Monday, July 30, 2012

First Look: Predictions For Women's Standings

Last week we made early predictions (very early) for how we thought men's teams would finish in the upcoming MAAC basketball season.

Time now for the women's predictions, with the caveat that much can change between now and when the season starts in mid-November. And, note, these predictions come with brief "thumbnail" expectations. Full and lengthy previews on each program will come in late October/early November..

1. MARIST (17-1 in the MAAC last season, first place): The run of nine straight regular-season crowns (and, seven straight trips to the NCAA tournament) isn't likely to end this coming season. Gone are Player of the Year guard Corielle Yarde and forward Brandy Gang. But as versatile and as clutch as Yarde was, she wasn't the typical dominant performer who wins individual awards. And Gang, despite her 6-foot-2 frame, played more like a guard. Marist went 21-1 in its 22 games before losing a second-round NCAA game last season without a legitimate inside player. It has one now in 6-3 sophomore center Tori Jarosz, a transfer from Vanderbilt. Everyone else of note returns, including senior point guard Kristine Best, who missed most of last season with an injury. And, if Jarosz isn't enough help inside, three are three 6-foot plus freshmen coming in including 6-5 center Delaney Hollenbeck,

2. NIAGARA (9-9, tied for fourth last season): The league's second-best team at season's end, as evidenced by its 5-3 run in its last eight games that included two losses to Marist, one in double overtime the other (in the MAAC tournament) in single OT. Back are the top four scorers, including stellar point guard 5-5 junior Kayla Stroman and 6-2 junior center Lauren Gatto. Also back is one of the best-shooting groups, all from the same class, in recent league vintage. As freshmen last year, Meghan McGuinness, Val McQuade and Kelly Van Leeuwen all shot better than 40 percent beyond the three-point arc. McGuinness' 46.3 percent long-range accuracy would have been the best nationally had she had enough attempts to qualify for the national leaders.

3. SIENA (9-9, tied for fourth last season): Two starters graduated, but just as good replacements are ready to step in. It all, though, depends on health for the Saints as two key players from a year ago (sophomore guard Allison Mullings, freshman Ida Krogh) both had to redshirt with injuries. Senior center Lily Grinci is a legitimate candidate for Player of the Year honors, and George Washington transfer junior Janine Davis gives the program the legit point guard it has lacked for some time. Junior forward Clara Sole-Anglada might have been the league's most-improved player a year ago. There's a new coaching staff in place, and the change (after Gina Castelli directed the program for the past 22 seasons) will get some credit if the Saints show significant improvement. But, this year's team was going to be good whether a coaching change was made or not.

4. CANISIUS (6-12, eighth last season): After three consecutive 6-12 finishes in conference play, the Golden Griffins are poised to get closer to the 14-4 (24-9 overall) record of 2008-09, the last time they had a winning record. And, it appears, Canisius will rely on an old standby, long-range shooting, like it did back before the recent three-year run of sub-.500 seasons. Not only are guards Jen Morabito and Kayla Hoohuli standout snipers, but incoming freshman Emily Weber (a graduate of Shenedehowa High School, Clifton Park, N.Y.) might be the best shooter the program will have in coming years. Some thought the Griffs would make positive strides last year, but a sophomore-oriented lineup probably wasn't quite ready. Now, top inside player 6-3 Jamie Ruttle, along with classmates forwards Courtney VandeBovenkamp, Jen Lennox and Morabito, are juniors and there's enough experience in place to expect a positive turnaround.

5. LOYOLA: (9-9, tied for fourth last season): A big loss with the graduation of versatile forward Miriam McKenzie, but everyone else of note is back, including do-everything guard Katie Sheahan, who surely will contend for Player of the Year honors this season. Sophomore Kara Marshall, who made dramatic improvement as last season progresses, gives the Greyhounds a nice second option on offense, and junior Nicole Krusen also provides a long-range shooting touch. Senior Alyssa Sutherland and junior Nneka Offodile, a pair of 6-1 forwards who both battled some injury issues last season, provide enough inside. The only real question is depth.

6. FAIRFIELD (15-3, second last season): It's odd to pick the Stags this low, particularly after they pretty much established themselves as the conference's next best team (to Marist) in recent years. And, it shows the parity beneath Marist this year. In truth, probably any team picked here from second through eighth could make a legitimate case for finishing as high as second. And Fairfield could, too, despite the major losses of point guard Desire Pina and forward Taryn Johnson (who your scribe thought should have been last season's Player of the Year). Katelyn Linney and Alexys Vazquez can shoot from 3-point range with anyone in the league, there's good height with 6-2 Katie Czinski and 6-1 Brittany McFarlane and junior Christelle Akon-Akech coule have a break-out season.

7. RIDER (3-15, 10th last season): The Broncs clearly could have one of their best seasons since joining the conference in 1997, and could easily vault into the top three if everything falls into place. Just about everyone of note returns. There's height (6-3 senior center Caitlin Bopp) and 5-11 MyNeshia McKenzie, who led the league in rebounding last year. There's talent returning after missing all (5-10 guard Shereen Lighbbourne, a preseason knee injury) or part (5-7 guard Sironda Chambers, who missed the second half due to academics), and there's a potential break-out freshman in Manon Pellet, a native of France who sat out last season with a knee injury.

8. IONA (8-10, seventh last season): Another team that could easily finish much higher, particularly if the league's best young backcourt continues to mature. That would be now sophomores Damika Martinez and Aleesha Powell. All Martinez did last year was become the first freshman in MAAC history to lead the conference in scoring. And, Powell wasn't far behind and looks capable of taking over the team's point guard role. Sabrina Jeridore, a 6-3 junior center, will have to step up. But, there's a 7-player freshman class coming in and several will have to play right away. Teams that young traditionally don't contend for the league title.

9. MANHATTAN (10-8, third last season): No team has lost more than the Jaspers since last season. Gone are four of the team's top six scorers, including its two best players, Lindsey Loutsenhizer and Schyanne Halfkenny. Monica Roder (9.6 ppg. last season) is the top returnee. Allison Skrec returns from a late season broken collarbone to take over at the point, a position in which five different players started a game for Manhattan last season. More than a couple of previously lightly used players will have to emerge for the Jaspers to crack the top five or six.

10. SAINT PETER'S (4-14, ninth last season): The top two scorers (Jynae Judson, Quiana Porter) from a team that was offensively challenged a year ago have graduated, so points are likely to be at a premium again. Kristal Edwards, an athletic 5-11 swingperson is the top returning point-producer (6.5 ppg.). Junior point guard Aziza May, who looked good as a freshman but didn't progress much as a sophomore, needs to make strides. And, the Peahens need to locate some surprises from their roster to avoid another near-the-bottom finish.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Iona Recruit Killed In Chicago Shooting Incident

One of the most-enjoyable aspects about covering a mid-major level conference like the MAAC is that real life rarely intrudes on our games.

But, occasionally, tragedy touches even the mid-major level of the sport.

On Thursday night, incoming Iona recruit Michael Haynes, a 6-foot-7 forward, was shot and killed near his home in Chicago.

Reports indicate that Haynes, who averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds last season at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, was shot in front of his house and later died at a Chicago-area hospital. The assailant was still at large.

