Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Siena's Smith Deserves to Hear Cheers

The given first name of the walk-on to Siena College's men's basketball team is "Just-in'love."

So, how did that name come about?

"My mother said that she was `just in love' with me, so that's what she named me .... Just'in-love," said Just-in'love Smith, who this blogger had the pleasure to meet and converse with recently.

After spending some time with Smith, I came away with the believe that we should be in love with this Siena basketball player, too.

We tend to place athletes on a pedestal too often merely because of what they can do in an athletic venue. We cheer loudest who wear the colors of our respective favorite schools.

But our appreciation for Just-in'love Smith should transcend all of that.

Smith, a walk-on who will play just this season for the Saints (his eligibility for the D-I level ends after 2009-10), probably won't play many meaningful minutes, so the chances to cheer for his on-court exploits will be extremely limited.

But, you should cheer loudest for him if his name is announced during pre-game introductions. You should shake his hand and say "thanks," if you ever have the opportunity to meet him.

And, you should think about him when you see him at a Siena game, and reflect on his contributions that came far from an athletic venue, particularly when he's standing straight during the pregame playing of the national anthem.

Smith might be wearing Siena's green, but his true colors are red, white and blue.

Smith is already my favorite Siena player, even if he never scores a point, never gets a rebound and never gets into a game.

He's far from the traditional athlete who inhabits college rosters. He turned 26 this past August. He's older, even, than the program's director of basketball operations Dave Matturro. Teammates, and even Matturro, call him "Pops."

But, that's just fine with Smith. Nothing is likely to fluster him, because he's already seen plenty of things that make college and college-level athletics seem like light lifting.

Smith has already served four years in the Army, a full year of that duty in the combat zones of Iraq as a supply specialist.

A native of Sacramento, the strongly built 5-foot-11, 190-pounder moved into New York Capital's Region to live with his sister and her husband just prior to his junior year in high school. By then, his mother had passed away and Smith says that his father is "out of the picture."

It's a recipe for trouble, but somehow Smith never fell into that trap. Here's a little more of his story, in his own words ...

"I played two years of high school basketball at Columbia High School (as a junior, he was a teammate of Craig Forth, the 7-foot center who was a starter on Syracuse's national championship team). After that I went to Hudson Valley Community College (in Troy, N.Y.) for one year, but I lacked self-dicipline. My sister and brother-in-law are both in the military and moved into this area (upstate New York) as Army recruiters. I needed something that would give me structure, and I saw how beneficial it was for them to be in the military.

"I became a supply specialist. I was responsible for delivering whatever supplies were needed from our supply post to soldiers in the field. We'd deliver food, medical supplies, weapons, ammuniton ... whatever was needed. I served three years in Fairbanks, Alaska, and one year in Iraq.

"It was crazy in Iraq. We were fired upon. I often returned fire (on the enemy). On one trip, the enemy set off an IED (an Improvised Explosive Device) about 10 seconds after we drove over it. They'd make bombs and string a wire to a trigger. When you'd drive over it, they'd trigger it. On that trip, we saw them on the side of the road pushing the trigger. For some reason, it didn't go off right away and we got past it before it exploded. But days like that ... it made me realize that I wanted to come home.

"I had some close friends who died over there, including one who was a real good basketball player and wanted to play in college when he got back. And, he never did.

"I've come back a different person. It changes you a lot. After seeing what I saw over there ... you come back and appreciate what you have and the opportunities that you have. You don't take things for granted any more. You realize what you have here is a blessing."

When Smith's tour of duty ended he returned to Hudson Valley Community College, where he played in the 2007-08 season. One of his teammates there was Tiki Mayben, who recently was dismissed from the SUNY Binghamton's program as he faces charges of selling drugs in the Capital Region over the summer.

The paths taken by the former HVCC teammates ... Smith's toward maturity and an appreciation of life, and Mayben's a more troubled direction ... is discussed.

"I tried to be a mentor to Tiki," said Smith. "I tried to talk to him about things. I felt I could help him. I tried go be like an older brother to him. I don't know what happened."

Instead, Maybe has wasted opportunities available to him purely because of his athletic gifts.

Smith, on the other hand, has learned that athletics and, even, life is a privilege and not an entitlement. And, there is surely a good lesson in that contrast of former teammates.

Smith is attending Siena on the G.I. Bill, and is a member of the school's ROTC program. His military experience means his education is paid for, and he also receives living expenses as part of his benefit package. He didn't have to continue to play basketball to receive any of that. But, he wanted to.

"I talked to coach (Mitch) Buonaguro a number of times to see if I could do this," said Smith, about becoming a Siena walk-on. "He felt I could help out."

Siena's coaching staff believes Smith will add to the competitiveness of team practices. Head coach Fran McCaffery calls him the team's best defensive player.

"I don't know if I'll play much, but that doesn't matter to me," said Smith. "I just want to be a good teammate, I can be like an older brother to the guys here. I'll help out in any way I can. I just wanted to be part of the team."

Smith already knows plenty about teamwork, having been part of a "team" far more important than any athletic unit.

