Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cluess Settles in Well for 1st Season at Iona

He's taking over a team that won 21 games last season, didn't have to move out of his home he was living in before taking over at Iona this past April and appears to have had some immediate success with his first recruiting class with the Gaels.

Doesn't sound like much of an adjustment at all for Tim Cluess, who is one of two new men's coaches in the MAAC this season. Siena's Mitch Buonaguro is the other, but Buonaguro is not only a former Division I head coach (at Fairfield in the late 1980s/early 1990s) but has been on the sidelines for more than 1,000 Division I games.

This season will be Cluess's first in a D-I program since his own playing days with three years at St. John's and one at Hofstra in the early 1980s.

An adjustment?

"The biggest thing has been having to cross the (Throgs Neck) bridge every day and dealing with the traffic driving to and from Iona," said Cluess.

Of course, that's a nice attempt at downplaying a relatively rare move from being a Division II coach (Cluess ran C.W. Post's program for the past four years) to becoming one on the Division I level.

It's not without precedent, though, not even in the MAAC. Joe Frager coached at Division II Southern Connecticut State before becoming the Fairfield women's coach in 2007 and didn't find the transition that difficult. Frager has averaged 20 victories a season (60-36) in three years with the Lady Stags thus far.

And, what the heck, basketball is basketball, right?

Not necessarily. Traditionally one of the biggest differences involves recruiting.

Then again, maybe the adjustment isn't that great.

Cluess is working the same recruiting areas he did when he was at C.W. Post. And, he claims the level player he's recruiting for Iona now isn't any different than those he brought to Post.

"I didn't recruit Division II players to C.W. Post," he said. "I brought in players who could have been at the Division I level, and some of them at a pretty high level."

Indeed, he had one of the better Division II programs in the east over the past four seasons, compiling a 98-23 record.

Cluess acknowledges the biggest adjustment he faces is learning about what's already in place at Iona.

"It's always an adjustment moving to a new place, learning about the talent that's there and what guys can and cannot do," he said.

Cluess has started learning about the players who turned in a 21-10 record last season with NCAA-allowed individual workouts in his first two weeks on the job in April. He gets more direct contact with players during allowed individual and conditioning work when school begins next week.

In between, he has watched a lot of film of his players. But, he admits that's no substitute for seeing what he's got in person.

"It's hard to tell from watching film," he said. "You don't know if a player had an injury, was sick or whatever. It's important to watch film to look for patterns, but I'm not holding anything I see against anyone. There's an open slate on everyone here when we start working with the players."

Cluess also benefits from something not all new coaches have. As often as not new coaches take over programs in turmoil. But he replaces not a fired coach, but one (Kevin Willard) who got the opportunity to move on because of good work done at Iona.

Willard left behind a program in good shape with, among others, three all-conference caliber players coming back in junior point guard Scott Machado, senior power forward Alejo Rodriguez and sophomore forward Kyle Smith. The Gaels, in fact, return all five starters from last year and are widely accepted as one of this coming season's top three conference teams.

"The program is coming off a good year, but not necessarily a winning tradition yet," Cluess said. "The two previous years they had losing records. We've got to make sure we establish that winning attitude. We've got to ensure we're on the right path. But there's something here we can build on."

On the court, Cluess can build on a strong returning nucleus that paid a little extra attention on the defensive end last season.

"The guys have a lot of pride on the defensive end," said Cluess. "When you talk defense to them their eyes light up. That's great to see. We probably won't change much on that end. But, we'll be significantly different on the offfensive end.

"We'll go up and down the floor a little more, run more of an open offensive. We'll do more attacking the basket right from the get-go."

He's got one of the conference's better ball-handlers in Machado to help put those offensive changes in motions, and the player and coach already have some shared familiarity.

Before Cluess got into college coaching he coached at St. Mary's High School in Manhasset. While there, he got a look at Machado who was a freshman in the school's program during Cluess's last season there.

If all goes well, if Cluess can bring the type success to Division I that he had at lower levels of college and high school basketball, it could be a very good season for Iona.

"I want us to be competitive, but I've got the same goals as every coach," he said. "I'm here to win championships, to have the best team in the MAAC and the best team in the Metro area. They didn't bring me here to do anything other than that."

Cluess has had success at every previous level (264-78 in the high school ranks, a 22-10 record in one season at Suffolk County Community College and the 98-23 ledger at C.W. Post).

He's got a roster of quality veteran players coming off a 21-victory season and a strong five-player recruiting class coming aboard at Iona.

Maybe there's a seamless transition from Willard, who moved on to Seton Hall after three seasons at Iona, to Cluess.

