Thursday, October 31, 2013

Best MAAC Stories: No. 30, Coyle Coaches In WNBA

Here's another in the "Terrific 32," series, taking a look at the all-time best MAAC basketball happenings.

Up now ...

NO. 30


 It's not very often that one of our conference's coaches makes it to the very top of the profession.

In fact, your blogger can't remember a single instance of a former men's head coach from the MAAC ever becoming an NBA head coach. The closest is former Siena assistant Steve Clifford ("Terrific" story, no. 31), who is now the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats..

But, it has happened on the women's side when, early in the 1998-99 season ,  Coyle was hired away from Loyola to become an assistant coach with the WNBA New York Liberty. Coyle eventually became that franchise's head coach from 2004-09.

Coyle had been at Loyola from the start of the 1992-93 season until she left the program for the pros after the Greyhounds' first five games. During her time at the Baltimore school she turned around a program that had 13 consecutive losing seasons (12-71 the three seasons before Coyle's arrival).

That turned around in quick order. Her first Loyola team went 14-15, and in her six-plus seasons there her teams had a 100-77 record and advanced to back-to-back NCAA tournaments (1995 and 1996), still Loyola's only two trips to the women's NCAA event.

When Coyle finally lost her position in the WNBA she wasn't out of work long, becoming an assistant coach with Pittsburgh, a position that lasted through this past season.

And, now, Coyle has come full circle. She is back in the MAAC, hired over the spring, to be head coach at Saint Peter's.

For sure, it's another rebuilding situation. The Peacocks have just one overall winning season in the last 11, and a league-worst 13-79 mark over the past three seasons.

"I'm not real concerned about what happened here in the past," said Coyle, in a phone interview this summer. "I haven't even looked at film from last year. I want to form my own opinion about what's here. Everyone starts with a clean slate."

It's not like success is foreign to the program. Saint Peter's won at least 20 games in a season 15 times from the league's start in 1971 through the 2001-02 season, more than any other MAAC team over that stretch.

"That's one of the things that attracted me ... that Saint Peter's has a real strong history," added Coyle. "This program had some great past success. Mike Granelli (the coach through much of that) did a real good job. I know because I had to coach against him at Loyola, and it was just a nightmare whenever you had to look forward to playing against Saint Peter's."

And, now, the league's only women's coach to have served as a WNBA head coach, is back in the league likely to soon make it a nightmare, once again, to play against Saint Peter's.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Best MAAC Stories: No. 31, NBA Bobcats Hire Clifford

Here's another in the "Terrific 32," series, taking a look at the all-time best MAAC basketball happenings.

Up now ...

NO. 31


Steve Clifford, a former assistant coach at both Siena College (1994-95) and at Fairfield (1989-90), became the first former MAAC connection to become an NBA head coach when he was hired for that position by the Charlotte Bobcats in late May.

Clifford might only have been at Siena for a single season (under then-head coach Bob Beyer), but his connection with the school has remained strong over the years.

He was a candidate for Siena's vacancy as head coach in 2000 (to replace Paul Hewitt), and again in 2001 (to replace Louis Orr).

Clifford reportedly was offered the Siena job in 2001 but turned it down when he was about to be promoted from advance scout to bench coach that year with the NBA New York Knicks.

It was a good career move because, after that, he was also an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets, the Orlando Magic and with the Los Angeles Lakers this past season.

Through his time in the NBA, he has remained close to his Siena connections, often serving as an advisor, of sorts, for school administrators when they have been conducting searches for head coaches over the years.

Clifford left Siena after his one season there to become the head coach at Division II Adelph and, then, became an assistant coach at Division I East Carolina University before he was hired by Jeff Van Gundy to be an advance scout with the Knicks.

Clifford has known Van Gundy since they both worked at Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's summer camp in 1985.

They renewed acquaintances in 1998 during an NBA lockout. Clifford was coaching at Adelphi and Van Gundy (then the Knicks' coach) was living nearby.

Clifford recalls that Van Gundy called him to say he was looking to keep active in basketball during the lockout and asked if he could come to Adelphi practices to help out. So, for several weeks, Adelphi's players got the benefit of working with an NBA head coach.

Van Gundy was so impressed with Clifford that, when the opportunity arose, he brought Clifford into the Knicks' organization.

"He (Clifford) is a person with impeccable integrity," Van Gundy was quoted as saying, when the Bobcats hired Clifford. "He is a brilliant basketball coach who relates to all kinds of people well, and I think he will do a fantastic job with the talent at hand. I'm so happy for one of the good guys in the league to get this opportunity."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Best MAAC Stories: No. 32, Long-Range Success

Here is the first in what will be a season-long series looking at the best "stories" in the MAAC's basketball history.

The MAAC has been around for 32 years (now entering its 33rd year of operation), so we'll identify a "Terrific 32" from the archives.

Our list will comprise the best from both the men's and women's ranks, include individual achievement, team achievement and coaching accomplishments ... basically anything that had significance and is connected to the conference has been considered.

We'll try to write about one, or two, of the all-time best happenings each week in the series, counting down in reverse order, and we'll continue it throughout the upcoming season.

Your blogger has been around the MAAC almost for the entirety of its existence, having covered Army basketball (when that program was a league member) from 1981 through the 1984-85 season. After that, we moved to the Capital Region of upstate New York to pick up Siena College coverage, and was there when that program joined the MAAC in 1989.

We've been involved with MAAC coverage, either as a newspaper reporter or through this blog, ever since. We'll not only identify the top stories, but we'll provide some insight, either through outside reports or first-hand connections.

So, let's begin with ....

NO. 32


The three-point rule has been around for most of the MAAC's history (it was approved for the 1986-87 season), but never has it been put to better, or more prolific use, than in recent years.

The two greatest single-game 3-point efforts in league history have been turned in by current Iona men's senior guard Sean Armand and Saint Peter's women's sophomore guard Bridget Whitfield.

Armand had his big night in early January of 2012, midway through his sophomore season when he connected on a MAAC record of 10 three-pointers (on 19 attempts) in a 95-59 rout of Siena in a game played at Madison Square Garden.

Prior to the game, Siena's forward O.D. Anosike had been quoted saying "We're still Siena ... we still feel we're the Cadillac program (of the MAAC)."

"Guess the Cadillac didn't work today," Armand sad, afterwards.

Siena's roadside breakdown that night came mostly courtesy of Armand, who got a game-high 32 points in just 22 minutes of playing time.

Armand surpassed the conference's single-game record for MAAC three's that had previously been nine and held by Saint Peter's Keydren Clark (twice), Loyola's Andre Collins, Manhattan's Bruce Seales and Siena's Jim Secretarski.

"I have to see if we can get more games here (at MSG)," Armand told me, several days after his terrific long-range performance. "I'm from Brooklyn, so a lot of my friends and family members were able to watch."

There probably weren't many fans of the Saint Peter's women's team on hand when the Peacocks played at Siena's Alumni Recreation Center in late February of last season.

But that didn't deter then-freshman guard Bridget Whitfield from having a perfect night from the field. The 5-foot-7 guard made all eight three-point attempts she took in the contest.

Whitfield had been so unerring that, at halftime, Siena coach Ali Jaques wrote the No. 50 in bright red on her left hand.

"I tried everything else," said Jaques, after the game. "I yelled her number during the whole first half. I wrote it in large numbers on our chalkboard at halftime. I figured I needed to write it on my hand, too, to show my players every time they looked at me on the sidelines."

Whitfield, though, didn't get quite enough help from her teammates that night and Siena was able to hold on for a 70-67 victory.

In women's basketball history, only one player (Keri Farley of Cornell, who went 9-for-9 in a game in 1993) has made more treys without a miss in a game.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Some Info, Thoughts On Newest Honor Roll Members

Earlier this month the MAAC revealed its latest class to be inducted to the league's "Honor Roll," in which honorees are enshrined in "The MAAC Experience" exhibit at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Each member institution has one male and one female basketball-related individual inducted annually. Those honored need not have played in the MAAC, only to have played at schools that are currently affiliated with the conference.

