Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Off-Season Report: Iona Men Early Pick

Here's another in the series examining conference programs.

Up now ...


2010-11 RECORD: 13-5 in MAAC play, 25-12 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: A new coach, a new playing style and a new "star" player joining the program. Not exactly the greatest recipe for success in a league that traditionally sees experienced players with developed chemistry as a team compete for league titles. But the Gaels not only survived all the transition, but thrived. First-year head coach Tim Cluess, whose previous experience as a head coach came either at the Division II level, or high school, installed an uptempo offensive style that enabled the team to average 13.1 points more per game than the previous year, the third-biggest increase on the Division I level this past season. Things didn't start out well, though, with an 0-3 record at the biginning. Then, the wheels fell off momentarily in mid-season with four straight conference losses (to Canisius, Rider, Loyola and Fairfield). And, after that the Gaels won nine straight, ultimately getting to the conference championship game where it struggled mightily to score against Saint Peter's bruising defensive style (the Peacocks won, 62-57). Still, Iona had done enough to earn its post-season berth to the CIT, where it won three games before falling just short in the championship game.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Mike Glover, a 6-7 junior forwrd transferred in and was one of the more-impactful players on any MAAC team. He averaged a double-double (18.4 points and 10.1 rebounds) and finished second among MAAC players in both scoring and rebounding (Siena's Player of the Year, Ryan Rossiter, topped the conference in both statistical categories). Glover was exactly what Iona needed ... a good-sized forward with the ability to ru the court. One of the prime beneficiaries was junior point guard Scott Machado, who became more of a passer this past season and finished with an assist average of 7.6 per game, the second-best average nationally. Glover's presence also drew defenders and opened up the perimeter where sophomore Kyle Smith and junior Jermel Jenkins in particular, took advantage. Both made 75 3-pointers on the year. Freshman Sean Armand, another perimeter sniper, had a nice first season averaging 6.2 points. Senior Alejo Rodriguez stayed relatively healthy, a problem for much of his career, and provided toughness and rebounding (6.6 per contest).

WHAT WENT WRONG: Some early adjustments, the mid-season four-game losing streak that cost the Gaels a chance to compete for the regular-season crown and the lack of a front court depth after Glover and Rodriguez. And, don't discount what that four-game mid-season conference losing streak kept Iona from doing. Had it beaten Fairfield (one of the four losses), it would have shared the regular-season crown. Had it won two of the other games in the losing streak it also would have earned a share of the top spot. Instead, it lost by two points at Canisius, by two at home against Rider, by one in overtime at Loyola and by four at Fairfield. So many close losses in succession could have sapped some teams of its enthusiasm. Instead, the Gaels ripped off wins in their next nine games. Iona also struggled against real good defensive opponents. When opponents were able to slow down the Gaels' fast-paced offense they were able to control Iona. Saint Peter's put on a clinic in the conference championship game, turning the proceedings into a half-court, brusing defensive contest in which Iona clearly struggled. Of course it didn't help that Smyth, who had a terrific 16-point performance in the conference tournament's quarterfinal round, got hurt in the team's next game and never returned. Had Smyth played against Saint Peter's, providing an additional outside presence against a defense that played primarily in the paint ... who knows if things might have been different?

WHAT'S AHEAD: Good things. Your hoopscribe makes Iona the early summer favorite to capture the MAAC's 2011-12 championship. Hard to pick against a team with two of the league's top three players in Glover and Machado (Fairfield's Derek Needham completes the trio), plus has the conference's best array of perimeter shooters in Smyth, Jenkins and Armond. The question, though, is whether the Gaels can find replacements for graduated guard Rashon Dwight, a steadying influence; and the blue-collar Rodriguez. Armand looks capable of stepping in for Dwight. Replacing Rodriguez is another matter, complicated by the decision of 6-9 bruiser Chris Pelcher, who showed late season signs of being able to contribute, to transfer out of the program in the off-season. Help, though, could be coming in the form of Nyandigisi "Digs" Moikubo, a 6-7 transfer from Cochise Junior College in Arizona, where he averaged 15.3 points and 9.3 rebounds last season. And, there's one more new player of significance in the program. Astute conference follower Guy Falotico also reminded us that 6-1 guard Rashon James, a transfer from Division II St. Thomas Aquinas College University (where he averaged 16.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 2009-10) is eligible this season. James, according to Iona sources, is expected to have a significant impact. He has two seasons of eligibility.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: A first-place finish, but not in the dominating fashion of some recent regular-season titlists. Iona and Fairfield appear to be the two clear front-runners with Iona holding a slight edge as the early favorite due to the type of transition related to a coaching change at Fairfield that the Gaels went through last season. Also, Iona has three senior starters, including its top two players, and experience always counts for plenty in the MAAC.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Saint Peter's Gives Classy Dunne Extention

Saint Peter's men's basketball coach John Dunne is certainly one of my favorite conference program directors.

OK, in the interest of being politcally correct, your hoopscribe has 10 favorite men's coaches and 10 favorite women's coaches.

But, sometimes, a few sneak a nose in front in the estimation of your humble scribe, and so it is with Dunne, who I have probably had a knowledge of longer than any conference coach.

My first sighting of the Peacocks' coach came in the late 1980s when he was still a high school player at fabled Archbishop Molloy High School, starting in the backcourt alongside Kenny Anderson, who would go on to a spectacular career at Georgia Tech and, then, with several NBA teams.

That team was loaded with future college talent (among them was Robert Werdann, a 6-11 center who played at St. John's, had a few years in the NBA and is not an assistant coach with the New Orleans Hornets).

