, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Its only seniors are 7-foot forward Jonathan Huffman (8.1 points per game), its fourth-leading scorer; and, guard Milan Prodanovic, who is barely in the playing group averaging just 11 minutes per game.

And, you'd be hard-pressed to identify a real star on the team, a sure-thing post-season all star. If there is one, it's sophomore point guard Scott Machado (11.1 points, 4.3 assists), who averages a team-high 28.1 minutes per game.

It means the team is solid throughout and deep, using at least 10 players a night, all averaging at least 11 minutes. It means the Gaels can come at you all night with an uptempo style and fresh bodies.

And, it means that this blogger might have been right with his preseason asssessment when referring to a pick of Iona for 6th place it was added "...if all comes together, the Gaels could be better than this."

Tourney Site Decesion Near; PruCenter out

It looks like only three venues, and not four, will be considered for hosting future conference post-season tournaments when presidents from league schools meet on Monday to decide where the event will be played in 2012, '13 and '14.

My good friend and one of college basketball's best beat reporters Pete Iorizzo of the Albany Times Union, has reported on his blog that the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., which had submitted a proposal to host the tournament, has withdrawn from consideration.

That's probably a good move since the last time the event was held in that area (at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, N.J.), attendance was its lowest since the late 1980's.

You can find Pete's blog report here:

Still in the running are the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., and the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.

It says here that the Times Union Center makes the most sense by far, but league presidents won't be considering the opinion of this particular blogger.

The Springfield facility has no "home" team, meaning tournament attendance is likely to be negatively affected by mere logistics.

Actually, Siena is the closest school to the MassMutual Center, about 95 miles away and just over a 90-minute ride there.

Next closest is Fairfield, about an hour and 45-minute ride, followed by Marist (listed as a tw0-hour, 15-minute ride to Springfield by mapquest).

Otherwise, it's a lengthy trip for the other seven conference schools.

Then, the Bridgeport facility is scheduled to host the tournament in 2011. That means if it's also awarded the event for the up-for-grabs three-year block in question then it would host for four consecutive seasons.

Hard to believe the tournament would break away from the Albany arena for four consecutive years, particularly since that facility has had considerable success hosting it, while the Bridgeport arena did not approach attendance figures, in its lone hosting duty, routinely recorded by the TUC.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Early Period Signees Strong for Women

Last week we took a look at the recruits signed to National Letters of Intent during the fall signing period who will join men's programs for the 2010-11 season. Now, it's the women's turn.

As always, a word of warning: Recruiting is an inexact science. What looks good on paper doesn't necessarily look good on the hardwood. And, often, the opposite is the case.

And, many thanks to the respective sports information directors at the conference school for providing a good portion of the information compiled here.

Your blogger has seen a couple of these players in person, and will mention that in those cases. Otherwise, information here is mostly statistical in nature. Here goes, in no particular order ...


- Jennifer Lennox, a 6-foot-3 forward, from Kitchener Ontario. She spent a year with the National Elite Development Academy in Canada last season and was a member of the Team Canada squad that participated in the Under-19 World Championships in Thailand this past summer. No statistics are available.
- Jennifer Morabito, a 5-9 guard from Binghamton (N.Y.) High School. She averaged 19.5 points per game there last season.

- Jamie Buttle, a 6-3 forward, currently attends Notre Dame School in Burlington, Ontario, and averaged 22 points per game there last season.

- Courtney VandeBovenkamp is a 6-1 forward at General Amherst School in Amherstburg, Ontario. She averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists there last season.


- Onyx Mintah, a 6-1 forward at the Hun School in Princeton, N.J. She is a strong inside player who averaged 10.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game last season.

- Kate Zarotney is a 6-0 forward at the Berlin School in Berlin, Conn. There, she averaged 14.6 points, 9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game last season.

- Kanika Cummings is a 5-7 guard at the Masuk School in Monroe, Conn. There, she averaged 16.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.1 steals last season. Your blogger saw her in a pick-up game situation on her official visit to Siena, and she will bring high-level quickness to the Saints.

- Allison Mullings is a 5-9 guard at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford, Conn. There, she averaged 15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals per game last season.


- MyNeshia McKenzie, a 6-0 guard/forward from Springfield (Pa.) High School. She averaged 11.7 points per game there last season.

- Rosalie Gentry, a 6-0 forward from Downington (Pa.) East H.S. She averaged 12 points per game last season

- Senada Mehmedovic, a 5-7 combination point guard from Carlisle (Pa.) H.S. She averaged 19 points per game there last season.