Those selected will attend a dinner event on Saturday, March 8, 1014, at the Hall of Fame Court of Drames, and each honoree will be profiled in the game program for the 2014 MAAC Basketball Championshipo tournament. Honorees will also be recognized at halftime of the men's tournament's quarterfinal round game, session 5 of the event's schedule.

Here's a brief thumbnail description of honorees. Your hoopscribe can't begin to say he the play of all those selected. But, I will include some personal thoughts about some.

- Frank Swiatek: He played from 1962-65 and led Canisius in scoring and rebounding (22.3 pints, 7.9 rebounds) as a senior. His 1962-63 team ad advanced to the championship game of the NIT.
- Dr. Ellen Conley: She has been primarily an administrator at Canisius since 1970. Under her direction the women's athletic program there was formed and grew from one club-level team to seven varsity teams.

- George Bisacca: He was the head coach of the men's basketball team from 1958-68 and led the program's transition to Division I. In 10 seasons he led the Stags to a 151-87 record and three of his players were drafted by the NBA. Another, Nick Macarchuk, became a successful long-time coach.
- Dianne Nolan: Head coach of the women's team for 28 years, recording 456 career victories, four trips to the NCAA Tournament and one WNIT berth. She was named the conference's Coach of the Year five times. She is currently head coach of the Lafayette women's program.

- Kevin Hamilton: He scored 1,412 career points, which was fourth on the Gaels' all-time list when he finished his career in the late 1970's. His .883 free-throw percentage for the 1976-77 season still is among the best in school history. His teams recorded an 84-31 record and two NCAA Tournament appearances in four seasons. He was picked in the fourth round of the NBA draft.
- Celeste Grier-Jonathan: She led her Iona teams from the late 1970's to two Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Regional Appearances. She averaged 13.0 points and 6.6 rebounds over her career, while scoring 1,441 career points.

- Luis Flores: He began his college career at Rutgers before transferring to Manhattan where he played his final three seasons and scored 2,046 points there, the eighth-best total all time in conference history. His teams of the early 2000's went to two NCAA Tournaments and one NIT. The 6-2 guard was an unyielding competitor who played with an economy of motion. He was a two-time MAAC Player of the Year and two-time MAAC Championship tournament MVP. For sure, one of the top five or six men's players in conference history.
- Marianne Reilly: She played at Manhattan from 1978-82 and became the program's first women's player to surpass 1,000 career points (1,305), along with 860 rebounds. She led the Jaspers to their first-ever winning season as a junior. She is currently the Senior Associate Athletic Director at Fordham, overseeing compliance and eligibility and she also directs the department's lifeskills program and is an administrator for a number of intercollegiate sports.

- Mike Hart: A local guy, a product of Poughkeepsie, who stayed home to become a standout at Marist. At 6-5 he was a bit of an undersized forward who was still a force both inside and outside. Despite playi8ng just nine games a junior, due to a leg injury, he still scored 1,343 career points, which was the best on the Marist career list when he graduated. He is still No. 8 on the school's scoring list.
- Julianne Viani: A 5-8 guard, she scored 1,447 career points at Marist, still No. 5 on the career list. She was among the early standouts in current coach Brian Giorgis' tenure at the school and teams she played on recorded a 113-20 overall record. She also had 411 assists, third all-time in Marist history. She is currently a TV sports announcer and has been the analyst for the MAAC women's basketball championships, shown on ESPNU, for the past two seasons.

- Ron Kornegay: One of his program's all-time best, a first team all-NAIA selection in 1968 and '69. He was an extremely quick guard who is still Monmouth's all-time leading scorer with 2,526 career points. His teams posted a 112-17 record. He was also the team's coach for 10 years (1977-87) and is currently the director of athletics at Manasuan High School.
- Joan Martin: She has been a fixture at her school in a number of capacities, first as a coach for 13 seasons, beginning in 1969. She also served as softball coach for 11 years and field hockey coach for eight years. She moved into administration on a full-time basis in 1982 and has spearheaded the establishment and growth of women's athletics at the school where it now an 11-sport program.

- Juan Mendez: We recall him as an irrepressible inside force as a rugged 6-8, 245-pound forward forward, certainly among the top five or six to ever play the position in the MAAC. At Niagara he scored 2,210 career points, fourth best all-time in the conference. He also had 1,053 rebounds, No. 6 on the conference list. In 2005 he became one of just two Purple Eagles to be named to the Associated Press All-America Team, earning honorable mention designation for averaging 23.5 points and 10.6 rebounds. He joined Niagara great Calvin Murphy on that list.
- Joan Thornton: The first scholarship player in Niagara women's basketball history, and the first to surpass the 1,000-point career mark (1,106 points). She is still first in all-time field-goal percentage (62.1) at the school. Her Niagara teams compiled an 84-19 record and she earned first-team Academic All-America honors in 1980.

- Keith Gaither: A familiar presence at the school's basketball facility for every Bobcats' home game for many years, recognized universally at the school as the No. 1 fan for both the men's and women's programs. Being relegated to a wheelchair and slowed by cerebral palsy has not dimmed his passion for basketball at the school. Quinnipiac honored him two years ago, declaring him as the Bobcats' No. 1 fan, and he was greeted with a standing ovation.
- Pat Hayes: A behind-the-scenes contributor, she is accounting secretary in the Bursar's Office at the school. She regularly interacts with students and student-athletes, always with a smile and a kind word, as well as being one of the most-dedicated fans of school athletics. She was recognized in 1999 with the school's "Behind the Scenes Award," and, again, in 2004 with the university's Excellence in Service to Students Award.

- Jack Madden: A two-sport standout (1956-59), he scored 1,341 points with 800 rebounds in basketball and was also an outstanding pitcher on the school's baseball team. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds following his junior season, but went on to a prolific career as a professional basketball official both in the NBA and ABA. He is one of only seven officials to have worked 25 NBA Championships.
- Kelly Eckardt-Zawodny: She was a star during the school's early years of Division I basketball, finishing with 1,652 career points and 848 rebounds. She averaged 21.9 points as a senior and was a three-time team MVP while at Rider.

- Don Kennedy: He is the school's all-time winningest men's basketball coach with a record of 323-1985 from 1950 to 1972. His teams went to five NIT events and he coached eight 1,000-point scorers. His teams posted winning records in 19 of his 22 seasons, including a program record 24 victories in 1967-68, when it finished fourth in the NIT.
- Tonya Grant: A dominant force in the paint from 1986-90 who finished her career at the school as its all-time leading scorer (2,020 points) and fourth-leading rebounder (964). She is currently the conference's fifth all-time leading scorer and was a two-time first-team all-MAAC choice as well as the conference's Player of the Year for the 1989-90 season. Her teams compiled a 79-33 record.

- Billy Harrell: While we weren't around when Harrell played (1949-52), his teams compiled a 70-19 record. The 1949-50 team, of which he swas the leading scorer and rebounder, finished 27-5 and won the National Catholic Invitational Tournament. He was a UPI Honorable Mention All-American in 1952 and, later, went on to play four seasons of major league baseball , three with the Cleveland Indians and one with the Boston Red Sox. He is universally recognized as the best all-around athlete ever produced by New York's Capital Region.
- Lisa (Serafino) Ruggiero: A 5-4 guard who used quickness, a superlative outside shot and court sense to succeed. She averaged 5.1 assists per game in 1992-93 and finished with 364 career assists, No. 7 all-time at Siena. She was also a GTE/CoSIDA Academic First Team selection.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Preview of Coming Attractions: Much Ahead For Blog

The team-by-team recruiting/newcomer reports are done. So, what's next for "Keepin' Track of the MAAC?"

Plenty. A few weeks ago we mentioned that we would identify all-time top stories from our conference.