For that, and for embracing the opportunity to be a positive role model for his college basketball teammates, we should all cheer for him.

Just-in'love Smith should be everyone's favorite MAAC basketball player this season.

Season Approaches, Time For Trivia Quiz

The leaves are turning, the nights are getting chilly and the calendar page is about to flip from September to October.

Among other things, that means college basketball season is upon us. When October begins, the start of full team practices is just more than two weeks away. So, our favorite time of the year is almost here.

To get everyone who reads these dispatches in the proper mood, let's see how good you are with MAAC basketball trivia.

I'll provide the answer to the following question in a few days. Until then, I hope you'll use the comment function to make your educated guesses.

The question and answer comes from Siena sports information director supreme Jason Rich, who researched the topic recently....

In the 28 previous seasons of MAAC men's basketball there have been 10 players who have been named as a first team all-MAAC post-season all-star in three consecutive seasons. Can you name them?

But, first, a note of correction. Jason Rich informs us that his research only involved players from the MAAC's current 10 members. So, there are indeed 10 three-time first-teamers from those schools. In all, though, there are 13 members of the select club, three of them coming from teams no longer affiliated with the MAAC.

COMING ATTRACTION: A MAAC basketball player we should all cheer for.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One Blogger's Opinion: Impact Freshmen

As promised recently ... below is this blogger's view of the top freshmen joining conference programs this year.

The individuals selected might not necessarily be the most talented, nor might they eventually be the best players, three or four years from now, of this year's freshmen.

But, these are the players who should have the most impact, based on their respective team's needs, this coming season. These are the guys who will likely get the most minutes and have the greatest opportunities to record the type statistics that will merit All-Rookie consideration at the end of the season.

But, first, the traditional disclaimer: Picking the best of incoming freshmen is, like the practice of medicine, an inexact science.

Here's a typical example: Entering the 2002-03 season, almost no one (not even Siena's coaching staff) expected big things from incoming freshman Michael Haddix. All the pre-career hype went to Paul Williams, a talented 6-foot-9 forward from St. Patrick's High School in North Bergen, N.J. Williams was a first-team all-New Jersey selection as a high school senior.

But Haddix had a much better preseason and got into the starting lineup ahead of Williams. The 6-6 Haddix finished with 440 points in his first season, the most scored by a freshman in the program's history. He averaged 13.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Williams struggled to find success at the college level and only averaged 3.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game as a freshman. After a similar second season at Siena, Williams transferred to St. Bonaventure, where he became a role player in his last two years of eligibility.

When Haddix's career was over he was the program's sixth all-time leading scorer with 1,594 points and the only player in Siena history to record more than 1,500 career points and 800 career rebounds (he finished with 807).

But, if someone were making a list of the conference's newcomers at this juncture prior to the 2002-03 season, Williams assuredly would have been on it and Haddix would have been omitted.

Anyway ... here's one blogger's opinion on this season's MAAC Freshmen of Impact, in no particular order:

- Rob Gagliardi, 6-2 guard, Canisius: The Golden Griffins have their top seven players returning, but one of them is junior guard Bobby Goldsberry, who cracked the starting lineup late last season but only averaged 2.3 points and 1.5 rebounds per game on the season. Goldsberry will still get his share of time in the backcourt, but Gagliardi is a member of Canada's age-level national program, has faced considerable international competition and can score. For a program that struggled offensively a year ago, Gagliardi should provide some points and will get the opportunity to do so, even if he's coming off the bench.

- Julius Brooks, 6-9 forward, Loyola: The Greyhounds were in desperate need of front-court help, and have two potential contributors coming on board in Maryland transfer Shane Walker and Brooks, a true freshman. In a preseason interview with the Baltimore Sun, Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos indicated that it might be Brooks who gets the starting job at center over Walker. Brooks averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game at Page High School in Greensboro, N.C., last year and reports indicate he will contribute as rebounder/shot blocker with a developing offensive game, particularly in the paint.

- O.D. Anosike, 6-8 forward, Siena: Yours truly saw Anosike play several times on the AAU circuit in the summer of 2008, and was very impressed. He is an athletic big man who can play any of the three front-court positions. He relentlessly pounds the boards and runs the court, blocks shots and has a nice mid-range jumper. He won't be a starter this year, but the Saints had almost no front-court depth last season, and Anosike solves that problem. He'll could get significant minutes as the first Siena player off the bench at center and power forward.

- Sam Prescott, 6-3 guard, Marist: The Red Foxes need plenty of help from newcomers, and there are five freshmen joining the program (as well as two high-major level transfers). But, this blogger will go out on the proverbial limb and pick Prescott to have the biggest impact of the frosh. Prescott was a high school reserve before transferring to Imhotep Charter School in the Philadelphia area for last season, where he had a break-out year. He was also impressive on the summer AAU circuit. He's athletic and reputed to be a strong defender. That alone should get him minutes right away. He's the type of player who could produce some offense, too, in Marist's dribble-drive attack.