- Sabrina Jeridore, a 6-3 center at Francis Lewis H.S. in Queens. While no stats are available, your blogger did see her play several times in this past summer’s GymRat Classic AAU event in the Albany, N.Y. area. Here’s the post-tournament written about her: "She is a true center. An excellent defender not only in the post, but on the ball in the half court. Can score inside, including against other players her size. Good hands, no problems catching the ball in traffic. Also an above-average rebounder."


- Brandone Roberts, a 6-3 center from Hammond H.S. in Columbia, Md. There, she aveaged 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game last season.

- Monica Roeder, a 6-0 guard/forward from Cherokee H.S. in Marlton, N.J. There, she averaged 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists per game last season.


- Teresa Manigrasso, a 5-7 guard from St. John Vianney High School in New Jersey. There she averaged 6.3 points per game last season.

- Bianca Martinez, a 6-3 center from Christ The King High School in New York City. No statistics are available.
- Khadijah Young, a 5-3 point guard who played last year at Revere (Ohio) H.S. last year. She transferred to Shaker Heights (Ohio) H.S. where she is playing this season. No statistics are available.


- Jazmyne Frost, a 6-1 forward at Brush (Ohio) H.S. There, she averaged 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season.

- Noelle Zletni, a 5-10 guard from St. Theresa of Lisieux school in Richmond Hill, Ont. No full-season statistics are available, but she scored at least 22 points in nine games last season.

- Kaitlin Gattuso, a 6-1 forward from Seton La Salle school in Pittsburgh. There, she averaged 15 points per game last season. Her father, Greg, is the associate head football coach at the University of Pittsburgh.

- Naquasha "Shy" Britton, a 5-11 forward from Greece Acadia H.S. in Rochester, N.Y. She is averaging 25.7 points, 12 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game through three games this season. Your blogger saw her play multiple times in this summer's GymRat Challenge AAU tournament in the Albany, N.Y., area. She appears to be primarily an inside player with good athleticism.


- Leeane Ockenden, a 5-foot-9 guard at Christian Brothers Academy in the Syracuse area. She averaged 20 points per game there last season, and has made 72 three-pointers in each of the last two seasons.


- Katie Cizynski, a 6-2 center from Pomparaug H.S. in Southbury, Conn. There, she averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds per game last season.

- Brittany Obi-Talbot, a 6-1 forward from Watertown (Mass.) H.S. There, she averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds last season.

- Alexys Vazquez, a 5-10 guard from Berlin (Conn.) H.S. Although no per-game stats are available, she holds her school’s record for three-pointers with 172 made through her junior season.


- Nicole Krusen, a 6-0 guard from Georgetown Visitation School in Washington, D.C. There she averaged 12.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game there last season. Through five games this season she is averaging 17.8 points per game.

- Nneka Offodile, a 6-1 center from Walsh Jesuit H.S. in Cuyahoga, Ohio. She averaged 9.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game there last season and is averaging 9.8 points and 5.0 rebounds through two games this season.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Taking a Look at New Siena Blog

A few days ago your humble blogger was asked to participate in a Q&A setting by a blog, and, as always, was glad to spread the gospel of the MAAC.

The blog is called the Siena Saints blog ( and, as you would expect, is primarily devoted to Siena basketball. However, it does touch on a variety of other conference issues and happenings. Just be forewarned, though, the majority of its content involves the Siena program.

I "opined" mostly about Siena, but also about the conference's other prime contenders, Niagara and Rider. Some of the content is on the site already, with more to come. So, take a look.

My contact there was with Ryan Restivo, a 2008 Marist graduate who now does editing work for, and formerly worked with ESPN. Ryan is one of five individuals involved with the site, which has a nice look and provides some nice content.

Their mission, according to Ryan, is to be a one-stop shop for Siena fans (hopefully, shoppers will also browse your favorite MAAC blog ... the one you're reading right now ... early and often, too).

One of the Siena blog's regular features is "What we're reading," providing links to stories found elsewhere related to Siena and the MAAC. The site also delivers staff-produced previews, recaps and is beginning to do some in-game chats.

The individuals involved are college basketball fans. So, be advised that for true "reporting" ... breaking news, featurish stories, perspective, etc. ... your best sources remain daily newspapers that cover MAAC teams (and, the best at doing beat coverage is my friend Pete Iorizzo at the Albany Times Union), as well as this particular blog.

The daily newspapers, though, primarily cover a specific team. This blog is devoted to the MAAC in its entirety, including men's and women's basketball information. While your humble blogger admittedly will make more posts about the better teams, the aim is to spread the news, to some extent, about every program.