He had been ranked the No. 11 recruit in the state of Illinois by one internet scouting service following his junior season at Washington High School, during which he averaged 17 points and 22 rebounds. He eventually graduated from Heat Academy where he averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds per game in the 2009-10 season.

He originally committed to play at the University of Texas of El Paso, but never played there and, eventually, joined Indian Hills CC where, last season, he averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds.

"We're shocked and deeply saddened by this news," Indian Hills coach Barret Perry told the Ottumwa Courier newspaper. "He was such a great kid and a great member of our team."

Police said that Haynes was shot in the wrist, chest and lower back while trying to break up a fight over a stolen necklace near his home. According to the report, his cousin, Kandice Blouin, 25, said several men were shoving each other when Haynes pushed the shooter, who pulled out a gun and shot him.

Haynes was part of a nine-member incoming class for Iona, but was one of just two of the nine recruits not already on the New Rochelle campus taking summer courses.

"It's just so hard," Iona coach Tim Cluess told the New York Daily News. "I don't know how to describe it. Once you get to know Michael you just couldn't want to coach him. He came from a very rough area in Chicago and he just wanted to make a better life for himself. He was just looking for a chance to change his life."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Former Jasper Star Mason Carried Olympic Torch

There are no former MAAC basketball players participating in this year's Olympic competitions, but there is one involved in the London Games.

Former Manhattan women's standout Rosalee Mason (2000-01 through 2003-04), one of the conference's all-time best, took a turn in the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay this past Sunday. Mason, a native of London, carried the flame through the London borough of Bexley.

Mason was chosen to be a torchbearer because of her contributions to British basketball for for being an inspirational role model. She coaches at a variety of basketball camps in her native country every summer, and speaks to a large number of community events each year. She has also been involved, in recent years, with the girls' basketball team from the Wandsworth Borough, her home area, helping it prepare for the annual London Youth Games.

The Olympic flame was lit in Athens, Greece, and began its 70-day journey across Great Britain on May 18. More than 8,000 torchbearers will eventually participate in the Torch Relay, which winds through 1,000 cities, towns and villages throughout the United Kingdom. The relay culminates with the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron at the conclusion of Friday night's Opening Ceremony.

Mason, a talented 5-foot-11 forward at Manhattan, is still the MAAC's all-time rebounding leader for women with 1,217. Her 1,875 career points is ninth-best in conference history. As a junior, she led the 2002-03 Manhattan team to its first regular-season title in program history, a MAAC tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Upon graduation she became a key member of the British National Team, and was part of the squad that won a bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

First Look: Predicted Order for Coming Season

Your local newsstands will have a significant absence soon when the college basketball preview annuals come off the presses.

The Sporting News' publication, for which your Hoopscribe produced the MAAC preview for the last dozen, or so, years will no longer be published.

Bad news for some college basketball fans, but good news for MAAC followers of this blog. The Sporting News required its correspondents to withhold preseason information that might appear in their magazine. It meant that your blogger could only provide scant preview material until after the annual preview magazine was on sale for several weeks.

But, since that's no longer the case, we can speculate at will about the upcoming season. And, we'll start right now with an very early men's preview ... mostly predictions with some comments on my expected order of finished ... followed by the same treatment for women's teams.

And, later, as the season approaches ... probably early October ... we'll do large individual previews on every program.

So, let's begin with the men's early prediction, subject to change as the season approaches. But, here's one view as of right now.

Just a word before we get started ... there doesn't appear to be a clear-cut favorite like Iona last season, Fairfield in 2010-11 or Siena in the three seasons before that. The coming season's regular-season title should be as tightly contested as any at least in the last six or seven years.

The top eight programs all have legitimate hopes to finish in the top six and avoid the post-season tournament's play-in round, with at least the top six teams in the predictions below harboring dreams of contending for the regular-season crown. And, even this scribe's picks for the bottom two, Rider and Saint Peter's, are more than capable of better than that.

1. LOYOLA (13-5, 2nd place in regular season last year): Gone are role-players 6-foot-10 center Shane Walker to graduation and 6-foot-4 reserve guard Justin Drummond via transfer to Toledo. The Greyhounds have everyone else back, including 6-foot-7 Player of the Year candidate forward Erik Etherly and more-than-adequate replacement for Walker with 6-8, 250-pound bruiser Jordan Latham, a transfer from Xavier who got experience as a back-up last year. Plus, there's a strong recruiting class coming in.

2. MANHATTAN (12-6, tied for third last season): The only significant loss is 6-1 guard Kidani Brutus, last season's fourth-leading scorer. Everyone else is back from a deep, athletic roster that used an up-tempo attack to turn around a program that struggled for several years previously. Senior swingman George Beamon led the conference in scoring last year, and probably will again this year. Sophomore Emmy Andjuar was one of the top freshmen in the conference last year, junior Rhamel Brown is a shot-blocking force inside and junior guard Mike Alvarado, who late-season absence was sorely felt last year, is back and is one of the conference's best point guards.

3. SIENA (8-10, tied for sixth last season): The league's top over-achiever last year, the Saints lose guard Kyle Downey, its second-leading scorer, to graduation and only role players otherwise. Back are Player of the Year candidate 6-7 senior forward O.D. Anosike, the nation's leading rebounder in 2011-12, and Rakeem Brookins, a 5-10 sophomore who averaged 9.0 ppg. two years ago but missed all of last season with back issues. He'll join last season's frosh revelation Evan Hymes in the backcourt, and Anosike will get much help inside from 6-8 forwards Imoh Silas and Lionel Gomis, both originally from Africa who had to sit out last season with eligibility issues; and 6-9 junior Davis Martens, who missed last season after hip surgery.

4. NIAGARA (8-10, tied for sixth last season): This prediction could change based on the health of 6-foot-8 inside bruiser Devon White, who is immediately eligible after a transfer from La Salle. White is the missing inside piece to a team of talented perimeter players. He had Achilles tendon surgery this spring, but reports indicate he could be ready relatively early this season. Otherwise, no significant losses and one of the best perimeter groups (sophs Juan'ya Green, Antoine Mason, Ameen Tanksley and junior Marvin Jordan), as well as developing forward 6-7 soph Joe Thomas should all be better.

5. IONA (15-3, first last season): Player of the Year Scott Machado and first-team all-star forward Mike Glover, two of the program's all-timers, are gone. But, the Gaels not only have some very talented players returning in long-range sniper Sean Armand and Momo Jones, but have added what might be an unprecedented nine new players. The best of the newcomers appear to be DeSean Anderson, a 6-8 junior power forward who came in from Los Angeles Trade Technical Junior College, Curtis Dennis, a 6-5 senior wing who transferred in from Toledo (12.7 ppg. last season) and is immediately eligible; DeShawn Gomez, a 6-2 point guard from Antelope Valley Junior College, and David Laury, a multi-skilled 6-8 power forward who previously played at Lamar State College and becomes eligible after the first semester. If chemistry develops, so too should Iona's chances to do better than this.