- Derek Needham, 6-0 guard/Colin Nickerson, 6-3 guard, Fairfield: OK, we're going to hedge our bets a little here. Either Needham or Nickerson ... and, maybe, both ... is going to have to make some sort of impact for the Stags. The team's retuning guards are competent Warren Edney and developing Lyndon Jordan. If nothing else, Needham/Nickersonn will be the top two backcourt reserves. At best, one of them will grab a starting spot at some point this season. They're different players. Needham is a true point, while Nickerson is more of a scorer. At this point, still more than two weeks away from the start of preseason practices, my guess is that even the Fairfield coaching staff isn't entirely certain about whether Needham or Nickerson will get the most time this season. But, the two are the future building blocks of the Stags' backcourt.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Globetrotters Sign Siena Grad Tay Fisher

It's always nice to see former MAAC players go on to play basketball when their college careers end.

Former Siena guard Tay Fisher, one of my all-time favorites because he is one of the all-time nice guys (OK, most of the players who come through the MAAC tend to be nice guys), is on the verge of continuing his hoops career in a situation not many ... if any ... former conference players have been in.

Fisher has been signed by the Harlem Globetrotters, and will join that team's veterans for the Globetrotters' annual training camp to vie for openings with the franchise. Fisher's invitation to camp doesn't ensure that he'll make the team, but he's among the final six from dozens of candidates who attempted to get this far. The Globetrotters have not indicated how many new players they'll sign to tour with them.

The 5-foot-8 Fisher, who now goes by the Globetrotter-inspired nickname of "Firefly" Fisher, has a rare skill, a trait the Globbies look for. He's one of the better long-range shooters to play in the MAAC, having hit 44.4 percent from three-point range as a Siena senior in the 2007-08 season. And, those of us who saw Fisher play regularly know that many of those shots came from far beyond the bonus stripe.

The Globetrotters' camp began on Thursday (Sept. 24) and will continue through early October, culminating with the team's third-annual private performance in Harlem on Monday, Oct. 5. Presented in cooperation with the New York City Police Athletic League, the Globetrotters will play for thousands of Harlem school children in a game with traditional opponent the Harlem Generals. The game will be played at the 369th Harlem Armory.

Those looking to check in on the Globetrotters and, maybe, on Fisher's progress can check the team's website at

Or, you can check back here in early October and this blogger will provide any news from Fisher's quest to become a Globetrotter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MAAC's Top Newcomers, Part I

Recently this blogger promied to opine on the top newcomers to conference programs this season. Yet, while doing the research, yours truly discovered that the top five picks would all be players with past college-level experience, either tranfers from other four-year programs or from junior colleges.

So, the look at top newcomers will be split into two segments, the first (below) highlighting the five top newcomers with past college experience. Later, we'll check in with the top incoming freshmen.

A little insight on the selections ... this isn't necessarily a list of the most-talented newcomers (although talent is a factor), but of players who will be the most-productive, ones who will have the most impact. Opportunity is also a part of that equation. These players fill specific needs for their respective teams, and will all get significant playing time and the opportunity to put up good numbers.

Here's the top five incoming players with previous experience, and all five should have considerable impact on the fortunes of their respective teams.

- Jhamar Youngblood, 6-1 guard, Rider: A transfer after two seasons at Monmouth, where he averaged 12.3 and 12.1 points per game those two years. He was the Northeast Conference's Rookie of the Year in the 2006-07 season. A legitimate long-range shooter who is a perfect fit as a replacement for Harris Mansell, a player of similar skills who graduated this past May. One MAAC coach's simple, yet revealing comment about Youngblood: "He's good."

- Daye Kaba, 6-3 guard, Marist: The Red Foxes need plenty of help after losing their top two players from last season's last-place team, so there's a real need here. Kaba, a real "physical specimen" at a solid 215 pounds, is in position to provide plenty of help. He's a transfer from Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and has three seasons of eligibility for MAAC play. He didn't get much time at BC, though, just 17 total minutes over nine games there as a freshman.

- Shane Walker, 6-10 center, Loyola: A lanky (210 pounds), athletic player who can run the floor, block shots and will rebound. Not likely to be a big scorer. In a Q & A with the Baltimore Sun recently, Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos had this prediction for Walker: "I'd say if he's getting 10 points and 10 rebounds (per game), it would be a successful year." Those numbers are probably a little optimistic. Figure on, maybe six/seven points and seven/eight rebounds per game, still pretty good.

- Rico Pickett, 6-4 guard, Manhattan: A definite need here for a scorer, and Pickett appears capable of filling it, after averaging 17.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game at Miami Dade Community College last eason. The junior guard began his career at Alabama where he started 20 games as a freshman and averaged 5.9 points and 3.3 rebounds. He joins seniors Darryl Crawford and Antoine Pearson to give the Jaspers a very good perimeter trio.

- Jeron Belin, 6-6 forward, St. Peter's: Another junior college transfer, he averaged 14.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for Monroe CC last season. He also fills a definite need, replacing Akeem Gooding who had a year's eligibility remaining, but graduated in May and opted not to return. How good the Peacocks will be this year will depend in some part on Belin's contributions. St. Pete's already have all-MAAC caliber players in 6-7 forward Ryan Bacon and 6-2 guard Wesley Jenkins. If Belin can come close to matching his junior college numbers, then he'll be a productive third option in his team's attack and the Peacocks could be very good.