Your blogger had diligently been compiling a list that was originally meant to be a top 10. The quick realization was that there was just too much to limit it to that number.

So, the plan now is to go with a "Terrific 32," a number that matches the length of years of the conference's existence. And, believe me, there is no shortage of candidates.

Your blogger has been around for most of that, having covered the MAAC in some form or other since its very beginning. Back when the conference was formed in 1981 I was working for a newspaper in Middletown, N.Y., and covering then-conference member Army.

In 1985 I made a move back to New York's Capital Region and covered Siena, which joined the conference in 1989.

Since then, my MAAC coverage has been continuous, either at newspaper locales or via this blog.

The "Terrific 32" list will be self-produced, my own thoughts of the all-time best stories from men's and women's programs.

There is no criteria ... this won't be like the major league all-star game; each team won't necessarily be represented.

This will be an on-going process throughout the coming season. We'll be recalling one of the top stories every few days throughout the 2013-14 season. They will be in reverse order starting with No. 32 and, then, counting down to No. 1.

Each "highlight" will be relatively comprehensive, both with description and personal observations.

ALSO, as the season approaches we'll be producing the annual team previews for every men's and women's program.

Your blogger did a men's league preview for The Sporting News' annual College Basketball Preview Issue. But, space limitations of national publications of that sort make those previews relatively brief.

This blog has no such space limitations, so there will be plenty of insight about each and every MAAC program in the upcoming previews.

The team-by-team previews will start around the time of the beginning of non-league games and continue throughout most of November as we head toward conference play.

So, check in early and often not only for the upcoming team previews and the "Terrific 32" list, but plenty of other news, perspective, insight and just about anything else from around the MAAC.

Former Maryland Coach Gary Williams Visits Siena

It's not an every day occurrence for someone with a world championship ring to visit a MAAC athletic team, so it's always a big event when it happens.

At Siena, in recent years, Rollie Massimino (Villanova, 1985) attended a practice and spoke to the Saints. His staff for that championship team included Mitch Buonaguro, Siena's head coach for the past three seasons; and, Marty Marbach, who lived in upstate New York for several years and served as radio color commentator for the Siena men's games.

Former NFL head coach and Super Bowl winner Bill Parcells, who has a home in Saratoga Springs, also stopped in to visit the team a couple of years ago.

And, Tuesday, it was Gary Williams, the head coach of the 2001-02 Maryland national championship team, who accepted an invitation from current Saints' head coach Jimmy Patsos, to spend two days around the Siena program.

The connection between Williams and Patsos is cemented by Patsos' 13 years as an assistant on Williams' Maryland staff.

Coincidentally, Maryland's first game on its national championship run in 2002 came with an 85-70 first-round victory over Siena.

Two nights earlier Siena had to advance to its meeting with Maryland by knocking off Alcorn State, in Dayton, in a play-in round contest.

Siena stayed close to Maryland for a few minutes, trailing by just a point, 18-17, with 14:40 remaining. Maryland then went on a 15-3 run to start to break things open. The winners' lead was up to 19 late in the first half before Siena cut it to 14 at the break.

Maryland put it away with a 15-2 run early in the second half for a 67-44 lead. The winners used reserves for the last seven or eight minutes of the game, enabling Siena to cut the final margin to 15. And, if memory serves, that was the smallest margin of any Maryland game that tournament prior to its 12-point victory over Indiana in the championship contest.

"Siena was right there and, then, we played well in the second half," Williams recalled to reporters at Siena's practice on Tuesday.

It's no surprise that Williams would make the visit, out of respect for his long-time assistant and friend, Patsos.

And, it was Patsos who prepared the scouting report for Maryland's 2002 NCAA tournament victory over Siena.

Maryland had a team, back then, that included four future NBA players in guards Juan Dixon and Steve Blake and forwards Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox. Dixon had a game-high 29 points in the game against Siena.

Siena got 16 points from forward James Clinton, and 14 points from Dwayne Archbold and 13 from Andy Cavo in the contest.

"Siena was good ... that was a very good basketball team," said the 68-year old Williams, who retired two years ago with 668 career victories over 33 years as a head coach.

Williams, who also coached at American University, Boston College and Ohio State, usually employed an up-tempo, pressure style of play that Patsos favored at his previous position as Loyola's head coach and is currently installing at Siena.

"He (Patsos) was my assistant for 13 years at Maryland, and he was a big part of my success," said Williams. "We've been friends ever since."

Patsos is quick to credit Williams.

"Most of the stuff we do is from him," said Patsos. "He was very influential in (getting) this job. Right away he said, `That's a job you've got to try to get ... basketball job, great city.' He talked to John D'Argenio (Siena's athletic director) to help me get this job."

"Williams spoke to Siena's players prior to their team workout on Tuesday. Each Siena player introduced himself and gave his name and hometown.

Williams spoke to the Saints about the excitement of the upcoming season and the importance of helping the team improve with their daily practice effort.

Williams also attended a dinner at a local restaurant on Monday to meet with team boosters and took a brief tour of the area Tuesday morning, including a stop at the Times Union Center, Siena's home court for games.

Recruiting: Quinnipiac Women Add Two Good Ones

Here's the last of the series looking at newcomers joining conference teams for the upcoming season.

Up now ...


- Morgan Manz, a 6-foot-1 freshman forward: She played four varsity seasons in high school, the last three with The Taft School in Watertown, Conn. No  high school stats available, but she is versatile enough to have played point guard in high school for a portion of her career before moving up front. We saw her play in the 2011 GymRat AAU tournament, and here's the report on her from that event: "Big, solid body. Typical power forward skills, yet a nice touch from the perimeter. She moves well for her size and strength. Good, strong player who knows how to use her strength to her advantage on both ends of the court." Here's what Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri said about Manz, in a release issued by the school: "Morgan fits that versatile power forward position that can really shoot the ball. She has tremendous deep three-point range with a super quick release. We are excited to have her join our squad and can make an immediate impact for us."

- Brianah Ramos, 5-9 freshman guard: She played at the high school level at DePaul H.S. in New Jersey where she averaged about 18 points per game this past season. She was an all-New Jersey all-star selection for this past season. She was also her school's class salutatorian. "Brianna is a really strong athlete who comes from a great high school program," said Fabbri. "I'm excited that she's here. She can be explosive offensively but she is also a tremendous defender. She is a great addition to the program."

ANALYSIS: The program doesn't need a lot of immediate help, not after finishing with 30 victories last season and having eight of its top nine layers returning. But, Manz is a good one, based on personal observation. She should get into the playing group quickly and eventually be a factor in the conference. And, Ramos is an explosive, athletic guard who should also make some early contributions. Those two should help ensure Quinnipiac's recent run of success will continue in future seasons.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fairfield Set To Honor Writing Stars Weiss, O'Connell

A Fairfield University basketball Tip Off event this Thursday (Oct. 24) at the University Club (1 West 54th Street) in New York City will also serve to honor two of the true giants of the media industry.

Longtime New York Daily News columnist Dick "Hoops" Weiss and Associated Press National College writer Jim "OC" O'Connell will be honored as the inaugural recipients of Fairfield University Basketball's "Stags Lifetime Achievement Ward: Leader of the Herd," for long and meritorious service.

The event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets, are priced at a very reasonable $25 for general admission. Tickets and more information can be obtained by calling Pat Murphy (203-254-4000, ext. 2102), or on line at Faiirfield's website.

Your Hoopscribe can't claim a close friendship with either O'Connell or Weiss, but there's connection enough to know that both are terrific representatives of their profession.

O'Connell has been a go-to source whenever I wrote about any issue of national significance over the years, and could not have been more accommodating with his time, opinions and insights.

Weiss operates mostly on the high-major end of college basketball, one that mid-major level programs don't regularly approach. But, we've shared a press-room table with Weiss a few times. The first was at an NCAA tournament more than a decade ago when a mutual friend offered to introduce me. The introduction turned into about an hour-long discussion of the sport, and there aren't many more enjoyable ways to spend time.