6. CANISIUS (1-17, 10th last season): The Golden Griffins are poised to make one of the biggest positive turnarounds on the Division I level this season as three transfers who were in the program become eligible for this season. They are 6-10, 280-pound senior center Freddy Asprilla (4.9 points, 4.9 rebounds as a junior at Kansas State), 6-10 junior Jordan Heath (14.7, 7.2 at NAIA Robert Weslyan) and 6-3 senior guard Isaac Sosa (8.0 ppg. as a junior at Central Florida). They might be joined this season by new coach Jim Baron's son, junior guard Billy Baron (13 ppg., 4.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists last season at Rhode Island), who has applied for a waiver to play immediately. Back are 6-1 senior guard Harold Washington (17.0 ppg. last season) and solid inside player 6-6 junior Chris Manhertz.

7. FAIRFIELD (12-6, tied for third last year): Hard to pick the Stags this low, particularly with as talented a perimeter trio as senior guards Derek Needham, Colin Nickerson and Desmond Wade and junior 6-5 forward Maurice Barrow. But, Fairfield doesn't have a single returning player with any college game experience taller than 6-5. Four freshman ranging from 6-6 to 6-10 are joining the program, along with 7-footer Vincent Van Nes, who red-shirted last season. The likelihood is that the team will find some inside help from its young players and remain competitive.

8. MARIST (7-11, 8th last season): OK, my very strong guess is that Marist will find a way to finish higher than this. The team is still young (its best player, Chavaughn Lewis, is a sophomore as is its point guard, Isaiah Morton), and there isn't a lot of inside help for 6-10 junior Adam Kemp. And, Kemp suffered an off-season foot injury and there's a question about whether he'll be full strength early. Still, despite all the youth the Red Foxes finished 7-3 down the stretch last year. There's certainly enough here to finish in the top five or six, but the feeling is that Marist's best will come a year from now.

9. RIDER (10-8, 5th last season): The loss of coach Tommy Dempsey to Binghamton won't help, nor will  the loss of three of last season's top four scorers. Much of the scoring load, though, will be shouldered by exciting newcomer, 6-3 sophomore transfer guard Nurideen Lindsey, a transfer from St. John's, who averaged 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game in the first semester last season. The Broncs also have standout junior forward Daniel Stewart and senior point guard Jonathon Thompson back. That the Broncs would be picked this low is indicative of how much talent and balance exists in the league for the coming season. Rider could finish in the top five as easily as this low.

10. SAINT PETER'S (4-14, 9th last season): Two years after a senior-laden group went to the NCAA tournament, the Peacocks are finding out how difficult it is to lose that many talented players at once. Still, this won't be the typical bottom-dweller, and Saint Peter's could easily finish higher than this with senior center rugged Darius Conley anchoring the middle and getting help from some talented transfers, including sophomore guard Desi Washington, whose 13.1 ppg. average led Delaware State two years ago, and 6-6 forward Pat Jackson, who previously played at Kansas State.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Local Snub of Bennerman Grounds For Good Debate

Upon reading a preview about Siena's "Legends Game" published in  the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union newspaper very early this past Tuesday morning, your hoopscribe got a jolt more potent than a strong cup of coffee.

Here was the lead to the preview, as written by current Times Union Siena beat writer Mark Singlas:

"The two best point guards in Siena basketball history won't face each other when many of the greatest players in the program's annals take the court ..."

Oh, Marc Brown and Doremus Bennerman won't be going head-to-head in the contest, was your blogger's initial impression.

But, no ... the writer's point was this: "Instead, Ronald Moore and Marc Brown will be teammates for the inaugural Siena Lengends game ..."

Say what?

What happened to Bennerman?

If Brown is the No. 1 all-time Siena point guard, it is universally accepted (well, almost universally accepted) that Bennerman is No. 1A.

We'll have to give Mr. Singlais a pass on this one, to some extent, since he hasn't been in the Capital Region long enough to have seen Bennerman play.

But, there are historical records, and we'll use them to make our case shortly.

These days, though, there's a strong tendency to think what's recent is best.

Kobe Bryant, for instance, thinks the current Olympic basketball team could beat the "Dream Team" from 1992. Yeah, right.

There are some out there, too, who probably think LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan was, that Kevin Durant is better than Larry Bird was, that Dwight Howard is better than Shaq was, that just about any center of recent vintage is better than was Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain, that Rajon Rondo is better than Bob Cousy was, that current NBA guards (pick any) were better than were Oscar Robertson or Jerry West ...

You get the point. And, now, a Siena beat writer thinks that Moore (who played at Siena from 2006-07 through 2009-10) was better than Bennerman (1990-91 through 1993-94).

Like I said ... Yeah, right.

We're guessing there was a little literary license taken in this case, particularly since Bennerman did not participate in the Siena Legends Game, leaving Brown and Moore as the program's "best point guards" participating in the alumni gathering.

OK, let's examine the evidence ...

Bennerman was the MAAC's MVP in the 1993-94 season, but Moore was never close to winning that honor.

Bennerman was a first-team all-MAAC pick twice, and a second-team pick once. Moore owns one first-team and one second-team recognition.


Bennerman scored 2,109 career points, still the sixth-highest total in MAAC history. Moore had 1,070 points, which doesn't even get him into the top 200.

Bennerman was a career 44.0 percent shooter from the floor, while Moore never shot better than 37.7 percent in any season, and had a low of 31.8 percent as a senior (and 35.7 percent for his career).

Bennerman shot 86.7 percent from the foul line (4th best in MAAC history), while Moore made just 65.2 percent of his foul shots.

Big-game performances? Well, Moore made huge three pointers in a first-round NCAA Tournament game against Ohio State, the first at the end of the first overtime session to tie the game, the other was the game-winner in the second overtime.

Bennerman? He had 174 points in five NIT games, still a record for that event, including 51 points in the consolation round game, the most ever by a MAAC player in a national post-season contest.

The only statistic in which Moore outdoes Bennerman is assists. Moore had 823 in his career, the second-best total in MAAC history. Bennerman had 577, the 10th-best total ever in the league.

In trading e-mails with Mr. Singlais about this particular debate, here was his response: "Moore was a great ball distributor, is the school's career assist leader, and started on three NCAA Tournament teams. It's entirely reasonable to call him one of the school's two best point guards."

Well, not entirely. To anyone who saw Moore play, he was pretty much purely a distributor whose own shooting ability was often so inconsistent that opponents usually dropped off him, using five defenders against Siena's other four players.

Aren't the best players at every position the most well-rounded ones?

Bennerman was a point guard whose own ability to score made his teams more difficult to defend. Double-team him and he found open teammates. Single-cover him, and he could score at will. Moore's ability to create offense for himself was mostly lacking.

And, Bennerman still accumulated 577 career assists while hardly having the likes of Kenny Hasbrouck, Alex Franklin, Ryan Rossiter and Edwin Ubiles to convert his passes.

Moore played with four teammates, at least three years apiece (and, two of them for his full four seasons) who were also first-team conference all-stars and captured three MAAC MVP awards.

Bennerman's teammates his last three years did not include a single first-team all-MAAC selection during those seasons.

Somehow, though, Bennerman lifted his senior-season's team to a 25-8 record. The next season, with Bennerman the only player of significance not returning, Siena fell to 8-19

Reasonable to think Moore was the superior point guard in Siena's annals than Bennerman?