But, as far as a blog produced by college basketball fans for other college basketball fans, particularly those who follow Siena, then the Siena Saints blog is one of the better ones out there.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Around the MAAC: Notes, Milestones

Time to catch up on some recent items of note ...


Niagara's standout 6-foot-5 forward Bilal Benn had what the school has termed "minor" knee surgery recently. School officials claim that Benn is out for the "short term."

The Buffalo News reports that Benn will likely be out a month. If that's the case Benn will miss just two conference games, Jan. 2 against Iona and Jan. 4 against Faifield, both at home and both games the Purple Eagles are capable of winning even without their top player.

If the month timetable holds up, he would make his return in a Jan. 9 game at Siena.

Through nine games Benn had averaged 15.6 points and a conference best 11.0 rebounds per game. He is one of the MAAC's most-versatile players and most certainly a contender for Player of the Year honors this season.

In Benn's absence, 6-6 forward Demetrius Williamson is the likely new starter. He had averaged 11.1 points and 5.2 rebounds thus far coming off the bench.


In Benn's absence against UBuffalo Wednesday night, Niagara's senior guard Tyrone Lewis stepped up with 26 points in an 86-80 loss.

The bigger news, though, is that Lewis connected on six three-pointers to become Niagara's all-time career leader in made treys. Lewis now has 222 for his career, surpassing Lorenzo Miles (2003-07) who had 220 career three-pointers for the Purple Eagles.

Those numbers, though, don't begin to approach the all-time best by any conference player. Former Saint Peter's standout Keydren Clark (2002-06) made 435 trifectas.

Will Whittington of Marist (2003-07) with 362 and Jerry Johnson of Rider (2002-05) with 326 are the only other conference players with more than 300 career treys.


Marist's 6-foot-1 senior forward Rachele Fitz scored her 2,000th career point in the first half of Wednesday's 80-71 loss to Oklahoma at the McCann Center on Wednesday.

Fitz, the two-time defending MAAC women's Player fo the Year, now has 2,021 career points, tying her for third all time among conference players.

Patty Stoffey (Loyola, 1991-95) leads the all-time scoring list with 2,467 points, followed by Jeanine Radice (Fordham, 1985-89) with 2,417. Melanie Halker (Siena 1995-99), along with Fitz, has 2,021 career points.

The contest with Oklahoma drew a sell-out crowd to the Marist facility on a snowy night better suited to staying home. That so many supporters braved the elements is a strong statement about the interest that the Marist women's program has built in recent years.

It also drew the attention of ESPN, and one of its writers, Graham Hays, wrote a nice look at the evening which can be found here:


Siena women's coach Gina Castelli also reached a personal milestone recently when her team knocked off the University of Albany, 65-61, in overtime on Dec. 5.

The victory pushed Castelli's career record over 20 seasons as a head coach, all at Siena, to 300-251. She is a five-time conference Coach of the Year.

Only Mike Granelli formerly of Saint Peter's (he is now retired) with 483 victories, and Dianne Nolan of Fairfield (she is now an assistant at Yale) with 434 victories, have more career wins while coaching a school while it has been a conference member.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Checking Out Men's Early Commitments

We all see the results ... the games. But, that's pretty much all we see.

We don't see what goes into the mix. We don't see the practices, the conditioning drills, the individual workouts ... it's all part of college basketball.

But, the key ingredient for a winning recipe is talent. Like the say goes: You can't make chicken salad out of ... well, you know what.

Coaches acquire talent via recruiting. It's the lifeblood of college basketball. Bring in good players. While that doesn't always ensure success, it's a good start. Coaches probably spend more time recruiting players, between identifying and following high school athletes sometimes as early as their freshmen or sophomore years, to viewing them in games at summer camps and, ultimately, via phone calls and letters. Finally comes the home visits and on-campus visits

Coaches have to be smooth salesmen to attract an athlete's interest and, eventually, seal the deal.

For basketball, players can make early "verbal" commitments which are non-binding but traditionally respected. But, they can't officially sign until their senior season either during the recently concluded fall signing period or the spring signing period that beings in April.

MAAC schools appeared successful, at least in terms of numbers, in bringing in players during this fall period who will join conference programs for the 2010-11 season.

Following is a rundown of what men's programs got commitments thus far.

And, as always, a word of warning. Recruiting is a very inexact science. What looks good now might not look so good later on. Or, less-regarded recruits might turn out to be better than expected.