Dunne was the prototypical "good teammate" more than willing to defer while doing the dirty work of playing defense, hustling and making good passes that often gets overlooks.

And, so it has been for much of Dunne's professional coaching career, one in which he never had the proverbial silver spoon. Dunne has worked his way up through the ranks as much as anyone.

After graduating from Ithaca College he began his coaching career at Wilkes University a Division III program in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

From there he went to Western Michigan as an assistant, back to Wilkes and then to Division II Adelphi, where he worked under current Orlando Magic assistant coach Steve Clifford.

From there he made his first move to Division I as an assistant at Manhattan and, then, moved to Siena under Paul Hewitt and, then, Louis Orr. When Orr moved on to Seton Hall, Dunne went with him. When Orr was fired after five seasons at Seton Hall, Dunne was fortunate enough to be offered his first position as a head coach, at Saint Peter's.

Fortunate? Only if you consider taking over a program that just graduated its all-time best player, guard Keydren Clark, and was otherwise lacking in talent. Dunne walked into a decimated program that could only manage 11 total victories in his first two seasons.

But, the subsequent three years, populated with his recruits, have produced 47 wins, including 20 this past season, the program's first 20-win season since 1990-91.

It also produced Saint Peter's first trip to the NCAA tournament sinc 1995.

The storybook season earned Dunne some interest elsewhere, but he has ultimately opted to remain at Saint Peter's and, last week, the school announced a contract extention for him through the 2015-16 season.

Before the extention, Dunne was not only the lowest-paid coach in the MAAC, but one of the lowest of any Division I program. Although no financial details were released in the new deal, the likelihood is that Dunne was rewarded to the extent that he is now at least in the middle of the pack in salary terms, of conference coaches.

The 41-year old Dunne, for sure, has paid his dues in moving up the ranks in college coaching. And, he has done so with unrivaled class.

At Saint Peter's, Dunne hardly has the best resources to attract players to his programs. Besides being relatively underfunded, the school's gym barely rivals those of many high schools. The school's location is far from the suburban environment several other MAAC schools can offer.

And, during his team's recent run to the MAAC tournament's championship this past March Dunne was asked about the difficulty of being a head coach considering the seemingly obvious handicaps at his school, about having what appears to be the toughest job in the MAAC.

"I don't buy into that `toughest job' thing," said Dunne. "At the end of the day sometimes you ... it's the people within the building, not the building that make the difference. I care about these guys. I'd go to war for these guys. We might have our differences but we stick together. These guys have always persevered and it just comes down to people. You don't have to have the nicest house on the block. I think our guys like Saint Peter's. I think we have great people."

Great people, indeed, and Dunne can certainly include himself in that crowd.

He is the epitome of class, and anyone who been around long enough to follow his career or, even, just long enough to have heard his comments about his school, can attest to that.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Siena's Karangway Starts Scouting Service

There's no one-liner like the answer to what happens to old golfers? They just fade away.

The question is what happens to old basketball players.

The answer is that they very often find some way to stay in the game.

One prominent former MAAC player has found a relatively unique way to stay involved with basketball.

Former Siena standout Prosper Karangwa (1999-2003), who scored close to 1,300 career points and helped Saints advance to one NCAA tournament and two NIT appearances, went on from there to a very successful 7-year career overseas, most recently in France.

But after his retirement from playing after the 2009-10 season Karangwa began looking for some way to stay involved with his sport.

He opted to seek a position as a scout, possibly with an NBA team. But with the NBA's unsettled labor situation and the potential for staff cutbacks when things are eventually settled, Karangwa knew his opportunities to connect with an NBA team might be extremely limited.

"Considering that, I opted to create my own scouting service," said Karangwa, in a recent interview.

The result is Global Scouting Service, an operation designed to scout college players primarily in the east to identify players best suited for playing in foreign leagues. Karangwa has already been talking to a number of overseas teams and leagues trying to attract a clientele for his service, which he expects to be fully operational and available within a few days.

Karangwa, who grew up in Montreal before coming to Siena, spent this past season at dozens of games to scout and build up his initial data base offering. In doing so he got considerable advice and guidance about how to do what he's trying to do from a former Siena assistant coach Rob Jackson, who now does scouting for the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.

"He really helped me in terms of how to do this," said Karangwa. "He has been a great guide and mentor to me in this."

What makes Karangwa's scouting service so unique and, in theory, attractice to teams from foreign leagues?

Primarily this: Karangwa has been there, done that.

Not only did he play in Canada's national program for four years in the off-seasons while at Siena but he also had those seven professional years for a number of European teams.

He has what is a rare first-hand experience, for a scout, of exactly what teams are looking for in terms of talent. Theoretically, Karangwa should be able to identify what players are capable of playing at what level overseas. He's been there. He's seen what players succeed and fail overseas.

The result should be beneficial to foreign teams. Karangwa's service, and his ability to help place players at their proper level will result in greater success rate in bringing in U.S. players to foreign teams. That type of successful connection has the potential to save teams considerable money it might otherwise need to spend to scout new players and find replacements for U.S. players who don't succeed overseas.

Says Karangwa: "GSS provides scouting reports on current and future prospects through the use of an online database which is accessible at all times to subscribing members. These player profiles include expansive biographical information, statistical data and analysis, a description of each individual's strengths and weaknesses, an overall numerical rating which grades each player's professional potential, and a note section that includes any additional information that could be of value to the team. In addition to the online player database, GSS provides weekly updates on games scouted, consultation services, and specific player reports as requested."

