Saturday, July 30, 2011

Recruiting: Nice Additions for Marist Men

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

Up now ....


- Chavaughn Lewis, 6-5 guard/forward, St. Mary's H.S./Manhasset, N.Y.

He averaged 23.9 points per game this past season and his team reached the New York State Federation Tournament championship game.

"He has the potential to be a prolific scorer," said Marist coach Chuck Martin. "His size and his uncanny ability to score the ball are tremendous. The sky really is the limit for him. He's the highest rated player from New York State I've ever recruited at Marist."

- T.J. Curry, 6-1 guard, Christ the King H.S./NYC

No high school statistics are available, although his scoring average was just slightly over double figures. Capable of playing both guard spots.

"He's made a living doing the intangibles," said Martin. "He's a proven winner and a strong, physical combo guard who imposes his will on the game. He can impact the game on the defensive end, and he has the ability to make open deep shots."

- Isaiah Morton, 5-8 point guard, St. Augustine (N.J.) Prep

He averaged 24.9 points and 9 assists as a junior, and 21.1 points as a senior.

"He's a prolific scorer from the point guard spot," said Martin. "He's going to be outstanding in the open floor. I think he's going to excel in our style of play."

- Manny Thomas, 6-5 guard/forward, Xaverian H.S./Brooklyn.

No statistics available.

"He's a long, athletic wing who can be terrific on the defensive end and keep people honest on the offensive end," said Martin. "His best days are ahead of him. We think he's going to make a tremendous impact on our program."

ANALYSIS: Marist needed height (only one likely contributor over 6-6 on the roster), and didn't get any. Thomas and Lewis are both perimeter players and won't help with the rebounding. Lewis has been listed as being 6-3 (not 6-5) in some reports, but will help a lot, maybe right away. He and Curry are best friends and a variety of sources indicated they would join a school as a "package." Several schools, some others in the MAAC, weren't willing to take both players. Morton might be the best of the bunch, even at 5-8. Height is important, but one of the league's all-time best players, Keydren Clark, was only 5-8, too. Marist's future progress will be predicated on Lewis and Morton. But, the program lost three players, through attrition, who would have been contributors this year. To expect freshmen to fill those roles isn't realistic. Provided everyone stays in place, better days for the Red Foxes are likely to begin in the 2012-13 season.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Recruiting: Key Parts for Canisius Women

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

Up now ...


- Brooke Angelos, 5-7 point guard, Villa Maria Academy of Buffalo

She averaged 12.7 points per game as a high school senior.

"Brooke is a tremendous all-around player who really understands the game," Canisius head coach Terry Zeh said. "Her ability to see the floor and defend on the perimeter will really help us at the guard position."

- Ashley Gomez, 5-8 guard, Murray Bergraum H.S., Brooklyn.

She averaged 8.0 points per game as a high school senior.

"Ashley comes from a storied high school program in Murry Burgraum," Zeh said. "She has a tremendous feel for the game and brings the ability to play multiple guard positions."

- Kayla Hoohuli, 5-10 guard, St. Mary's (Pa.) H.S.

She averaged 28.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.2 steals and 4.3 assists per game as a high school senior.

"Kayla is a prolific scorer as we saw with her scoring 52 points in a playoff game," Zeh said. "She has the ability to shoot it from deep, score the basketball and is a great athlete who fits in well to our system."

- Ashley Wilkes, 5-11 forward, Miami-Dade Junior College.

She averaged 18.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this past season.

"A powerful athletic forward, Ashley's ability to rebound the basketball in traffic and score will really help us," Zeh said.

ANALYSIS: Canisius already has plenty of young height, so the influx of perimeter players should help. Wilkes is the lone forward of the incoming foursome, but she is a true power forward, and an experienced one with two years of JC play, and should help right away. Hoohuli was named to the 40-member Parade All-American team, and she is believed to be the only player thus honored to ever join a MAAC program. Her high school statistics are astronomical. By all accounts she should be ready to play and contribute right away. Angelos is a true point guard and joins a team that was lacking at that position last year. Gomez can play both guard spots. This is a good class that joins an already young and building team that should get the Golden Griffins into championship contention in the not-so-distant future.

Reruiting: Transition for Canisius Men

Here's another in the series looking at players joining conference programs for the coming season.

Up now ....


- Freddie Asprilla, 6-10, 275-pound center, transfer from Kansas State.

Asprilla averaged 4.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game at Kansas State in 16 games last season before a "mutual decision" was made that it was in his best interest to leave that program. Initially announced that he would pursue professional opportunities in South America before he opted to attend Canisius in order to complete degree work. Due to transfer rules, he is not eligible until the 2012-13 season and has just one year of playing eligibility left.

- Jose Agosto, 6-6 Forward, Gatlenburgh (Tenn.)-Pittman H.S.

He averaged 16 points and 9.6 rebounds per game as a high school senior.

- Josiah Heath, 6-9, 230-pound center, Irondequoit H.S., Rochester, N.Y.

He averaged 21 points and 16.6 rebounds per game as a high school senior.

- Jordan Heath, 6-10, 225-pound center, transfer from Robert Weslyan College of Rochester.

He averaged 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game at Robert Weslyan, an NAIA-level school, this past season. He has two remaining years of eligibility, beginning in the 2012-13 season. He is the older brother of Josiah Heath.

- Isaac Sosa, 6-3 guard, transfer from Central Florida.

He averaged 8.0 points per game at Central Florida this past season as a junior. Over three years there he has made 190 3-pointers. He has one remaining year of eligibility beginning in the 2012-13 season.

- Franklin Milian, 6-4 guard, Our Savior New American School of Long Island.

He averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds per game as a high shool senior.

- David Santiago, 6-4 guard, transfer from American University School in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

He averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds per game as a freshman at the Puerto Rico school in the 2009-10 season. He was at Canisius this past season and, as per transfer rules, was allowed to practice with the team. He is eligible to play this season.

- Kevin Bleeker, 6-10 enter, BV Noordkop Club Team of Holland.

He just competed in the under-18 division of the European Championships earlier this month and averaged 4.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in five games.

- Harold Washington, 6-1 guard, transfer from Cecil (Md.) Community College.

He averaged 13 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game this past season. As a junior college transfer he is eligible immediately.

ANALYSIS: No conference program has more incoming players, and no program needed them more than the Golden Griffins, who graduated five seniors who made major contributions to the team this past season. The problem, though, is that three incoming players are transfers from four-year schools and won't be eligible until 2012-13.

So, let's start with everyone else. Josiah Heath, by most reports, might not be an immediate contributor but has future potential and much needed size. Agosta, a well-built forward, appears capable of contending for early playing time. The others ... Milian, Santiago and Washington ... are guards. Washington, a JC transfer, appears most-likely to get significant minutes early. It should also be interesting to see how Santiago adjusts from playing in Puerto Rico to competing at the U.S. college level, although a year of practicing with the Griffs this past season likely helped. There is no way of knowing if the 6-10 Bleeker can help out right away, but the history of foreign big men impacting programs at this level early in their careers isn't in his favor.

The Griffs' returning strength, though, is perimeter players. While the incoming guards don't hurt, the program needed height. And, most of that height, particularly Asprilla, is a year away.

Asprilla is an interesting newcomer in a lot of ways. First, his size (6-10, 275 pounds) and talent level far surpasses what the MAAC usually sees. Then again, there are reasons why Canisius will be the fifth college he'll attend (one year at Florida International, one semester at Miami-Dade Junior College, one semester at Cloud (Kan.) Community College and a year at Kansas St.). He's a gamble, but he has the type of talent coaches are willing to take that gamble with, even if only for one season. When he graduates (May, 2013), he will be 25 years old.

The elder Heath has nice statistics, but they were recorded at the NAIA level, where the level of play traditionally equates to somewhere between the NCAA's Division II and Division III.

Sosa, if nothing else, is an effective long-range sniper.

This certainly will be an interesting year of transition at Canisius, with the blending of newcomers who can play right away with the addition of the non-eligible transfer players. If everyone stays in place, the Griffs could be a very interesting team to watch in the 2012-13 season.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Niagara Women Recruits Should Help

Here's another in the series looking at new players joining conferene teams.

Up now ....


- Lauren Gatto, 6-2 center, transfer from University of Illinois-Chicago.

A native of Pittsburgh, Gatto averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game as a college freshman, including a career-high seven rebounds in a Nov. 2008 meeting with Niagara. She is a true post player.

- Gabby Baldasare, 6-1 G/F, Vincentian Academy of Pittsburgh.

Baldasare won the 2010-11 Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) Class A Player of the Year and was named to the first team all-conference and first team all-state during her senior season for the Vincentian Academy Royals. Baldasare was an instrumental part of the 2010-11 Royals team that went 21-1 and unbeaten (10-0) in the WPIAL Section 2 Class A. As a junior, Baldasare averaged 14 ppg and helped lead the Royals to a 19-8 record en route to the WPIAL Class A championship and advanced to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (PIAA) semifinals. No senior season statistics are available.

“Gabby is great at all facets of her game playing at the high post,” said Niagara coach Kendra Faustin said. I see her being very successful in transition and hitting the boards.”

- Meghan MGuiness, 5-10 G, Middletown South H.S., Lincroft, N.J.

She averaged 18.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a high school senior.

"Meghan is a tireless worker and her strength and skills reflect that,” Faustin said. “She is an all-around player who can handle the basketball, pass and really shoot it well.”

- Val McQuade, 6-0 G, Shaler Area H.S., Pittsburgh.

She averaged 15.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game as a high school senior.

“Val is a gifted, tough, tall guard with a high basketball IQ,” Faustin said. “One of her best attributes to our program is she is able to really stretch defenses with her shooting ability."

- Kelly VanLeeuan, 5-9 G, St. John's College, Branford, Ont.

Van Leeuwen helped the St. John’s College Green Eagles (Brantford, Ont.) to consecutive Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association (CWOSSA) titles. The 2010-11 team went 36-6 and won the 2010 Brant County crown on its way to defending its CWOSSA championship. The Green Eagles were seeded second in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) AAAA Tournament where they advanced to the bronze medal game; Van Leeuwen led the team with 22 points. She has championship experience nationally, too. She led Team Ontario to the Canadian under-15 girls’ championship in 2008.

"Kelly is a student of the game and has remarkable discipline and work ethic,” Faustin said. “She understands the value of the basketball and is an excellent passer, which makes those around her better.”

ANALYSIS: No team in the conference needs help more than Niagara, which went 0-18 in league play and 1-29 overall last season. But, it's on the way particularly with Gatto, an inside player who should have a big impact right away. Niagara has struggled on the boards in reent years, but the program has brought in height with Gatto and freshmen Baldasare and McQuade. And, VanLeeuwan and McGuiness both bring the prospect of offensive firepower. The four freshman and the transfer (Gatto) should help turn things around for Niagara.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Transfers To Impact Two Women's Teams

Some of the best players to ply their wares in the MAAC have come via transfer from higher-level programs.