And, your humble blogger is merely passing along names, heights, positions and statistics for the majority of the recruiting list. In very rare cases I have seen a player in person, and I'll note that if I have. Mostly, this list is just meant as a compilation of what teams got what players.

For the most part, your guess as to which ones will eventually impact conference programs is as good as mine. In no particularly order ...


- Skylar Jones, a 6-3 swingman from Mount Vernon H.S. in Washington, D.C. Jones averaged 18.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game as a junior last season.

- Shaquille Duncan, a 6-7, 205-pound forward at Frankford H.S. in Philadelphia. Duncan transferred to Frankford in mid-season last year and was not eligible to play after his transfer, so his high school statistics are unavailable. All internet reports were that he had a strong spring/summer AAU season.


- Mike Alvarado, a 6-2 point guard from All Hallows High School in the Bronx. He averaged 13.2 points per game as a junior.

- Kidoni Brutus, a 6-1 shooting guard at Carl Albert State Junior College in Oklahoma. He averaged 11.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.7 points and hit 42 percent of his three-pointers there last season. Prior to that he attended Wings Academy in NYC where he averaged 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game two years ago.


- Daniel Stewart, a 6-7 forward at Neuman-Goretti H.S. in the Philadelphia area. He averaged 11.5 point and 8.0 rebounds there as a junior.


- Chris Manhertz, a 6-5 forward at Cardinal Spellman H.S. in the Bronx. He averaged 18 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks per game there as a junior.


- Jamel Fields, a 6-1 combo guard who averaged 20.8 points per game last season at Albany (N.Y.) Academy. Fields is attending Cheshire Academy this season. Your blogger has seen Fields play a number of times. He is assertive and quick on the court who is probably better suited at the 2-spot, but can play some at the point. Also, a physical defender.

- Adam Jones, a 6-8 power forward from Winter Park (Fla.) H.S. He averaged 9.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per game there as a junior.

- Keith Mathews, a 6-5 small forward at Sebastian River (Fla.) H.S. He averaged 20.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game there as a junior.


- Dylon Cormier, a 6-2 point guard from Cardinal Gibbons H.S. in Baltimore. He averaged 19 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists per game there as a junior.

- Justin Drummond, a 6-4 guard who is playing this season at Riverdale Baptist in the Washington, D.C. area. Through six games this season he is averaging 18.9 points. He played last season at Mountain State Academy in West Virginia, but no stats are available.


It appears that Marist received a commitment from "Ming" Folahan, a slender 6-10 center who will attend Wilbraham & Munson Academy in Massachusetts this season. Numerous internet sites have reported that Folahan gave the Red Foxes an early verbal, but Marist has not released information about a subsequent signing of a National Letter of Intent.


- Trenity Burdine, a 6-5 swingman at Reading (Pa.) H.S. He averaged 16 points per game there as a junior last season. Your blogger saw Burdine play multiple times in the GymRat Classic AAU tournament this summer in the Albany, N.Y., area His skills and versatility make for an easy comparison to the playing style of current Siena player Edwin Ubiles.

- Melsahn Basabe, a 6-7 forward at St. Mark's School in Southborough, Mass. Stats are unavailable. Reports indicate that Basabe is an athletic big man, and there are some within the Siena program who believe Basabe can be an immediate impact player next season.

Neither Iona, nor Saint Peter's reported any early signees.

COMING ATTRACTION: Within the next few days, we'll take a similar look at recruiting by the conference's women's programs.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Early Look: Help Coming for Marist

Here's the 10th and final installment of the series taking an early look at conference teams. Up, now ...

MARIST (0-2, 0-6)

The Red Foxes are well on their way to fulfilling most predictions for a last-place finish. But, that doesn't mean optimism doesn't exist.

Marist looked terrible in losing by a 37-point margin to Hartford, a middle-of-the-pack America East team (at best), but the average of its other five losses is by 9.2 per contest. And, a four-point loss at Rider on Sunday when it was in the game right until the final seconds is a definite sign that things might be getting better.

And, after the first semester, Marist gets an infusion o fhelp with 6-10, 270-pound center Casiem Drummund, a transfer from Villanova; and sophomore point guard R.J. Hall, who is on academic suspension for the first semester.

Until then, the Red Foxes will struggle to score. Not a single player averages double figures. Freshman guard Candon Rusin leads the team, averaging 9.3 points per game, but has 13 turnovers against just four assists.