Sounds like a service foreign teams and leagues should strongly consider, and it also sounds like a nice way for a former MAAC player to stay involved in his sport.

Women's Verbal Perfect Fit For Canisius

Your hoopscribe has purposely stayed away from reporting on individual recruiting comments because we'll provide a full recruiting roundup on every team in coming weeks. But, a recent commitment to a conference program merits a mention merely because it appears to be a perfect fit.

That would be a recent verbal commitment made by Emily Weber, a rising senior at Shenendehowa High School (Clifton Park, N.Y.), to Canisius on Sunday. She will join the Golden Griffins' program for the 2012-13 season.

Weber, a slender 5-foot-9 guard does one thing particularly well ... shoot the ball, and shoot it from long range. For the past two high school seasons she has been arguably the best long-range shooter among girl players in New York's Capital Region. This past season she shot 55.3 percent from the field, the third straight year she has shot better than 50 percent from the floor. And the majority of those shots have come from the perimeter. Twice this past season she made six 3-pointers in a game, and hit four in two other games.

All of which fits perfectly into what Canisius has done best in recent years: score from the perimeter.

The Griffs had set an NCAA record by making at least one 3-pointer in 510 consecutive games until that streak ended in a Feb. 12 game against Iona this season (Canisius went 0-for-12 from bonus territory in that game). Until then the team had made at least one 3-pointer in every game it played beginning on Jan. 8, 1994.

But Canisius uncharacteristically misfired slightly from long range this past season, only making 157 from 3-point land (after hitting 218 from beyond the stripe the previous year), only the fifth-highest total of 10 MAAC teams.

But, head coach Terry Zeh has long showed an inclination to get production from long range, and Weber's commitment to his program certainly solidifies the program's commitment to having long-range snipers.

Which is what makes this particular commitment a perfect fit.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Celtics' Pick Had Success Vs. MAAC Teams

Your hoopscribe certainly won't profess to be a professional basketball scout, but I will claim to have a working knowledge of talent ... enough to predict with some accuracy which players will have success in the professional ranks.

That said I will congratulate the Boston Celtics for the manueverings on draft day to wind up with Purdue's slender 6-foot-10 center/forward Ju Juan Johnson after a trade of first-round draft picks with the New Jersey Nets.

And while Johnson obviously is not from the MAAC, the likelihood is that a couple of conference coaches would agree with my belief that he will have a nice pro future.

Those would be Siena's Mitch Buonaguro (and, former Saints' coach Fran McCaffery) and Saint Peter's John Dunne.

Their respective programs had their seasons end (Siena's in 2010 and the Peacocks' this season) at the hands of Purdue, and particularly Johnson, in first-round NCAA tournament games over the past two years.

Siena fell victim to Purdue, 72-64, in the 2009-10 NCAA tournament when McCaffery was directing the MAAC program and Buonaguro was his lead assistant. Johnson was more than a handful for the Saints, one player they had difficulty matching up with. Johnson finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots in the contest.

In this year's NCAA event's first round Johnson was just about as good, getting 16 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks.

A few days prior to the game Saint Peter's coach Dunne expressed the difficulty of matching up with an athletic 6-10 player, the likes of which he did not have on his roster.

"We'll try to keep him out of the paint as much as we can and try to make his shots a little more difficult than usual," said Dunne.

While watching the game it was clear the Peacocks did force Johnson to get most of his points from the perimeter but to no avail. He still had little difficulty scoring, particularly early when the Boilermakers gained immediate control. And, Johnson was just as tough with his rebounding, ensuring Saint Peter's rarely got more than on shot on its possessions.

What your blogger saw was an athletically gifted 6-10 player with a nice shooting touch out to 17 or 18 feet, good timing when contesting shots and an ability to get rebounds in traffic despite a relatively slender frame.

Johnson will certainly need to bulk up to succeed in the pro game, and Celtics' coach Doc Rivers joked about that, telling the Boston Globe: "I bring him (Johnson) to my house to feed him every day if I have to."

Johnson appears to have most of the requisite physical tools to make it in the NBA. In fact, his game is very reminiscent of former 6-11 Rider standout Jason Thompson, who has had two strong seasons thus far in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings.

Far be it from me to predict stardom for Johnson, but based on what he did against MAAC teams over the past two seasons ... your hoopscribe thinks he's got a real chance for a nice pro career.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

NBA Draft Likely Won't Touch the MAAC

The last MAAC player to have been picked in the NBA's annual draft was Rider's 6-10 center/forward Jason Thompson.

There almost assuredly won't be another conference player joining him as a draftee when the pros select players in a two-round process tonight.

Siena's 6-9 center Ryan Rossiter, who finished second nationally in rebounding, is the only semi-candidate to get draft consideration. But, no mock draft figures that he'll get picked, and published comments from teams he has worked out for all speak to how his best chance at eventual time in the NBA is to first play professionally overseas, add 20 pounds of muscle and improve his outside shooting ability.

For basketball fans of upstate New York, though, there is a "rooting" interest in tonight's draft.

That would be for BYU's Jimmer Fredette, this year's College Basketball's Player of the Year who averaged 28.3 points per game.

The 6-foot-2 guard from Glens Falls, N.Y., has no connection to the MAAC other than he probably would have gone to Siena had he not chosen BYU, primarily because of his own Mormon religious faith.

Vastly underrecruited (almost no other schools ... and, certainly, no high majors ... recruited him), Fredette has made a career out of proving wrong those who doubted his ability to play at advancing levels and, it says here, he'll do the same in the NBA. He is projected to be drafted anywhere from seventh to 15th tonight.