Maybe the toughest part of the job will indeed be that daily commute over the Throgs Neck Bridge.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A look at Niagara's Non-League Schedule

Here's a look at Niagara's non-league basketball schedule.

The Purple Eagles will play home games on Nov. 17 (Milwaukee), Nov. 22 (Mount St. Mary's), Dec., 22 (Quinnipiac) and on Feb. 19 when it hosts a BracketBusters contest.

Road games include four contests in the "Legends Classic" beginning with a Nov. 19 contest at Georgia Tech. Other games in that tournament will all be at the University of Detroit including (vs. Detroit), Nov. 27 (Bowling Green) and Nov. 28 (UAlbany).

Other road cotests will be Dec 8 (UBuffalo), Dec. 11 (St. Bonaventure), Dec. 19 (Central Connecticut), Dec. 28 (Drexel) and Dec. 30 (UMBC).

Game by Game Anaylsis

- U-Wisconsin/Milwaukee: Picked for 5th in the 10-team Horizon Conference. Finished 20-14 last season. Brian Bidlingmyer, a former Siena player, is an assistant coach. Top Player: Guard Tone Boyle (13.2 points in the 2008-09 season), missed last year with a back injury.

- Georgia Tech: Picked for 10th in the 12-team Atlantic Coast Conference. Finished 23-13 last year, but lost two players early to the NBA, including Derrick Favors, the No. 3 pick overall by the New Jersey Nets in this past season's draft. Best player; Guard Iman Shumpert (10.0 points, 4.0 assists).

- Mount St. Mary's: Picked for 6th in the 12-team Northeast Conference. Its new head coach is Robert Burke, who has been an assistant on the Division I level for more than 20 years including three at Siena. Top player: 6-7 senior forward Shawn Atupem (10.7 points, 3.6 rebounds).

- Detroit: Picked for 2nd in the 10-team Horizon League. Finished 20-14 last season. Top players: 6-6 junior guard Chase Simon (14.0 points, 5.1 rebounds), 6-10 junior center Eli Homan (11.5 points, 8.9 rebounds; led the Horizon League in rebounding last season).

- Bowling Green: Picked for 5th in the 6-team East Division of the Mid-American Conference. Finished 14-16 last season. Best Player: 6-7 junior forward Scott Thomas (13.2 points, 6.3 rebounds).

- UAlbany: UAlbany: Picked to finish 8th in the 9-team America East Conference. Finished 7-25 last season. Best Player: 6-0 senior guard Tim Ambrose (12.4 ppg.).

- Buffalo: Picked for 6th in the 6-team East Division of the Mid American Conference. Finished 18-12 last season. Lost all five starters and top six scorers from last season. Top player: 6-7 junior forward Titus Robinson (5.8 points).

- St. Bonaventure: Picked for 14th in the 14-team Atlantic 10 Conference. Finished 15-16 last season. Best player: 6-9 junior forward Andrew Nicholson (16.4 points, 7.1 rebounds).

- Central Connecticut: Picked for 3rd in the 12-team Northeast Conference. Finished 12-17 last season. Best player: Senior guard Shamik Thompson (13.0 points, 3.3 assists).

- Quinnipiac: Picked for 1st in the 12-team Northeast Conference. Finished 23-10 last season. Top Player: Senior forward Justin Rutty (15.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, the NEC's leading rebounder last season).

- Drexel: Picked for 6th in the 12-team Colonial Athletic Association. Finished 16-16 last season. Best player: 6-5 junior forward Samme Givins (8.6 points, 8.3 rebounds).

- UMBC: Picked for 9th in the 9-team America East Conference. Finished 4-26 last season. Best player: 5-10 senior guard Chris De La Rosa (11.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, led the conference in assists last season). De La Rosa played his freshman season at Siena before transferring.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A look at Saint Peter's Non-League Sked

Here's a look at Saint Peter's non-league schedule.

The Peacocks play in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas on the U.S. Virgin Islands with a first-round game on Nov. 19, a second-round contest on either Nov. 20 or 21 and a third game on Nov. 22. They'll meet Old Dominion in the opener, then either Clemson or Long Beach State in the next game and, finally, an opponent from the other bracket of the eight-team event in the final game (the other bracket includes Alabama, Seton Hall, Xavier and Iona).

St. Pete's plays non-league away game on Nov. 13 (Robert Morris), Nov. 29 (Seton Hall), Dec. 11 (Wagner), Dec. 21 (Binghamton0, Dec. 23 (Rutgers) and Dec. 29 (Lehigh).

It plays home games on Nov. 27 (LIU), Dec. 18 (FDU).