Both are true veteran professionals and each is extremely accommodating with their time and insights to younger (and, in this case, older) reporter/writers.

And, it goes without saying that very few have covered college basketball as well as O'Connell and Weiss.

Each has already received the Curt Gowdy Award to enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and they have a combined 80 years of award-winning coverage of college hoops including a total of 77 NCAA tournaments.

The inaugural plaques honoring O'Connell and Weiss will be permanently displayed both in the Fairfield athletics office and the Fairfield Stags Club in the Webster Bank Arena, the program's home court, in Bridgeport, Ct.

At the event, school men's coach Sydney Johnson and women's coach Joe Frager will participate in the presentation to the writers for their "distinguished service and lifetime achievement with accuracy and journalistic integrity, while keeping the efforts of the student-athletes at the forefront."

WFAN Radio update reporter Bob Heussler, who also does play-by-lay for Fairfield games, will serve as the event's master of ceremonies.

Heussler will also lead a panel discussion with fellow WFAN personalities Marc Malusis and Rich Ackerman following the awards presentation. The trio will discuss college basketball and other current sports topics.

"We are delighted to honor the accomplishments and careers of "Hoops" and "OC," true legends in their own time," said Fairfield athletic director Gene Doris. "These two senior members of the basketball writers have furthered college basketball and the student athletes during their distinguished careers.

"They have served their profession in exemplary fashion with style and grace that is a model for aspiring sports writers and for student-athletes as their prepare for their post-college careers."

Latest Column Looks at Castelli's Post-Siena Life

A few weeks ago I took on columnist duties for The Troy (N.Y.) Record newspaper. I'll certainly be writing much about college basketball in that capacity.

Any time I take a look at something MAAC related, I'll also pass along a link here for blog readers to (hopefully) enjoy.

My most-recent column took a look at former long time Siena women's basketball coach Gina Castelli as she begins her new coaching opportunity at Le Moyne College, a Division II-level program in Syracuse.

Here's a link to today's column:

Just a reminder that my columns appear in the Troy Record every Wednesday and Sunday. They're all available on line and can be found at

And, the hope is that you'll read The Record for more than just my columns. The newspaper, where I've worked previously years ago, has always been committed to outstanding sports coverage, particularly on the local level.

Andy Santillo, covers local colleges (including Siena and UAlbany basketball), Laura Amato covers high school sports and Ed Weaver covers RPI hockey.

Each does their job better than their counterparts at the other area newspapers, and I felt that way long before getting back on The Record's payroll.

If you're an upstate New York sports fan, you'll enjoy The Record's sports section, either having the real thing in your hands or checking in on line.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Marist's Giorgis Deserving of National Mid-Major Honor

This isn't meant as a knock against anyone. It's more of a voice of support for another individual while being critical of an on-line site that attempts to pass off expertise about our league which it clearly doesn't have.

The item that nearly had me choking on my coffee this particular morning is that the site in question, "College Sports Madness" recently announced its all Mid-Major level preseason all stars. It also named a top coach for that level.

The site's preseason Coach of the Year for the mid-major level is Tricia Fabbri of MAAC newcomer Quinnipiac. Fabbri is also the site's preseason choice for the MAAC's Coach of the Year.

We have no qualms about Fabbri, coincidentally a MAAC product (a Fairfield grad) being recognized as an outstanding coach. She has been at Quinnipiac since the start of the 1995-96 season, has directed that program into the Division I level and has had a great deal of success there. Her team even finished 30-2 overall last season as a member of the Northeast Conference.

But, where do we begin about the "College Sports Madness" recognition?

How about being named the MAAC's Preseason Coach of the Year by the internet site, despite having never coached a game, yet, in our conference?

And, how about being named the mid-major level's Coach of the Year when there is a far-more deserving individual within our own league.

Did "College Sports Madness" some how, some way overlook Brian Giorgis at Marist?

OK, Fabbri's Quinnipiac team did finish 30-2 a year ago (Marist was 26-8), but the program's former affiliation is recognized as a half step below the MAAC.

And, Quinnipiac's overall schedule last season didn't begin to approach the non-league slate Giorgis set up for his team, one rated one of the 10 toughest nationally for 2012-13.

Overall, Fabbri has 273 career victories as a coach in 18 seasons. Giorgis has 277 in 11 years.

To be fair, Quinnipiac was a fledgling Division I program for some of Fabbri's early years there. So, we'll compare only the past 11 seasons, or since Giorgis became the Marist coach.

Here are those records: Fabbri at Quinnipiac, 211-117. Giorgis at Marist, 277-77.

Giorgis' winning percentage of 78.2 is the fourth best nationally of any active coach. That's not just the mid-major level ... that's any level of the sport.

Fabbri was named the NEC's Coach of the Year for the 2012-13 season, and rightly so.

But for anyone from the MAAC,, other than Giorgis, to be recognized as the top mid-major level coach nationally ... well, someone didn't look closely enough. Or, doesn't have enough insight to be making such judgments.

It says here that Giorgis isn't just the best mid-major level coach in the country, but that he's one of the best nationally at any level.

To make a case otherwise is just plain wrong.

Recruiting: Quinnipiac Men Fill On-Court Needs

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

Up now ...


- Umar Shannon, a 5-11, 185-pound senior guard: He joins Quinnipiac as a grad student eligible for this coming season after playing three seasons for Saint Francis. He sat out his junior year there with a a knee injury. He came back last year to average 11.2 points, 3.3 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. Prior to his injury he averaged 15.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game as a sophomore. "Umar brings a wealth of experience and talent to our backcourt," said coach Tom Moore, in a release issued by the school. We are obviously very familiar with his game ... He is a strong, talented combo guard who has proven he can score and distribute the ball very well at this level."

- Kasim Chandler, a 5-10, 160-pound freshman guard: He averaged 23 points and six assists per game last season at The Robinson School of New Jersey. He had a career high of 31 points in an East Coast Post Grad Tournament contest this past season. Prior to his prep school year he attended Imani Christian Academy in Pittsburgh. There, he averaged 23.2 points and 6.8 assists per game in the 2011-12 season. "He is a talented point guard ... very good with the ball and highly effective in transition," said Moore. "He is a very creative passer who should help us a great deal offensively, both on the fast break and in the half court."

- Aula Sumbry, a 6-8, 240-pound freshman forward: A true post player who played at St. Benedict's Prep School in Newark, N.J. last season where he averaged 16.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per contest. "He is an aggressive power forward who rebounds the ball very well at both ends," said Moore. "(He is also a very good shot blocker and post defender. He has a soft touch and good hands which will help him to contribute offensively right away."

- Alain Chigha, a 6-7, 200-pound freshman forward: He is a native of Cameroon. He averaged 9.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game over his sophomore and junior seasons at The Rock School in Gainesville, Fla., but no senior statistics are available. He did have a 17-point, 19-rebound performance as a senior in a tournament contest. "He is a terrific small forward who can really defend and shoot the ball well," said Moore. "He is very athletic and works very hard. He will bring an element of size and athleticism to our perimeter."

ANALYSIS: The program needed help at point guard, and brought in two quality candidates in Shannon, a senior transfer, and Chandler, a freshman. It also added strong inside play with Sumbry and an effective, versatile perimeter player in Chigha.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Recruiting: Monmouth Women Add Many Key Parts

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

Up now ...


- Mia Hopkins, a 5-foot-10 freshman guard: She averaged more than 20 points and 14 rebounds per game as a junior at Pittstown (Pa.) Area High School and finished her career there with totals of more than 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. She scored 39 points in one high school game and pulled in 29 rebounds in another. "Mia brings size, versatility and athleticism to our perimeter play," said Monmouth coach Jenny Palmateer. "She has a true passion for basketball and it shows in everything she does."