Your hoopscribe has seen Fredette play in person a number of times, but none was more memorable than nine years ago when he was an eighth-grader playing with the Glens Falls High School's varsity.

At the time he was 5-foot-11 and slightly pudgy. But the memory is that after seeing him drain several shots from well beyond the 3-point stripe and finish with a point total in the high 20's, your scribe returned to his newspaper office to tell others about the Capital Region's next terrific player.

Anyway, the draft should be interesting tonight ... even if there isn't a MAAC connection.

And, maybe, Rossiter will eventually make it to the NBA. If he does, he will be the second Siena player to wear an NBA uniform. Former Saint Kenny Hasbrouck got several 10-day contract stints and was on the active roster of the Miami Heat during the 2009-10 season, but never got into a game.

Here is the list of all MAAC players who have been picked in the NBA draft since the conference's beginning in the 1981-82 season.

Included is draft slot and the team doing the selection. Not all of the MAAC players picked actually played in the NBA. Some got cut prior to getting into an NBA game. Others opted not to attend NBA workouts, heading directly to pro careers overseas, and others didn't pursue pro basketball at all.

Also, the majority oa players were picked before 1990. Through 1985 the NBA's draft lasted 10 rounds. In 1986 the draft was cut to seven rounds and, after that, was limited to just two rounds. it's current length.

Here's the draft list, in chronological order:

-1982: William Brown, Saint Peter's, 5th round, Boston Celtics.
-1983: Pete DeBisschop, Fairfield, 4th round, Seattle SuperSonics. Ed Bona, Fordham, 6th round, Phoenix Suns. David Maxwell, Fordham, 8th round, San Diego Clippers.
- 1984: Steve Burtt, Iona, 2nd round, Golden State Warriors; Ernie Floyd, Holy Cross, 5th round, Milwaukee Bucks; Gary Springer, Iona, 6th round, Philadelphia 76ers; Champ Godboldt, Holy Cross, 8th round, Boston Celtics; Phil Jamison, Saint Peter's, 10th round, New Jersey Nets.
- 1985: Steve Black, La Salle, 3rd round, Philadelphia 76ers; Albert Butts, La Salle, 5th round, Boston Celtics; Ralph Lewis, La Salle, 6th round, Boston Celtics.
- 1986: Jim McCaffrey, Holy Cross, 6th round, Phoenix Suns..
- 1990: Lionel Simmons, La Salle, 1st round, Sacramento Kings
- 1991: Doug Overton, La Salle, 2nd round, Detroit Pistons; Sean Green, Iona, 2nd round, Indiana Pacers.
- 1992: Randy Woods, La Salle, 1st round, Los Angeles Clippers.
- 2004: Luis Flores, Manhattan, 2nd round, Houston Rockets.
- 2007: Jared Jordan, Marist, 2nd round, Los Angeles Clippers.
- 2008: Jason Thompson, Rider, 1st round, Sacramento Kings.

The highest draft choice from the MAAC was Simmons, the seventh pick overall in 1990.Thompson was the No. 12 pick overall in 2008. Woods, the other first-round pick was No. 16 overall in 1992.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Girls' GymRat Event A Recruiting Mecca

The annual GymRat CHALLENGE AAU tournament for girls was played in these parts (New York's Capital Region) this past weekend, and there was a plethora of top-level talent on display.

A good many of the standout players here appear destined for MAAC teams at some point, which isn't unusual. Almost every conference team has at least one, if not more, GymRat alum.

Here's a look at some of the better players here who are involved in the recruiting process with MAAC teams. The majority, if not all, of these players are currently high school juniors about to enter their senior seasons:

- Kristin Schatzlein, a 6-0 forward who played for the NEBC Bombers and attends Tolland High School in Connecticut. She told talent evaluators here that she has already given a verbal commitment to Fairfield. She is a 6-foot-0 swing player with great court awareness and a terrific passing ability ... a "point forward" if you will. She is a very unselfish player who probably needs a little more strength, as do most high school players, to be a factor at the college level. Otherwise, she looks like she'll have success at Fairfield.

-Morgan Orlander, a 6-3 center, also of the NEBC Bombers. Although she did not reveal her college interests, she looks like a MAAC-level player. And her brother, 6-11 Ryan Olander, will be a senior at Fairfield this season. Morgan is very reminiscent of her brother in that she is tall and slender as a high school player, but very skilled.

- Lizzy Ball, a 5-7 piont guard who played with the NH Rivals team here and attends New Hampton H.S. Rider and Siena have both expressed interest thus far, along with a variety of America East schools. She is a feisty, scrappy player with terrific court vision and passing ability.

- Alee Lateria, a 5-11 forward who plays for the NH Rivals team and attends Hopkinton H.S. A couple of MAAC schools have made initial contact with her.

- Ashley Perez, a 5-8 point guard with the Ct. Starters (Manchester H.S.), who your hoopscribe also saw play in another tournament sponsored by the Albany Capitals' AAU program lst month. She would be a terrific MAAC player, but seems to be getting interest from higher levels (Providence, some CAA teams) as well. But, several MAAC schools have made contact with her.

- Tara Flynn a 5-6 point guard with the United NJ AAU Team who attends Bayonne High School. Although your hoopscribe did not see her play, she did express interest in several MAAC schools. The post-tournament report on her is that she can run a team and distribute, but is also a standout shooter.

- Briana Thomas, a 5-7 combo guard who plays for the Basketball Results AAU team. She is in contact with Manhattan, as well as some CAA and low-level Big East teams. A real scorer and strong physically.

