Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Questions, Answers For Upcoming Women's Season

Questions and, hopefully, some well-thought-out answers about the upcoming MAAC basketball season on the women's side ...


This one has been way too easy for more than the past decade, a time during which there has truly only been one contender, Marist.

But, there might be a few proverbial chinks in the armor. The team's only two "bigs" could both miss the upcoming season.

Marist has reported that 6-3 center Tori Jarosz, a transfer from Vanderbilt, suffered a significant injury to her leg this summer. Reports indicate that she had surgery to correct a torn Achilles tendon, which means she could be out again for the coming season. Jarosz also missed all but one game last season with a knee injury.

And, 6-5 center Delaney Hollenbeck's return from a leg condition that saps her strength is still in question and there is concern about her availability as of now.

Then again, we've heard this before. The two post players missed most of last season (Jarosz played in one game and Hollenbeck in six) yet still went a perfect 18-0 in MAAC play, won the conference's post-season tournament and played in the NCAA event.

Last year's team, though, had Elizabeth Beynnon, a 6-2 forward, to step in. Beynnon graduated, leaving 6-foot-0 forward Emma O'Connor as the only front-court returnee with any significant experience.

Still, it's hard to envision anyone other than Marist winning the regular-season crown once again.

But, if there's a threat it will probably come from one of three teams: Iona, Rider or league newcomer Quinnipiac.

Iona returns its entire starting five from last season's second-place team, although its former head coach, Tony Bozzella, moved on to Seton Hall.

Rider suffered some losses, but has one of the league's top individual talents in MyNeshia McKenzie and some other solid returnees.

And Quinnipiac finished 30-3 overall last year (losses to Hartford, Georgia Tech and to Maryland in the NCAA tournament) and lost just one player, albeit a good one in guard Felicia Baron (13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds last season).


The league is likely to be pretty balanced below Marist, but Saint Peter's is likely to go through a rebuilding year after a 2-28 overall record this past season and, then, the loss of its coach Stephanie DeWolfe. Additionally, the team lost three starting players to graduation.

Still, it won't take long for new head coach Pat Coyle to turn things around. She coached the New York Liberty in the WNBA for several years, and has been in the MAAC previously as Loyola's head coach prior to moving on to the pros.

The other likely non-contenders are Siena and Niagara.

The Saints not only lost their best player in Lily Grenci (who finished second in the MAAC in scoring and third in rebounding as a senior), but also one of its better post players in Kate Zarotney, whose career-long shoulder issues have apparently forced an early end to her career.

But, like Saint Peter's, Siena should rebuild quickly and could even be a bit of a factor this season if a highly touted incoming freshman class matures quickly.

Niagara has been solid for the last two seasons and was expected to be again in the coming season. And, then, seniors-to-be center Lauren Gatto, point guard Kayla Stroman and swingperson Shy Britton all left the program early.

Gatto, who transferred in to Niagara, graduated and opted to move on rather than complete her eligibility. Stroman, who missed a season with an injury, also graduated and reportedly transferred to Le Moyne to attend grad school and play there this coming season. And Britton opted not to return. Gatto was one of the league's top players, and all three would likely have started this coming season. It's tough to overcome the unexpected loss of three starters.


As someone who sees a minimum of close to 40 MAAC women's games annually, between regular-season and tournament play, we'd be hardpressed to try to separate the middle group.

And, in truth, the contenders/non-contender lists aren't exactly set in stone.

For now, Fairfield, Monmouth, Manhattan and Canisius certainly appear to be in the middle group, but any of those three could easily move up a little. And, if youth is served, we could envision Siena moving out of non-contender status.


No mystery here. Iona's dynamic junior-to-be guard Damika Martinez was the first freshman in conference history to be its leading scorer (2011-12), and added a second scoring crown as a sophomore. There's no reason to believe she won't score in bunches again this season.


Probably another repeat winner. Iona's 5-11 forward Joy Adams was a freshman revelation last season and her 10.7 rebounds per game led the MAAC. She's certainly the front-runner to do that again.


Both Martinez and Iona teammate Cassidee Ranger finished with higher 3-point shooting percentages a year ago, but we'll go with Fairfield's senior-to-be Alexys Vazquez, who would have been second nationally in 3-point accuracy in the 2011-12 season had she made five more treys. She qualified for the national leaders last year and finished 23rd among all D-I players.


We'll go with Monica Roder of Manhattan. She certainly is among the league's top long-range shooting threats and was one of the few bright spots on an eight-win team last season. She was really the Jaspers' only offensive threat, and defenses were stacked to stop here. Still, she averaged 12.1 points per game and could really have an outstanding senior season in 2013-14.


Shereen Lightbourne, Rider. The 5-foot-10 swingperson has to be overjoyed about getting back on the court after injuries cost her the past two seasons. One of the most snake-bitten players in recent memory, Lightbourne suffered a preseason knee injury just prior to the 2011-12 season. She then looked good in preseason workouts for this past season when another knee injury cost her all of 2012-13, too. Now, as a fifth-year player, she has plenty of incentive and, if healthy, could easily surpass her scoring average of 9.6 points per game as a sophomore in the 2010-11 season. Lightbourne was just starting to emerge as one of the better players in the conference that year. If her health holds up, she'll finally be able to fulfill that potential.


It's hard for anyone to accurately predict this category, since very few have seen enough of all the incoming players to truly judge. But, we've seen enough of Manhattan's 6-foot-1 incoming freshman Maeve Parahus to know she can really play. We personally witnessed her make six three-pointers in an AAU game at the Upstate New York GymRat Challenge two summers ago, and she was a big-time high school scorer at Albertus-Magnus of Bardonia. Included was her play in this past season's Section 1 Class A tournament game in which she scored 36 of her team's 59 points in a double-overtime victory over Pearl River. She will immediately be one of the league's top perimeter threats and will play for a team that was offensively challenged last season and has a need for what she can do.


It's Damika Martinzez of Iona's title to defend, having won that award as a sophomore. But she'll get considerable competition from Rider senior MyNeshia McKenzie, who averaged 14.4 points per game (4th in the MAAC) and 9.8 rebounds (2nd). We'll go with the upset and predict that McKenzie will win this season's award.