Luis Flores of Manhattan began his career at Rutgers, came to the MAAC for his sophomore season and was twice the conference's Player of the Year; Andre Collins spent three years at Maryland before transferring to Loyola where he led the MAAC in scoring as a senior.

Loyola's front court right now, a good one with center Shane Walker (who began at Maryland) and Erik Etherly (Northeastern), is made up of two transfers.

Ryan Schneider played three years at Vermont before transferring to Marist, where he had an all-star caliber senior season.

And, so it goes. Nearly every conference program has benefitted from a transfer from a four-year school.

But, notice, that "trend" has occurrred almost exclusively on the men's side.

It doesn't happen as often for women's programs. Outside of Maureen Magarity, who initially played at Boston College before transferring to Marist (where her father, Dave Magarity, was serving as the men's coach), your hoopscribe can't think of another truly impact women's transfer. Please feel free to use the comment section to jog my memory.

But, suddenly, two women's programs have added transfers who, by all accounts, should be standout players when each becomes eligible in the 2012-13 season.

Two months ago Marist was able to bring in Tori Jarosz, a strong post player who saw limited time this past season as a freshman at Vanderbilt. Listed as either 6-foot-2, or 6-3, Jarosz is a true center who impacts games at both ends of the court.

She not only joins the conference's strongest program, but fills a tough-to-find position ... a true inside player ... at this level. She will have three seasons of eligibility once she can begin playing in games.

The other impact transfer landed at Siena recently as 5-8 point guard Janine Davis joined the Saints after playing two seasons at George Washington University. She will have two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2012-13.

Davis, a native of Jamaica, N.Y., appeared in 28 games (13 starts) at GW as a freshman and led the team in assists. Her time as a sophomore was limited due to some injuries.

Prior to college she was ranked the 20th-best high school point guard in the country, with a Scouts Grade of 90, according to ESPN HoopGurlz, while she played at St. Michaels' Academy. She led that program to New York State's Federation Tournament championship.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Look at Niagara Men's Reruiting

Here's the first in a series examining players joining MAAC teams, either via traditional recruiting or through a transfer situation.

Your scribe will offer opinions of players he knows something about, whether through personal observation on the AAU circuit, or by word of mouth from sources who have seen the player involved.

And, now, the annual cautionary note: We all love to talk about new players coming into the conference. They bring a fresh sense of hope, a promise of great days on the court.

But please remember that this is an inexact sience. For every impact transfer, like former Manhattan star Luis Flores or former Loyola standout Andre Collins, there are at least an equal number of players dropping down to the MAAC from higher-level conferences who don't have much of an impact. No need to name them.

And, highly touted recruits coming in directly from high school or prep school don't always have the expected flash.

But, some highly overlooked players often becomd the conference's biggest surprises. Your scribe remembers a certain undersized guard a few years back who accepted the only real Division I level offer he received.

That offer came from Saint Peter's, and the player was 5-foot-8 Keydren Clark. All Clark did was lead the nation in scoring in consecutive seasons and become one of just a very select group of players with 3,000 career points.

Anyway, our recruiting reports have no particular order. We'll just concentrate on one program at a time, doing the same for women as for men.

First up ...


- Ali Langford, 6-6, 225-pound forward from Allen Hancock Junior College in California.

Langford averaged 21.6 points and 12.8 rebounds per game in junior college this past season.

"He is a high-energy, fill-up-the-stats-sheet kind of guy," said Niagara coach Joe Mihalich, about Langford. "He is undersized, but is all over the floor."

- Juan'ya Green, 6-3, 200-pound guard, Archbishop Carroll H.S. (Pa.)

He averaged 21 points, 5.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game as a junior this past season, and drew recruiting interest from, among others, Villanova, Temple, St. Joseph's, Maryland, George Mason and Drexel.

"He is one of those players that gets you excited when he has the ball in his hands," said Mihalich. "When he doesn't have the ball, you an't wait until he gets it back."

Ameen Tanksley, 6-4, 175-pound guard, Imhotep harter School, Philadelphia.

A swingman at the high school level Tanksley averaged 14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks per game this past season. He also drew interest from, among others, Hofstra and VCU.

"He doesn't have a position ... he is just a player," Mihalich said. "He is extremely versatile and beats you any way he can."

ANALYSIS: Langford is likely to be an immediate contributor, and Niagara's fortunes this season could depend on just how much he's able to contribute. The Purple Eagles need help inside, and he seems capable of providing it. Green and Tanksley are both highly sought-after perimeter players. Niagara was already fairly well-stocked on the perimeter, but head coach Joe Mihalich certainly knows how to use guards and has never been adverse to using unconventional lineups to succeed. Overall, a nice incoming group that should help Niagara return to winning seasons in the foreseeable future.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An Early Look at How They'll Finish

Here's the annual commercial break to advise readers to purchase the upcoming College Basketball Annual issue of The Sporting News.

Although it will hit newsstands everywhere in late September, printing deadlines required an early July submission of league previews.

Your hoopscribe, as I have been doing for more than a decade, provided the preseason look at the MAAC.

I will say, hopefully with full objectivity, that The Sporting News' college hoops preview magazine is the best of its kind out there. It only contracts with correspondents who actually cover leagues they write about. In my case ... well, I've been covereing MAAC basketball in some form or other since 1989.

Anyway, The Sporting News does not permit its writers to duplicate its previews elsewhere. So, you'll have to buy the magazine to read the MAAC insights.

That said, here is a very brief synopsis of how I picked the order of finish for the 2011-12 MAAC regular-season standings ... you'll have to buy the magazine to see my picks for Top player, newcomer, coach and the preseason all-star team:

1) Iona. Mike Glover and Scott Machado are two of the top five players in the league and both are seniors. A strong supporting cast also returns.