- Anastasia Williams, a 5-11 forward who played for the Basketball Results AAU team. She said recruiting interest is coming from Siena, Northeastern and Providence. She had a strong build yet was fairly athletic and played tough and physically inside.

- Maddy Blais, a 6-0 small forward who played for the NH Rivals team. A slender perimeter player with a very nice shot out to 3-point range and a good ball-handler/decision-maker. She ia getting interest from Marist, Providence and Virginia Tech, among others.

- Stevie Ray, a 5-10 guard who played for the Central New York Rim Rockers. She is a good-sized guard who really pushed things in transition, showed the ability to hit from 3-point range and passed the ball well. Niagara is involved with her.

There were undoubtedly numerous others, but these players specifically mentioned MAAC schools as potential programs they were considering for their future.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Off-Season Report: Looking at St. Peter's

Here's another in the series looking at conference programs.

Up now ...


2010-11 RESULTS: 11-7 in MAAC play, 20-14 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: After a fourth-place conference finish in the regular-season, the Peacocks were the surprise team of the post season sweeping the MAAC tournament with wins over three very good teams: Loyola, regular-season champion Fairfield and, then, Iona. Saint Peter's mostly did it with defense as its field-goal percentage defense of .376 was second-best nationally and its points allowed total was 12th best nationally. That was never on display more than in the conference tournament where the Peacocks' dedication to a hard-nosed defensive style paid dividends and made offensive life miserable for three straight opponents. On the season the 20 overall victories was the first time that happened for the program since the 1994-95 season, which was the last time it went to the NCAA tournament. This time it went as the 14th-seeded team in a 16-team region and drew a difficult opponent in Purdue. The Boilermakers, who played a similarly strong defensive style as the Peacocks, earned a 65-43 win in the NCAA event.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The 20-win season was the culmination, a natural progression if you will, for three veteran seniors who grew up together. When guards Wesley Jenkins and Nick Leon and forward Ryan Bacon were freshmen the team finished 6-24 overall. That was followed by an 11-19 record and, then, a 16-14 mark when the trio were juniors. This past season was further evidence of the importance of veteran, intelligent players. The trio was joined by a another senior, Jeron Belin, who came aboard as a junior college transfer, and was the MAAC tournament's MVP. Jenkins finished his career with more than 1,500 points and Jenkins with more than 1,400. Bacon finished as the program's all-time leading shot-blocker and third on the all-time rebounding list. Jenkins' health, after suffering a preseason knee injury, was crucial. The injury was only a slight (and, not full) tear of a knee ACL which allowed him to rehab and return rather than sit out the season, and his 12.6 points per game led the team. Beilin, Leon and Bacon all contributed double-digit scoring. Steve Samuels, a 6-4 sophomore guard, also made significant contributions as did 6-7 sophomore forward Darius Conley. Without Jenkins early the Peacocks started off 0-3 against non-league opponents, but a 50-49 upset victory over Alabama followed and set the tone for what was to come. After the season more went right. Head coach John Dunne, whose work with the program got significant recognition, was a candidate for positions elsewhere but ultimately remained at Saint Peter's.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The Jenkins injury. He was not 100 percent at any time during the season. Had he not missed nine games the Peacocks surely would have had a few more regular-season victories. Still, it's hard to find much fault with how things turned out, a heartwarming story of how under recruited players struggled early and stuck together through difficult early times to earn an NCAA berth. The Peacocks' run through the MAAC tournament and into the NCAA's became a feel-good happening for a community and a program that benefited greatly from it.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The initial thought is that the loss of three starters and a 6th man who was the MAAC tournament's MVP will leave the program devastated and signal a return to something like the 6-24 record of 2007-08. But, that might not happen. Not long after the season ended Dunne spoke about how if he could get some front-court help his team might just be OK for the coming season. He got some help with the signing of 6-foot-8 Karee Ferguson from Lincoln Trail Junior College in Illinois. And, Dunne is still working the recruiting trails to find another inside player. The perimeter should be well-served even with the loss of Jenkins and Leon. Samuels certainly looked capable of stepping into a bigger role. Then, there's 6-2 junior guard Chris Prescott, a transfer from Saint Joseph's where he started 12 games as a sophomore two years ago. He practiced with the Peacocks last season and is eligible to play this coming year. Also in the program are Yvon Raymond (3.8 points, 2.8 rebounds), a key reserve this past season, junior-to-be guard Blaise Ffrench, a transfer from UTEP, and 6-4 sophomore-to-be Chris Burke. Ffrench and Burke both suffered early season injuries and neither one made significant contributions this past year, but both are highly regarded within the program. Ad then, there's 5-9 incoming point guard Lamin Fulton who could be a factor.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: The Peacocks probably won't contend for the regular-season title. With so many new faces getting into the playing group the coming year will be all about developing chemistry and improving as the season progresses. But, finishing in the top five isn't out of the realm of possibility. After that ... who knows? Saint Peter's finished fourth this past season, improving as the season went on, and was at its best at the end earning its NCAA berth.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Off-Season: Looking at Loyola Women

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

Up now....