It will also participate in a BracketBusters game in mid-February.

Game by game insight:

- Robert Morris: Picked for 4th (by The Sporting News' College Basketball Annual) in the 12-team NEC. It finished 23-12 lasg season and was its league's representative to the NCAA tournament. Best Player: 5-9 sophomore guard Karon Abraham (13.6 points per game last season) was the NEC's Rookie of the Year.

- Old Dominion: Picked for 2nd in the 12-team Colonial Athletic Association. Finished 27-9 last season and played in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995. Best player: 6-8 senior forward Frank Hassell (9.2 points, 6.7 rebounds).

- LIU: Picked to finish 2nd in the 12-team Northeast Conference. Finished 14-17 last season. Has four returning starters. Best Player: Senior guard Kyle Johnson (11.5 ppg.) and forward Kenny Onyechi (league-best 2.1 blocks per game).

- Seton Hall: Picked to finish 12th in the 16-team Big East Conference. Finished 19-13 last season. Its new head coach is Kevin Willard, who spent the last three years in the MAAC as the head man at Iona. Best Players: 6-8 junior forward Herb Pope (11.5 points, 10.7 rebounds), 6-5 senior guard Jeremy Hazell (20.4 points).

- Wagner: Picked for 11th in the 12-team Northeast Conference. Finished 5-26 last season. New head coach with former Seton Hall star Danny Hurley. Best player: Junior guard Chris Martin (12.1 points).

- FDU: Picked to finish 8th in the 12-team NEC. Finished 11-21 last season and lost its top scorer and top rebounder to graduation. Top Player: Senior guard Mike Scott (12.6 points, 5.4 assists).

- Binghamton: Picked for 6th in the 9-team America East conference. Finished 11-17 last season. Best player: 6-7 senior forward Greer Wright (15.6 points, 6.0 rebounds).

- Rutgers: Picked for 14th in the 16-team Big East Conference. Finished 15-17 last season. New head coach in Mike Rice, formerly at Robert Morris. Best player: 6-7 senior forward Jonathan Mitchell (11.8 points).

- Lehigh: Picked for 5th in the 8-team Patriot League. Finished 22-11 last season. Best player: 6-2 sophomore guard C.J. McCollum (19.1 points, 5.0 rebounds). He was last season's top-scorer among freshmen nationally.

A look at Iona's Non-League schedule

Non-league schedules for conference teams are being released, and we'll pass those along to you as they come in.

Here's the non-league schedule for the Iona men's team. ..

The Gaels open up with a 3-game/3-day appearance at the World Vision Classic hosted by Cleveland State on Nov. 12, 13 and 14. They play Kent State on the 12th, Bryant on the 13th and Cleveland State on the 14th.

Iona hosts non-league games on Nov. 18 (Richmond), Dec. 11 (Fairleigh Dickinson), Dec. 22 (Vermont) and Dec. 29 (Hofstra).

It plays away games on Nov. 23 (at the University at Albany), Nov. 30 (Norfolk State, Virginia), Dec. 8 (LIU), Dec. 18 (Syracuse), and in a "BracketBusters" game against a to-be-determined appointment on either Feb. 18 or 19.

No times have yet been set for those games.

Game-by-Game Insight:

- Kent State: Picked 3rd in the Mid American Conference (by The Sporting News' College Basketball Preview Issue). Has 11 20-victory seasons in the last 12 years. Finished 24-10 last season). Best players: 6-8 forward Justin Greene (13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds last season), 6-2 guard Rodriguez Sherman (10.6 points).

-Bryant: Picked to finish 12th in the 12-team Northeast Conference. Recently moved up from Division II and still two years away from being eligible to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Finished 1-29 overall last season. Best player: 6-8 sophomore Vladyslav Kondratyev (8.9 points).

- Cleveland State: Picked to finish 6th in the 10-team Horizon League. Finished 16-17 overall last season. Best Player: 6-2 senior point guard Norris Cole (16.3 ppg., 4.8 assists last season).

- Richmond: Picked for 4th in the 14-team Atlantic 10 Conference. Finished 26-9 last season. Best player: 6-0 senior guard Kevin Anderson (17.8 ppg.), who was named the A-10's Player of the Year last season.

- UAlbany: Picked to finish 8th in the 9-team America East Conference. Finished 7-25 last season. Best Player: 6-0 senior guard Tim Ambrose (12.4 ppg.).

- LIU: Picked to finish 2nd in the 12-team Northeast Conference. Finished 14-17 last season. Has four returning starters. Best Player: Senior guard Kyle Johnson (11.5 ppg.) and forward Kenny Onyechi (league-best 2.1 blocks per game).