Insight: When Drummond and Hall begin playing, they'll join Boston College transfer Daye Kaba (9.2 points, 6.6 rebounds thus far), a physical 6-3 guard, to form a nice threesome. It should be enough to make Marist competitive, but it remains to be seen if it will be enough to be better than the predictions for a last-place finish.

Early Look: Manhattan's Perimeter Strong

Here's No. 9 in the series taking an early look at conference teams. Up, now ...

MANHATTAN (1-1, 5-3)

A split on the Western New York swing helped continue a nice start to the season for the Jaspers. After losing at Niagara on Friday, Manhattan earned an impressive 71-57 victory at Canisius on Sunday.

Transfer guard Rico Pickett, who was suspended for three games earlier this year, had a game-high 21 points, while senior guard Darryl Crawford added 17. The Jaspers won with ease despite just seven points from another senior guard Antoine Pearson, who picked up four fouls in 10 minutes of court time.

Crawford is off to an all-league caliber start, averaging 15.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game through eight contests.

Crawford, Pearson (13.3 ppg. average) and Pickett give Manhattan a perimeter trio that doesn't take a proverbial backseat to many others in the conference. And, 6-6, 230-pound junior forward Andrew Gabriel is providing some help up front (7.3 points, 4.4 rebounds).

Insight: Manhattan might not contend for the league title, but it is more than capable of providing problems for any opponent on a given night. Many observers picked Manhattan to finish ninth in the 10-team conference. If Manhattan is only the ninth-best team in the MAAC, then the conference has never had more competitive depth. The guess here is that Manhattan will finish a lot higher than ninth.

Early Look: WNY Losses Not Indicative

Here's No. 8 in a series taking an early look at conference teams. Up, now ...

Loyola (0-2, 4-4)

The Greyhounds fell victim to the pratfalls of the Western New York trip over the weekend, losing 70-65 at Canisius on Friday and 77-57 to Niagara today (Sunday).

Brett Harvey, off to a good start, had his first tough result of the year shooting 2-of-11 for just five points in 32 minutes against the quickness of Niagara. Another Greyhound, 6-10 center Shane Walker also struggled, committing six turnovers in the contest.

The good news is that last year's leading scorer in the conference, junior guard Jamal Barney made his first start and had a team-high 18 points and 11 rebounds.

On the year, Walker has been solid, averaging 9.5 points and 6.8 rebounds and fills a gap for inside play the team was lacking a year ago.

Insight: The western swing is never easy, and not only is Niagara very good but Canisius is much improved. The Greyhounds are still looking like a solid team who should get better as the season progresses.

Early Look: Iona Has Quickness, Depth

Here's No. 7 in the series taking an early look at conference teams. Up, now ...

IONA (0-1, 4-3)

The Gaels lost a two-pointer, 56-54, in its conference opener against Saint Peter's and had a chance to win it had Jonathan Huffman's last-second shot gone in.

The good news is the 4-2 start in non-league games thus far, including one over America East favorite Boston University. Its losses have been by five to Florida State and by 10 to Baylor, both games in the Old Spice Classic.

Here's even better news: Iona should be good this year, but even better a year from now. There are only two seniors on the roster. Guard Milan Prodanovic is only playing 12 minutes per game, and the 7-foot Huffman is getting 19 minutes per outing.

More good news: Junior forward Alejo Rodriguez, a real inside warrior, appears healthy for the first time in two years. He's playing major minutes and leads Iona in scoring and rebounding (11.0, 7.0).

Sophomore point guard Scott Machado is improved from a year ago and 5-11 sophomore guard Jermel Jenkins (9.0 ppg.) is among the most-improved players in the conference thus far.

The Gaels are playing much quicker than in previous years, and have the depth to keep playing that way. Eleven different players have started at least one game, and 10 played at least nine minutes apiece in the most-recent loss to Saint Peter's.

Insight: Iona will be better than expected. The depth will allow it to continue playing at a quick tempo. The relative youth will get better as the season progresses. It's not a reach to think the Gaels can compete for the upper half of the league standings.

Early Look: Rider Inconsistent So Far

Here's No. 6 in a series taking an early look at conference teams. Up now ...

RIDER (1-0, 5-3)

OK, you try to figure out the Broncs. They've beaten then-No. 18 Mississippi State, on the road no less, and have a home 81-73 victory over Saint Joseph's. And, then, there's a 33-point loss at Virginia, nothing more than a solid ACC team; a 58-50 loss to San Houston State and, now, a just-holding-on 55-51 homecourt victory over Marist, the universally acknowledged team most likely to finish last in the MAAC this season.