Let' not forget about the biggest transfer joining the conference, 6-10, 275-pound center Casiem Drummond at Marist. Drummond transfers in from Villanova where he had some big games over his time there. He averaged 4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds as a sophomore (2007-08), but only played two games last season before ankle and foot injuries, along with some disciplinary situations, ended his season. He's eligible to play for Marist after the first semester ends. If everything goes well, he could have a considerable impact. But, his physical status and the fact that he'll miss the first semeter of games keeps him off the list of top five newcomers for now.

NEXT UP: A look at the conference's five "Freshmen of Influence."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vin Parise Making Strong Move to Media

I haven't actually met Vin Parise yet, but I greatly look forward to when that happens at some point this year. Hopefully, we'll both have a few hours of free time to spend chatting, because Vin is a true college basketball "junkie" and the chance to talk hoops with someone with his background, interests, connections, etc., is my idea of an ideal way to spend many hours.

The next best thing, of course, is reading Vin's on-line work at, a blog that is pleasing in its visual presentation and even more pleasing for its content. Vin's on-line work concentrates primarily on eastern basketball including the MAAC. He also blogs extensively about the Big East, the Atlantic 10, and touches on the Colonial Athletic Association and America East. But, you'll also find Vin blogging about national programs and issues, too.

For our purposes, though, Vin does indeed blog much about the MAAC. And, he does so with an insiders' expertise and contacts built from working as an Iona assistant coach for four seasons under Jeff Ruland and one under current coach Kevin Willard. Prior to that Vin was an assistant at Rutgers and at Fairleigh Dickinson.

After the 2007-8 season at Iona, Parise opted for a career change and moved into the media side of college basketball.

He began his blog work last season and, recently, got what he refers to as some "huge breaks" over this past summer.

The include picking up some work as ,,,

- Radio color commentator for Iona men's games, splitting dutues there with Ed Ingles. There, Vin expects to do 15 or 16 games as "sidekick" to that program's outstanding play-by-play man Gary Stanley.

- TV color analyst work with "MSG Varsity," a new channel to be launched by Cablevision and MSG this basketball season. The station will broadcast high school sports in the Tri-State area four nights a week throughout the entire school year. Vin will do about 30 games, appearing alongside play-by-play guys Rich Ackerman and Carl Reauter.

- The pre-game host for Cox TV Sports in Rhode Island. There, Vin will do pre-game analysis for 20 games for contests featuring Providence and University of Rhode Island this season.

- A college basketball analyst for radio station WFAN, work which he began doing during the post season last year. This year he's on board with WFAN for spots over the entire season. His work will center on the Big East.

WHEW ... talk about being busy. But, it truly is a labor of love for Vin.

And, if his work on his blog ... and the the e-mail traffic that passes between us ... is any indication, then it's going to be quality stuff.

Vin isn't the only former MAAC coach to make a successful move to radio/TV work.

In recent years alone ... former Niagara men's coach Jack Armstrong currently does radio and TV work for the NBA Toronto Raptors.

Former Siena men's assistant Tim Capstraw, who was also a head coach at Wagner College after his Siena days, is currently the color commentator for the NBA New Jersey Nets' radio network.

And, former Manhattan head coach Fran Fraschilla is a college basketball analyst who also does some game commentary duties for ESPN.

There are probably others, as well, although memory fails at the moment. But, it clearly has been a successful career path for some former coaches with past MAAC affiliations, and it appears that Parise is well on his way toward finding similar success.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Don't Overlook Guards Nelson, Crawford

In making a personal list of preseason MAAC all stars a few posts ago, the process involved an initial list of more than two dozen names. Ultimately, the list got reduced to 15, five on each of three teams.

Clearly, there were some difficult omissions and cases could easily be made for their respective inclusions.

Bottom line is that there are quality players beyond the 15 this blogger selected, and probably several of those will ultimately wind up on the post-season's all-star squads.

Here are two that came closest to making this blogger's list;

- Anthony Nelson, 6-1 junior guard, Niagara: Someone has to provide direction for the uptempo Purple Eagles' attack, and it's Nelson who does it superbly. He averaged 8.1 points, 5.5 assists (2nd best in the conference last season) and 4.5 rebounds. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5 not only was 2nd best in the MAAC, but 15th best nationally.

- Darryl Crawford, 6-4 senior guard, Manhattan: A very sound shooting guard for a team that exceeded expectation for much of last season. Crawford averaged 14.4 points and 4.4 rebounds last year. He was the Jaspers' leading scorer and finished 10th in the conference in that category last season. He also had 2.3 assists per game, and his 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio was more than respectable.

This particular list could probably include nearly a dozen other players. This blogger's conclusion is that there is considerable individual talent in the league this season. But Nelson and Crawford were the two players yours truly agonized about before ultimately leaving their names off the top 15.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wake-Up Call: Peacocks in 6 a.m. Game

Note to college basketball fans in the Jersey City, N.J., area: Make sure those alarm clocks work!