- FDU: Picked to finish 8th in the 12-team NEC. Finished 11-21 last season and lost its top scorer and top rebounder to graduation. Top Player: Senior guard Mike Scott (12.6 points, 5.4 assists).

- Syracuse: Picked to win the 16-team Big East Conference. Finished 30-5 last season, but lost forward Wesley Johnson to the NBA. Top Players: 6-7 junior forward Kris Joseph (10.8 points, 5.5 rebounds), who was the Big East's Sixth Man of the Year last season. Also, 6-9 senior forward Rick Jackson (9.7 points, 8.0 rebounds) and 6-4 sophomore Brandon Triche (8.1 points).

- Vermont: Picked to finish 4th in the 9-team America East. Finished 25-10 last season, but graduated top player forward Mike Blakely and three other starters. Best Players: 6-8 senior forward Evan Fjeld (10.7 points, 6.1 rebounds) and 6-8 junior forward Matt Glass, a transfer from UMass where he made 28-of-63 3-point attempts in the 2008-09 season, getting 84 of the 102 points he scored that season from beyond the bonus stripe.

- Hofstra: Picked to finish 7th in the 12-team Colonial Athletic Association. Finished 19-15 last season. This game would have been more attractive had former Iona coach Tim Welsh been at the helm of the Pride. Instead, several weeks after his hiring by Hofstra Welsh resigned after a a DWI arrest. Best Player: Senior guard Charles Jenkins (20.6 points), the CAA's Player of the Year lasat season.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

St. Peter's Men/Women Recruiting Recap

Here's the latest in the series looking at incoming recruits to conference teams.

Up now ...


Chris Burke, 6-5 forward, Willingboro (N.J.) High School.

Senior season statistics not available, but he averaged 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists as a junior.

A number of internet reports indicate that Burke is an athletic, multi-talented player.

Xavier Brown, 5-10 point guard, Paul Robeson H.S. of Philadelphia

No senior season stats available.

Brown is a recipient of a Gates Milenium Scholarship and does not count against the Peacocks' 13 athletic scholarship. Reports are that he is a prototypical point guard.

Blaise Ffrench, 6-1 guard, transfer from UTEP

French averaged 0.3 points and 0.4 assists playing an average of 4.7 minutes per game at UTEP in the 2008-09 season. He practiced with the Peacocks last season and is has three remaining seasons of eligibility. He is a graduate of Holy Cross H.S. in New York City.

Chris Prescott, 6-2 guard, transfer from St. Joseph's

Prescott transferred after the 2009-10 season so he is not eligible until the 2011-12 season. He will practice with the Peacocks this season. He is a graduate of Northwest Catholic H.S. in West Hartford, Conn.

ANAYLSIS: French will be an immediate contributor, capable of playing either guard spot and will likely be the first guard off the bench in support of seniors Nick Leon and Wesley Jenkins. Brown is likely to get into the playing group as a back-up point guard in preparation for a bigger role two years from now. Burke will provide bench support behind returning starters but is likely to have a bigger role after the current season. Prescott is a nice piece who had offers from larger programs coming out of high school. He and Ffrench appear to be the team's potential starting backcourt in 2011-12.


Teresa Manigrasso, 5-7 guard, St. John Vianney H.S. of Atlantic Highlands, N.J.

No senior season statistics available. Manigrasso was a key performer on a strong high school team as a shooting guard, but suffered a knee injury in January and missed the remainder of the season.

Bianca Martinez, 6-3 center, Christ The King H.S. in New York City

No senior season statistics available. She is reportedly a much-needed inside presence for a program that has lacked height in recent years.

Aziza May, 5-3 point guard, Brush H.S. of South Euclid, Ohio

She averaged 10.2 points per game as a senior and was a four-year starter at point guard for her high school program. Reports indicate she is a quick player with good point-guard skills.

Khadjah Young, 5-3 point guard, Revere H.S. of Copley, Ohio

No senior season statistics available. Reports indicate she is extremely quick with a good long-range shooting touch.

Brittany Howes, 6-2 forward/center, Colts Neck (N.J.) High School.

No senior season statics available. Howes broke a foot early in her senior season but returned in January and played well the rest of the season. A strong defender and good rebounder who averaged double figures in rebounds last season.