Try to figure this one out, too: The preseason pick for Player of the Year, senior guard Ryan Thompson, is averaging a mere 14.1 points per game. And on Sunday against Marist he put up this very un-Player of the Year state line: 1 point (0-for-8 shooting), 2 rebounds and 3 assists in 39 minutes.

The Broncs, though, have a well-balanced starting five and some depth. Their biggest plus to date has been the front line duo of sophomore Novar Gadson (13.0 points, 7.8 rebounds) and senior Mike Ringold (8.1 points, 6.7 rebounds).

With Ringold, Gadson, Thompson along with solid guard play thus far from Justin Robinson (13.1 ppg.) and Jhamar Youngblood (8.6) ... it's more than enough to overcome Thompson's rare off-night and, probably, become more consistent.

Insight: There's likely to be more feast than famine from Rider this season which means the Broncs are clearly capable of finishing in the one of the top three spots.

Early Look: Siena Still The Standard

Here's the fifth in the series of early looks at conference teams. Up now ...

SIENA (0-0, 5-3)

The Saints, who play their first conference game Monday at Iona, have only lost non-conference games against higher-level opponents Temple, Saint John's and Georgia Tech, and all of those losses have come away from home.

Siena has done nothing to indicate it is anything but the best team in the conference. All five of its starters have turned in all-MAAC caliber performances thus far. Senior point guard Ronald Moore leads the entire country in assists per game (8.6). Moore has 20 assists against just three turnovers in his last two games.

The starting five of Moore, sophomore guard Clarence Jackson, forwards Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin and center Ryan Rossiter is as strong a starting five these eyes have seen since the Lionel Simmons-led La Salle teams of two decades ago.

Cracks in the armor? Minor ones. Ubiles is battling tendinitis in a knee, has missed a game and hasn't been at his best yet. Depth is lacking, although sophomores guard Kyle Downey and forward Owen Wignot are improving. And, help is coming in the form of transfer guard Kyle Griffin (eligible Dec. 23) and Germany native forward Daves Martens (eligible Dec. 31).

Insight: Barring injuries, Siena is en route to another conference championship.

Early Look: St. Peter's Moving Forward

Here's the fourth in an early season look at conference teams. Up now ...

SAINT PETER'S (1-0, 3-3)

The Peacocks started league play with a two-point victory over Iona. They meet Fairfield later today (Sunday).

It's a team still dealing a little with inconsistency. It lost by two points to Seton Hall in its season opener and, then, suffered a 12-point loss to Youngstown State and a six-point setback to Long Island University.

Still, this looks to be the best Saint Peter's team since the Keydren Clark days. A strong playing base of four consistent players a year ago has expanded to six players who have earned a start thus far this season.

Newcomers Jeron Belin (8.8 points, 5.0 rebounds), a slashing forward; and Darius Conley (5.7, 5.8), an inside presence, have provided help. So, too, has sophomore guard Brandon Hall. The "Big Three" of juniors forward Ryan Bacon (a league-best 4.2 offensive rebounds per game), and guards Wesley Jenkins and Nick Leon, is still the foundation here. But, now, there's both help and depth.

Insight: The team that was sixth-youngest nationally a year ago now has experience as well as additional talent. The Peacocks are this blogger's dark-horse team in the conference's overall scheme. A win today over Fairfield would solidify its claim to being one of the MAAC's top four teams with a chance to crack the top three.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Early Look: Niagara off to Running Start

Here's the third in the series looking at how conference teams are doing so far. Up now ...

NIAGARA (1-0, 5-3)

The Purple Eagles won their first conference game, an 88-64 decision over Manhattan, by scoring 51 points in the second half. Not much of a surprise there for the fast-paced squad.

Of Niagara's three non-conference losses, one was by two points (to Austin Peay) and another by four (to Auburn). What is a surprise is that Niagara might be the MAAC's shortest team. Senior forward Demetrius Williamson, at 6-foot-6, is the tallest player to start a game for the team thus far.

Here's another point of note: Niagara's scoring has been so balanced that there are currently five players averaging double figures to date. The leader is senior forward Bilal Benn (15.9) whose 11.1-rebound average leads the MAAC.

Other conference leaders so far include Williamson, who has 20 made 3-pointers and 6-5 sophomore forward Kashief Edwards, who has 22 blocks including four against Manhattan. Tyrone Lewis missed four games early with a foot injury, but is back and made his first start against Manhattan.

Insight: If Niagara can play at its tempo it can play with anyone in the league. Williamson and Edwards have both made major strides, so far, from a year ago. The Purple Eagles' perimeter players as as good as anyone's in the conference. As long as it doesn't get hurt on the boards Niagara will contend for the MAAC title and likely be among the conference's top three teams all season.