The Saint Peter's men's team will be part of ESPN's 24 hours of College Basketball Tip-off Marathon on Tuesday, November 17. The Peacocks will host Monmouth.

Game time? 6 a.m.

That's right, six o'clock in the morning.

And MAAC coaches thought it was tough to put a day-of-game prep schedule together for the 9 a.m. conference tournament games.

Saint Peter's is one of three MAAC teams participating in the second annual tip-off marathon event with all games televised by ESPN.

Niagara will host Drexel in an 8 a.m. contest that day (the Purple Eagles will still be hitting the snooze button while the Peacocks are having breakfast).

And, Siena will host Northeastern at Albany, N.Y.'s, Times Union Center at noon.

In all, ESPN will televise 12 games over the 24 hours of college hoops saturation with games scheduled every two hours and beginning with a midnight contest. The full schedule can be found below.

But, the games involving Saint Peter's and Niagara have moved into new territory for the world-wide sports leader. Those games, the 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. telecasts, mark the first time ESPN will televise live college basketball in those time slots, after having shown more than 8,200 live games over the past 30 years.

The Peacocks' participation is definitely a big deal. Saint Peter's is a program on the rise in the conference, and opportunities like this only help.

Initially, this blogger concluded that this would be the first nationally televised regular-season appearance for the program on the primary outlet for ESPN's family of outlets. But, officials at the school reminded me that the Yanitelli Center was the host for a 1979-80 season meeting with Holy Cross (whose star was Ronnie Perry Jr.) that was televised by ESPN in that network's first year of operation. Back then, of course, cable TV was in its infancy and the number of homes that actually had access to ESPN was miniscule in comparison to today's.

Saint Peter's pulled off an upset in that contest. ESPN, a fledling operation at the time, had its share of problems that day. Those at the game remember that the network's remote truck broke down enroute and had to eventually be towed to the contest and was placed on the steps outside the Yanitelli Center in order to televise the game.

The Peacocks have made other national broadcasts, appearing on ESPN2 when it advanced to the MAAC tournament's championship game a few years back, and in a regular-season conference match-up with Loyola, also on ESPN2, during Keydren Clark's senior season.

"We are excited to be playing on ESPN in front of a national audience ..." said Saint Peter's coach John Dunne, in a press release issued by his school. "Playing this game is very big for our program as it gives Saint Peter's a chance to play in front of a worldwide audience and gives our team a big challenge early in the season."

Adds Saint Peter's director of athletics Patric Elliott (also from a press release): "Playing this game in this time slot gives us the unique opportunity to bring the Saint Peter's College community together to tip-off the basketball season and showcase the tradition of the college and our men's basketball program on a global level."

In other words, expect there to be considerable promotion and some special events related to that particular game.

How about starting with free coffee for all attendees?

Here's the schedule of "marathon" games to be televised by ESPN on Nov. 17:

Midnight: Cal State Fullerton at UCLA

2 a.m.: San Diego State at St. Mary's.

4 a.m.: Northern Colorado at Hawaii (and remember ... with the time difference it will be 10 p.m. in paradise)

6 a.m.: Monmouth at Saint Peter's

8 a.m.: Drexel at Niagara

10 a.m.: Clemson at Liberty

noon: Northeastern at Siena

2 p.m.: Arkansas Little-Rock at Tulsa

4 p.m.: Temple at Georgetown

6 p.m.: A game from the preseason NIT at Duke and a to-be-determined opponent.

8 p.m.: Gonzaga at Michigan State

10 p.m.: Memphis vs. Kansas in the Hall of Fame Showcase in St. Louis

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One Blogger's Opinion: Preseason All Stars

Like elbows, everyone has them ... opinions, that is.

Recently, this blogger promised to offer his ... opinions, not elbows ... on the MAAC's preseason all-star teams. So, here they are.

Are they good choices? Yours truly thinks so. But, you might not. Just because everyone has opinions doesn't mean we share the same ones.

By way of giving some credibility to mine ... your blogger does see every team in the league in person at least twice during the season as well any other time conference teams appear on TV. By nature of keeping this board somewhat informed I also talk to coaches, assistant coaches and sports information directors on a fairly regular basis. Very often those discussions involve individual players and how they fit on all-star teams of this type.

That said, coaches' imput doesn't ultimately decide who I'll pick for these teams. Most of it, if not all, is my own judgment. Hopefully, after being around college basketball for going on 37 years, your blogger knows a good player when he sees one.

However, that doesn't mean everyone will agree. So, remember, these picks are, as they say, for entertainment purposes only. And, they are in no particular order.


- Ryan Thompson, 6-6 guard, Rider. He might be the most-versatile player in the league, finishing in the top 11 in the conference last year in scoring (2nd), rebounding (11th), field goal percentage (8th), assists (7th), steals (5th), 3-point percentage (2nd) and minutes played (1st). He became Rider's point guard last season and thrived in that role. His combination of height, skill and position makes him a player to watch by NBA scouts.