ANALYSIS: A strong recruiting class that bodes well for the Peahens' future. Martinez and Howes will provide the height and inside play, eventually, that most MAAC teams lack. May and Young have the type quickness that the program has relied upon on both ends of the court in recent years. And Manigrasso should be a nice piece at the shooting guard spot. This class's impact might not be evident immediately, but it will be at some point.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Memorable MAAC Players Move to Pros

Marist's matchless women's forward Rachel Fitz, and Siena men's standouts forward Alexander Franklin and point guard Ronald Moore are certainly among the most-memorable players your blogger has had the pleasure of watching and writing about in recent years.

And, now, they share something else. That talented trio is set to embark on post-college professional careers.

Franklin, a 6-foot-5 forward, has signed to play in Tarragona, Spain, in that country's professional league.

Moore, a 5-10 point guard, has signed a contract with BK Casta SPU Nitra, located in Nitra in the western part of Slovokia at the foot of Zobor Mountain.

Fitz, a 6-0 forward, signed to play for Kozachka-Zalk Zaporozhye, a professional basketball organization in Ukraine.

Memorable? Fitz's place in MAAC basketball's hierarchy is well established. She is the conference's only female three-time MAAC player of the year (2008, 2009, 2010), is No. 2 in career scoring in the conference (2,447 points) and is the only player in Marist women's basketball history with more than 2,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds.

During her time at Marist the program ran up a 116-21 record, a winning percentage of .847. Her teams also won three NCAA tournament games and, in the 2007-08 season became the first conference team, men's or women's, to win two NCAA tournament games in the same season.

Her new team, Kozachka-Zalk Zaporozhye, competes in UPBL which is a league in EuroBasket. The team finished the regular season in fourth place last seasonand advanced to the semifinals. Kozachka-Zalk Zaprozhye’s season came to a close when it fell to eventual champion Dnipro on April 24, suffering a 79-66 defeat.

Fitz was a highly touted high school player recruited by schools that played in higher conferences than the MAAC. During this past season's MAAC tournament your blogger asked Fitz how she came to chose Marist and the response flashed the sense of humor and engaging personality that made Fitz so popular on her school's Poughkeepsie, N.Y., campus.

"I wanted to major in fashion design, and Marist was the only school recruiting me that had that program ... so, I guess coach (Brian) Giorgis got lucky," she said. "Oops ... don't tell him that I said he got lucky. Well, I guess you can tell him that if you want, since I've only got a couple more games to play for him."

Siena's Franklin leaves for Spain today (Aug. 22) to begin preseason workouts for a season that begins on Oct. 1. Franklin's Tarragona team is based about 60 miles south of Barcelona on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Servindustria plays in Adecco Gold, the second level in the Spanish League.

“I know it’s a very good league and I’m excited to get over there and play for them and help them win games,” Franklin said, in a release from Siena College.

Franklin spent the summer training and improving his strength at Impact – one of the top NBA training facilities for professional basketball players located in Las Vegas.

Your blogger remembers Franklin as the least touted of a four-person recruiting class that included Moore, Edwin Ubiles and forward Cory Magee.

But Franklin played far bigger than his 6-5 (barely) frame, improved his game annually and became arguably the most unstoppable inside force in the conference this past season.

If memory serves Franklin was not in the starting lineup early in his freshman season, but exhibited his ability immediately. His first Siena game was in a non-league contest at Stanford, a team touted as a top-10 program that year. Although Siena lost in that meeting Franklin came off the bench to score 20 points and to show he would be a force on the court even against bigger players.

How good did Franklin become? He was this past season's Player of the Year in the MAAC.

Moore is headed for Nitra, the fifth-largest city in Slovokia. It’s described as a culture rich city and it has played a key role in the country’s evolution since its settlement in the fifth century.

“I know it’s a historic city, a small city,” Moore said. “Everything is within walking distance. Temperature was one thing I was worried about, but it doesn’t get too cold or too hot there. I talked to some people who played there and they really liked it.”

Moore will be leaving for Nitra within a week.

Your blogger remembers covering a Siena game at Vermont midway through the 2005-06 season when a call came from Moore's high school coach to say that the guard had made a verbal commitment to Siena.

A call was made to Moore and the most-memorable thing the diminutive guard said during a 10-minute coversation was this: "I'm coming to Siena to win championships," he said.

"What kind of championship?" he was asked.

"I want to win a national title," he said.

National titles aren't won by mid-major level teams, but Moore was the floor general behind winning titles at his playing level. Siena won the conference's regular-season and post-season championships of the past three years becoming only the conference's second men's team to do that for three straight years and the first to win NCAA tournament games in successive seasons (2008, 2009).

And, Moore added one more "title" of sorts. He was the nation's assist leader this past season.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gonzo, Seton Hall Settle Financially

The last connection between former Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez and college basketball has finally been severed.