Early Look: Fairfield Off to Fast Start

This is the second in the series of early looks at the 10 MAAC teams. Up now is ...

FAIRFIELD (1-0, 5-2)

The Stags are off to a good start and, typically, surprising the doubters by having success without two of its expected starters. Guard Warren Edney is out for the season (ankle surgery) and forward Greg Nero remains out (no return set) with sinus problems.

But help has come in the form of freshman point guard Derek Needham who, right now, looks like the conference's top first-year player. Needham is averaging 16.3 points and 4.9 assists per game, both totals third best of all conference players who have appeared in at least 75 percent of their team's games.

Forward Yorel Hawkins has also stepped up in a big way. His 17.5 points per game average (he has played in four of the Stags' seven games this far) would rank him third in the conference in scoring had he played the required minimum contests.

Forward Anthony Johnson has also made a productive return after missing most of last season with blod clot issues. His 8.7 rebound-per-game average is third in the conference.

Insight: As it has in the past, Fairfield continues to exceed expectations. If Nero, an all-league caliber inside player, comes back soon the Stags will be even better and deeper. It's not hard to envision Fairfield finishing in the upper half of the conference standings.

Early Look: Canisius is Much Improved

The conference season began earlier this week, so it’s a good time to get an early look at how MAAC teams, in order of standings’ position. We’ll do so on a team-by-team breakdown. First up ….

CANISIUS (1-0, 4-2)

The Golden Griffins have picked off right where they left off a year ago. They were 4-2 in their final six games of the 2008-09 season and have duplicated that record with their start to date, including a victory over Loyola on Friday.

The start befits a veteran team that returned all five of its starters from a year ago. Early results indicate that the Griffs are no longer the “one-man band” (read Frank Turner) it has been in the past. Turner shares the team’s scoring lead with emerging junior standing Julius Coles. Both average 17.7 points per contest. Coles has scored 27 (vs. Howard), 26 (vs. UBuffalo) and 18 (vs. Loyola) in his last three games.

Turner and Coles not only lead the Griffs in scoring, but are currently the top two individual scorers in the conference thus far.

Insight: The Griffs look to have turned the corner from its recent mediocrity to being a solid, dangerous team that could contend for the upper half of the league standings.

Perrotta to Fordham Mention is Meritless

In a surprising move that this blogger can't ever remember happening (without extenuating circumstances), Fordham fired men's basketball coach Dereck Whittenburg after the Rams' 1-4 start. Coaching changes just aren't made in mid-season.

But just as surprising is a list of potential candidates to replace Whittenburg, at least in the eyes of one particular media outlet.

There, in the last paragraph of Friday's story about the Whittenburg firing published in the New York Post, is this item: "Robert Morris head coach Mike Rice, Canisius head coach Tom Perrotta and St. John's assistant Freddy Quartelbaum _ all Fordham alumni _ are names that could be considered."

Say what? Tom Perrotta of Canisius could be considered?

Yours truly believes that Perrotta is a very good coach, and his work is beginning to show up in a program that was 4-2 in its last six games last seasons and is off to a 4-2 start to 2009-10.

But, including that 12-game run, Perrotta's record at Canisius is 33-66.

Shouldn't coaches have at least a measure of tangible success before their names get thrown around as candidates for a higher-level program?

The Post's "report" on potential replacements (after the current season) appears to be nothing more than the let's-throw-it-against-the-wall-and-hope-it-sticks variety.

No reputable media outlet would participate in such unfounded and unlikely speculation.

Oh ... almost forgot. This is the New York Post we're talking about. The Post hardly qualifies as a standard of "reputable," responsible journalist practices.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Legendary Coach Began Career at Rider

In researching a recent blog entry about conference men's teams facing their formal head coaches in a game, your blogger discovered an informative, interesting piece of history, courtesy of Rider sports information director Bud Focht.

Focht reminded me that Clair F. Bee was once the coach at Rider.

So, who was Clair Bee?

Certainly one of the sport's all-time great coaches (he was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1968), one of its early innovators and, almost assuredly, the most accomplished individual ever to grace the sideline of a school that would eventually be a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference member.

My guess is that all but the most-astute college basketball historians have never heard of Clair Bee. But, that's because most of his coaching days predate World War II (he last coached at the college level in 1951) and was a contemporary of the likes of Knute Rockne in college football, or Connie Mack in major league baseball.