2) Fairfield. As much talent as any team, but also much transition in a new coach and two eligible transfers.

3) Loyola. Just about every player of significance returns except graduated point guard Brian Rudolph. Shane Walker and Erik Etherly are a nice inside duo.

4) Rider. Novar Gadson poised for a big senior season and incoming transfer Jeff Jones is eligible and should have a significant impact.

5) Saint Peter's. Four seniors graduated, yet Blaise Ffrench and Chris Burke should step up, other role players return and transfer guard Chris Prescott, now eligible, will provide scoring.

6) Niagara. Antoine Mason is healthy, Marvin Jordan had a nice rookie year, many role players return and recruiting has helped.

7) Siena. Rakeem Brookins should have a big year, but several freshman from the incoming six-person first-year class will need to contribute.

8) Manhattan. Jaspers could finish higher as trio of George Beamon, Mike Alvarado and Rhamel Brown is above average.

9) Canisius. Guard Gaby Belardo is the only significant returnee. Griffs have several incoming transfers who aren't eligible until 2012-13.

10) Marist. The defection of three key players since last season all but ensures the Red Foxes will struggle once again.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Off-Season: Solid Returnees Lead Fairfield

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

Up now ...


2010-11 RECORD: 10-8 in MAAC play, 17-13 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: It wasn't that long ago when this past season's record would have been a source of considerable pride. From 2001-02 through 2006-07 the program went six straight years without bettering the .500 mark. That stretch cost veteran coach Dianne Nolan her job. In came Joe Frager, who helped turn the program around, returning it to some semblance of when it was traditionally around the top of the league standings. In Frager's first three years the Stags finished 22-9, 18-13 and 20-14. Year No. 4 of Frager's tenure looked like more of the same ... maybe a little better ... as Fairfield opened with a 10-4 mark in league play and a 17-8 overall record. And, then, came the season's last five games, all losses. Albeit, the setbacks came against quality teams: Loyola (which finished 2nd in the MAAC, Manhattan (3rd), Marist (1st) and twice to Siena (4th). It still was a good, solid season, but just not as good as it looked like it might have been before the losing streak. Overall, Fairfield had success despite a lack of a true post player and without much depth. Still, 2010-11 marked the program's fourth consecutive winning season, and there doesn't look like there's an end to that streak of success on the horizon.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Junior Taryn Johnson, a gifted and versatile forward, averaged 12.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and blocked 55 shots on the season. Sophomore Katelyn Linney, who burst on the scene as a freshman (10.2 points, 67 3-pointers) stepped it up as a sophomore (12.7 points, 76 3's) as one of the most-dangerous snipers in the conference. Desiree Pina, who began her career as an off-guard, had a solid second season as a point guard. Role players Joelle Nawrocki (5.5) and 6-1 Brittany McFarlane (4.8, 6.4) were valuable contributors. The team also opened strongly, starting 10-3 with the only losses coming to Villanova, Hofstra and Rhode Island, all from higher-level conferences. As always, the result was better than the parts would have indicated. Much of Fairfield's success came from its work on the defensive end where it ranked fourth nationally in fewest points allowed.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The Stags didn't "step up" against quality opponents like their predecessors did. Fairfield was the only MAAC team with a win over Marist in both the 2008-09 and '09-10 seasons. But, in 2010-11 Fairfield went 0-8 against the four teams that it finished behind in the conference standings. The Stags struggled to score points, finishing 296th of 330 Division I teams nationally in points-per-game average, and that was never more evident than late in the season when it scored 44, 45 and 33 points in its final three contests. It lost by a 36-33 score to Siena in the MAAC tournament's quarterfinal-round contest as the teams combined for the lowest point total in a conference tournament game in the league's 30-year history. Johnson, at 5-11, was the team's only player who had any success inside, and she struggled against taller opponents. Pina fell off considerably, dropping to 9.9 points per game after averaging 12.1 as a sophomore. Her outside shot was wildly inconsistent, and she finished with a field-goal percentage of .292 enabling opponents to back off her defensively. There wasn't much depth. Offensive-minded sophomore Laura Vetra and slender 6-2 freshman Katie Cizynski both contributed some off the bench, but no other player averaged more than 8.2 minutes of playing time per game.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Only Nawrocki graduates, meaning six of the seven-member playing group returns. The expected year's improvement should mean more of the same, at the very least ... another winning season, another run at 20 victories. Plus, two key players (Johnson and Pina) will be seniors, and that type of experience never hurts. The program, though, didn't seem to address its greatest need: a post player. McFarlane, a 6-1 junior, might help address that need. Otherwise, recruiting brought in only more help for the backcourt with the top recruit likely to be Felicia DaCruz, a four-year starter at Albertus Magnus H.S. in Bardonia, N.Y., who will probably serve a one-year apprenticeship behind Pina. Still, Frager has shown he knows how to get the best out of his teams and how to overcome deficiencies. The coming year's Fairfield team will have some deficiencies, and Frager will find a playing style that best suits the talent he has.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: Considering that the team's top three players are back, as well as six of the top seven ... it's hard to envision anything other than an improvement over last season's solid record. The prediction here is that Fairfield will be in the mix, right behind Marist, battling for second or third place.

NOTE: This wraps up the post-season reports on each of the men's and women's conference teams. Next up we'll start taking a team-by-team look at new players joining leauge programs for the upcoming season.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Off-Season: Iona Women Set To Rebound

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

Up now ...