- Bilal Benn, 6-5 forward, Niagara. If Thompson is the league's most-versatile player, then Benn isn't far behind ... 11th in scoring, 1st in rebounding, 10th in assists, 2nd in steals, 5th in minutes played. He is a perfect fit for uptempo Niagara, an athletic player who uses that trait well at both ends of the court. Plus, one of the top three rebounders at his height this blogger has seen in the conference.

- Edwin Ubiles, 6-6 forward, Siena. Like Thompson, Ubiles' combination of size and skills (he's capable of playing the guard spot) makes him a to-watch player by pro scouts. If he merely matches his junior season's stats, he'll become just the third Siena player to record 2,000 career points and the only player in school history to rank in the top 15 in points, rebounds and assists.

- Alex Franklin, 6-5 forward, Siena. Finished 12th in the conference in scoring, fifth in rebounding, third in field goal percentage and, even, 15th in steals. One of the league's best high-fliers. A real inside force in a league that doesn't have many of those.

- Ronald Moore, 5-11 guard, Siena. This spot could easily have gone to any of two or three other players, but I'll almost always favor a point guard ... particularly the best one in the league. Moore not only led the conference in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio by far, but ranked 12th and 8th in those two statistics nationally. He's the only MAAC player to be in the top 12 nationally in two statistical categories.


- Jamal Barney, 6-3 guard, Loyola. Hard to omit the conference's leading scorer from the first team, but his 18.1 point-per-game average wasn't dominant (six other players averaged within three points per game of Barney's total). He was also hampered by a late-season injury last year, so the best is yet to come from the MAAC player who best fits the definitiion of "pure scorer."

- Tyrone Lewis, 5-11 guard, Niagara. Another player who could easily be a first-team pick. He was third in the league in scoring last year, and its leader in both steals (12th best nationally) and 3-pointers made (99). Arguably the best long-range shooter in the conference in several years.

- Ryan Rossiter, Siena, 6-9 center, Siena. The slender post player got limited minutes as a freshman and, then, was arguably the most-improved performer in the conference last season. He finished fourth in rebounding, first in field goal percentage and second in blocks, and frustrates opponents with his gangly build and overall effort.

- Frank Turner, 5-10 guard, Canisius. The consistent bright spot in a program that has struggled in recent years. Probably the quickest player in the league, and one of its most creative, whether handling the ball or finding his own shot. Was 6th in scoring, 5th in assists and 2nd in minutes played in the MAAC last season.

- Ryan Bacon, 6-7 center, Saint Peter's. Another player who had a breakthrough last season, becoming an inside force as a sophomore. He was 3rd in rebounding, 6th in field goal percentage, and 1st in blocked shots (24th nationally). He's leading the turnaround of a program that had been struggling of late.


- Wesley Jenkins, 6-2 guard, Saint Peter's. He's Mr. Outside to Ryan Bacon's Mr. Inside play with the Peacocks. Finished 5th in scoring and 2nd in 3-pointers made (71) in the conference last year. Has superlative long-range shooting skills and is one of the most-difficult players to defend in the league.

- Scott Machado, 6-1 guard, Iona. Last year's Rookie of the Year in the MAAC. Showed flashes of the ability to become the conference's best point guard at some juncture, finishing 3rd in assists and 5th in assist-to-turnover ratio.

- Mike Ringold, 6-7 forward, Rider. James Brown was the hardest-working man in show business, and Ringold might be the hardest-working man on a MAAC court. He never takes a play off, and made major strides last year, finishing 9th in rebounds, 7th in field-goal percentage and, surely, was among the leaders in tough inside defense.

- Novar Gadson, 6-7 forward, Rider. Like his teammate, Ringold, another noticeable hard worker. This blogger would have picked him as the conference's top rookie last season. Tough inside, but also possesses shooting range. Expect a big season from him this year.

- Greg Nero, 6-7 forward, Fairfield. Got through last season on guts, battling back woes most of the way. And, he still finished 15th in scoring, 12th in rebounding and 5th in field goal percentage. Another hard-working big man who, if healthy, ranks with the league's best.

COMING ATTRACTION: Within the next few days, your blogger will opine about the conference newcomers expected to have the biggest impact on their respective teams this season.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another Site Picks Stars, Stirs Debate

My internet travels have turned up an appealing site devoted to college basketball.

It's "Rush The Court," located at

Much of the site is devoted to the high-major level and it's a combination of news/opinion/insight/analysis. As always, it's easy (and, fun) to disagree with opinions (see below).

The site does also touch occassionally on the mid-major level, and it did in a recent feature highlighting five or six "Impact Players" from each of 10 regions of the country.

In the site's first two installments it identified impact players from the Northeast and from the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Familiar names appear on both of the initially released lists. I'm only going to list MAAC players here. For the full list, and honorable mentions, readers can go to the Rush The Court site.

From the Northeast (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Upstate New York), three Siena players were given honorable mention honors: Edwin Ubiles, Alex Franklin and Ryan Rossiter.