But Clair Bee coached basketball at Rider for three seasons, 1928-29, '29-30, and '30-31. His record there in those three seasons was 52-8. While at Rider one of his teams became the first college team to score 1,000 points in a season.

After Rider he coached from 1931 through 1951 at Long Island University. There, he had two undefeated teams (1935-36 and 1938-39). His LIU teams also won two NIT titles (1939 and 1941) when the NIT was the sport's most-prestigious post-season tournament.

Overall he recorded a 412-87 record on the college level. His .826 winning percentage remains the highest of any college basketball coach with more than 200 career victories.

Bee also coached in the mid-1950s in the NBA with the Baltimore Bullets. While affiliated with the NBA he is credited with the first use of the 1-3-1 zone defense and was one of the primary proponents that brought the 3-second rule and the 24-second clock to the professional game.

Bee was also a worldwide ambassador of the sport and a well-respected clinician.

His talents transcended the sport, too. He wrote the Chip Hilton Sports Series, widely acknowledged as the best sports-related book series for young readers ever written.

But his early days came after he was hired as an accountinng professor at a small school in Lawrenceville, N.J. where he founded the varsity athletics program.

For one of the sport's legendary pioneers and innovators ... it all began at Rider.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Saints Meet One of Their Own in Hewitt

If you're a college basketball fan in New York's capital region, then Wednesday's Siena at Georgia Tech game is a big one.

It's MAAC vs. ACC, two uptempo teams. Georgia Tech is in the Top 25, Siena is striving to get there.

But, the meeting transcends all of that because Siena is playing one of its own.

Paul Hewitt coached at Siena for three seasons, 1997-98, '98-99 and '99-00. His era was the most-successful in the school's history (one NCAA appearance, one NIT) prior to current coach Fran McCaffery's

In fact, Hewitt's record at Siena (66-27) accounts for the program's best winning percentage (.709) by any coach with more than 10 games on the Saints' sideline. McCaffery has an 89-46 record at Siena, a winning percentage of .659.

Hewitt's stay at Siena was his first experience as a head coach. He is in his 10th year at Georgia Tech, but still speaks readily and glowingly about how his time at Siena couldn't have been better preparation for moving on to a higher level of college basketball. Many of the team and individual-related policies he put in place at Siena are still part of phis coaching philosophy at Georgia Tech.

He remains close to dozens of individuals in the Siena community, and the phone line between Hewitt and many in the capital region is still active.

Clearly, Hewitt is an individual who hasn't forgotten where he's from. Wednesday's game is testimony to that, as much as it is an opportunity for a local product, 6-foot-11 forward Brad Sheehan (Shaker High School, Latham, N.Y.) to play before his home-area supporters next season.

There will be a sizeable contingent of Siena fans making the trip for the game, and what they'll see from Georgia Tech is exactly what Hewitt's teams looked like when he coached Siena. His current squad has nine players averaging at least 9.2 minutes per game, 11 averaging at least six minutes per contest and none with a per-game average of more than 27.6. Hewitt's teams need fresh troops to play his preferred up-tempo style, and he's got them this year.

Here's one more interesting point. It is believed the first time in Siena history that it is playing a game against one of its former head coaches now serving as a head coach elsewhere.

The Saints did play a game against Northwestern when Bob Beyer, who preceeded Hewitt as Siena's head coach, was there but Beyer was an assistant coach for that meeting. Siena also participated in Marquette's tournament when Mike Deane was the head coach there, but the two teams did not meet in that event.

It's definitely a rare occurrance for any MAAC school to tangle with one of its former head coaches. Thanks to the research of MAAC sports information directors, here are the only times those meetings happened:

Canisius played against its former coach John Beilien twice (2005-06 and '06-07) when Beilein was coaching at West Virginia.

Loyola played against its former coach the late Skip Prosser (1994-95) when Prosser was at Xavier.

Manhattan played several games against its former coaches Fran Frascilla and Brian Mahoney when those two former Jaspers moved on to coach at Saint John's.

And ... that's it. Rider did play games against one of its former coaches Kevin Bannon when Bannon was the head man at Rutgers. But, we'll put an asterisk next to that one since Bannon left Rider before the Broncs joined the MAAC.

Rider's superlative sports information director Bud Focht also points out that his school had one other meeting with one of its former coaches.

Hall of Famer Clair Bee was Rider's first coach (1928-29 through '30-31) before moving on to Long Island University. The Broncs played LIU several times when their former coach was there.

Your blogger will admit to advancing years, but he most definitely wasn't around for those games.