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

2010-11 RECAP: It's far too easy to say 2010-11 was a disappointing season for the Gaels, and it was. But, Iona no longer lives and dies with a single year's result. This is a program in fine shape, molded so by head coach Tony Bozzella, who will be entering his 10th season directing Iona. There wasn't much talent in place when he arrived and his first team finished 1-27. But, in the five years from 2005-06 through 2009-10, his teams averaged 18.8 victories per season. Iona has become one of the conference's top women's programs in recent years, and a one year anomaly won't change that. And, things surely would have been better this past season had stellar point guard Suzi Fregosi been healthy. Instead the player who is arguably the conference's best pass-first point guard suffered a hip injury in Iona's eighth game and never returned. Without her, the on-court direction wasn't nearly as good, as evidenced by the fact that the team lost five league contests by six points or less with three of those in overtime contests. Reverse just three of those decisions and the Gaels would have finished a respectable 10-8 in league play. Instead, they had to rely on career-long reserve senior Marissa Flagg to step in at the point. And, while Flagg performed admirably ... she wasn't anywhere near the player that Fregosi is. Team ball movement suffered and a number of players didn't have the production expected of them.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: After the loss of Fregosi, not much. Again ... five losses by six or fewer points, a sign that the team was close but not quite good enough. Still, it was competitive most nights. Kristina Ford, a workhorse 6-1 senior-to-be forward had a nice season (12.0 points, 6.2 rebounds). She had a strong 18-point, 9-rebound effort in the team's final game, a 59-47 loss to Manhattan in the first round of the conference's post-season tournament, maybe a sign that a spectacular senior season is coming up. Departing senior Anda Ivkovic finished her strong career averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in her final year, finishing with 1,163 career points. Jackie Marshall, a freshman guard, had one eye-opening performance, scoring 17 points while hitting five three-pointers in 21 minutes of time in an early February game against Rider. Flagg, a career-long reserve who averaged less than two points per game over her first three years, did better than expected as Fregosi's replacement, averaging 6.5 points and 2.9 assists per game.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Enough that Iona followers should just discount last season as one-of-those-years and move on. But, to summarize ... Start with the loss of Fregosi, the floor general. Her loss was as significant as any in the conference this past season, and severely hindered the Gaels. Even before that, sophomore Diana Hubbard, who looked like a promising up-and-coming player in 2009-10 as a rookie, suffered a preseason concussion, missed the team's first six games and, then, struggled after that. She averaged 7.3 points and 3.7 rebounds, numbers that basically matched her freshman production (7.0, 2.5). Ivkovic was returning after a late 2009-10 season ACL injury, was forced to wear a restrictive knee brace all season and was clearly not the player she was previously. On top of everything else, Iona wasn't its usual physical force inside, getting outrebounded by an average of three per game. And, Iona had been picked to finish second in the conference, so things were pretty disappointing overall.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Probably a return to something approximating the 18.8 wins-per-year average of the previous five seasons. Every key player other than Ivkovic returns. Flagg also graduates, but Fregosi is expected back, which should jump-start the offense considerably. While Fregosi doesn't score much (she averaged 2.4 points per game before getting hurt last year), everyone else's scoring seems to go up when she's delivering passes. It means Ford will probably be one of the better scorers in the league this coming season. And, Hubbard should make the move forward expected of her this past season that, probably because of the early season concussion, never happened. There is height in place, too. Malica Paligoric (4.8, 4.2) is a 6-3 center and Tomica Bacic (7.6, 5.6) is a 6-0 forward/guard, and both are seniors and might deliver more than last season. Bozzella has also been adept at finding players from overseas, and brings in Jiya Dorcas-Eya, a 6-2 forward originally from Nigeria. Dorcas-Eya, though, played last season at Northwest Florida State Junior College and only averaged 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds there. The top incoming player appears to be guard Damika Martinez, a 5-7 point guard from Meriden, Conn., who was rated one of the top 25 high school point guards in the country last season.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: That pick for Iona to finish 2nd last season will probably carry over to this year. If Fregosi and Hubbard are healthy, Iona is likely to finish in the top four spots this year with a second-place finish a reasonable prediction.

Off-Season: Rider Women to Move Up

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

Up now ...


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

2010-11 RECAP: Like any young, developing team the Broncs improved as the season went on. After an 0-14 start, things certainly couldn't have gotten much worse. Here, though, was another case of a resilient group which played hard despite the poor start to turn things around somewhat afterwards. Rider won five of its next 15 games after that 0-for start before losing its play-in round game in the conference tournament. The team was among the youngest in the conference without a single senior on the roster. Its group of young players showed considerable improvement as the season progressed, particularly rookie forward McNeshia McKenzie, who played like an emerging MAAC standout late in the season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The team's biggest plus was, well, its "bigness." A front line of 6-3 senior-to-be center Sarah Homan and 6-2 junior Caitlin Bopp was among the better inside tandems in the league. Homan, who averaged 6.1 rebounds, had a massive 19-point/20-rebound effort in a late-season double-overtime victory against Iona. Bopp averaged 8.6 rebounds per game, second-best in the conference. McKenzie averaged 7.3 rebounds per game and had a 19-point/14-rebound performance in that victory over Iona. Shereen Lightbourne, a 5-10 junior guard (9.6 points) also had a nice second season and looks like a fixture there for the next two seasons. Ali Heller's 44-percent shooting from 3-point territory ranked among the top 15 nationally. And, point guard Alyssa Parsons held up for the season after a remarkable physical recovery from torn ACLs and subsequent surgery on each of her knees in the past three years.