An 8-23 finish last year and the loss of arguably its best player to graduation (Toni-Ann Lawrence) doesn't look like a recipe for a turnaround. But, expect one to come from Manhattan. The Jaspers have everyone back and are likely to have fewer injuries than a year ago.The team's most-glaring weakness of last year was the lack of a second scorer to complement senior-to-be Monica Roeder. Freshman Maeve Parahus and emerging sophomore Shayna Erickson (6.7 points, 6.0 rebounds per game last season) are both capable of filling that role this year. And, they'll be getting passes from stellar senior point guard Allison Skrec, whose 5.0 assists per game last season led the MAAC. Plus, the Jaspers play a confounding 1-3-1 zone defense. Expect Manhattan to at least double last season's victory total.

Former Gael Machado Also Had Summer Loop Tryout

In writing about former MAAC players who participated in the NBA's recently concluded Summer League, it was pointed out that we missed one.

Thanks to Iona's sports information director, Brian Beyrer, who regularly serves as a welcomed extra set of eyes when it comes to Keepin' Track of the MAAC happenings, we can add former Gael Scott Machado to the list of league connections who played for NBA teams this summer.

Machado, who led the nation in assists in the 2011-12 season for Iona while earning MAAC Player of the Year honors, played all seven games (starting six) for the Golden State Warriors' summer league entry.

Like the others from the MAAC (Keydren Clark, Ryan Thompson and O.D. Anosike), Machado didn't have an overwhelming summer. The 6-foot-2 point guard averaged 3.3 points, 2.4 assists and 1.9 rebounds in about 15 minutes of playing time per game.

After summer games ended he was waived by the franchise.

The Warriors had signed Machado out of the Developmental League this past April. He played six regular-season games (3.5 minutes per contest), during which he averaged 1.0 assists per game. He also played in five playoff round games for the Warriors, getting in for just an average of 1.8 minutes per contest.

During his time in the D-League, prior to his call-up to the NBA's Warriors last April, he played 16 games during which he averaged 6.5 points and 3.4 assists per outing.

Machado also played in the 2012 NBA Summer League with the Houston Rockets' entry. Last year he averaged 8.0 points, a team-high 5.6 assists and 2.2 steals per contest.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

D-II Le Moyne Has Plenty Of MAAC Connections

A recent announcement of the assistant coaches for the women's basketball team at Le Moyne meant that Division II program now has an all-former Siena staff.

The school's head coach, Gina Castelli, had been at Siena for 23 seasons before she was fired there after the 2011-12 season. Castelli then spent a year on the staff at Rhode Island before she was hired at Le Moyne earlier this off-season.

Castelli announced her assistant coaches earlier this week, and they are two of her former players from Siena.

They are Cristina Centeno, a 2012 Siena graduate, and Lily Grenci, a 2013 grad.

Centeno, a four-year starting guard under Castelli at Siena, was one of the MAAC's most-versatile performers. She is one of only 13 players in league history to record career totals of at least 900 points, 400 rebounds, 300 assists, 100 steals and 100 three-pointers. She twice represented Puerto Rico in international competition.

After her career at Siena, Centeno was the No. 4 overall pick by the Quebradillas Pirates in the 2012 draft of Puerto Rico's Baloncesto Superior Nacional Femenino. She played for that team in the 2012 season and averaged 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.8 steals to be the league's Rookie of the Year and help her team to a regular-season league title.

Grenci, who was recruited by Castelli and played for the former Siena coach through her junior year, was a first team all-MAAC selection in each of the past two seasons. She was a 1,000-point career scorer (1,074 points), despite missing much of her first two seasons with injuries. Grenci averaged 15.9 points (2nd in the MAAC) and 9.5 rebounds (third in the MAAC) this past season and was the conference's only player to finish in the top three in those two statistical categories.

Grenci eschewed opportunities to play professionally overseas to begin graduate-level study at Le Moyne and be the program's grad assistant coach.

"I am absolutely thrilled to have both Lily Grenci and Cristina Centeno join me here at Le Moyne College," said Castelli, in a press release issued by the school. "As players they were tireless workers and respected leaders. I know that they will bring that same mentality to our women's basketball program."

And, it appears, they won't be the only MAAC connections at Le Moyne for the upcoming season.

Former Niagara standout Kayla Stroman, a native of Syracuse, is expected to play for the Dolphins in 2013-14.

Stroman was a three-year starter at Niagara who sat out a season with a knee injury. She graduated from that school in May and opted to continue graduate-level studies at Le Moyne. By transferring down a level she is eligible to play without having to sit out a season.

The 5-foot-5 Stroman, a dynamic point guard, averaged 6.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game at Niagara this past season. She was second in the MAAC in assists and fifth in steals.

As if that's not enough of a MAAC presence at the Syracuse school ... its men's coach, Steve Evans, was an assistant coach at Siena for three seasons. Evans has been Le Moyne's coach for the past 13 years.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mixed Bag for MAAC Players in NBA Summer Loop

The NBA's Summer League ended earlier this week, and individual results of three former MAAC standouts trying to make an impression strong enough to get invited back to a preseason camp mostly earned mixed reviews.

Former Saint Peter's standout Keydren Clark, twice the NCAA's leading scorer nationally, had the best summer, while former Rider swingman Ryan Thompson and former Siena power forward O.D. Anosike also participated.

Clark, the dynamic 5-foot-8 guard who last played at Saint Peter's in the 2005-06 season and had been playing professionally overseas since then, got into six games with the Minnesota Timberwolves' Summer League team.

Clark averaged 8.5 points per contest, playing an average of about 19 minutes. He shot 20-of-37 from the field, including 12-of-23 from three-point territory. He also averaged 1.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.4 turnovers.

Thompson, a 6-5 guard/forward who graduated from Rider after the 2010-11 season, got into five games, saw an average of about minutes per contest and averaged 5.6 points, 1.8 rebounds, and had one total assist and four turnovers. Thompson made 12 of of 32 shots (37.5 percent) he took from the field.

The 6-7 1/2 Anosike, who led all Division I players nationally in rebounds in each of the past two seasons, found grabbing missed shots more difficult on the professional level. He got five total rebounds in six games, playing slightly more than an average of eight minutes over six contests. Anosike averaged 2.5 points per outing and made 6 of the 12 shots (50 percent) he attempted.

Two other former MAAC players -- ex-Siena forward Ryan Rossiter and former Iona Momo Jones -- were worked out  by NBA teams, but neither participated in Summer League games.

The next step for the MAAC-connected players in their respective quests to join the NBA is to get invited to a regular preseason camp and, then, make a strong enough impression to make a regular-season roster.