- Jenny Horvatinovic, a 5-11 freshman guard/forward: She averaged 16.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game as a senior at Red Lion (Pa.) Area H.S. and scored 1,100 career points there. "Jenny brings size and athleticism to our perimeter play," said Palmateer. "She is an effective scorer and passer with a great basketball IQ."

- Christina Mitchell, a 6-4 freshman center/forward): She averaged 12.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game as a senior at Baltimore's Maryland Academy of Technical and Health Services. She averaged 10.4 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game as a junior and 14.9 and 4.8 in those two statistical categories as a sophomore. "Chris brings size and athleticism to our interior game with the ability to defend and block shots," said Palmateer."

- Sophie Beaudry, a 6-4 freshman center: She played at College Dawson in Monntreal and her team recorded an 18-0 record this past season. She averaged 7.3 points and 4.0 rebounds there last season, despite playing through several injuries.

- India Dotson, a 6-0 redshirt freshman forward: She played three years of high school basketball at Frederick (Md.) High School before foregoing her senior season to graduate early and join Monmouth's program a year early. She redshirted last season, but was able to practice with the Monmouth team. In high school she averaged 9.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game as a junior, her last season before leaving school a year early.

- Helena Kurt, a 5-5 freshman guard: She is a native of Spanga, Sweden and played for the Swedish U20 National Team at the 2013 U20 European Championships, averaging 5.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game in that tournament. She led her team to the Swedish National Championship in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. Her school team, Damiligan, compiled a 75-13 record over her four seasons in that program.

- Sarah Olson, a 5-8 junior guard/forward: She is a transfer from NJIT and, as per NCAA rules, will redshirt over the upcoming season and become eligible for the 2014-15 season. As a sophomore at NJIT she started 20 of the team's 31 games and averaged 7.4 points per game. She averaged 7.7 ppg. as a freshman. She has made six three pointers in a game four times over her two seasons at NJIT.

ANALYSIS: The incoming group should help the program's transition to the MAAC, and ensure a strong future for the Hawks. The newcomers bring a little bit of everything. Olson, who isn't eligible this season, will eventually be one of the MAAC's best long-range shooters. Kurt is a prototypical point guard. Dotson is an athletic slasher who already has a year of practice experience on the college level. Beaudry and Mitchell bring the type height that isn't often seen at this level. And, Horvatinovic and Hopkins are both tall and versatile perimeter players. It should be fun for fans of the program to watch this group develop over the next couple of seasons.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Recruiting: Monmouth Men Add Guard Play, Height

Here's another in the series looking at newcomers joining conference programs for the upcoming season.

Up now ...


- Josh James, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound freshman guard: A combo guard who averaged 18.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game this past season as a senior at Archbishop Stepanic H.S. in White Plains. Included was a 34-point outburst in his final scholastic game, a loss in the Cathlic High School Athletic Association's state tournament's semifinal round. "Josh is a tough young man that scores the ball," said Monmouth coach King Rice, in a statement released by the school. "He can play the one and the two, and is a great competitor. He should be able to step in and help us."

- Greg Noack, a 6-7, 190-pound freshman forward: He averaged 12.8 points per game as a senior at Liberty H.S. in Bethlehem, Pa., after averaging 13.2 ppg. as a junior. Your Hoopscribe saw Noack play several times on the AAU circuit, and recognized him to be a hard-nosed combo forward who is capable of going outside to make mid-range shots, or driving hard to the rim. "Greg is a long athlete that can step away and shoot and is the prototypical four man," said Rice. "He runs the floor well, is very athletic and well skilled."

- Zachary Tillman, a 6-9, 280-pound freshman center: He averaged 12.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game as a senior at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pa., this past season. "Zach is a wide body that has great hands, scores around the rim and also rebounds outside of his area," said Rice.

- Deon Jones, a 6-6, 210-pound sophomore guard: He was at Monmouth last season after transferring in from Towson, and is now eligible with three remaining seasons of eligibility. He started all 32 games as a freshman at Towson, averaging 7.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest. He averaged 18.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a high school senior at Sanford (Del.) H.S., and was Delaware's Player of the Year as a senior. He is a big guard who can get to the rim.

-= Justin Robinson, a 5-8, 165-pound freshman guard: The Kingston (N.Y.) High School graduate averaged 17.1 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 steals and 3.8 rebounds per game this past season. He was the MVP of the 2012 GymRat AAU basketball tournament held in the Albany, N.Y., area. Based on what we saw of Robinson in that event, he is adept at running a team while also finding offense for himself, either from the perimeter of sneaking inside.

- Marcelo Ruedinger, a 6-10, 220-pound freshman center: He averaged 6.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game at the Lee Academy in Maine, and made big strides after being primarily a role player there in his first season at the school. A true back-to-the-basket inside player who is originally from Brazil, he also reportedly can consistently make mid-range jumpers.

- Chris Brady, a 6-9, 250-pound freshman center: He averaged 10.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and seven blocked shots per game this past season as a senior at Harborfields H.S. in Greenlawn, N.Y.

- Collin Stewart, a 6-7, 200-pound freshman guard: He was a redshirt at Monmouth last season. He averaged 29.6 points per game at Merkeel Christian Academy in Scotia, N.Y. in the 2011-12 season as a high school senior.

- Vuk Baletic, a 6-9, 225-pound freshman center: No statistics available. He attended Proctor Academy in New Hampshire last season. Reported to be a versatile, multi-talented player capable of playing any of the three front-court spots.

ANALYSIS: A program that occasionally had no player taller than 6-6 on the court last season got big in a big way in the off season. Four players at least 6-9 are on this year's roster, along with another one, 6-7 Greg Noack, who is a good inside player. But, the smallest newcomer, Robinson, might have the biggest impact as he competes for the starting point guard spot. He is a very good one. The bad news is that all the height comes with inexperience. It's extremely rare that a "big" comes in and contributes as a freshman at this level, and Monmouth's infusion of big men will probably need at least a year of development before any of them become significant contributors. The team's best players will still reside on the perimeter. In addition to Robinson, there are two other outstanding guards coming aboard in transfer Deon Jones and freshman Josh James. there's also redshirt freshman Collin Stewart who was a big-time scorer in high school.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Recruting: Women's Additions Ensure Rider's Future

Here's another in the series looking at newcomers joining conference programs for the upcoming season.

Up now ...


- Julia Duggan, a 6-foot-1 freshman center: She was a four-year varsity performer at Ocean City (N.J.) High School and was the Atlantic City Press newspaper's Player of the Year this past season. She scored over 1,000 points and hauled in more than 1,000 rebounds over her career. "Julia is going to bring in some more side inside," said Rider head coach Lynn Milligan, in a release issued by the school. "She can help fill (voids for Rider). She is a very good face-up player and can post on the block. She moves really well and had a terrific summer."

- Stephanie Mason, a 5-9 freshman guard: A four-year varsity team member at Jackson Memorial H.S. in New Jersey, and a 1,000-point career scorer. Her 85 made three-pointers last season ranked third among all New Jersey high school players. "Steph brings long-range shooting," Milligan said. "She is going to be able to give us depth at our guard spot and extend our three-point range on the perimeter a lot more than we have in the past."

- Lashay Banks, a 5-10 junior guard: She was at Rider last season as a transfer from Cincinnati and is eligible for two seasons starting this year. She played 45 games at Cincy, but only averaged about five minutes per contest. In high school she was the Philadelphia Public League's Female Player of the Year as a junior at Prep Charter H.S.

- Robin Perkins, a 5-10 sophomore guard: She is a transfer from St. Francis (Pa.) where she averaged 2.4 points over 26 games last season. She will sit out this year as a redshirt and be eligible for three more seasons, beginning with 2014-15. She not only scored more than 1,000 career points at Trenton (N.J.) Catholic H.S., but was a state champion in the high jump. "Robin will do exactly what Lashay (Banks) did (last year), which is be a terrific piece at practice and challenge our other players to get better," said Milligan. Robin ... is a very talented young lady, athletic and long. Having a year to hone her skills and fit into our system will be terrific for her and to us as a team."