Reasonable if one only considers only the assist numbers of the two players. That's akin to being part of a jury and only taking a small portion of a trial's testimony into consideration.

In every other statistical comparision, Bennerman was by far the superior practitioner of the position.

And, that opinion is solidified by the ever-important "eyeball" test. These eyeballs saw the majority of games of both players, and clearly remembers what they saw.

Ronald Moore was exactly what Mr. Singlais contends ... "a great ball distributor."

Doremus Bennerman was far above average as a ball distributor, with additional evidence of ranking among the MAAC's all-time best statistically in just about everything else he did.

We're not trying to demean Ronald Moore's Siena career. He was indeed a great distributor and, surrounded by conference-level all-stars, was a perfect fit for the teams he played on.

The point here, though, is that Bennerman remains No. 1A among all-time Siena point guards, with Moore considerably behind the top two.

It would be entirely reasonable for any set of eyeballs who saw both play to make that judgment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Blogger's Picks for MAAC's All-Time Best Centers

Here's the last in the series about the MAAC's best men's players, by position.

Up now, in alphabetical order ...


- DENG GAI, 6-foot-9, Fairfield (2001-02 through 2004-05): Well-above average career totals of 1,268 points and 699 rebounds, but his greatest attribute was an ability to block shots the likes of which the MAAC had never seen before or since. Ask Siena, from a late 2004-05 season game, about that. All Gai did against the Saints that night was block 13 shots, becoming one of just 17 players in NCAA history to block at least 13 in a single contest. His career was similarly impressive. The only conference player to be named Defensive Player of the Year three times, his 442 career blocks is 10th in NCAA Division I history. Had he not missed 14 games as a junior, and figuring in just his career per-game average, he'd have finished No. 3 all time. As a senior his 5.5 blocks per game led the country and was the sixth-best single-season average in college history.

- LEE MATTHEWS, 6-foot-7, Siena (1989-90 through 1992-93): A hard-working big man who improved his game annually, went from a role-playing freshman to one of just eight players in MAAC history with more than 1,000 points (1,365) and rebounds (1,037). He remains Siena's second all-time rebound leader (behind Ryan Rossiter) and is No. 14 all-time in that category in league history. He used athleticism and an above-average leaping ability to average 1.47 blocks per game, 24th-best all-time in the conference. His teams never won fewer than 16 games, and won 25 games and the regular-season MAAC crown in his sophomore year.

- MICHAEL MEEKS, 6-foot-9, Canisius, (1992-93 throughh 1995-96): A key member of the teams that compiled the best three-year overall record (62-32 in his last three seasons) since Canisius joined the MAAC in 1989. The 1995-96 team advanced to the NCAA, and his teams the previous two seasons went to the NIT. He is the only player in Canisius history to amass career totals of more than 1,000 points (1,827), 800 rebounds (838), 150 blocks and 100 steals. His point and rebound totals rank 20th and 17th all-time in conference history. After college he played in the 2000 Olympics for Canada and averaged 14.3 points in seven games. He also played 15 professional seasons overseas.

- DARREN PHILLIP, 6-foot-7, Fairfield (1996=97 through 1999-2000): One of the top rebounders in MAAC history, and the first conference player to lead the country in that statistic, averaging 14.0 in the 1999-2000 season, the highest single-year total in league history. Only Anosike has also been a top rebounder nationally. Phillip's per-game average that year has only been surpassed by Blake Griffin and Kenneth Farried, both NBA players, since then. He scored 1,218 points and had 868 rebounds (15th-best in MAAC history) over his career, and missed 21 games over his first two seasons due to an NCAA ruling that left him half-a-high-school-credit short of qualifying. Had he reached his career rebound average in those missed games, he'd be fifth on the league's rebound list. Still playing professionally overseas last season.

- RYAN ROSSITER, 6-foot-9, Siena (2007-08 through 2010-11) After barely playing as a freshman (66 points, 97 rebounds total), he worked tirelessly to add weight and strength to his frame and turned in arguably the best single season by a big man in Siena history as a senior, averaging 18.7 points and 13.2 rebounds. His rebound average in 2010-11 was second nationally, surpassed only by current NBA player Kenneth Farried.  Rossiter had 25 double-doubles that season, also the second-highest total nationally. Finished his career as one of just eight MAAC players with career totals of over 1,000 points (1,457) and rebounds (1,151). His rebound total is third-highest in league history.  Generally considered the best big man in Siena's Division I era.

JASON THOMPSON, 6-foot-11, Rider (2004-05 through 2007-08): Almost assuredly would have played at a higher level had he not been a 6-foot-7 small forward coming out of high school. But, early in his career with the Broncs, he sprouted to 6-foot-11 and became arguably the league's all-time best "big man." He finished with 2,040 career points (9th best in MAAC history) and 1,171 rebounds (2nd best), and is one of just three players in conference history with more than 2,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds. His ability made him the 12th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings. He has averaged 10.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in his three professional seasons and recently signed a new five-year deal with the Kings worth $30 million.

Blogger's Picks for MAAC's All-Time Power Forwards

Here's the continuation of the series selecting the top MAAC men's players of all time.

Up now (in alphabetical order) ...


- O.D. ANOSIKE, 6-foot-7, Siena (2009-2010 to present): He is the only still-active player on the all-time list, and a portion of the opinion here is based on "projection," i.e., where he'll finish among the all-time leaders. But, he has already done plenty, including leading the nation in rebounding (12.52 per game) this past season. He already has career totals of 834 points and 712 rebounds, and doesn't even need to approach last year's numbers to become the ninth player in conference history with more than 1,000 points and rebounds. He was nearly an unstoppable force inside this past season, and his 17 consecutive double-doubles ranks second all-time among all MAAC players. His 23 double-doubles on the season was the second-highest total nationally (only Thomas Robinson of Kansas, with 27, had more).

- KEITH BULLOCK, 6-foot-7, Manhattan (1989-90 through 1992-93): One of the most-influential players in his program's history. Manhattan has just one winning record overall (15-13 in 1982-83) in its first 10 MAAC seasons. And, then, the Jaspers went 25-9 and 23-7 in Bullock's final two seasons, including a trip to the NCAA tournament in 1993 after  Bullock scored 30 points in the MAAC tournament's championship game. Statistically, he is one of eight players in MAAC history with more than 1,000 career points (1,992, 12th all-time) and rebounds (1,012, 8th), and his 47.9 field-goal accuracy is 45th best of all time in the conference.

- ALEX FRANKLIN, 6-foot-5, Siena (2006-07 through 2009-10): A somewhat undersized and unheralded power forward recruit, he scored 20 points in his first career game, at Stanford, and built on that. His career totals of 1,730 points and 926 rebounds rank 20th and 11th, all time, in conference history. His 56.7 field-goal accuracy ranks as 5th-best all time in the MAAC. He was a key figure (earning the MAAC's Player of the Year award in 2010) in Siena's best three-year run and the second-best MAAC three-year stretch in history, as his final three seasons produced a 46-8 conference and a 77-26 overall mark and three straight trips to the NCAA tournament.