If that doesn't happen, the other option is to either play overseas or in the NBA's Developmental League.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Former Bronc Ali Heller Among Coaching Moves

It's always good to see one-time MAAC connections move on to bigger and better things, and here are a few recent "transactions" concerning coaching moves.

- ALI HELLER, a former standout for the Rider women's team (she was the MAAC's 6th Player of the Year for the 2010-11 season) recently was named an assistant coach at Jackson State in Jacksonville, Fla. She had previously been a graduate assistant for the 2012-13 season at Division II Lynn University in her Boca Raton, Fla., home town.

It's no surprise that Heller has transitioned from player to coach. Not many players, either men or women, worked as hard to improve as Heller, which made her one of my all-time players from the conference.

She shared with us the disappointment of a January 2012 ACL injury that cost her the second half of her senior season. Because she had already played more than six games in that season, her fourth with the Broncs, she wasn't eligible to take a medical redshirt. Her playing career was over.

The career-ending injury was a heartbreaking one for Heller, whose love for the sport was easy to discern. Your Hoopscribe recalls talking to Heller about her injury, and about how she was delaying necessary surgery in hopes of getting on the court in a limited role before the year ended.

She actually did get on the court one more time, as Rider coach Lynn Milligan put Heller into the starting lineup for the opening tap on the program's Senior Night contest.

How good was Heller? Certainly not a spectacular player. She only scored 450 career points in 90 games.

But, she was highly effective by her junior year after rarely playing her first two seasons.

Rider coach Milligan recalled that both Heller's physical conditioning and skill level were borderline Division I level when she arrived at the school.

But, there was no harder worker, and few players at any level who improved as dramatically as Heller did by her junior season, a testament to her hard work and dedication to the sport.

As a junior, she had developed the 3-point weapon, connecting on 43.3 percent of her shots from beyond the arc, the 10th-best percentage nationally in the 2010-11 season.

Her senior season was much of the same as she was even more productive, with single-game bests of 26 and 24 points and making at least four treys in four of the 17 games she played before the injury.

We also recall a Rider promotional video, with the song "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better," playing in the background, that featured Heller and Rider men's player Novar Gadson.

Heller sank a long trey, while Gadson missed. So, Gadson challenged Heller to match his next move, a two-handed dunk.

After viewing the video, I asked Heller what would happen if she and Gadson, a very good perimeter shooter, had a three-point shooting contest.

Heller said that players on the men's team wouldn't try because they knew that she'd beat them.

It was that competitive spirit that enabled Heller to transform herself into a good college player. And, we have no doubt that the same dedication to the sport will serve her well as a coach.

Also ...

- PHIL SEYMOUR, who played two seasons (after transferring in from a junior college) at Canisius in the early 1980s was recently named the head coach at Division 3 Fredonia.

Seymour's playing career, as a standout point guard, came before the Golden Griffins joined the MAAC. But, he later had significant connections to the conference.

After his playing days, he served one season as a graduate assistant at Canisius (again, before the school was a MAAC member) and, then, coached four years at Turner-Carroll High School in the Buffalo area.

He then returned to Canisius (by then a MAAC member) for seven years, five of them under coach John Beilein and two under his successor Marty Marbach.

Seymour then moved to be an assistant coach at Providence for three seasons before he became that school's head coach of its women's program. Seymour was the Friars' women's coach for seven seasons before he resigned from the position after the 2011-12 season.

For the past year he was an associate director of athletics at the College of New Rochelle before returning to his Western New York roots to accept the job at Fredonia recently.

- STEVE DeMEO, long considered a top-level assistant coach, recently became head coach at Northwestern Florida, a high-powered junior college in Niceville, Fla. That program had a 62-8 record over the last two seasons.

DeMeo had most recently been an assistant for three seasons at Hofstra. Before that he was on the staff at Providence for 10 years.

His MAAC connection was as an assistant at Iona for three years (1995-96 through 1997-98). In his last season there the Gaels won 27 games and earned a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Team Report: Iona Men Among Favorites Again

Here's another in the "Team Report" series looking back and ahead at conference programs.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 11-7 in MAAC play (4th), 20-14 overall.

2012-13 RECAP: The proverbial roller coaster with a 6-6 overall start, followed by a 7-1 stretch, followed by a 1-6 dip, followed by a 5-0 surge that included three wins in the MAAC's post-season tournament to earn a trip to the NCAA's. There, the Gaels were no match for a highly talented Ohio State squad, losing 95-70.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Any 20-victory season that includes an NCAA tournament trip (the program's second in a row) means much went right. But, the Gaels had to do plenty of growing along the way. That they got things right down the stretch is a credit to the team's overall perseverance. One of the program's all-time point guards, Scott Machado, graduated a year earlier, as did big man Mike Glover, so the team needed to plug two huge holes. Roles changed and things went slow at first, seemed to pick up and, then, sputtered for awhile before the Gaels finally got everything right down the stretch. A big key, literally, was the addition of 6-8 forward David Laury (13.1 points, 10.3 rebounds) after he gained eligibility after the first semester, and he was the league's second-leading rebounder. Senior Momo Jones stepped up to be the nation's third-leading scorer. Sean Armond, a 6-4 senior-to-be guard averaged 16.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and his 112 three-pointers led the league and was the 14th-best total nationally. Another senior-to-be, 6-5 wing Tre Bowman had a nice season, and had a huge effort (20 points, 5 rebounds) in the MAAC tournament's championship-game victory over Manhattan. Without that, Iona might not have gotten past the Jaspers. Mostly, the Gaels bludgeoned opponents with a prolific fast-paced game, which resulted in them leading all Division I teams nationally in scoring average (80.4 ppg.) for the second straight year.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Nine new players joining the program last season meant considerable transition and adjustment, and the results were evident in the season-long ups and downs, until the final few weeks. Laury missed the team's first nine games before he became eligible. A standout freshman, 6-4 A.J. English began finding his stride (7.0, 2.5) and looking like an emerging star. And, then, a mid-season injury forced him to miss the season's final 17 games.The Gaels also struggled to find a replacement for Machado, who led the country in assists the previous year. Jones had the ball in his hands most of the time and led the team in assists (116), but also committed a high number of turnovers (114). Junior-to-be Trevon Sledge, though, did step in (108 assists vs. 58 turnovers) and was on the court for larger stretches as the season progressed. The team also lacked a second power player to assist Laury inside. That situation wasn't that much a cause for concern within the league, where quality big men were few, but showed up in a big way against Ohio State.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Hard to say, particularly since two very talented incoming players (transfers Mike Poole from Rutgers and Kevin Amayo from Marshall) both have waiver applications in with the NCAA to gain immediate eligibility. If both can play this year, then Iona might have even more firepower than last year and might be better than last year's edition. If neither waiver is approved, then the Gaels will still be one of the better teams in the MAAC. Laury should be one of the conference's best inside players, while Armand is a deadly long-range sniper who has expanded his game (5.1 rebounds per game last season, per instance) beyond just shooting. Bowman came on at the end and can be a force. English is expected to be healthy, and Sledge will be the full-time ball-handler. Add to that crew incoming junior college product Isaiah Williams, a 6-7 wing who averaged 17 points in 21.6 minutes of playing time last season and is nearly as good a perimeter shooter as Armand. Then, there are two big men coming aboard, 6-11 Daniel Robinson and 6-10 Ryden Himes, both from the prep school ranks. Shackquiel Scott, a 6-6 wing, is also coming in from a prep school. There's more transition ... the potential of six new players, and none of them from the traditional high-school-to-college route. But, Iona's tendency to find additions via transfers/JC's/prep schools means those coming in are more ready to contribute. And, things should keep rolling under the guidance of Tim Cluess, who gives his players considerable offensive freedom and mandates the fast-break tempo. Cluess nearly moved on after this past season, and was considered the front-runner to take the vacancy at Hofstra until that school refused to meet the considerable financial buyout Iona has in its coach's contract. His return is a big positive as he has shown himself to be one of the top two or three coaches in the league.