ANALYSIS: After decades of struggling, Rider's 15 victories a year ago was the program's best since the 1994-95 season, and it looks like the Broncs' newcomers will help ensure the team's success will continue. There are players to replace who graduated from a year ago, particularly up front. But, Duggan looks capable of helping to some extent. And, Mason fills a strong need for an outside shooter. Banks and Perkins are both quality additions who will step in a year from now and be major contributors.

Recruiting: Rider Men Add Help For Now, And Future

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

Up now ...


- Jimmy Taylor, a 6-foo-3, 180-pound freshman guard: He averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game as a senior at Suwannee (Fla.) High School as a senior there last season.
I'm counting on Jimmy to play significant minutes early at the point guard," said Rider coach Kevin Baggett, in a statement released by the school. "He can score in a number of different ways."

- Kahlil Thomas, a 6-7, 205-pound freshman forward: He averaged 13.4 points per game as a senior at Blanche Eli (Fla.) H.S. last season and was ranked one of the top 20 players in Florida. "(He) can play the four or five for us and we expect him to play a great deal early on for us," Baggett said. "He has a high basketball IQ and is a good defender who can score. By January, I'm not looking at him as a freshman anymore."

- Brandon Channer, a 6-3, 215-pound freshman guard: Originally from Jamaica, he attended high school in Florida and was at Strawberry Crest H.S. in Tampa last season where he averaged about 18 points and nine rebounds per game. "Channer is more mature than most freshmen coming in," Baggett said. "His physicality, his toughness, stands out right away and we're going to need that from him. He'll bring energy on defense."

- Xavier Lundy, a 6-7, 220-pound freshman forward: He averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game as a senior and more than 22 ppg. as a junior at Paulsboro (N.J.) H.S. He accumulated 2,135 career points at the high school level and was South Jersey's Player of the Year last season. "Xavier is a scorer," Baggett said. "He has that scorer's mentality and will play the three and four positions for us."

- Matt Lopez, a 7-0, 240-pound junior center: He is an incoming transfer from Utah State and will sit out this season and, then, have two remaining years of eligibility beginning with the 2014-15 season. He played in 23 games at Utah State, averaging 2.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 7.6 minutes per game in the second semester. He sat out the first semester after transferring from La Salle, where he played nine games in the first semester of the 2011-12 season (eight total points, eight total rebounds). He is a 2010 graduate of Washington Township (N.J.) H.S. who sat out his freshman season at La Salle as a redshirt. Your Hoopscribe saw Lopez play several times at the AAU level. At that time he was being heavily recruited by several MAAC schools and, it appears, he tried to play "up" and, now, is returning to the mid-major level where he probably should have played at originally. He is a big presence in the middle and fairly mobile for his size, but is primarily an in-the-post player.

- Teddy Okereafor, a 6-4, 190-pound junior guard: He is a transfer from VCU and will sit out the upcoming season and, then, have two remaining years of eligibility beginning in 2014-15. He played in 32 games at VCU last season, averaging 1.3 points, 1.0 rebound and 8.3 minutes per game. As a freshman he averaged less than six minutes per game. He attended Christchurch Prep School (Va.) prior to VCU and was the Virginia Prep League Player of the Year, averaging 13.1 points and 7.2 assists per contest.

ANALYSIS: A little big of everything is coming in. Thomas will challenge sophomore Zedric Sadler (who really could be a breakout player this season) for time at the point guard spot, although both are capable of playing either backcourt position. Thomas is a physical power forward. Lundy is a flat-out scorer and Channer is a multi-dimensional guard. And, then, there's the future. Lopez and Okereafor both become eligible for the 2014-15 season and both should be significant contributors. Lopez has the size that doesn't often come to the MAAC, while Okereafor is a big guard who uses that size well. The type of talent coming in looks likely to keep Rider in the upper half of the MAAC standings for the immediate future.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Rider Adds Former NBA Standout Marshall To Staff

The thought here used to be that former Iona men's coach Jeff Ruland was the best NBA player with a MAAC connection.

The 6-foot-10 inside force was a mercurial star, getting votes for the NBA's MVP award (finishing 12th in the balloting as a rookie and 9th as a second-year player), but injuries severely limited his playing time after three full seasons.

Ruland averaged 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds over parts of eight NBA seasons, but he never played more than 37 games in any season after his first three.

Talent-wise, Ruland is arguably the best MAAC connection we've ever had in the NBA.

And, a note here: we're considering any conference connection. Ruland never played in the MAAC. His time as a player at Iona came before the MAAC was formed. His MAAC "connection" is as Iona's coach, first as an assistant, then as a head coach, in the late 1990's through the mid-2000's.

If we're talking about best former MAAC player to appear in the NBA, the easy answer is former La Salle standout Lionel Simmons.

But, for this debate, we're considering any MAAC connection.

And, now, Ruland might have to move over ... at least in terms of a MAAC connection with the best NBA career.

That designation would go to a recent hiring for the Rider men's staff, Donyell Marshall.

Marshall joined the Kevin Baggett's staff with the Broncs a couple of weeks ago.

And while he was never quite the all-star caliber player Ruland was at his best, Marshall was far more than a serviceable performer.

He played 15 NBA seasons, appeared in 957 games (to 332 for Ruland) and scored 10,716 career points.

At his peak, the 6-foot-9 forward averaged career bests of 15.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in the 1997-98 season. For his career he averaged 11.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game..

At worst he was an effective journeyman, playing for eight different NBA teams. Over his career he was ranked, by one source, the 431st best player of all time. Ruland, because of the briefness of his career, is unranked as a player.

Marshall played through the 2008-09 NBA season. He is also former star at UConn, averaging 25.1 points per game there as a junior before opting for the NBA draft in 1994 when he was the fourth player picked.

Since his playing days he has worked as an assistant coach at George Washington University at the college level and professionally with the NBA Developmental League's Maine Red Claws.

Marshall has also done some coaching at the AAU level in recent years.

"Donyell brings to our staff a wealth of basketball knowledge, experience and success at every level," said Baggett, in an announcement of Marshall's hiring.

"I'm excited for our players to have a guy like him in our program to be able to explain to them the hard work and dedication it takes to play in the NBA. I'm also excited to have Donyell on staff with his strong recruiting ties which will allow us to continue to bring in high level recruits in our program."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Former Jasper Chris SmithTrying To Make Knicks

MAAC players who eventually make an NBA roster are few and far between, but former Manhattan standout Chris Smith looks to have a legitimate chance this season.

Smith, the younger brother of the New York Knicks' sixth man deluxe J.R. Smith, is currently on that team's training camp roster hoping to make enough of an impression to sign a contract for the regular season.

Smith played two seasons at Manhattan. He averaged 9.9 points per game as a freshman in the 2007-08 season and 13.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a sophomore in the 2008-09 season. Included was a 35-point explosion against Princeton during his sophomore campaign.

After that, he transferred out taking his talents to Louisville where he was a two-year starter. As a senior (2011-12) he averaged 9.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game for his team that made it to the Final Four.

There, however, the Cardinals dropped a 69-61 decision to a loaded Kentucky team in the NCAA tournament's semifinal round contest. Smith had eight points on 3-of-11 shooting from the floor in that game.

Smith then began chasing a pro career and did well on the Knicks' 2012 Summer League team, averaging 10.4 points per game. But, following that, he had patella tendon surgery in October of 2012 to remove bone fragments and he couldn't even resume workouts for the next four months.

We remember Smith, an athletic 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, as much for his versatility as for his scoring exploits. His relatively high assist totals throughout college, both at Manhattan and Louisville, were indicative of his versatility and all-around game.

Now, he's trying to make the Knicks as a back-up point guard.

There's a nice story in today's New York Post about Smith's plight.