- ANTHONY JOHNSON, 6-foot-8, Fairfield (2006-07 through 2009-10): There might be players with more gaudy statistics, but Johnson makes this list as an eye-ball selection as much as anything. Physically,a well-built 245-pounder, he was as good a power forward as the MAAC has ever seen, and his 1,292 career points and 853 career rebounds (15th-best in MAAC history) would attest. And, those numbers would have been better were it not for junior season blood clot issues that forced him to miss 11 games. Otherwise, he'd have been among the top 10 career conference rebounders. He was the MAAC's Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, a year in which he led the conference in double-doubles (17) and nearly averaged double figures in both points (16.1) and rebounds (9.8).

- JUAN MENDEZ, 6-foot-7, Niagara (2001-02 through 2004-05); Just an unstoppable inside force right from the start (9.9 points, 6.1 rebounds as a freshman), he finished with career totals of 2,210 points (4th-best in MAAC history), 1,053 rebounds (5th), a field-goal percentage of 53.1 (7th) and 1.38 blocks per game (25th). He is one of 107 players in NCAA Division I history to put up more than 2,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds. As a senior he averaged 23.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and led the Purple Eagles to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 35 years. Considered by many the best Canadian player on a U.S. college team in the first decade of the 21st century, and he played several years in Canada's national program.

- MARIO PORTER, 6-foot-6, Rider (1998-99 through 2001-02): First player in Rider history to accumulate career totals of more than 1,700 points (1,782) and 700 rebounds (706). Those totals rank 26th and 27th all-time in MAAC history. His 49.3 percent field goal accuracy is 32nd all time. And, is 1.9 steals-per-game average is 25th best ever in the league. Those numbers are indicative of his overall versatility. He was the MAAC's Player of the Year for the 2001-02 season with averages of 20.1 points and 8.5 rebounds and helped the Broncs to a 13-5 conference record that season that earned the program a share of the regular-season MAAC championship.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blogger's Picks for MAAC's All-Time Small Forwards

Here's the continuation of the series looking at the MAAC's all-time best players by position

Up now, in alphabetical order ....


- DARRELL BARLEY, 6-foot-5, Canisius (1992-93 through 1995-96): A key performer on the first Canisius team in 39 years to advance to the NCAA tournament in 1996 when he was the conference's Player of the Year.. His 1,594 career points is 47th best in MAAC history, despite playing just seven games as a freshman. Barley, though, was about far more than scoring. One of the conference's most-efficient players ever, his career field-goal percentage (60.1) is third-best in league history. And his 7.28 rebounds-per-game average is 31st best all time among MAAC players.

- TARIQ KIRKSAY, 6-foot-5, Iona (1996-97 through 1999-2000): A flashy (he often wore two different colored socks), but effective player who is 10th on the MAAC's career-rebounding list (926), the only player below 6-6 in the top 10. His 1,815 career points is 21st all-time, and his 1.68 steal-per-game average is 45th-best in league history. He also put up a a career field-goal percentage of 49.4, 31st-best all time. And, his teams won, accumulating 85 victories over his four seasons in an Iona uniform. Twelve years after his graduation, he continues to play professionally overseas and was once a member of France's national team.

- TIM LEGLER, 6-foot-4, La Salle (1984-85 through 1987-88): We all know him as the well-versed, well-informed NBA analyst for ESPN, but before that he was a pretty darned good player during La Salle's glory days. His 1,699 career points puts him 35th all-time in the MAAC, and he probably would have had at least 150 more except the three-point shot wasn't in place until his last two seasons. Still, those final two years established him as the conference's all-time best from long range (45.6 percent), a trait that served him well as a 10-year NBA performer. He won the NBA's 1996 3-point shooting competition, hitting 23-of-30, 22-of-30 and 20-of-30 in the event's three rounds. He is also one of three players in NBA history to finish a season shooting better than 50 percent on field goals and three-pointers and 80 percent on foul shots (Steve Kerr and Detlef Schrempf are the others).

- LIONEL SIMMONS, 6-foot-7, La Salle (1986-87 through 1989-90): The conference's gold standard and without any question the best player ever to play in the MAAC. Ranks No. 1 on the league's career scoring (3,217) and rebounding list (1,429), but those numbers transcend the conference. He is No. 3 all-time among all Division I scorers (only Pete Maravich and Freeman Williams scored more) and seventh all-time in rebounding since 1973. Also on the conference's career record list for blocks (1.89 per game, 9th), steals (1.82, 32nd) and field-goal percentage (50.1, 26th). His team was all but unbeatable his final three seasons, accumulating a 43-1 record against conference opponents. He is the only player in conference history whose teams won 100 games overall during his career (100-31). He was the seventh overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft and averaged more than 17 points in his first four pro seasons. He played seven years in the pros before knee issues forced to out.

- EDWIN UBILES, 6-foot-6, Siena (1996-97 through 1999-2000): A silky smooth, always under control player who ranks No. 3 on Siena's all-time scoring list (1,939 points) and No. 13 in the MAAC. He also ranks 22nd all-time with his 49.7 percent field-goal accuracy. A key figure on Siena's three-year stretch of NCAA tournament appearances who has tasted success on the professional level. This past season he became the first Siena player to appear in an NBA game, and was the NBA Developmental League's Rookie of the Year averaging 19.6 points per game at that level. He is currently on the Chicago Bulls' Summer League roster.

- CRAIG WISE, 6-foot-5, Canisius (1991-92 through 1994-95): A multi-talented performer who remains the only player in Canisius history to accumulate more than 1,500 points, 700 rebounds and 350 assists over his career. His1,799 total points is 23rd-best all time in the MAAC while his 789 rebounds puts him at No. 24. And, his 1.80 steals-per-game average is 35th best. He helped lead the Golden Griffins to the 1995 NIT's semifinal round and scored 32 points in a loss there to Virginia Tech. That point total remains the highest by a Canisius player in a post-season event.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Blogger's Picks for MAAC's All-Time Shooting Guards

Next on this blogger's personal choices for the MAAC's all-time top men's players, by position (alphabetical order) ...


- STEVE BURTT SR., 6-2, Iona (1980-81 through 1983-84): He was the prototypical scoring guard, the first great one in the MAAC. His first college season was before the MAAC was formed, and the next three were in the conference. His 2,534 career points would be third all time if they were all in the MAAC. Still, his 2,153 points scored in his last three seasons is good enough for fifth all time. His 52.9 shooting percentage in his MAAC years is 8th all time (and, best among any player under 6-5 in the top 20), and his 23.2 ppg. average in three MAAC seasons is third-best. He was the conference's Player of the Year twice, one of just three players to win the award more than once. He was good enough to be a second-round NBA draft pick in 1984 and played parts of four seasons in the NBA.

- LUIS FLORES, 6-foot-2, Manhattan (2001-02 through 2003-04): After starting his college career at Rutgers, he transfered to Manhattan's program as a sophomore and had three of the best seasons ever by a MAAC player. Another two-time Player of the Year winner. His three-year scoring total of 2,046 is eighth-best in conference history, while his 22.7 ppg. average is fourth-best. Rival coaches raved about his "efficiency" of play in that there was rarely a wasted motion, or rarely a mistake in what he did on the court. After his MAAC career he was a second-round draft pick of the Houston Rockets in the 2004 draft and played 16 NBA games over two seasons as the only Manhattan player in the past 35 years to play at that level.