2010-11 RECORD: 15-3 in MAAC play, 21-12 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: A spectacular season. The 15 conference victories accounted for the single-season's best by any Loyola basketball team, men or women. The only blemishes were the to-be-expected two to Marist and, surprisingly, one to Saint Peter's. The team, without a real inside player, thrived with its array of standout perimeter performers who really knew how to play. Plus, there was a nice early-season turnaround that came after an 0-5 start against non-league opponents. But that early schedule was difficult (including Pittsburgh, La Salle and West Virginia). Overall the Greyhounds were 3-7 during in-season non-conference play. But, they definitely benefitted from the experience. At one point they ran off nine straight victories against MAAC opponents, matching the program's all-time best winning streak. Of its 15 conference victories, six came by six points or fewer, a sign that the team just knew how to win games. And, then, in the conference's post-season tournament Loyola had a 3-point victory against followed by an overtime victory. That continued into national post-season play when Loyola earned a 67-65 win over Old Dominion in the first round of the WNIT.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: An extremely effective blending of strong perimeter talent helped mask any inside deficiencies the team had. It was more than that, though. Obviously coaching plays a role, and Joe Logan, through six seasons as head coach at the Baltimore school, has established himself as one of the conference's better program directors. Katie Sheahin, a 5-10 sopohomore guard who was pressed into point guard duty as a freshman due to a teammate's injury in 2009-10, blossomed at the position this past season and was arguably the best pure practitioner of the point guard spot in the league. One coached called her the biggest "game changer" in the league. Her 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left lifted Loyola to its 2-point vvictory over ODU in the WNIT's first round. Mariam McKenzie, an athletic 5-10 swingperson, was a first-team all-MAAC player as a junior and Erica Clemente, a fifth-year senior, provided veteran leadership and was the htird scoring option while finishing her career with more than 1,100 points. The 15 conference victories was the program's all-time best and the 21 overall wins matched Loyola's single-season record. Health was also in Loyola's favor. All five starters made it through the season unscathed and all five either started all 33 games, or 32 of them. The Greyhounds advanced to the MAAC tournament's championship game and held a 14-5 lead early against Marist before the Red Foxes pulled away for a victory. Still, it was all good enough to earn the WNIT berth.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Very little. The only thing that could have made Loyola better was a legit post presence. But the Greyhounds got by well enough without one. The program got slighted, it says here, in the post-season award. Or, at least, Sheahin did. Somehow she averaged 12.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, had 37 total blocked shots and finished second nationally in steals (3.7) and did not get picked, by league coaches, as a first-team all-MAAC selection. She did make second team, another indication that coaches traditionally favor upperclass performers in the all-star balloting and, surely, figured that with two years remaining Sheahin's time will come. She was, though, picked as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. Team-wise Loyola ran into a very good ACC program in Virginia in the second round of the WNIT, losing 71-49.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Probably another strong season as McKenzie and Sheahin, two of the league's top four or five players and both legitimate contenders to be next season's Player of the Year in the MAAC, are back. So too will be 6-1 sophomore Alyssa Sutherland (6.2 points, 4.1 rebounds) who looked like she might develop into the post presence the team needs. Nneka Offadile, a 6-1 freshman who averaged 3.0 rebounds in 13.7 points per game but had a raw offensive game, is also likely to step up and be more of a contributor. The losses of of DiClemente and forward meredith Tolley (7.4 points, 5.5 rebounds) will hurt, but there's enough coming back to ensure more good days for the program.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: Apart from Marist, Loyola will be as good as anyone in the league. Expect the Greyhounds to finish second or third this coming season.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Taking a Look at Coming Attractions

Just a reminder to pick up The Sporting News' College Basketball annual when it eventually hits newsstands/grocery stores/pharmacies, etc., some time in mid September.

This reminder was prompted by your hoopscribe's annual reception of the contract to produce the MAAC preview for the magazine, which I certainly believe to be the best of its kind available.

A little history ... The publication had existed under the Street & Smith banner for more than 40 years, and yours truly has some S&S publications dating back to the mid-to-late 1960s to prove it. A few years ago S&S merged with The Sporting News, and administrators opted to retain The Sporting News' identity under the belief that it was the more-identifiable of the two publications.

Your hoopscribe has been doing the MAAC preview for first S&S and, then, The Sporting News for the past 12 or 13 years. And, of course, I have been involved covering the MAAC in some form since 1989. So, the hope is that the material I pass along for publication is as insightful as any you'll find anywhere.

Of course, you'll find much, much more about the MAAC ... and expanded season previews on every program, both men's and women's ... right here on "Keepin' Track of the MAAC." News/insights/features can pop up on this site at any time since it's a year-round operation. The formal team-by-team previews will begin in late September/early October.

The deadline for the MAAC preview to be submitted to The Sporting News is mid-July.

Shortly after that I'll share, here, the order of my predicted final standings and, maybe, my choice for Player of the Year.

Hint: I'll be picking either Fairfield or Iona to finish first.

Although no national magazines publish extensive women's previews of the MAAC, I'll also share my predicted order of finish for the ladies.

Hint: Pretty strong likelihood that I'll be picking Marist to finish first.

Interested readers will also have access to extensive men's and women's conference previews, which I also produce, that are published in the MAAC's annual media guides that are available on line through the conference's website, Deadline for that material is usually mid-September and the guides become available for reading to coincide with the conference's annual media day in late October.

So even though summer is here, complete with 90-degree temperatures today in upstate New York, basketball season isn't that far away.

And all the material to help you get ready to follow your favorite conference teams will be available in coming months.

In the meantime, I'll be busy keeping up to speed on all the MAAC programs. And, I hope, you'll be getting ready to read.

And, as additional "program notes," you can view the Off-Season Report series right now. It's a individual look at every men's and women's team in the conference. Five men's and four women's off-season reports are up with more to follow in coming weeks.

After that, we'll do a team-by-team report/analysis of this past year's recruiting, looking at new players joining conference teams.

And, at some point, we'll check in with the conference's new head coaches and share their thoughts.