"Everyone just thinks I'm here because of (his brother) J.R.," Smith told the Post. "But I'm here because (the Knicks) see potential in me. I have to focus on what I have to do, lock in and get the job done and be determined."

Smith told the Post that he tries to be the first player to arrive at daily practice sessions and is often the last to leave.

"I like my chances," Smith said, in the article. "I'm fully confident I'll be playing here. But if it doesn't happen, maybe it's overseas or the D-League."

We do recall thinking, after watching Smith play several times with the Jaspers, that he looked to be the type of player who definitely had a professional future.

And, now, he's on the verge of making that happen.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Recruiting: Fairfield Women add Height, Athleticism

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

Up now ...


- Kelsey Carey, a 6-foot-0 freshman forward: She scored a Staten Island record 2,174 career points over four seasons at St. Joseph Hill Academy, including 610 total points as a junior and 727 points as a senior. "Kelsey is a physical, blue collar performer who does all the things you look for," said Fairfield coach Joe Frager, in a release issued by the school. "She has a soft shooting touch and a knack for scoring around the basket.

- Sam Cooper, a 6-2 freshman forward: She averaged 24.8 points and 10.0 rebounds per game this past season at Lockerby Composite School in Ontario, Canada, and was named the school's Athlete of the Year three times. She has also played two seasons on Team Canada's junior national team. "Samantha provides great length at the small forward position," said Frager. "She can hit the three, or post up. Samanta comes to us with international playing experience, which is always a plus."

- Kristine Miller, a 6-1 freshman forward: She averaged 19.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 2.00 assists per game at Cedar Creek H.S. in N.J. She was the Atlantic City Press newspaper's Player of the Year in each of the past two seasons. "Kristine is a post player who brings tremendous athleticism and energy," said Frager. "She's tough with her back to the basket and is a very good rebounder."

- Casey Smith, a 6-2 sophomore forward: She spent her freshman season in college at St. Joseph's University, but missed the entire year due to an injury. She is awaiting a decision on whether she will receive a waiver to play this season. A native of Danbury, Conn., she averaged 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game as a high school senior. "She had a standout (high school) career," said Frager. "We recruited her hard coming out of high school, and we're extremely happy to have her now.. As a post, she brings athleticism and the ability to face up or score inside."

- Margeaux Dupuy, a 5-6 junior guard: She transfers in after two seasons at Marquette University where she was lightly used, averaging just 5.8 minutes while appearing in six games last season. She will sit out this season and be eligible to play during the 2014-15 season. "Margeaux brings combo guard skills with the versatility to play either the point or two-guard position," Frager said. "She will provide quickness and a three-point scoring touch."

ANALYSIS: Fairfield has had great success with slightly undersized, athletic forwards, and both Carey and Miller appear in that mold. Cooper, on the other hand, is a tall player who appears to do her best work on the perimeter. If Smith becomes eligible, she will be a big part of the Stags' program, if not this year then certainly in the future. Dupuy was good enough to be recruited by and play for a higher-level program, and will also help when she becomes eligible a year from now. Fairfield returns a considerably strong group from a year ago, meaning the incoming players can probably contribute off the bench. But the apparent quality of the incoming players indicates several of them will be in the playing group.

Recruiting: Transfers, Guards To Help Fairfield Men

Here's another in the series looking at players joining conference teams for the upcoming season.

Up now ...


- Doug Chappell, a 6-2, 175-pound freshman guard: He averaged about 14 points per game as a high school senior at Episcopal H.S. in Alexandria, Va.

- Sean Grennan, a 6-3, 175-pound sophomore guard: He was at Fairfield, as a redshirt, last season after transferring from Seton Hall. He played one season at Seton Hall and only scored 10 total points but missed time due to appendicitis and wasn't 100 percent for much of the season. He scored over 1,400 points in four years at the high school level at Monsignor Donovan H.S. in Toms River, N.J.

- Lincoln Davis, a 6-3, 170-pound freshman guard:  He played last season at New Hampton Prep school where he averaged about 18 points per game.. Prior to that, as a high school senior at Central Catholic H.S. in Pittsburgh he averaged 19 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest.

- K.J. Rose, a 6-1, 190-pound freshman guard: He averaged more than 16 points per game this past season while leading his Binghamton (N.Y.) High School team to the New York State Regional tournament's semifinal round. As a junior he was selected as the best player in the state at his level by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York.

- Steve Smith, a 6-9, 190-pound freshman forward: He was a three-year starter at La Salle H.S. in Philadelphia and averaged about 10 points per game as a senior. He is a standout long-range shooter who made seven three-pointers in one game last season.

- Malcolm Gilbert, a 6-11, 235-pound sophomore center: He is a transfer from Pittsburgh where he was redshirting during the 2012-13 season. He came to Fairfield after the first semester and, then, received a favorable ruling on an NCAA waiver and is eligible to play immediately for the Stags. He played 19 games as a freshman at Pitt, only averaging 4.9 minutes per game and scoring 10 total points and getting 16 total rebounds. As a high school senior at the Academy of the New Church he averaged 6.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game.

ANALYSIS: Two of the newcomers, Gilbert and Grennan, come from higher-level programs and should play relatively significant roles right away. Gilbert can score in bunches, and Gilbert can have an impact on the defensive end and with his rebounding. Davis had originally planned to join Fairfield last season but opted for a year of prep school, instead, and had a standout season at that level. Smith needs to add some bulk to his slender frame, but is reputed to be a terrific scorer from the perimeter. The program graduated its top three guards from last season, so time is available for Grennan, Davis, Chappell and Rose, who will be strongly in the mix to play at the point.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Recruiting: Manhattan Women Add Height, Offense

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

Up now ...


- Jacqui Thompson, a 5-foot-3 junior point guard: She is a transfer from Wagner and will have to sit up the upcoming season and, then, have two years of eligibility remaining. She led Wagner in assists in each of her two seasons there and, overall, averaged 5.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. "We are thrilled to add Jacqui ..." said Manhattan coach John Olenowski, in a release issued by the school. "She is an experienced, tough point guard with a great knowledge of the game who will be a perfect fit to our system."

- Kayla Grimme, a 6-2 freshman center: She averaged 8.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game as a senior at Altoona (Pa.) Area H.S. last season. She averaged 10.5 points per game as a junior. "Kayla is an outstanding rebounder, inside scorer and shot blocker who should be able to help us immediately," Olenowski said. "She is an extremely tough, hard-nosed player."

- Nicole Anderson, a 5-8 freshman guard: She was a four-year starter at Hill Regional (Ct.) Career H.S. and has been ranked one of that state's top 25 girls' players every year since 2010. She averaged 10.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game as a high school senior. "Nicole is a great athlete who gets to the basket well," Olenowski said. "She can score off the dribble or shoot the three and is a sound defender."

- Alex Cohen, a 5-foot-9 freshman guard: No high school statistics are available, but Cohen, who played at the Tilton School in New Hampshire, has been a three-time league all star. She is reputed to be a standout three-point shooter who also has an all-around game. "Alex is a sound fundamental guard," Olenowski said. "She can swing at all three (guard) positions. A very good three-point shooter, she can also take it to the basket. She's a very intelligent player, and a very good defender, as well."

-Mikki Guiton, a 6-1 freshman center: She averaged 15.1 points per game as a senior at Perkiomen Valley H.S. near Philadelphia. "Mikki is a tremendous athlete and very strong inside on both the offensive and defensive ends," said Olenowski. "She has a nice, soft outside jump shot, and she can also drive. In addition, she's a top-notch rebounder and defender."

- Maeve Parahus, a 6-1 freshman guard: The graduate of Albertus Magnus H.S. in Bardonia, N.Y. She averaged 18.3 points per game as a junior and her career total of 1,220 points is the best in her school's history. She had a career-high 36-point effort in a sectional tournament game this past season. "Maeve's a flat-out tremendous outside shooter who can also take it to the rim or pull up for a jump shot," Olenowski said. "She's also a sound defensive player and she rebounds well. A very good athlete, she brings us great versatility."