Seton Hall University, the most-recent stop for Gonzalez, has settled a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by its former coach.

Gonzalez claimed that he had been owed two years of salary upon his termination for a variety issues. Terms of the settlement are confidential.

Gonzalez is known for his brash, aggressive style and was fired March 17 after Seton Hall lost in the opening round of the NIT. School officials referred to off-court problems when they announced his firing.

Readers of this forum know that your blogger has heaped considerable criticism on Gonzalez in the past. In more than 35 years of covering college basketball, Gonzalez was without question my least favorite coach to deal with. And, yours truly wasn't alone in that assessment. The bombastic, control-freak coach wore out relationships wherever he has been in the profession.

His recent woes, though, all but ensure he won't ever coach again at the college level and the sport is the better for that.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Top 144 Previews Might Miss Mark

OK, let me get the step ladder out so I can get up on the proverbial soap box.

This is about preseason previews produced by an internet site called CollegeHoops.net and packaged neatly as the top 144 teams nationally, one preview done each day for the 144 days leading up to the beginning of the 2010-11 season.

It comes to our attention because the site already indicates which teams will make the top 144 list and among the top 144 will be MAAC members Fairfield, Iona, Saint Peter's and Siena.

Siena is the first up, checking in at No. 136. With teams being released in reverse order of ranking, it means Fairfield, Iona and Saint Peter's will be rated higher than the Saints.

And, now, while how those teams are rated is pretty much the universally accepted "form" for the coming season we'll also tell you to take what this particular website has to say about our beloved conference and its teams with the proverbial grain of salt.

In other words ... CollegeHoops.net isn't exactly the most-credible source for MAAC news you'll find out there in the wonderful world of cyberspace. Not to besmirch anyone, but your blogger always thought that credibility related to one's work included a better-than working knowledge of the subject.

I know, from many years in the newspaper field, that one didn't write about a subject without first having a near-expert's insight into it. And, yes, I know that philosophy is probably antiquated and the age of the internet allows anyone to write about anything.

Anyway, in reading the biographica data of the website's participants, it does not appear that any staff members has any connection with covering the MAAC. The guess is that research is done via the traditional channels ... other websites, maybe some TV viewing, etc. And, that's fine. But, the typical MAAC fan can gather material just as easily, and many do. The strong guess is that there are more than a few MAAC fans considerably more knowledgeable than those previewing MAAC teams for this particular Top 144 feature.

The author of the Siena preview, for instance, is Joel Welser who resides in Michigan, several hundred miles removed from the nearest MAAC member.

This isn't an attempt to deny anyone the right to write about college basketball. Just a "heads up" that not all sources of information are created equal, and those that contain real first-hand information and insight about the MAAC (and, the hope is that you'll perceive this particularl site as one) should be embraced.

The site's Siena preview also lacks a little credibility with its material. It projects Siena's starting five to include Kyle Downey and Kyle Griffin in the backcourt.

At this point, predicting starting fives is, of course, a subjective exercise. But, most MAAC followers have a fairly good grasp of likely starting lineups. And, Siena's starting five for the coming season isn't likely to include both Downey and Griffin ... and, quite possibly, neither one.

That said, any publicity for mid-major conferences like the MAAC is never a bad thing. And, we'll be checking out the upcoming preview reports on other conference teams. But, just remember that not all sources of preview material are created equal.

Rider Men/Women Recruiting Update

Here's another in the series looking at incoming players to MAAC programs.

Up now ...


Daniel Stewart, 6-7 forward, Neumann-Goretti H.S., Philadelphia

Stewart averaged 12.7 points per game this past season and 11.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game two years ago as a junior.

“Danny comes from a terrific high school program and I am sure that our fans will enjoy watching him compete in a Rider uniform for years to come,” said Rider coach Tommy Dempsey.

Most sites actually list Stewart's height at 6-6. Most also indicate he is an "explosive" leaper whose statistics would have been gaudier had he been featured more.

Tommy Pereira, 6-2 guard, Canarias Basketball Academy of England

No statistics available, although Pereira did score 45 points in a league game this past season. He is reported to have long-range capabilities.

Anthony Myles, 6-4 guard, Polytech H.S., Dover, Del.

Averaged 21 points, six rebounds and four assists per game this past season.

Myles was the top-rated player in Delaware this past season, and had received some recruiting interest from higher-level Temple and South Florida before those schools filled scholarship spots with other players.