Again, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Off-Season Report: Loyola Men Moving Up

Here's another in the series looking at MAAC teams.

Up now ...


2010-11 RECORD: 10-8 in MAAC play, 15-15 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: The 10-8 record was the program's third-best ever in conference play, and was very nearly much better. The Greyhounds lost games by a point against Rider, by two against Niagara and by three against Saint Peter's. But, it also had some impressive close-margin victories, too, with wins over regular-season champion Fairfield by one; over conference-tournament winner Saint Peter's by two; and by third-place regular-season finisher Iona by three in overtime. Was a 15-15 overall record disappointing? Maybe a little, but let's put that in perspective. It wasn't that long ago that Loyola's program was one of the worst, in terms of record, in all of Division I with its 1-27 overall mark in the 2003-04 season. After that head coach Jimmy Patsos took over, and your blogging hoopscribe remembers him responding, at one point during a 6-22 2004-05 season's finish, to some fan heckling with words to the effect that "wait until I get my players here." Since then, his teams have been 94-92 overall and 55-53 in conference play, a vast improvement since that 1-27 season. This past season's team also made a nice move forward from a 6-12 MAAC record the previous year to its 10-8 performance in 2010-11. This past season was a blending of some veterans (center Shane Walker and point guard Brian Rudolph) and newcomers (transfer Erik Etherly and contributing freshmen Dylan Cormier and Justin Drummond). All things considered, finishing fifth in the conference and getting double digit league victories for just the third time in the program's affiliation with MAAC was anything but a disappointment.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Start with two real good freshmen guards in 6-4 Justin Drummond (9.8 points, 3.1 rebounds) and 6-2 Dylon Cormier (8.1, 3.0). If they make the expected step up from first-year player to experienced performer, then Loyola's perimeter play should be strong for the foreseeable future. The 6-10 Walker continued to establish himself as one of the better big men in the conference, averaging 11.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and blocking 47 blocks. And Etherly, a 6-7 transfer from Northeastern, proved an effective front-court performer (10.8 points, 7.6 rebounds). Rudolph had a nice senior year as the team's point guard, averaging 4.4 assists per contest and finishing second all-time on the Greyhounds' career assist chart. J'hared Hall, a 6-2 junior guard, became a nice offensive force off the bench, averaging 8.8 points, making 41 3-pointers and shooting .462 percent from the field, a terrific percentage for a perimeter player. It was enough to earn him the 6th Man of the Year award in the MAAC. Sophomore Robert Olson, another perimeter player, a 6-6 swingman, also had a nice year (9.1 points, 3.0 rebounds). The regular-season victories over Fairfield, Iona and Saint Peter's showed that the Greyhounds could play with any MAAC team on a given night. However, a loss to Niagara and a regular-season ending setback against Canisius also indicated that there was too much inconsistency for this past season's team to have done better than its final record.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Start with the continuing saga of gifted guard Jamal Barney who was in and out of the lineup through 16 games before he and the program had a parting of the ways. Barney was averaging 10.3 points before his departure and, had led the MAAC in scoring in the 2008-09 season. Had Barney, who had a litany of personal issues, resembled the former scoring leader that he was ... well, Loyola assuredly would have won a few more games. Then again, his continued presence might have meant less playing time for the youngsters, who surely will benefit from the year's experience. Then, too, the team dealt with transition ... two freshmen and a transfer getting major minutes. Anthony Winbush, a 6-7 junior forward who averaged 7.3 points and 3.9 rebounds as a sophomore, was injured in the season's eighth game and didn't return. And Julius Brooks, a 6-9 sophomore forward who flashed some signs as a freshman, missed 12 midseason games and never regained his freshman year's effectiveness. The close losses might have been a little troubling, but they were balanced off by quality close victories, too.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Expectations are that Loyola will move forward next season. Right now it looks like Fairfield and Iona are considered the top two teams for 2011-12, but Loyola isn't far behind with this past season's top six scorers (excluding Barney) returning along with the likely return to full health of Winbush and Brooks. Someone, though, needs to step into the point guard's role vacated by Rudolph. That might be Cormier. Or, it could be incoming freshman R.J. Williams, a four-year starter at Baltimore's strong St. Francis Academy. Otherwise the team returns just about everyone else of note, and that experience will mean less transition and, theoretically, improved team "chemistry." Overall the 2011-12 product might be the best collection of talent Patsos has had compared to his previous seven years with the program. Patsos is a proverbial lightning rod, his on- and off-court antics both innovative and, at times, slightly puzzling. But, he can definitely coach and the view here is that he'll take a program he has already restored to respectability to the next level. It might happen this year, or very quickly after that. More help is coming as 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward Jordan Latham, who played this past season as a freshman at Xavier, transferred in and will be eligible for the 2012-13 season.

2011-12 PREDICTION: The likelihood is a third- or a fourth-place finish for the coming season, another step forward. But the Greyhounds certainly appear capable of foiling that prediction and competing for the top spot, particularly if a point guard steps up.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Big Transfer Joins Marist Women's Team

Followers of women's college basketball expecting the Marist women's basketball team to start slipping a little at some point probably need to wait at least a few more years for that to happen, particularly in light of a recent transfer to the program.

As if the Red Foxes, who have won the MAAC's regular season title for so many years in succession it's hard to keep track, needed help, they got some when they added a big piece in a literal sense with the recent announcement that 6-foot-2 forward Tori Jarosz will join the program as a transfer from Vanderbilt.