PREDICTION FOR 2013-14: Hard to make a definitive one without knowing if Poole and/or Amayo will be eligible. Without them, which appears (as of mid-July) to be the case, Iona is probably battling to finish second or third. But, one never knows which way the NCAA will go with eligibility waivers.If both are eligible, the Gaels are probably good enough to seriously contend for the top spot. They might be that good anyway.

Keydren Clark Getting Summer Look From T'Wolves

Finally, it appears, Keydren "KeeKee" Clark, the former standout at Saint Peter's, has a legitimate chance to showcase his talent in an attempt to get into the NBA.

Clark is currently playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves' team in the NBA's Summer League that is currently ongoing in Las Vegas.

So far Clark has played one game, against a team of D-League all stars, and shared scoring honors for the Nuggets (along with former Purdue star Robbie Hummel) with 12 points. Clark went 5-for-10 from the field and had three assists over 23 minutes of playing time.

Getting to this point has been a long and winding road for one of the MAAC's all-time great players. Since his 2006 graduation from Saint Peter's, Clark has played the last six seasons overseas in Greece and Italy. Over that time he has averaged 14.7 points per game.

Clark had a spectacular four-year career at Saint Peter's, where he twice led all Division I players in scoring (2003-04, 2004-05) and, then, finished third in scoring (behind J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison) as a senior in 2005-06.

Clark was a do-everything guard for the Peacocks, generously listed as 5-foot-8 back then. Somehow, now, his height is listed as 5-11 on the T'wolves' site.

But, at any height he was one of college basketball's most prodigious scorers.

His 3,058 career points makes him No. 6 all time in Division I history and he is just one of seven players to eclipse the 3,000-point barrier. The others are Pete Maravich, Freeman Williams, Lionel Simmons (the MAAC's all-time leading scorer), Alfonso Ford, Henry Kelly and Hersey Hawkins.

Clark also ranks No. 1 all time on the Division I list in three-pointers attempted (1,192) and No. 3 in made treys (435).

He is one of the sport's all-time unexpected success stories, having averaged about 10 points per game as a high school junior for a talented Rice High School team.

Your Hoopscribe remembers questioning the then-Siena College coaching staff (Rob Lanier was the head coach) about recruiting Clark and the response was, that at 5-foot-8 (or so) he was probably too short to be a shooting guard in college and wasn't a good enough ball handler to be a point guard.

Clark had a better senior season, but still was lightly recruited before landing at Saint Peter's. There, he had an immediate impact

Clark scored 17 and 14 points, respectively, in his first two games for the Peacocks and, then, exploded for games of 48 (vs. Northern Arizona), 44 (vs. St. Francis of N.Y.) and 34 (vs. Siena). After those outbursts he was averaging 31.4 points per game for the first five games of his college career.

Clark wound up averaging 24.9 points as a freshman, sixth best nationally. He then led the nation in scoring (26.7 and 25.8 ppg.) as a sophomore and a junior before finishing third (26.3) as a senior.

He is the only MAAC player to lead the country in scoring twice, and only two other players from the conference (Army's Kevin Houston in 1986-87, and Niagara's Alvin Young in 1998-99) ever led all Division I scorers for a single season.

Clark isn't the only former MAAC player participating in the NBA's summer league.

Siena's recently graduated 6-8 forward O.D. Anosike, who led the nation in rebounding in each of the past two seasons, is playing with the Denver Nuggets' entry in summer play. Anosike has played one game thus far, and had just two points and one rebound in 13 minutes of playing time.

Two other MAAC players had been in pre-summer league workouts with NBA teams -- former Siena standout Ryan Rossiter with the Timberwolves, and former Iona standout Momo Jones with the Boston Celtics -- but neither made the summer league rosters of those two organizations.

There was a report that Jones was subsequently brought in to the Portland TrailBlaizers' camp, but it does not appear he was added to that team's summer roster either.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Team Report: Coaching Change Gaels' Only Question

Here's another in the series looking back and ahead at conference teams.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 13-5 in MAAC play (2nd), 20-13 overall).

2012-13 RECAP: A third 20-victory season in coach Tony Bozzella's time with the program. Iona advanced to the MAAC tournament's championship game, losing there to Marist, 72-48. The Gaels did receive a bid to the WNIT where it lost a first-round game, 59-50, to Drexel. Shortly after the season ended, Bozzella accepted a job as head coach of the Seton Hall women's program.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Much, particularly after a slow start that included a 4-6 stretch at one point, concluding with a lopsided 70-54 loss against sixth-place Siena. After that, though, things turned around with the Gaels running off a 10-1 stretch (the lone loss was to unbeaten Marist), and dominating play in the first two rounds of the MAAC's post-season tournament before yet another loss to the Red Foxes in the title game. And, it was done with a youthful team. The team's top four scorers were two sophomores (Damika Martinez and Aleesha Powell) and two freshman (Joy Adams and Aaliyah Robinson). Martinez, a 5-foot-7 guard, became just the MAAC's second sophomore to be the conference's MVP (joining former Marist standout Rachel Fitz). She also led the MAAC in scoring, becoming the conference's first player to be the league's top scorer in her first two seasons. Adams, a 5-11 forward, led the MAAC in rebounding (10.7 per game) and was its Rookie of the Year. Aleesha Powll averaged 9.8 points and probably should have been a third-team league all-star, but was overlooked. Sabrina Jeridore, a 6-3 center, began to emerge and was the conference's leading shot-blocker (102 in 33 games). And, both Aaliyeh Robinson and Cassidee Ranger had solid freshmen seasons. Nationally, Jeridore ranked 7th in blocked shots, Adams was 25th in rebounding, point guard Haley D'angelo was 38th in assist-to-turnover ratio and Martinez was 45th in scoring and 8th in 3-point shooting percentage. The Gaels were 8th as a team in 3-point shooting percentage.The team's trip to the WNIT was its fourth national post-season appearance under Bozzella in his 11 seasons.