From the Mid-Atlantic region's list (NYC, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware), Rider's Ryan Thompson was a first-team "all-impact" pick, while Loyola's Jamal Barney made the honorable mention list.

Now, for disagreements ....

1) How does Siena's Ronald Moore get left off the Northeast honorable mention list?

Moore is unquestionably the MAAC's top point guard. Without Moore, what Siena does doesn't work anywhere near so well. Moore not only led the MAAC in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio last season, but was 12th and 8th nationally in those two categories. I believe he is the only MAAC player to rank in the top 12 nationally in two different statistical categories.

On that topic, we could probably also make a pretty strong case for Niagara's Bilal Benn getting mentioned, too.

2) The site picks Binghamton guard D.J. Rivera on its first-team of all-impact players from the Northeast region. No arguement about that here.

But, then, the site has this to say about Rivera:

"You know the story: the nephew of Philly legend Hank Gathers, Rivera transferred from St. Joe’s after his sophomore year, received a hardship waiver from the NCAA, and proceeded to dominate the America East unlike anyone has, um, ever?"

Say what? Dominated the America East unlike anyone has ... EVER?

Let the debate begin ...

OK, this isn't very MAAC related, although Siena, Niagara and Canisius did spend several years in that league when it was known as the North Atlantic Conference.

But, the league has had more than enough terrific players to make it more than a stretch to perceive that Rivera, a very good player, has dominated the league like anyone ever.

Others more worthy of that designation? Geez, where to begin?

How about, in chronological order (most-recent first):

- Jamar Wilson, UAlbany. That program's all-time best player who finished with 2,164 career points.

- Taylor Coppenrath, a 6-9 forward at Vermont and three-time conference Player of the Year. Only one other conference player ever won its top award three times (see below). He finished with 2,442 career points.

- Craig "Speedy" Claxton, a guard from Hofstra (before it left the league). He finished with 2,015 career points, 660 career assists and is still active in the NBA entering his 10th season in the pros.

- Malik Rose, a 6-7, 260-pound forward from Drexel (before it left the league). He finished college with 2,024 career points and 1,514 rebounds. He played in the NBA for the past 13 seasons.

- Vin Baker, a 6-10 forward from Hartford. He finished college with 2,238 careeer points and played 13 NBA seasons.

- Reggie Lewis, a 6-7 forward from Northeastern (before it left the league). He is universally regarded (well, at least by this blogger) as the league's all-time best player. The first individual to be the conference's Player of the Year three times. He finished with 2,708 career points (several hundred of those, it seemed, against Siena). He played six NBA seasons with the Boston Celtics, averaging 20.8 points per game in his last two seasons before tragically passing from a heart ailment.

Catching Up With Three Late Arrivals

We're active again. After a much-needed respite ... a four-night mini-vacation Down East, otherwise known as Maine, to devour a few lobsters ... we're charged up for the upcoming MAAC season.

First, though, time for a little more catching up.

Several weeks ago, we blogged about the newcomers joining conference programs. Of course, since then, there have been some late-comers to the league.

Here are three who joined programs since that last report. All three are eligible for the upcoming season.

Menelik Watson, Marist

A true "big" man, a 6-foot-8, 260-pounder from Canarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands. Reports are that he is a "skilled" big man.

The Red Foxes sorely needed inside help. Their only returnee taller than 6-foot-6 is Korey Bauer, a 6-9 junior who has been a role player to date. Of course, 6-10, 275-pounder Casiem Drummond, a transfer from Villanova, is eligible beginning in the second semester.

Reggie Groves, Canisius

Groves is a 6-2 guard who averaged 16 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds per game last season at Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham, N.C. He is one of three incoming guards eligible at Canisius this season. Reports indicate that he is a shooting guard who will see some playing time in what has become, at least this season, a crowded backcourt.

Dave Martens, Siena

A 6-9, 220-pound forward/center who played last season for a German professional team. Although Martens was not paid a salary, his presence on that squad means he'll be forced to sit out Siena's first 12 games this season. NCAA rules mandate a player who appeared in a professional league overseas, even if not paid, must sit out one college game for every two played in a professional league. Martens played 24 games for the German team. He is described as a good long-range shooter who crashes the boards. He takes the roster spot formerly held by Corey Magee. Siena's program has been granted a medical exception to use Magee's scholarship. Magee, a senior, is still suffering from post-concussion syndrome that forced him to miss most of last season. He remains in school and will serve as a "student coach" for Siena this season.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Keep checking in here. In the next day or two I'll make the "official" MAAC blog's preseason all-star selections. In a companion piece, I'll also pick an all-newcomers "impact" team, highlighting the five newcomers this bloggers believes will have the greatest effect on their respective teams this season.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Add One More to List of MAAC draftees

In compiling the list of former MAAC players that appears on the previous post, your blogger overlooked one individual who should be on the list ... or, maybe not.

If the list is of players who spent their entire college career in the MAAC, then it's complete.

Otherwise, we need to add Jack McClinton, a 6-foot-1 guard who spent his freshman season (2004-05) at Siena.