Jeff Jones, 6-4 guard, transfer from Virginia

Jones averaged 7.3 points in 18.3 minutes per game this past season for Virginia. He has been at Virginia for three years, so he has only one seaon of eligibility remaining. He can practice, but not play, with Rider this season. He will be eligible for the 2011-12 season

ANALYSIS: The incoming freshmen are likely to provide solid depth for a team that returns four starters and several bench players. Myles appears to be the most-likely candidate for the most playing time of the incoming players. A year's experience for him should set things up for him and Jones to be an impact backcourt in 2011-12.


Aisha Varnadore, 5-6 guard, Burlington County College (Pemberton, N.J.)

She averaged 15 points, three assists and 2.3 steals per game this past season. She has two remaining seasons of college elibitility.

"Aisha is a quick smooth perimeter player that has the capability to play the one or two," said Rider coach Lynn Milligan. "She excels in the open floor and is a multiple threat in the half court. She comes from a successful and well coached junior college team and is hardworking and determined to bring success to the Rider program."

Alicia Hall, 5-9 guard, John F. Kennedy H.S., Silver Spring, Md.

Hall averaged 15. points and seven rebounds per game as a senior.

"Alicia is a big guard that will be able to play multiple positions for us," Milligan said. "She can get to the basket as well as shoot the ball. She has a strong work ethic and is determined to be the best. She will add great depth to our young core of guards."

MyNeshia McKenzie, 5-11 guard/forward, Springfield (Pa.) H.S.

She averaged 13.8 points per game this past season.

"MyNeshia is an explosive and versatile player that will fit our philosophy immediately," Milligan said. "She is hard working and strong enough to play inside and out. She will be relentless around the ball and can burn our opponents in a number of different ways."

Rosalie Gentry, 5-11 forward, Downington (Pa.) East H.S.

She averaged 12 points per game last season.

"Rosalie is a terrific shooting post player," Milligan said. "She can hit from long range and cause significant matchup problems. She will be able to stretch defenses and open up our inside game."

Senada Mehmedovic, 5-7 guard, Carlisle (Pa.) H.S.

She averaged 19 points per game there last season.-

"Senada is a combo guard that can score and run the point," said Milligan. "Her ball handling skills and poise will allow her to run the offense as a point guard and her scoring mentality will allow her to play off the ball as well. She has great range and can get to the basket in the open floor."

ANALYSIS: Varnadore, who had a standout junior college career, appears the likely replacement for graduated point guard Amanda Sepulveda. Hall and McKenzie were both standout track athletes in high school and both will bring athleticism to the program. Gentry has an above-average shooting touch, and teams always can use that. Mehmedovic could also get into the playing group. Overall, a nice recruiting class.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Griffs' Turner Signs to Play Professionally

One of this blogger's favorite players of recent vintage has been former Canisius standout Frank Turner, the Golden Griffin's 5-10 point guard of the past four seasons.

Turner's contributions belied his height ... and his contributions were plentiful. My conention is that he has been one of the MAAC's most-underappreciated performers. Had I a vote, he would have been a first-team all-conference selection for this past season. Instead he was a third-team pick. To me, that was the most noticeable "slight" of this past season's all-star selections.

Turner not only was a standout performer on the court, but graduated a year early from Canisius and spent his senior season there working towards a masters' degree. From several interactions with him, your blogger found Turner a well-spoken, intelligent, witty young man.

It all comes to mind with the recent news that Turner has signed a professional contract to join Eiffel Towers Den Bosch, a pro team that plays in Holland in the Holland-Eredivisie. Turner signed a one-year deal with the team that finished third in the league’s standings last season.

“From an individual standpoint, Frank has accomplished many things in a relatively short amount of time,” Canisius head coach Tom Parrotta said, in a release issued by Canisius recently. “He has earned two college degrees, he has his name splashed throughout the program’s record book and he has become the example for every student-athlete that comes to Canisius College from here on out. It is very simple – get a great education, play your heart out on the basketball court and be a solid individual off the court. Frank accomplished all three of these things and then some. I’m extremely proud that Frank has realized his dream of playing professional basketball and I feel he will do very well at the next level. I am very anxious to follow his pro career.”

Turner ended his career with the Golden Griffins ranked in the top-10 in 12 different statistical categories at the College, and he goes down in the Canisius record book ranked first in career games played (125), career minutes (4,567) and career assists (616), while ranking fourth in career points (1,769) and third in career steals (193). He closed out the 2009-10 season ranked sixth in the MAAC in scoring average (16.2 points per game), second in assists per game (5.7 per contest) and first in steals per game, with 2.1 swipes per outing. A three-time All-MAAC selection, he was chosen as an NABC All-District Second-Team honoree, as well as being named to the ADA Division I-AAA Basketball Scholar-Athlete Team and the MAAC All-Academic Team after his senior campaign.