WHAT WENT WRONG: A bit of a slow start (2-4), but that included losses to nationally ranked Duke and St. John's. And, then, there was an up-and-down MAAC season. The Gaels slogged their way to a 6-5 start in league play, looking spectacular some nights and mediocre on others. Was it a sign of inexperience? Probably. But, good coaches find a way to get their teams, particularly young ones, to improve as a season progesses. And, Bozzella did that. After the 6-5 MAAC start the Gaels went 7-0 down the stretch and, then, won their first two MAAC tournament games before losing to Marist. Not that losing to Marist is a surprise. Bozzella's 11-year tenure at Iona coincided with Marist's 11-year stranglehold atop the MAAC standings, and Iona was 0-29 against Marist during Bozzella's tenure. If Iona was truly to contend with Marist, this coming season looked like it might be the time. But, then, Bozzella made the move to Seton Hall, robbing the program of arguably its second-best coach in recent years (only to Brian Giorgis of Marist), meaning there's a transition ahead.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Couldn't ask for a better situation on the court. The team's top seven players all return, and that cast includes just about everything that's needed: A big-time scorer (Martinez), a big-time rebounder (Adams), a big-time shot-blocker (Jeridore), a second backcourt scorer/ball-handler (Powell), an experienced point guard (red-shirt senior Haley D'Angelo, who had 119 assists against just 59 turnovers this past season), and two other sharpshooters off the bench (Robinson, Ranger). All that appears lacking is some depth. But ... Bozzella's loss is a big one. He took a downtrodden program (one winning season over its first 21 in the MAAC) and turned it around. While his teams were 0-20 vs. Marist over the past 10 regular seasons, it had a 98-62 MAAC record against the rest of the league over that time. New coach Billi Godsey, just 10 years removed from her own playing days at Hofstra, walks into a nice situation with every key player returning. Godsey had been an assistant at Virginia Tech prior to coming to Iona. If she can make a smooth transition to being a head coach, it could be another very good year for the Gaels.

PREDICTION FOR 2013-14: Had Bozzella remained in place, a second-place prediction for Iona would have been a lock, and the Gaels might have even threatened Marist for league supremecy. A coaching change, though, brings a little uncertainty. But, there's too much talent in place to expect a coaching chance to be any real distraction. And, we've heard enough positive reaction about Godsey's hiring to believe the program remains in good hands. Iona is likely to continue to be near the top of the league standings, probably competing with newcomer Quinnipiac to see who finishes second behind strong-as-ever Marist.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Team Report: Rider Women Capable of Even More

Here's another in the series looking back and ahead at conference teams.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 10-8 in MAAC play (4th place), 15-15 overall.

2012-13 RECAP: A 15-15 record ... pretty average? Not to Rider, which finally reversed a long line of losing seasons. The Broncs didn't get over the .500 level, but the record was the program's best since the 1994-95 season. And, it got better as the year went on. a 7-10 start to regular-season play, which included an impressive early win over Pittsburgh of the Big East, was followed by an 8-3 late-season run before Rider lost its final regular-season game and, then, had its season ended with a 59-54 setback vs. Niagara in the MAAC tournament's semifinal round.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: For sure, a measure of success. Finishing fourth in league play marked the program's highest finish in the MAAC standings in its 16-year affiliation with the league. The 15 overall victories was Rider's fifth-best total in the program's history. Forward MyNeshia McKenzie, a rising senior (14.7 points, 9.7 rebounds) became the first Rider women's player to gain first-team all-MAAC recognition, and senior forward Caitlin Bopp (9.9, 9.1) was a third-team pick. Bopp, a rugged 6-2 inside player, finished off her college days on a positive note, averaging 12 rebounds over her final seven games. And, all that happened with the team missing one of its standouts, swingperson Shereen Lightbourne (knee injury) for the second straight year. Freshman guard Mikal Johnson was an all-rookie team selection, and senior Sironda Chambers (13.0, 3.9) didn't make an all-star team, but probably should have been picked. Emily Fazzini, a guard, shot well from the floor and the Browns, Carleigh and Dior, both contributed veteran leadership off the bench.

WHAT WENT WRONG: For the second straight season, Lightbourne went down with a knee injury. The last time she played (2010-11), as a sophomore, she was the team's MVP. The team never found a real point guard, rotating the position. And McKenzie, primarily a forward, wound up leading the Broncs in assists. The team also struggled to produce points from the perimeter, making just 26.9 percent from three-point range. And, there was some early inconsistency. The team's non-league schedule wasn't overly difficult, yet it lost games to Mount St. Mary's and NJIT ... and, then, beat a Pittsburgh team populated with Big East-level athletes.

WHAT'S AHEAD: There are major losses to overcome. Chambers, the second-best scorer, along with Bopp and the two Browns have all graduated. That means only three of the team's top seven scorers from this past season (McKenzie, Fazzini, Johnson) return. But, there's a nice influx of talent that should fit well into the starting lineup. Lightbourne is expected to be back, and if she can avoid yet another injury ... well, she was one of the MAAC's better players before missing the past two seasons. And, Lashay Banks, a 5-10 junior guard who transferred in from Cincinnati, is eligible. Although she didn't play much at Cincy, she was Philadelphia's Public League Player of the Year as a high school senior. There's also a considerable lack of height. McKenzie, at 5-11, is the tallest player of anyone expected to log key minutes for the coming season. But, Marritt Gilcrease, a 6-3 center, could fill that if she can step up as a junior this coming season. Then, there's the issue at point guard. France product Manon Pellet, a talented guard, missed most of her freshman season with an injury and was inconsistent as a sophomore as she struggled to adjust to the U.S. game. But, she's capable of contributing. And, Kornelija Valiuskyte, a native of Lithuania, has also shown signs at the point in her two seasons at Rider.