WHAT WENT WRONG: A lot, particularly on the offensive end. No scorer averaged double digits on the season. Rider's .332 percent shooting was 8th-best among the 10 conference teams, while opponents' .420 field-goal percentage was last on the defensive end. Rider allowed 68.7 points per game, also worst among conference teams. Its turnover total (an average of 22.5 per game) also was the highest total in the league, a full turnover per game worst than the 9th-place team in that statistic. The team's top two scorers (Lightbourne and McKenzie) were a sophomore and a freshman, respectively, never a successful recipe. Neither Bopp nor Homan, despite their toughness and ability to grab rebounds, is much of an offensive threat. Heller, to date, is a one-dimensional player who does little else other than make 3's when she's open. And Parsons, while an admirable example of perseverance related to her contributions after two major knee surgeries, was the least-productive point guard in the league with just 44 assists against 81 turnovers. Two other contributors, 5-6 guard Dior Brown (4.9 points, 3.2 assists) suffered a late-Jan. shoulder injury and never returned. And, Carleigh Brown, a 6-0 forward (3.3, 3.4) also battled a variety of injuries. Still, the five league victories wasn't an embarrassment for a program that has struggled in its 14 MAAC seasons, compiling a 60-192 record to date in league play.

WHAT'S AHEAD: More height is coming with 6-3 center/forward recruit Marritta Gillcrease, a highly touted recruit from the Pittsburgh area. If nothing else, Rider will have the tallest front-line in the MAAC next season. But, the greatest need is to find a floor general, a capable point guard. And, there appear to be two strong possibilities: Manon Pellet, a 5- point guard from Marseille, France; and, Kornelija Valiuskyte, a 5-8 point guard from Lithuania who played at The Rock School in Gainesville, Fla., this past season. If either one has any significant impact then things can get a lot better for a team that has a lot of other pieces. The hope here is that their additions can relegate Parsons to a reserve role, where she'll be more effective. McKenzie, a prototypical small forward, is an exceptional athlete and a talent and looks to have the type of ability to make her one of the conference's better players over the next three years. She had back-to-back 20-point plus efforts in mid-February and averaged 14.5 points per games over Rider's final eight games. There should also be considerable depth since every player on last year's roster is expected to return and an incoming group of five freshmen looks like one of the league's better incoming groups.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: Don't expect Rider to suddenly compete for a league title, but do expect it to be among the most-improved teams in the conference. How much improved? If its returnees make off-season improvements and if a point guard steps up ... the Broncs could challenge the program's all-time best MAAC record of 10-8. If that doesn't happen this year, it almost assuredly will the following year. It looks like some real good days are ahead for the Rider women's program.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Off-Season: St. Peter's Women Improving

After a brief early summer vacation break, it's time to resume the series looking at conference programs. We've got four more women's teams to feature.

Up now ...


2010-11 RECORD: 5-13 in MAAC play, 6-25 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: An 0-11 beginning didn't exactly create optimism, particularly since the team's top inside player, Charlene Riddick, suffered a season-ending injury in the Peahens' eighth game. To that point, she averaged 7.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. Afterwards, Saint Peter's really had no inside presence. But, things did get slightl better. The team went 6-14 after the difficult beginning, and ended strong by winning its three straight late-season games, two at the end of the regular-season (including an impressive 60-57 victory over second-place Loyola) followed by a play-in round victory over Rider in the conference tournament. Overall, senior-to-be forward Jynae Judson picked up much of Riddick's slack, leading the team in scoring and rebounding. And, a group of young players, led by guards Teresa Manigrasso and Aziza May, noticeably improved as the year went on, surely creating some future optimism.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The team's resiliency. An 0-11 start could easily have discouraged this group, but it didn't. Judson, a 5-10 forward, had a borderline first-team all-star season (she was picked as a second-team all-league selection, averaging 13.2 points and 7.8 rebounds. Two freshmen, off-guard Teresa Manigrasso (7.5, 2.6) and point guard Aziza May (5.2, 3.0, 3.1 assists) had nice rookie years. Both were inconsistent, but when they were at their best it was easy to see that the Peahens' backcourt is set for the next three seasons. Another senior-to-be, 5-9 forward lauren Morris also had a solid year (7.4, 2.6), as did 6-2 Quiana Porter (3.9, 4.6), who showed some signs that she might be the answer to finding an inside player for the coming season. Graduating senior Jessica Coles, a slender 6-footer, had one career game ... a 25-point, 9-rebound effort against Iona in late January, but there weren't enough of those type individual efforts overall this past season. Still, the late-season run should create some optimism for a program that has struggled in recent years.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The early season loss of Riddick was an immediate set-back, and the 0-11 start wasn't exactly encouraging. There wasn't a lot of inside help. Coles, built like a small foward, was the team's biggest starter. Scoring was extremely difficult to come by, although that was a trend throughout the league for women's teams this past season. Judson's 13.2 point per game average was the only one close to double figures. Next best was Manigrasso's 7.5 ppg. mark. Manigrasso and May, while both obviously talented young players, were both freshmen and played like first-year players too often. May, who looks like she could become one of the conference's better point guard, had 115 turnovers against just 97 assists. Judson, who justifiably had the ball in her hands almost every trip down court, had 122 turnovers. As a team the Peahens had just 280 assists against 574 turnovers.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The Peahens are one of several MAAC teams that appear to have a bright future based on having solid young talent. How quickly that talent develops will determine how quickly the Peahens return to at least a competitive level. But, this team clearly has a chance. Judson, with any improvement, will be one of the conference's better players. And, Morris will help out along the front line. But, neither of those seniors is taller than 5-10. The Peahens need height. Porter, at 6-2, could provide that, but she'll have to be better than she was this past season. Manigrasso and May look like they'll eventually be one of the best backcourts in the MAAC, along with another young guard, 5-2 sophomore-t0-be Khadija Young, who played well off the bench this past season. But that perimeter threesome will all just be sophomores this season.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: There's enough talent here to ensure the Peahens won't be a bottom-dweller, and will definitely show improvement this coming season. The question, though, remains, how much they can improve. There doesn't appear to be enough talent in place to challenge for the top few spots. Somewhere between fourth and eighth seems to be the best guess, depending on how quickly an inside presence develops and how big an improvement the young perimeter players can make as sophomores.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Former Bronc Kara Borel Riding to Help

Kara Borel was a 5-foot-9 forward who had one of the more-consistently solid careers in the history of Rider women's basketball.