- TONY GEORGE, 6-foot-3, Fairfield (1982-83 through 1985-86): A do-everything, silky smooth guard who was the best player on one of just two teams in conference history to win the regular-season championship by a four-game margin (the 2009-10 Siena team is the other). He scored 630 points in that season (1985-86), still the top all-time one-year total at Fairfield. His 2,006 career points is 11th all-time in MAAC history. And, he was as unselfish as he was productive, almost like having a second point guard on the court. His 3.96 assists-per-game average ranks 43rd in MAAC history. He was also one of the league's better free-throw shooters, ranking 47th all-time (77.3 percent).

- KENNY HASBROUCK, 6-foot-3, Siena (2005-06 through 2008-09): He was the first recruit of former Siena coach Fran McCaffery, and was the key figure in turning around a Siena program that had struggled for several years prior to his arrival. Not spectacularly gifted athletically, but just an efficient player who contributed in a variety of ways at both ends of the court. Statistically his 1,917 points is 14th on the MAAC's all-time list, his 37.3 percent accuracy from three-point range is 16th all time and his 248 career steals is the league's sixth-best career total. Hasbrouck eventually became the first Siena player to be on an NBA active roster, twice getting 10-day contracts with the Miami Heat, but never appeared in a game.

- KEVIN HOUSTON, 5-foot-11, Army (1982-84 through 1986-87): Completely overlooked at the Division I level out of high school but he made his mark at the college level with an unerring jumper and a quick release. His senior year scoring average of 32.9 ppg. led the country (coincidentally, the Naval Academy's David Robinson led the nation in rebounding the same season), and his 923 points that year still remains the MAAC's one-season standard by far. His 2,325 career points is third all time in the conference, and his 86.9 percent free-throw accuracy is No. 2. He had a 53-point effort in a MAAC tournament game, also the highest one-game total in any setting by a conference player.

- RANDY WOODS, 5-foot-10, La Salle (1989-90 through 1991-92): After being ineligible as a freshman he played three seasons and his 1,811 career points over that time still ranks 22nd all time in the MAAC. He had a spectacular senior season in which he scored 847 points for a 27.3 ppg. average, the second-highest totals in those categories (to Kevin Houston) in MAAC history. His career average of 2.5 steals per game ranks third in MAAC history and his 3.86 assists per game is 46th all time. He was an outstanding long-range shooter, but also strong enough to consistently drive to the basket. He parlayed that senior year into being a first-round draft pick in the 1992 NBA, the No. 16 pick overall. Only Lionel Simmons and Jason Thompson, among conference players, have been picked higher.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

One Blogger's Choice for MAAC's Best Point Guards

A recent entry on a league-related fan board not so long ago offered some insight on the league's all-time best point guards.

And, that got your blogger to thinking: why not try to identify the top players in the MAAC's 31-year history by position?

Why not, indeed?

So, here we go. Initially we were going to make it a Top 5 list at each position, but a couple of positions were just too closely contested to stop at five, so we've made it at Top 6 ... a "Super Six" at each position, if you will.

As a qualifier, your blogger has covered the MAAC in some form or another since 1989, or 23 of the league's 31-year existence. Even before that, though, I covered college hoops dating back to the mid-1970s and saw a number of MAAC teams annually even before "covering" the league exclusively.

The selections are purely my own, based on a number of factors but most of them related to the so-called "eye-ball" test ... as in these players were the best that I've seen.

Mostly, I just considered individual talent and not team results. And, as is the case with any selections such as these, the exercise is purely subjective. There are bound to be some differences of opinion and your comments and thoughts, which you can provide in the comment section, are welcomed appreciated.

We will start at the point guard spot.

The ratings are in no particular order. Just the top six players at each spot, but if there is a singular standout, he'll be identified. For now, men's players only. Later this summer or early in the fall, we'll do the same for women players.

TOP POINT GUARDS (Alphabetical order):

- DOREMUS BENNERMAN, 5-foot-11, Siena (1990-91 through 1993-94): One of just two Siena players over 2,000 career points (2,109). His point total is still sixth-best in MAAC history and he is just one of 11 MAAC players with more than 2,000 career points. He also currently stands 11th in league history in career assists (577) and fourth in free-throw percentage (.859). The career numbers are remarkable since he spent his freshman year as basically a back-up to Marc Brown. Bennerman's value? Siena finished 25-8 in his senior season (1993-94) and went to the semifinal round of that year's NIT. He has the still-standing record for points scored in NIT play in one season (174, that included a 51-point outburst). Siena's post-Bennerman year, with all four other starters back, resulted in an 8-19 finish.

- MARC BROWN, 5-10, Siena (1987-88 through 1990-91): Some might not consider Brown since only his last two seasons were played in the MAAC (Siena came aboard for the 1989-90 season), but anyone who saw "Biz" (as in "Showbiz") play can use the "eye-ball" test to identify him as one of the best to ever play in a MAAC game. Career-wise his 2,284 points would be fourth-best all-time on the MAAC list and his 796 career assists would be third. As a sophomore he took Siena to its first NCAA appearance (the program's final pre-MAAC season) in 1989 and, there, directed the Saints to an 82-80 victory over Stanford in a year the Cardinal were ranked No. 13 overall nationally entering the contest.

KEYDREN CLARK, 5-foot-8, Saint Peter's (2002-03 through 2005-06): Because of his scoring exploits, some might identify him as a shooting guard, but he did run the point for the Peacocks throughout his career. His 3,058 career points ranks him 2nd all-time in the MAAC and 6th all-time for any Division I player in NCAA history. He led the nation in scoring as a sophomore and a junior and finished second as a senior. His 25.9 point-per-game average is the highest in MAAC history, his career total for three-pointers (435) is the league's all-time best and his 501 career assists is 17th all-time in league history. Not bad for a player who, partially because of his height, was basically overlooked as a college recruit. It says here that Clark is the MAAC's all-time best point guard ... but Brown isn't far behind.

JARED JORDAN, 6-foot-2, Marist (2003-04 through 2006-07): An avowed non-shooter (6.8 points, 11.7 points per game) his first two seasons, he became more of an offensive threat his last two seasons (16.1, 17.2). And, he remained a brilliant passer, enough to lead the NCAA in assists both years to become the first player to lead all Division I players in assists in consecutive seasons since current NBA Nets' coach Avery Johnson did it in the late 1980's. Jordan's career assist average (6.95) is still No. 1 among all MAAC players, and his 813 assist total ranks No. 3 in the league. And, he did finish with 1,544 career points. It was enough for him to be a second-round draft pick of the Dallas Mavericks in 2007.

SCOTT MACHADO, 6-foot-1, Iona (2008-09 through 2011-12): Might have been the conference's most-gifted pure passer of all time (with apologies to Jordan, Brown and former Siena player Ronald Moore). His 6.66 assist-per-game average is second-best all-time in the MAAC, and his 9.9 assist-per-game average this past season led the country. Also, enough of an offensive threat himself to average 12.5 points per game or better his last three seasons. Surely one of this past season's top players not to be drafted, he is currently on the Houston Rockets' summer league team. There were flaws in his game early at Iona, but few players worked harder to correct them.