PREDICTION FOR 2013-14: As usual, everyone is playing for second place, behind Marist. Newcomer Quinnipiac looks to have a good returning class, too. But Rider, barring injuries, has a chance to at least match last season's relative success. If it can overcome its height disadvantage, and come up with better point guard play, the upcoming season could be one of the best in school history and a finish between second and fourth in the MAAC standings is a real possibility.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Team Reports: Rider Men Look To Be Solid, Again

Here's another in the series looking back and ahead at conference teams.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 12-6 in MAAC play (tied for 2nd), 19-15 overall.

2012-13 RECAP: A strong finish (13-6 after a 6-9 start to its season) enabled the Broncs to tie for second in the regular-season standings. Rider then lost its quarterfinal-round game of the MAAC's post-season tournament to No. 7 seeded Fairfield.  Still, Rider went to a national post-season tournament (the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament (CIT) for the fourth time in the last six years. There, the Broncs won a first-round game (over Hartford) before losing in the second round to East to East Carolina.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Without a real "elite" player (guard Jonathan Thompson was a second-team all-league pick), the Broncs found relative success with teamwork, hard play and good defense. It was Kevin Baggett's first year running the program, after six seasons as a program assistant, and there might have been some early adjustments when Rider went 6-9 in its first 15 games. After that, though, it went 13-6 down the stretch including a late-season sweep on its Western New York trip, beating both Niagara and Canisius. There was another national post-season trip (the CIT). And, there, Rider won a game (over Hartford), its first national post-season victory since 1957. Thonpson had a very nice season, doing a little of everything that could be measured statistically, and a little that couldn't be (as a standout defender). Forwards Anthony Myles (12.4 points, 4.6 rebounds) and Daniel Stewart (10.6, 7.2, a third-team all-MAAC pick) were also strong. The Broncs also had good dept, with six other players getting at least one start and all of them averaging at least 2.5 ppg. Dera Nd-Ezuma, a senior forward, had 34 blocks while playing just 12.7 minutes per game.

WHAT WENT WRONG: One-year stopover Nurideen Lindsey, a prodigious scorer on the high school level in Philly and a transfer from St. John's, averaged 8.0 points per game, but the expectations were for much, much more. Lindsey didn't disrupt things, but it appeared that he deferred to more-established players and was never the offensive threat his skills indicated he could be. Lindsey, after the season, left school to pursue professional opportunities overseas. The 6-9 start wasn't expected, but was understandable with some of the losses coming against larger programs (South Carolina, SMU, La Salle, Rutgers, Princeton). But, after that things fell nicely into place. Still, Rider seemed cursed against Fairfield, losing both regular-season meetings (65-52, 69-59) and, then, running into the Stags again in the first round of the MAAC tournament, with Fairfield taking a 43-42 victory in which Rider had a 34-30 lead with under six minutes to play.

WHAT'S AHEAD: More solid play, although two starters, Thompson and Lindsey, are gone. Thompson's loss will be particularly difficult since he led the team in scoring, assists and steals and was one of the league's most-unsung quality players over the past couple of years. Nd-Ezuma is also gone, but he was mostly a shot-blocking specialist. Otherwise, there's a good foundation returning, a strong one-two punch with the 6-7 Stewart and the 6-5 Myles, back as proven senior veterans. And, 6-9 Junior Fortunat, a junior (4.7, 3.5) looks poised to take on a bigger role. Sophomores 6-2 Zedric Sadler and 6-7 Shawn Valentine were also in the playing group last year and are likely to improve, and 6-2 senior Tommy Pereira provides long-range shooting accuracy coming off the bench. The program has four good recruits coming in with 6-7 power forward Khalil Thomas and 6-3 point guard Jimmie Taylor, the most likely to get into the playing group quickly.

PREDICTION FOR 2013-14: Rider has been a consistent contender, at least for the upper half of the league standings, for the past several years and the coming season will be more of the same. It's hard to think the Broncs can crack the top three (Manhattan, Iona, Canisius), but it's not out of the realm of possibility if a couple of the incoming freshmen make significant contributions. The likelihood, though, is that Rider will finish somewhere in the fourth/fifth/sixth range.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Niagara `Commit' Myers Made Academic Commitment

In the blog post headlined "Early Summer Thoughts ..." we identified Niagara as the team likely to create the biggest positive surprise this year.

And, then, we found another reason ... the type of story we really love ... for better days ahead for the Purple Eagles under first-year coach Chris Casey.

It's the story of Wesley Myers, who recently graduated from Boys & Girls' High School.

Myers is a talent 6-foot-1 point guard who, just a few days ago, gave a verbal commitment to join Niagara for the upcoming season.

Myers' commitment means he will become the first Boys & Girls player to go straight from high school to Division I in four years. It's not that the school hasn't produced more than its share of high-quality players. It's just that, in recent years, none of them had qualified academically to play at the D-I level directly out of high school.

In a story that recently appeared in the New York Post, Boys & Girls' coach Ruth Lovelace said that Myers is a qualifier after finishing school strong and getting the required SAT score, snapping a recent trend of academic shortcomings at the school for star basketball players.

"I take pride in that," Myers told the Post. "That's an accomplishment."

"He's a kid who pretty much listened academically, listened to what he needed to do," Lovelace told the Post. "It was important for him and his family to qualify, and he got it done. We're very, very happy about it."

Myers' high school teams have won a pair of city championships. As a junior, when he was a key part to his team's third straight PSAL Class AA crown and a state title, big-name programs including South Carolina, Dayton and Miami were showing interest. But, that interest waned and Myers was considering prep school before programs such as Niagara, Rider and even Hofstra, where former Niagara coach Joe Mihalich is now coaching.

"It was a comfortable fit," said Myers. "I liked the team (Niagara), I liked the coach. I felt welcome."

"I think Wesley can have a great career at that level," Lovelace added, in the article. "In his career he has gotten recruited by bigger schools. But, I named five kids (from Boys & Girls) who didn't play as freshmen or sophomores a the D-I level (because of academics). I asked him `what do you really want?' My thing is to go somewhere where they want you, where you're going to play. That's what it's really about. That's what you want out of your basketball career."

And, it appears that's what Myers really wanted, working hard enough at it academically to make it come true.