Playing from 2003-05 through 2006-07, she averaged between 6.0 and 8.3 points in each of her four seasons, and between 4.8 and 7.2 rebounds. She had assist totals of 71, 77, 81 and 82 in her four seasons.

You might say that she did a little bit of everything.

And, now, she's doing a little bit more.

Borel. an East Stroudsburg, Pa., native who is now 25 years old, has embarked on a 13,500-mile bike ride designed to visit every state capital in the 48 contiguous states over the next six months. She began riding last Monday in Augusta, Maine, and arrived 600 miles later in Albany, N.Y. on Saturday afternoon.

Borel, though, isn't just treking around the U.S. for fun or adventure. She's doing it to raise money for charitable causes.

"After losing my godmother and cousin to illnesses, it was kind of something to give people hope," Borel told the Albany Times Union newspaper when she stopped for a day in New York's Albany capital.

She lost those family members in 2009, her godmother to breast cancer and her 24-year old cousin to primary pulmonary hypertension after complications from a lung transplant.

Not long after that she opted to use her athletic abilities to spur action and raise money for charitable causes as she bikes throughout the U.S.

So far, she has raised more than $700 in donations contributed on her website.

Those who would like to contribute can do so through the website at

There, she states the goal of the ride: "(It is) is to inspire and motivate individuals to serve and cause the effect they wish to see within society."

Or, as she told the Times-Union: "The goal really is to inspire people to do at least one act of kindness that will go a long way for people."

Over Borel's four seasons at Rider she accumulated 311 career assists, more than any other member of the program during her time at the school.

Now, though, she's on her way toward delivering even more meaningful assists.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Off-Season: Rider Maintains Consistency

Here's another in the series examining conference programs.

Up now ...


2010-11 RECORD: 13-5 in MAAC play, 23-11 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: Another very good season, the fifth straight time the Broncs have reached at least the .500 mark in conference play. Only Fairfield's string of .500-or-better records within the conference is as long. The 23 overall victories was the most by the program on the Division I level. Over the past four years Rider has 82 overall victories, another new standard. This past season was enough to get the program to a national post-season tournament for the third time in the past four years, although none of those trips was to the NCAA's or the NIT. The most-recent trip was to the College Insider's Tournament, where it dropped a first-round contest to highly regarded Northern Iowa. The Broncs, a program populated with two of the better conference players in recent history (Jason and Ryan Thompson), did its work in 2010-11 without that type singular star. Justin Robinson was the team's best, and he culminated a very nice four-year career with a 15.7 ppg. average. Mostly, though, what the Broncs did this past season was a product of team play and balance and the result was better than the sum of the parts.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The 23 wins ... a continuation of a very solid four-year run of success. There is consistent excellence here. Robinson, mostly a role player in the shadow of Ryan Thompson for the past three seasons, made the type of move forward expected of a senior, leading the team in scoring, assists and rebounding. Novar Gadson, a 6-7 small forward, also had a nice season (13.7 points, 5.8 rebounds), while 6-8 senior Mike Ringold turned in his career-long workman-like effort (12.1, 5.4). Brandon Penn, a junior, made more contributions than ever while freshman 6-7 Danny Stewart led the team in rebounding (7.1). There was even another Thompson contributor in Jonathon Thompson (6.1), no relation to the recent Rider standout brothers. And, Anthony Myles (5.9) had a nice freshman season to complete a solid 7-man playing group. Rider, too, got a little beyond-the-conference recognition when it won all three of its games in the Mass Mutual Center preseason tournament, beating USC (in Los Angeles), TCU and Loyola Marymount. A slight slip after that saw the Broncs fall to a 5-4 record but they then went 18-5 after that before losing in the semifinals of the MAAC tournament (to Iona) and, then, in the CIT event.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Rider was good enough to compete with anyone in the league, beating all nine other conference members at least once, but somehow managed to lose regular-season games to Siena (the 7th-place finisher) and Canisius (6th) that cost it a chance to compete for the regular-season crown. Head coach Tommy Dempsey, during the MAAC tournament, spoke eloquently about how his program has attained respectability within the conference and, now, needs to take the next step beyond that. It came pretty close this season, but didn't quite get there, particularly in light of blow-out losses to end things (an 83-59 loss to Iona in the MAAC tournament and an 84-50 setback to Northern Iowa in the CIT). But, Ringold suffered a severe ankle sprain in the MAAC tournament's first round and wasn't close to being productive after that. It was testimony to his toughness that he even played after that. And, Thompson was suspended for an undisclosed team violation at the end of the regular season and did not participate in the post season., compromising Rider's depth.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Definitely more consistency, although maybe not that next step into the conference's upper stratosphere. Then again, your scribe learned a hard lesson about underestimating Rider. In the 2010-11 season preview done for The Sporting News, yours truly picked the Broncs to finish eighth in the 10-team league. And, then, Rider finished tied for the 2nd spot in the regular-season standings. Dempsey, on several occasions, gave thanks to this scribe for providing some bulletin-board material for his team. Glad to help, coach. But, don't expect that kind of aid from here this season. I've learned my lesson. Your blogger sees no worse than a fourth-place finish this time. Any chance of finishing higher depends strongly on how well incoming transfer senior guard Jeff Jones, formerly a part-time starter at Virginia, can step into the role vacated by the multi-dimensional Robinson. But, Jones appears capable. He had some big games (19 points vs. North Carolina, 17 vs. Stanford, 15 vs. Duke) against high-quality opponents while at Virginia. Gadson probably needs to become even more of an offensive contributor. The other graduated senior, Ringold, provided the type blue-collar performance on a nightly basis that won't be easily replaced. Stewart, though, has the potential to step into that role. Myles should make a nice move forward as a sophomore, while the 6-8 Penn supplies more front-court size and consistency and Thompson will continue to supply quality play off the bench.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: The official prediction here is for a fourth-place finish. Anything better depends primarily on two things happening: Jones has a major impact on the court and Dempsey can find some quality bench play beyond Jones and the five other returning members of last year's playing group.