“This is the next step for me and I am very anxious to get my pro career started,” Turner said, in the school's press release. “Canisius has started something very special for my family, my city, and for me personally. This is an opportunity that the coaching staff told me about from day one. Similar to my education, they promised me if I worked hard, great things would happen on and off the court. My game has evolved tremendously thanks to the players I was around for four years, and from the help of the coaching staff. I feel like it has been so long since my last game, and knowing that its about to start again in a new place is a such great feeling. I promise the entire Canisius community that this is just a start for me and you will continue to hear my name.”

Turner is the first Canisius player to sign a professional contract since former Griffs Chuck Harris and Darnell Wilson signed to play professionally in Europe after the 2006-07 season. Wilson recently signed a one-year deal with the Antwerp Giants in the top professional league in Belgium.

“We got to see Frank’s game at the Las Vegas [combine], but we also got a good look at the person behind the player,” Eiffel Towers head coach Jos Frederick said in a release on the team’s website. “Turner earned his college degree in three years and also earned his master’s degree as well. It may have little connection with his basketball skills, but it says something about his person.”

Monday, August 2, 2010

Thompsons nip Burtts as top MAAC family

A recent post about the Downey brothers' (Kevin of Canisius and Kyle of Siena) work to help earn an Empire State Games' gold medal for their Western region team recently, also included this blogger's comment that the brothers are probably the second family of the MAAC, next to the Thompson brothers of Rider.

But, your blogger's memory must be slipping, a fact brought to my attention by friend and astute MAAC observer Jerry Sherry. Jerry pointed out that it might be the Burtts, father and son, who hold the mythical title of "First Family of the MAAC."

At worse, Steve Burtt Sr. (at Iona fromn 1980-'84) and Steve Burtt Jr. (2002-06) are in the conversation that includes only two families.

An interesting debate, for sure, and one could easily opine either way. But I'll still rank Jason and Ryan Thompson as the conference's best "family" with the Burtts not very far behind. Close enough for them to be No. 1 and No. 1A.

Personal observation ... the proverbial "eye-ball test" ... leads me to that conclusion, and I've been around long enough to have seen all four individuals play.

The numbers, too, seem to slightly favor the Thompsons, as does post-college achievements.

Anyway, the numbers ...

Steve Burtt Sr. scored 2,534 career points at Iona, but his his freshman year (1980-81) took place before the MAAC was formed. Statistically, then, the elder Burtt only scored 2,153 of his points while playing in the MAAC, still the fifth-best total all time.

Burtt Jr. finished with 2,034 points, 10th best all-time among conference players.

Otherwise, neither Burtt was anywhere near the all-time leaders in other statistics. Both were prototypical shooting guards. When they got the ball each's primary duty was to score.

Each was a decent rebounder for the guard spot. Senior finished with 419 rebounds, junior with 378. Neither one was an overly efficient ball-hander. Senior had 301 assists against 419 career turnovers. Junior was better withh 261 assists vs. 310 turnovers.

The Thompsons weren't quite the equal to the Burtts in points, but have the edge in most other stats.

Jason, the 6-foot-11 center (2003-07), finished with 2,040 points, 9th best all time for conference players, ; Ryan, a the 6-6 swingman (2006-10), finished with 1,879 points (16th best).

Jason Thompson finished with 1,171 career rebounds (2nd in conference history); Ryan finished with 734 (27th).

Jason also had 235 career blocks, the second-highest total in MAAC history. Ryan, who often handled the ball for Rider, had 393 career assists against 305 turnovers, a decent assist-to-turnover ratio.

Jason and Ryan were both two-time first-team all-MAAC picks. Burtt Jr. was a first-team member once. Burtt Sr. was a three-time first-teamer, but the conference picked 12 first-teamers in his sophomore season and 10 when he was a junior.

Jason Thompson, who has two solid NBA seasons to his credit thus far, is arguably the best "big man" to ever play in the MAAC (we won't consider the 6-7 Lionel Simmons as a true big man). Neither of the Burtts is considered, at least by this blogger, the best ever at the guard spot in conference history.

Burtt Sr. also played in the NBA, 101 games over four seasos (averaging 11.2 minutes and 5.8 p0ints per game), but his post-college career doesn't match Jason Thompson's.

Burtt Jr. has been playing professionally oversees. Ryan Thompson probably will, too, although he's been playing in NBA summer leagues in recent weeks.

Bottom line, though, is that the mythical title of the MAAC's "First Family" makes for an interesting summer debate.

The opinion here, though, is that the Thompsons rate a slight edge over the Burtts.