Iona's Radio Voice Ed Ingles Receives Golf Award

A very nice, and well-deserved honor was received in recent weeks by Iona's veteran radio color commentator Ed Ingles.

Ingles recently was honored as the Lincoln Werden Golf Journalism Award at the 62nd Metropolitan Golf Writers dinner. Named after the late sportswriter for the New York Times, the Werden award is presented to a writer, broadcaster, photographer or artist for outstanding contributions in the field of golf journalism

Ingles, a pioneer of radio reporting, has covered 34 Masters Tournaments for CBS radio, as well as several U.S. Opens, British Opens and PGA Championships.

That Ingles was honored isn't much of a surprise. That he is 81 years old was the shocker here. Ingles remains active, vibrant and strong in his work.

Your scribe has been dabbling in radio color commentary for Siena women's basketball games for the past three years, and a greater appreciation comes from that for those who do it well.

And, there isn't anyone in the MAAC, or at the mid-major level of college basketball ... and, maybe, at any college basketball level ... who does it better than Ingles.

Your scribe has known Ingles since he began doing radio for Iona, alongside standout play-by-play man Gary Stanley, since 1995.

I've been a frequent Iona game halftime guest of Ingles, and one appearing in that capacity had better be knowledgeable and opinionated about the MAAC and its happenings because Ingles asks pertinent, insightful questions as well as anyone. And, he tosses in his own opinions, which are well researched and considered.

I have listened to dozens of his Iona broadcasts over the years, and he is among my favored radio voices at any level. That he lends a real air of professionalism to his work barely begins to describe how good and effective he is from behind a microphone.

Ingles joins a very distinguished group of individuals who have won the Werden award, including Jim Nantz, Peter Alliss, Dave Anderson and Dan Jenkins.

Anderson, the Pulitzer-Prize winning sports columnist for The New York Times, introduced Ingles at the dinner.

Anderson described Ingles as "an old forest, like the redwoods" for his 50-plus years of journalistic experience.

Early Summer Thoughs On Upcoming Men's Season

I can tell you that the MAAC preview for The Sporting News' College Basketball Annual is complete and submitted.

I can't reveal too many details (TSN requires exclusive "preview rights" until its publication hits the newsstands), but I'll pass along a few preseason thoughts for men's teams ... and, we'll do the same for women in short order.

First, we hope you rush out to grab The Sporting News' college hoops magazine when it comes out (usually in mid-October). I know the deadline is early, and there might still be a player, or two, joining programs before the summer is out. But, it will contain the best-researched, most informative data available right now.

Some thoughts ...


It seems pretty clear that, with 2011-12's leading conference scorer in 6-foot-4 George Beamon returning, getting a real boost in the post from 6-10 Ashton Pankey, a Maryland transfer, and the return of just about every other player of significance, Manhattan will be the preseason choice to win this year's regular-season title just about everywhere.

But it won't be a runaway by any stretch. There are some who think Iona, despite the loss of Momo Jones, the nation's third-leading scorer last season, could be even better. I don't know about that, but everyone of significance other than Momo returns. Plus, sophomore A.J. English, who was having a standout freshman season before a mid-season injury, is also expected to be 100 percent. Forward David Laury, who didn't  become eligible until the second semester last year, is available right from the start this season. There's also an incoming JUCO in 6-7 Isaiah Williams, a slender wing who both scores and rebounds, who will help. Also on the roster is 6-5 guard Kelvin Amayo, who transferred in from Marshall after playing just three games there Amayo is expected to be ineligible this season, but the Gaels have a waiver application for his immediate eligibility, based on, he claims, being misled by the offer of a Marshall scholarship that wasn't available. Another transfer, 6-5 wing Mike Poole, transferred from Rutgers in the aftermath of the firing of coach Mike Rice. Poole is also applying for immediate eligibility. If both he and Amayo get favorable rulings from the NCAA and can play immediately, Iona becomes an even stronger contender.

And, although Canisius lost two standout guards in Harold Washington and Isaac Sosa, the entire front court returns as does senior do-everything guard Billy Baron. And, there's a quality replacement in the backcourt with incoming transfer Chris Perez, who averaged 15.1 points per game at Stetson last season, has graduated and has a year's eligibility which he can use without sitting out a season.


The bottom three picks are Siena, Niagara and Monmouth, but all will be competitive.

Siena has four solid recruits, all of which should get into the playing group plus gets the benefits of new head coach Jim Patsos, an enthusiastic program builder who won't need any time to get acquainted with the league.

Niagara, despite the loss of 15-year head coach Joe Mihalich and five key players since his departure, still has a nice core group of perimeter players coming back.

And Monmouth has a couple of standouts, although it unexpectedly lost two players who still had eligibility remaining.


That would be, in no particular order, Marist, Saint Peter's, Fairfield, Rider, and Quinnipiac.

And, you try to pick an order. They are tightly bunched and any of those five certainly has enough talent to finish in the top five, a standings' position required to avoid a play-in round game in the conference's post-season tournament.


It would be easy just to say that Manhattan's Beamon will pick up where he left off in 2011-12 and reclaim his conference scoring crown. But, Manhattan has considerably more talent now than it did two years ago and Beamon probably won't need to score as much.

The player that can, and will, score plenty is Niagara's Antoine Mason, a 6-foot-3 junior guard. Considering the off-season defections within that program, Mason will be counted on to pick up even more of the scoring load this season and is the choice here not only to led the MAAC in scoring, but to be among the top five scorers nationally.


Iona's David Laury, a 6-8 power forward, averaged 10.3 rebounds per game last season, second-most among MAAC players, most among returnees and could end up leading the league in rebounding this coming season.

But, the best inch-for-inch rebounder the MAAC has seen in several years is 6-foot-6 senior forward Chris Manhertz of Canisius, who averaged 8.7 rebounds per game last season. Manhertz is the proverbial "dirt dog," who does all the often unnoticed little things on the court. There aren't many in any league who play harder, and he rebounds in a big way. If he were three inches taller he'd probably lead the nation in rebounding.


Momo Jones got it last year, although this scribe's choice was Juan'ya Green of Niagara. Jones has graduated, while Green moved on to Hofstra to continue to play for Mihalich. That leaves Billy Baron of Canisius, who was no worst than the league's third-best player, it says here, a year ago.

The competition is gone, and Baron remains one of the most-versatile, quality backcourt performers anywhere. He was No. 3 in the league in scoring last year and lead the conference in assists. Those stats certainly could rise a little this year, but just a duplication of what he did in 2012-13 should be enough for him to be the upcoming season's top MAAC player.