Here's a link to a recent story about Jarosz's decision, in the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper:

We have more to go on than just that report about Jarocz's ability. Your blogging hoopscribe, in his role as a talent evaluator with the annual girls GymRat CHALLENGE AAU tournament played in upstate New York, got a first-hand look at Jarosz in several of the games she played in the 2009 version of the GymRat.

Here's the report on Jarosz, based on her tournament performance that year:

Tori Jarosz 6-2 Center (Long Island Xtreme/Lakeland H.S.): Strong, solid build who uses her size well inside, yet also runs the court well. Very good basic skills around the basket. Good hands, makes the tough catch. Rugged inside player with a knack for putting the ball in the basket. Has already committed to Vanderbilt.

Your hoopscribe recalls her as a gifted, true and solidly built post player whose inside work looked like it would be effective at a level higher than the MAAC.

She spent this past season as a freshman at Vanderbilt, where she saw her playing time limited due to some good upperclass front-court players. At Vandy she was listed at 6-3. When she played at the GymRat, prior to her senior season in high school, she was listed at 6-2.

No matter the height, even at 6-2 she combines the type of height and powerful inside game rarely seen in the MAAC.

Jarosz got in just six games for 15 total minutes at Vanderbilt this past season. She scored just one point but had eight rebounds and blocked four shots.

As per NCAA rules she will sit out the coming season but is allowed to practice with Marist. She will be eligible to play from the start of the 2012-13 season and have three remaining years of playing eligibility.

Jarosz is a more-than-adequate replacement for a player Marist lost due to transfer recenty. The 6-foot-4 sophomore Kate Oliver left Marist shortly after this past season and will attend USC.

Jarosz, a true inside performer, is a different type player than Oliver whose strengths were primarily on the perimeter.

Before college Jarosz attended Lakeland High School in Putnam County, about 50 miles south of Poughkeepsie.

College coaches are prohibited from commenting on a player until either they sign a national letter of intent, or begin attending classes at the school in the fall. But, Marist officials are allowed to, and have, confirmed that Jarosz has indeed transferred to their school.

Off-Season Report: Griff Women Strong

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

Up now ...


2010-11 RESULT: 6-12 record in MAAC play, 11-19 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: The 6-12 league mark was good for 7th place, but the 11-19 overall ledger was the program's worse since a 9-19 finish in 2000-01. And, back-to-back losing seasons (12-19 overall in 2009-10) marked the first time the Golden Griffins have had successive under-.500 records since a seven-year stretch from 1995-96 through 2001-02. The good news here, though, is that the losing trend isn't likely to continue. If nothing else this past season was enjoyable in the sense that there was a large cast of young, promising players and the emphasis was heavily on player development that should pay off in coming years. Even with that in mind, a 7th-place finish, just a single game behind sixth-place finisher Iona, wasn't bad. Still, it dropped Canisius into the post-season tournament's play-in round where it knocked off proximitous rival Niagara. The Griffs beat the Purple Eagles three times overall in 2010-11, which is never a bad thing from the Canisius view of things. The Griffs were respectable in a 68-53 quarterfinal-round tournament loss to second-place finisher Loyola, a nice building block for coming seasons.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Primarily the development of one of the stronger freshmen classes the conference has seen in recent memory. It included 6-foot-4 centers Jamie Ruttle (8.9 points, 4.5 rebounds) and Jen Lennox (4.9, 3.7), 6-1 forward Courtney VandeBovenkamp (4.7, 4.5) and 5-9 guard Jen Morabito (8.1, 2.3, team-high 46 3's). All four earned the MAAC's Rookie of the Week award at least once during the past season, the first time in conference history that four players from a single program have won that award at least once. It most definitely bodes well for coming years. Senior Micayla Drysdale also had a nice senior season (9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds) and was a veteran presence/go-to player the program needed.

WHAT WENT WRONG: All that youth (Drysdale was the only senior contributor) ensured the record wouldn't be any better. The team probably maxed out in terms of results, and struggled against the conference's better teams going 1-9 against the top five finishers (beating only 4th-place Siena) and 5-3 against teams in the lower half of the standings. There really was no consistent "go-to" offensive player. Drysdale's 9.0 points made her the team's leading scorer. As good as the freshmen looked at times, there were other times when they all played like freshmen. Ashley Durham, who had a promising freshman season in 2009-10 didn't have the step-up sophomore season coach Terry Zeh had hoped for. Durham didn't quite perform as well as the team's point guard as the Griffs expected, starting just 13 games. But, she remains a talented player and seemed to be more comfortable filling the role Zeh wants for her late in the season.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Bright days, very bright ones. When ... make that "if" ... perennial league champion Marist ever slips a little, it looks like Canisius is next in line to step up. That might not happen this coming season, although the Griffs will almost assuredly make positive movement, but expect the program to be back in championship contention for 2012-13 and 2013-14 and, maybe, beyond that. Not only is everyone but Drysdale returning, but there's help coming in as well. Kayla Hoohuli, a 5-10 incoming freshman from St. Mary's High School in Pa., was named to the prestigious Parade Magazine All-America Team, and she might be the first MAAC player ever accorded that award. She averaged 28.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.5 steals, 4.3 assists and 3.8 blocks per game as a high school senior. If she's as good as advertised she could be immediate contributor. Then, there's Steph McDonald (6.6 points, 5.2 rebounds), a redshirt sophomore this past season. All in all, Canisius looks well-stocked for several nice years ahead.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: Marist looks to be the conference's elite team for the coming season, but after that there's likely to be a scramble. It would be a surprise if Canisius finished lower than fourth or fifth this coming season.