DOUG OVERTON, 6-foot-3, La Salle (1987-88 through 1990-91): The second-best player at La Salle his first three years (to Lionel Simmons) and, maybe, to Randy Woods when he was a senior ... but, no MAAC player to date lasted longer in the NBA. Overton played 11 full NBA seasons and was more than a "bit" player, averaging more than 18 minutes per game in six of those years. And, he wasn't exactly shabby as the proverbial second-fiddle to Simmons at La Salle. His 1,795 career points is 25th-best in MAAC history, his 671 career assists is fifth-best all-time and no player in league history had a higher career winning percentage (78 percent).

Machado Starts Chasing Pro Dream in Summer Loop

Former Iona point guard Scott Machado has a great opportunity over the next week to attract additional attention from NBA teams.

The 6-foot-1 Machado recently reached an agreement with the Houston Rockets to play for that franchise's summer league team in Las Vegas. The team's first game is Friday and the squad will play five games in a six-day stretch.

Despite leading all Division I players in assists this past season (9.9 per game), Machado went undrafted in the recent NBA draft.

Reports indicated that his height likely worked against him. And, that at some individual pre-draft workouts, Machado did not display exceptional athleticism.

But individual workouts don't necessarily bring out what Machado does best, and that's to creatively find open teammates with crisp passes that lead to good shots. The best indication of that skill, which is always needed by professional teams, can be seen in game action. And, Machado now gets five games to showcase what he can do best.

A number of teams contacted Machado after the draft, including the New York Knicks, the New Orleans Hornets, the Toronto Raptors and the Atlanta Hawks, all offering him the chance to play for their summer-league teams. But, Machado chose the Rockets.

It seems like a good choice, since the Rockets appear in desperate need of players to run their offense. They recently traded last year's starting point, Kyle Lowry, to the Toronto Raptors and lost Lowry's back-up, Goran Dragic, when he recently signed to join the Phoenix Suns. The Rockets then made an offer to Jeremy Lin who subsequently was resigned by the New York Knicks.

What does the summer league opportunity mean to Machado?

"I get to show my game, show that I am a competitor and that I love to play the game," Machado told the Journal News recently.

Machado's time in the summer league, though, doesn't mean the Rockets are the only team that he's trying to impress.

"There are going to be dozens of scouts from other teams watching him, too," Ryan Blake, the NBA's senior director of scouting operations, told the Journal News.

The Rockets and Machado will play games on Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The first three of those contests will be televised via NBA-TV.

If Machado doesn't come out of the summer league with an offer to join an NBA team for preseason camp, he said he'll continue to chase his professional dream either in the NBA's D-League, or overseas.

"This is going to be my profession, regardless," Machado said. "I hope that it will be with an NBA team.

A personal opinion here ... your Hoopscribe has actively covered the MAAC in some capacity or another since 1989, and has been an interested observer since the conference's inception in 1981. I would rate Machado the best "pure passer" that has ever played in the league.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lieberman's Son Commits to Join Niagara Program

The son of one of the greatest women's players in basketball history is coming to the MAAC.

T.J. Cline, the 17-year old son of all-time great Nancy Lieberman, recently made a verbal commitment to join the Niagara program for the coming season.

Cline is a 6-foot-7 forward who averaged 16.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in his only varsity season playing at Plano West High School in Texas. Cline was particularly strong late in the season, averaging about 25 points per game during his team's state playoff tournament run.

"We lovingly tell people he is the Jeremy Lin of college basketball," said Lieberman, in a recent interview with Jonah Bronstein of the Niagara Gazette. "He didn't play varsity basketball until his senior season and then he had this breakout season. I'm his mom and even I'm sitting in the stands thinking, wow, this kid is pretty good."

Cline initially intended to attend the Air Force Academy before opting to join the Niagara program. He had also drawn interest from Long Island University and Sam Houston State.

Cline might get right into the playing group at Niagara, which was height-challenged this past season.

And, if genetics are any indication, the Purple Eagles should be getting a good one.

His mom is in the sport's Hall of Fame, was a two-time Olympian, a three-time college All-American and was part of two national championship teams at Old Dominion.

Her career was good enough for her to have earned the nickname "Lady Magic."

After college she began a pro career in 1981 in the Women's Professional Basketball League, led the team to a championship in 1984 and was the league's MVP.

She is also recognized as the only woman to play in a men's professional sports league. In 1986 she played with the Springfield Fame of the United States Basketball League and, in 1987, she joined the Long Island Knights of the same league.

In 1988, she toured as a member of the Washington Generals, the opponent of the Harlem Globetrotters.

In 1997, at age 39, she came out of retirement and played in the inaugural season of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), becoming the oldest player to ever play in that league. More than a decade later she broke that record when she returned to the WNBA for a game at age 50.

The MAAC has seen sons of famous fathers before. One that immediately comes to mind is the Burtt family. Both father, Steve Burtt Sr., and son, Steve Burtt Jr., had spectacular careers at Iona.

The elder Burtt finished with 2,534 career points for the Gaels while the younger Burtt accumulated 2,034 career points.

The MAAC, though, has never before had the child from a former player as accomplished as T.J. Cline's mom, Nancy Lieberman.

Former MAAC Star Nichols Joins Niagara Staff

MAAC fans only got to see Shane Nichols for one season, and it was a good one. The 6-foot-0 guard played well enough in the 2003-04 season at Saint Peter's to be named the conference's Rookie of the Year after averaging 10.6 points per game.

He was part of a dynamic backcourt for the Peacocks, alongside one of the conference's all-time great performers Keydren Clark.

And, then, Nichols was gone. He transferred to Wofford College where he played three more seasons and finished his college playing days with 1,482 points (1,176 of them at Wofford).

Now, Nichols is returning to the league where his college career began with the announcement earlier this week that he is joining head coach Joe Mihalich's staff as an assistant coach at Niagara.

"We are very happy to welcome coach Shane Nichols to our staff," said Mihalich, in a press release issued by Niagara. "Coach Nichols was a very good player and comes highly recommended in his role as an assistant at Wofford. Wofford has been extremely successful in the Southern Conference over the last three years. (Nichols) will help us on the floor and on the recruiting trail."

Nichols spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Wofford where he worked with film exchange, scouting and recruiting. Over that time the program had a 48-27 record while making two postseason appearances, including a trio to the NCAA tournament in 2011.

"I'm really excited to be at Niagara and to work for coach Mihalich," said Nichols, via the press release. "I played at Saint Peter's, so I'm familiar with the league and the success coach Mihalich and Niagara have had. I'm really excited to continue that success."

After graduating from Wofford in in 2008 Nichols played one season of professional basketball in Israel. Prior to joining the Wofford staff he served as an assistant coach at Radford (Va.) High School.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Former Standout Iuzzolino Rejoins Baron at Canisius

You might need a long memory, or have been a college basketball fan back in the late 1980's/early 1990's, to recall the newest Canisius men's assistant basketball coach Mike Iuzzolino.

Iuzzolino became the latest addition to head coach Jim Baron's staff at the Buffalo school recently when he was named the program's director of basketball operations.