NOTE: This concludes the off-season reports on men's teams. There are still four women's reports to come. So, look for them over the next week.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Off-Season: More Success for Faifield Men

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

Up now ...


2010-11 RECORD: 15-3 in MAAC play, 25-8 overall.

2010-11 RECAP: It's awfully difficult to look at a regular-season conference title, a new program record for single-season victories (24-7 in 1985-86 was the previous best), and a victory in a national post-season tournament and see anything but overwhelming success. But ... the post-season tournament was the NIT. The chance at an NCAA berth was lost when Saint Peter's upset the Stags in the semifinal round of the MAAC tournament, at Fairfield's Arena at Harbor Yards home court, no less. And, then, more disappointment. Five-year head coach Ed Cooley, who took Fairfield through probably its most-successful five-year run in its Division I history, moved on to Providence. Along the way, though, there were plenty of bright spots. Sophomore guard Derek Needham had a nice season, 6-11 junior center Ryan Olander made major strides as a player and could really have a major impact in the coming year. Freshman 6-7 forward Maurice Barrow broke in well and showed signs of better things to come. Same with another freshman, guard Jamel Fields who was in the starting lineup by year's end. Seniors Yorel Hawkins and Warren Edney, both 6-5 swingmen returning from injuries, didn't quite play up to their pre-injury standards but both were solid contributors. The Stags won a first-round NIT game, 62-60, over Colorado State and, then, lost 62-58 in the second round to Kent State.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A 1-3 start and a 1-2 finish, but a 23-3 record in between. Needham didn't quite have the season he had as a freshman, and Olander and Hawkins (10.1 ppg. each) tied as the team's No. 2 scorer. Mostly, points weren't easy to come by, but Fairfield more than made up for that by making scoring difficult for opponents, too. The Stags' 57.8 points-per-game average of opponents was No. 2 nationally. Cooley proved to be a terrific program architect and a master motivator. His direction of the program likely will be missed, but Johnson had great success at Princeton, lifting the Tigers to the Ivy League title this past season and a 25-7 record just three years removed from a 6-23 finish in 2007-08. It's a rarity that a MAAC school can attract a successful coach from another Division I program to fill an opening. That Fairfield did so is evidence of the financial support the school is willing to give the program, because Johnson didn't come cheaply.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Offense, expected to improve, just didn't materialize as expected. Needham, as talented a player as there is in the league (and your scribe picked him, in preseason, to be the conference's Player of the Year), fell off statistically. He averaged 14.1 ppg. as a soph, down from 16.4 as a freshman. His assist total dropped, too. And, his shooting percentages (.357 from the floor, including .309 from 3-point territory) left plenty to be desired. Nickerson, who had 14 and 10 points in the MAAC tournament's final two games as a freshman, also failed to make much improvement as a soph. He averaged 5.9 points, only a slight improvement from 5.5 as a freshman. Some of that might be attributed to better overall balance. Olander became more of an offensive force, and Barrow had a nice freshman season. Fields, another freshman, cut into Nickerson's minutes. And Hawkins and Edney were both able to play as seniors, although neither one looked as good as they did before injuries curtailed their respective careers (Edney missed all of 2009-10, while Hawkins missed more than half of it). Then, too, the saga of Greg Nero, a front-court warrior, went on. Nero battled a variety of injuries and other health woes in recent years and tried to play this past season, but finally gave it up only a few games into the season.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Should be many good years ahead. Fairfield will certainly contend with Iona for the regular-season crown with your scribe giving Iona the edge primarily because the Stags will have more transition (a new coach, two new key players) to deal with this season. But, if the new players (Wade and Sanders) can fit in quickly ... it would surprise no one if the Stags captured their second straight MAAC title. Wade is a lightning-quick point guard who, in two years at Houston, became one of just three players in that program's history to turn in back-to-back 100-assist seasons. And, Sanders had three-year scoring averages of 11.3, 12.9 and 11.3 at Boston College. He averaged 4.4 rebounds there as a junior and, at 6-foot-5, should help up front. Both could really impact Fairfield. Wade could allow Needham to work mostly as shooting guard, probably his best position. And Sanders could be among the best players in the MAAC. There is also considerable depth in the program. Four of the starters for the Stags' last few games this past season are back. This year's team has a nice blend of veterans, but the future beyond is solid, too, as only Olander and Sanders are seniors.

PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: We're predicting a second-place finish for Fairfield, but it should be a year-long battle with Iona for the top spot. If some positive chemistry develops within considerable transition, it's not hard to envision Fairfield winning a second-straight conference championship.