ANALYSIS: Olenowski has indicated that he thinks all five incoming freshmen can help in the coming season, and much of that help will come on the offensive end.Anderson, Cohen and Parahus all appear to be capable offensive players and should help a team that was a little offensively challenged last season. The Jaspers also needed to add some height, and did so with Guiton and Grimme, both seemingly solid inside players. Parahus, though, appears to be the best of the bunch. Your Hoopscribe has picked her to be the conference's Rookie of the Year. She is a versatile player, but her long-range shooting ability is superior.

Is Marist Women's Team Worthy Of Top 25 Pick?

You'll rarely, maybe never, read a discouraging word here about the Marist women's basketball program.

How could you? The Red Foxes have dominated the MAAC so thoroughly for a decade that the need to recite their accomplishments is almost unnecessary.

But, in case you haven't been paying attention: The Marist women have been the conference's regular-season champion for the last 10 seasons, have gone to the NCAA tournament in nine of those years including the last eight, and have three perfect (18-0) league seasons, including 2012-13.

Its head coach Brian Giorgis is no longer a sideline "secret," now starting to get hi proper due as one of the best at his craft at any level. Plus, he is one of our league's all-time nice guys.

And, actually, our Marist-related "gripe" isn't about the team. It's about those who rank teams on a national level.

The first women's basketball preseason Top 25 list came to our notice recently. It was produced by USA Today's Sports Magazine.

Marist got picked as the 25th best team in the country.

The pollsters should have taken a closer look.

The Red Foxes graduated their leading scorer/second-leading rebounder and only true inside player in Elizabeth Beynnon. Her "replacement" appears to be a freshmen, and Giorgis only gives major roles to first-year players out of the most-dire of necessities.

In this case, it's because of the continued injury situation to the program's two quality post players, 6-foot-3 Tori Jarosz, who snapped an Achilles tendon this past spring, and 6-5 Delaney Hollenbeck, who continues to have issues with hard-to-diagnose leg injuries.

The last time we checked in with Giorgis he expected Hollenbeck to miss the entire year and was holding out hope that Jarocz could return by February, although there was no certainty about that.

Otherwise, Marist is well-stocked with every significant contributor other than Beynnon returning from a year ago. But Marist was small a year ago. This year, the best returning forward is 6-footer Emma O'Connor. Everyone else, other than freshmen, plays on the perimeter.

Marist won't just be small compared to other teams on the Top 25 list, but they'll be small compared to other MAAC teams.

It doesn't mean Marist won't have another terrific season. It got by a year ago without a single player averaging more than 4.7 rebounds per game. Giorgis is a good enough coach (and, has good enough players) to find other ways to continue to be dominant in the MAAC.

And, his program appeared capable of competing against opponents from higher-ranked leagues with the quality inside play that would be provided by Jarosz and Hollenbeck.

Without them? It's tough to expect the Red Foxes to have much success against the next level of opponents.

We won't go through the entire top 25 list, or even look at teams omitted that would appear better candidates than Marist for that list.

But, the team ranked one spot ahead of the Red Foxes is Purdue, and the two teams met a year ago in the early season Paradise Jam Tournament.

In that game, Purdue had a 39-19 lead at halftime and Marist never got closer than 18 in the second half. The Boilermakers return two of last season's top three scorers and four of their top seven.

Purdue's roster includes seven players at least 6-feet tall, with four of them 6-2 or taller. Marist has one healthy player taller than 6-1, and that's potential starter freshman Kat Fogarty, at 6-2.

The strong suspicion is that the top 25 preseason designation carries a great deal of respect for what Marist has accomplished over the past decade.

No argument there. Marist deserves all the respect that comes its way. No mid-major level program anywhere in the country can match that decade-long run, to date, under Giorgis.

We're just not sure right now, considering Marist's lack of tested post players, that the program should rank in the preseason top 25 nationally.

There's a big difference between power-conference teams that traditionally inhabit the Top 25 polls, and even the best teams from the MAAC. And, the emphasis is most definitely on "big."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Recruiting: Transfer Pankey Big Addition For Jaspers

Here's another in the series looking at players joining conference teams for the upcoming season.

Up now ...


- Rich Williams, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound freshman swingman: Williams played at the prep school level at Vermont Academy last season, and averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds per game. He is reported to be very athletic and with shooting range out beyond the three-point line. "We are very excited to have Rich join our Jasper family," said Masiello, in a statement released by the school. "He is an explosive wing who can play multiple positions in our style of play and provides us with another long-range scoring threat."

- Carlton Allen, a 6-10, 240-pound freshman center: He averaged 7.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game playing at Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J., last season. "We are so happy to sign Carlton ... a piece we haven't really had in this program, being a 6-10 wide-bodied player with great hands who runs the floor well," said Masiello. We feel our front line will be one of the better ones, then you add a guy like Carlton ... you have some serious bodies up front."

- Tyler Wilson, a 6-0, 175-pound freshman point guard: He averaged 12 points and 7 assists per game as a junior, but no senior season statistics are available. He helped lead his former high school, Cardinal Hayes, to the Catholic H.S. Athletic Association's Class AA intersectional semifinals as a junior. "Tyler is a winner ... a hard-nosed guard who is a terrific on-the-ball defender," said Manhattan coach Steve Masiello, in a statement released by the school. "He is another local product from the Bronx who we are excited to be a Jasper."

- Ashton Pankey, a 6-10, 225-pound sophomore center: He is a transfer from Maryland of the ACC who sat out last season at Manhattan and is eligible to play this year. At Maryland in 2011-12, he averaged 4.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game.

ANALYSIS: Manhattan returns four of last season's four starters, and would most certainly appear to have the fifth spot filled with returnee George Beamon, a senior swingman who led the MAAC in scoring in 2011-12 and, then, redshirted last season with foot and ankle issues. Pankey could be a real key for the Jaspers, although Manhttan will need to adjust to having two true post players (returning senior Rhamel Brown is the other) on the court at the same time. Allen, Williams and Wilson should get some time, and the luxury of getting acclimated to the college game while playing behind established upperclassmen this season.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Recruiting: Iona Women Add Size, Quickness, Depth

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

Up now ...


- Karynda DuPree, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard: She is a transfer from La Salle, and has to sit out the upcoming season. At La Salle she started 15 games and averaged 2.7 points per game. As a senior at Wisconsin Lutheran H.S. in 2011-12 she averaged 12.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game.

- Aurellia Cammock, a 5-11 freshman forward: She averaged 12.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game at South Shore H.S. in Brooklyn last season. "She is a never-give-in type player, and is the most tenacious rebounder we have brought into this program since Anna McLean," was the comment from former Iona coach Tony Bozzella (now at Seton Hall) at the time of Cammock's signing.

- Spencer Gray, a 5-7 freshman point guard: Not a big scorer, she averaged 4.1 assists per game at Centerville H.S. in Ohio this past season. She averaged 3.8 assists per game as a junior. "Spencer has all the tools you want to see in your point guard," said Bozzella, at the time of Gray's signing. "Her quickness and playmaking abilities will enable her to continue the tradition of strong point guard play at Iona."

- Christina Rubin, a 5-9 redshirt freshman guard/forward: She was at Iona last season but redshirted due to an injury. She is a standout long-range shooter, having made 182 career three-pointers at Moore Catholic H.S. in Staten Island. As a high school senior she averaged 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per contest.

ANALYSIS: Those were strong words of recommendation former coach Bozzella had for Cammock, calling her the most tenacious rebounder since Anna McLean, particularly considering Iona's Joy Adams, now a sophomore, led the MAAC in rebounding this past season. Rubin should add some outside scoring for  team that can already score in bunches. All five starters are back from a year ago, which should allow the three freshmen to break in as role players, while DuPree gets a full season of practice before she becomes eligible next season, and she should step right in for current senior center Sabrina Jeridore.