Not much doubt about this one: Iona's Sean Armand, who led the conference with 112 three pointers last season, shooting 40.9 percent from bonus territory.


We can't limit ourselves to just one here, so we'll go with three.

Mike Alvarado, the Manhattan point guard, was the choice here a year ago and he remains undervalued by most observers, simply because he's not a big scorer. Yet, he runs an offense, plays strong defense and scores enough to be a factor.

The other two: Rider's 6-7 forward Daniel Stewart, who averaged 10.6 points and 7.2 rebounds last year (4th among MAAC players) and was the best conference player not picked as a post-season all-star; and, 6-5 senior forward Jay Bowie from Marist. Bowie averaged 9.4 point (52.7 percent from the field) and 4.9 rebounds per game, but only played 18 games after recovering from an early season injury. It's no surprise that Marist, which finished 10-21 overall, won five of its last eight games as Bowie returned to playing shape.


Khalil Hart of Marist. The 6-2 guard looked like a strong candidate to start a year ago before a preseason knee injury kept him out for the season. If he's healthy, he'll be a factor. And, with the graduation loss of starting guard Devin Price, Marist has a need for Hart to contribute.


Lots of candidates from the transfer ranks, including Manhattan's Ashton Pankey, Isaiah Williams at Iona, Chris Perez at Canisius, Sean Grennan at Fairfield, Rayvon Harris at Niagara and Marvin Dominique at Saint Peter's., among others.

But, we'll go with a player who has been with his team for the last two years. The caveat is that the team is new to the MAAC so the player is actually a conference newcomer.

That would be Andrew Nicholas, a 6-foot-6 junior swingman from league addition Monmouth. Nicholas was averaging 13.9 points per game last year through 18 games before a heel injury cost him the rest of the season.

If Nicholas, as expected, is fully healthy he will be one of the MAAC's better players this coming season.


A real tough choice. Success for the predicted top three won't be a surprise. That leaves everyone else and we'll go with a real longshot.

Our choice is Niagara, despite the loss of Mihalich, arguably the league's best coach in recent years, and the early defection of four players who were candidates to be in the starting lineup. But, what's still in place isn't a totally bare cupboard.

Antoine Mason should be among the national scoring leaders this coming season and he can carry the Purple Eagles to a number of victories. The rest of the backcourt is strong, too, with senior Marvin Jordan and sophomore point guard Tahjere McCall, who looks like he's going to become a quality performer. And, then, there's eligible transfer 6-5 swingman Rayvon Harris from Rhode Island, who your Hoopscribe saw practice last season, and was impressed by both his ability to score and rebound. Niagara will be small, but if 6-7 junior Joe Thomas can step up and new head coach Chris Casey can find just one more solid inside player, Niagara will exceed most expectations.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Siena, MAAC loses Erickson, A Shining Example

We mourn the passing of the young more so than the loss of our elder loved ones simply because their death is so unexpected, that it comes far too soon.

A.E. Housman, in his classic poem "To an Athlete Dying Yong," praises a young and famous athlete for dying before he is old and forgotten, but also mourns the passing of a youth who lived life to the fullest.

Courtney Erickson wasn't a famous athlete, but he was well-known within the MAAC for his behind-the-scenes work in a variety of capacities. And, as we mourn his passing Friday morning at the far-too-young age of 44 after a courageous battle with cancer of the pancreas and liver, we have lost a good friend who most definitely lived life to the fullest.

His connections to sports, to Siena athletics and to the MAAC are many. For a time he worked in Siena's sports information office before moving on to bigger things, many of them in the poltical field. He worked for nearly a year in the Washington, D.C., area for Barrack Obama's re-election campaign and, recently, received a personal note from the President lauding Courtney for his courageous personal fight with cancer.  But he was never far from sports.

In recent years, he was Siena's video replay coordinator at men's and women's home basketball games. He was a regular fixture at MAAC tournaments, helping out behind the scenes either for the league or lending a hand to any of the sports information directors that might have a need.

His smile and good nature was always on display, even in his final weeks. He was a brilliant individual, a honors graduate of Cornell University, who used his life skills to help others.

He was a basketball umpire and basketball official at the high school level, helped local high school students prepare for SAT exams and served as the specifications coordinator for Schenectady County. His career ambition was to become Schenectady's mayor, almost assuredly because that is where he could have done the most good for the most people.

But the menial duties were hardly beneath him when the need arose. When Siena couldn't supply a student to wear its Saint Bernard mascot's uniform for MAAC tournament games, Courtney fulfilled that particular duty. When there was no national anthem singer, and no recorded anthem available, before a Siena women's game not so long ago, Erickson (keeping game statistics at the time) stepped from behind the scorer's table to center court to belt out a well-done acapella version. He might have been a little rusty from his high school days when he earned all-Eastern selection as a chorus performer while at Linton High School, but he saw a need and stepped up and filled it.

Things like that epitomize Courtney.
Courtney's facebook page is already filled with tributes ... from athletes, from media members, from MAAC officials, from politicians and from just friends. It is a tribute to how many lives, from how many walks of life,  he touched.

Count this as another tribute. I am honored to have called Courtney a friend, someone whose company was always enjoyed. True friends are few in life, yet Courtney was one to hundreds of us.

Yet his best days might have been in his final months and weeks. Despite a mid-winter diagnosis that was anything but positive, Courtney never complained about his physical plight.

Instead, he attacked it with seeming joy and an optimistic belief that he would overcome his physical ills. He rarely, if ever, let it detract from living a full life. He attended this March's MAAC tournament, continued to referee and umpire until late spring. He continued to socialize with friends, to fulfill his employment responsibilities and just continue to enjoy life.

For that, he was a shining example of how a life should be led, even with the knowledge that there likely isn't to be much of it remaining.

In late May, Pete Iorizzo of the Times Union newspaper featured Courtney's plight.

Within it, Tom Marcucci, a longtime friend of Courtney, is quoted as saying "He's not suffering from cancer, he's kicking its ass."

Courtney's plan was to beat the odds, to wage a fight against the unbeatable foe ... and, beat it. And, then, to become a public advocate for cancer victims, an example of how to beat it it.

Courtney kicked its ass for as long as he could, longer than most expected. And, in doing so, he fulfilled his ambition to be an example.

In the months as he approached an almost certain death he showed us how to live life to the fullest.