It's not the first time the two have connected. After playing two seasons as a reserve at Penn State, the 5-foot-10 Iuzzolino transferred to St. Francis (Pa.) to play two more seasons (1989-90, 1990-91) under Baron.

There, Iuzzolino blossomed as a college player, averaging 24.1 points per game as a senior, was the NEC's Player of the Year and helped lead the Red Flash to their first and only NCAA tournament appearance.

There, St. Francis met up with an Arizona team that included for future NBA players (post players Brian Williams and Sean Rooks, small forward Chris Mills and guard Khalid Reeves).

Iuzzolino had 20 points (6-of-13 shooting) and six assists in 35 minutes of court time as the Red Flash stayed close throughout before dropping a 93-80 decision.

Iuzzolino's work was enough for him to get drafted, a second-round pick (No. 35 overall) in the 1991 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks. He would play two full NBA seasons, averaging 9.0 points and 4.3 assists per contest before playing two more seasons in the Continental Basketball Association. After that he played six seasons in Italy's premier professional league and, the, closed out his pro career playing for teams in Greece and Spain.

Iuzzolino began his coaching career with the Duquesne women's basketball program, then spent a season with the women's program at George Mason University. For the past three seasons he was an assistant coach with the Division III St. Vincent's College in Pennsylvania.

His recent move to Canisius marks the 44-year old Iuzzolino's first coaching position with a men's Division I program.

"Mike is a tremendous addition to our staff," said Canisius coach Jim Baron, in a press release issued by the school. "He had a great career playing for me at St. Francis (Pa.), and carried that on to the NBA and then overseas. For as good as he was on the court, he was that good, if not better in the classroom. He was a real student-athlete who can serve as a role model for our guys and I'm proud to be working with him again."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Iona Men's Report: Still Strong, Despite Changes

Here's the last of the conference's team reports, and it's fortuitous that we saved Iona for the early days of summer since there is so much going on within the program that one almost needs a scorecard to keep up with everything.

So, up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 15-3 in MAAC play, 25-8 overall.

2011-12 RECAP: A 15-3 conference record and 25 victories overall are things to celebrate. Except, to a certain extent, Iona didn't quite reach the lofty levels many predicted, and your Hoopscribe is among the guilty that put what now seems unreal expectations on the Gaels for the past season. Many thought the 2011-12 edition would eventually rank among the MAAC's all-time teams, and it didn't quite get there. What Iona showed us this past year was that it was a very good team. On given nights, it was a spectacular team. But, it also had flaws that were overlooked during the preseason hype period, flaws that showed up enough for Iona to lose eight times, including setbacks to Siena (which finished sixth) and in a disappointing NCAA tournament first-round loss. Still, the Gaels accomplished plenty, starting with a regular-season title and enough along the way against non-conference opponents (victories over Maryland, St. Joe's, Denver, Richmond and Vermont) to deservedlyy earn an NCAA tournament at-large berth after it failed to claim the conference's automatic entry when it fell to Fairfield in the league tournament's semifinal round.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Any team that reached 25 victories had plenty go right. First was one of the best one-two combinations the MAAC has seen in many years. Senior point guard Scott Machado led the nation in assists (9.9 per game), while senior post man Mike Glover averaged 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest. Momo Jones, a transfer guard from Arizona, was spectacular at times and finished averaging 15.7 points per game. Sophomore guard Sean Armand was among the best long-range snipers anywhere, hitting 10 tree-pointers in one game and shooting 46.2 percent from beyond the stripe on the season. As a team the Gaels ranked No. 1nationally in points per game (82.9), No. 3 in field-goal  percentage (50.2), No. 1 in assists (19.3) and No. 1 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.54). Glover was No. 2 nationally in field-goal percentage (63.7). The Gaels nearly had another noteable non-league conquest, too, losing a one-point decision to Purdue in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament after Machado was lost to fouls late in the game. And, then, came the best 14 minutes of play by the Gaels all season wen it seemed to be running BYU off the court while grabbing a 25-point lead at the 6:12 mark of the first half in the NCAA tournament appearance. And, then ... well, see "what went wrong," below.

WHAT WENT WRONG: From the end, and moving backwards ... after falling behind by 25 in the NCAA game, BYU then seemed to find every flaw in Iona's game. The Cougars particularly took advantage of the Gaels' lack of height (Glover, at about 6-foot-6 1/2), which was unable to defend BYU's significant size advantage once it turned the final 26 minutes into a half-court game. Therein was Iona's other flaw ... it did its best work in transition. That worked masterfully for 14 minutes of that game until the game's style changed. And, then, BYU went to work. At the end, the height-challenged Gaels couldn't match up inside. Along the way, start with the conference tournament's semifinal-round loss to an undermanned Fairfield team playing without its best guard (Derek Needham). During the year Iona got knocked off by sixth-place Siena when the Saints also effectively forced Iona into a half-court contest. Mostly, it seemed clear that Iona needed a little more height to fulfill the preseason hype, but the Gaels still won 25 games overall with a 6-6 1/2 post-player its only truly effective paint performer. In the grand scheme, Iona achieved plenty this past season.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Go ahead, try to figure this one out. Two of the program's all-time greats (Machado, Glover) are gone, as is sixth-man Kyle Smyth, a smooth-shooting 6-4 guard who finished school a year early and decided to take grad-level courses and play out his final season of eligibility at Seton Hall (under coach Kevin Willard, who recruited Smyth for Iona). Also gone is guard Ra'Shad James, who was part of the team's nine-man rotation this past season. Not many programs can survive the loss of four players of that caliber and expect to still be good. Yet, somehow, the Gaels will survive all of that and remain strong. Just how strong, though, depends on a huge influx of newcomers. Among those will be senior wing Curtis Dennis, a 6-5 transfer from Toledo who averaged 12.7 points per game there last season and is eligibile immediately. He, Jones and Armand will provide Iona arguably the best perimeter group in the league. Replacing Glover? That task will fall on newcomer David Laury, a 6-8, 240-pound forward from Garden State Junior College where he did not play after landing there for the second semester. He is said to be not only an inside presence, but to have good court vision. He becomes eligible after the first semester (mid-December), and has two-and-a-half years of eligibility. And, then, the backcourt gets a boost from another incoming JC, DeShaun Gomez, a 6-1 point guard from Antelope Valley JC in California. Another returnee is 6-7 senior-to-be forward Taaj Ridley (6.7, 4.0), who should continue to contribute in the coming season.

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: The hype certainly won't be as strong in the preseason, but if Laury is as good as advertised and Ridley iimproves just a little, there is much talent in place. Still, the coming season will be a work in progress as players try to fit in and, then, fit in again when Laury becomes eligible in mid-December. He could become more-than-adequate replacements for Glover, but the program will be hard-pressed to replace Machado. Jones will likely move to the point, and if he does the style of play changes somewhat since he is more a scorer than a passer. If Gomez cam grab the starting position, though, maybe things won't change that drastically. Considering all the changes, it's hard to pick Iona to challenge the likely top two teams, Loyola and Manhattan. But, it won't be far behind, and it's not hard to envision the Gaels competing for league honors again.