McClinton left after his only year with the Saints after the school fired coach Rob Lanier and transferred to Miami of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Many questioned whether he'd have any sort of success at the major college level.

But McClinton spent his redshirt year there working tirelessly on his game. Yours truly, then working as Siena's beat writer for an upstate New York newspaper, wrote about McClinton's move and recalls Miami coach Frank Haith relating that McClinton had an arrangement with the Miami maintainance staff that let him into the gym to work out at any time.

Haith spoke about McClinton spending so much time in the gym that he (Haith) often had to kick McClinton out of the facility for fear he was overdoing workouts. McClinton would leave the gym and, then, sneak back in when Haith was gone.

The hard work paid off. McClinton had three terrific seasons against ACC competition, including averaging 19.3 points per game and a 45.3 shooting percentage on three pointers. as a senior this past season.

He was the 2nd round pick of the San Antonio Spurs in this year's NBA draft, the 51st selection overall. Not coincidentally former Siena assistant coach Rob Jackson scouts college prospects for the Spurs. Although Jackson was not at Siena when McClinton was there as a freshman, he was involved in scouting and recruiting McClinton.

At Siena McClinton averaged 13.6 point, 5.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. After moving into the Saints' starting lineup nine games into the 2004-05 season he averaged 16.4 points per contest.

He wound up with 408 points at Siena. Over his four seasons of college play he finished with a career total of 2,110 points.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tickets On Sale for Buffalo's NCAA Games

The MAAC is at it again, hosting more NCAA men's basketball tournament games this coming season.

The conference will serve as the host for first- and second-round games in Buffalo this year. The dates for those games are Friday, March 19, and Sunday, March 21.

Previous sessions at MAAC-hosted NCAA tournament games are usually sold out in advance of the games. For now, tickets remain available.

Those interested can visit and follow the link for Buffalo.

Ticket prices are $219, and that costs covers all three sessions, (two on March 19, one on March 21) for a total of six games.

The MAAC has hosted NCAA games three times previously in Buffalo, and the facility sold out well in advance of games all three times.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

MAAC Represented Well in NBA Drafts

As promised, here's a list of all players from the MAAC, since the conference's beginning in the 1981-82 season, who have been drafted by the NBA. Included is draft slot and the team doing the selection.

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

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

Here's the draft list, in chronological order:

1982: William Brown, Saint Peter's, 5th round, Boston Celtics.

1983: Pete DeBisschop, Fairfield, 4th round, Seattle SuperSonics.
Ed Bona, Fordham, 6th round, Phoenix Suns.
David Maxwell, Fordham, 8th round, San Diego Clippers

1984: Steve Burtt, Iona, 2nd round, Golden State Warriors
Ernie Floyd, Holy Cross, 5th round, Milwaukee Bucks
Gary Springer, Iona, 6th round, Philadelphia 76ers
Champ Godboldt, Holy Cross, 8th round, Boston Celtics
Phil Jamison, Saint Peter's, 10th round, New Jersey Nets

1985: Steve Black, La Salle, 3rd round, Philadelphia 76ers
Albert Butts, La Salle, 5th round, Boston Celtics
Ralph Lewis, La Salle, 6th round, Boston Celtics

1986: Jim McCaffrey, Holy Cross, 6th round, Phoenix Suns

1990: Lionel Simmons, La Salle, 1st round, Sacramento Kings

1991: Doug Overton, La Salle, 2nd round, Detroit Pistons
Sean Green, Iona, 2nd round, Indiana Pacers

1992: Randy Woods, La Salle, 1st round, Los Angeles Clippers

2004: Luis Flores, Manhattan, 2nd round, Houston Rockets

2007: Jared Jordan, Marist, 2nd round, Los Angeles Clippers

2008: Jason Thompson, Rider, 1st round, Sacramento Kings

The highest draft choice from the MAAC was Simmons, the seventh pick overall in 1990.

Thompson was the No. 12 pick overall in 2008. Woods, the other first-round pick was No. 16 overall in 1992.

Hasbrouck's Hopes Alive for NBA

There might be a second former MAAC player in the NBA this season.

Kenny Hasbrouck, the 6-foot-3 guard who graduated from Siena in May after winning the conference's Player of the Year award this past season, might be getting an invitation to the Miami Heat's training camp.

Hasbrouck was one of 14 players that participated in the NBA team's "Heat Academy" recently.

"We had 14 guys there," Chet Kammerer, the Heat's vice president for player personnel told the Albany Times Union. "There's one left standing, and it's him (Hasbrouck)."

Kammerer indicated it would be about 10 days before the Heat made a decision on whether or not to bring Hasbrouck to its full-squad training camp.

Here's a link to the story about Hasbrouck, written by Pete Iorizzo, that appeared in the Times Union on Thursday:

If Hasbrouck does eventually make an NBA roster, he would become the first Siena player to do so. Probably the closest was Billy Harrell, a two-sport athlete who played basketball at Siena College from 1949-52 and was named Honorable Mention All-American at guard by the United Press.

Harrell, though, rejected offers to play for the Harlem Globetrotters and the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers, and ultimately played professional baseball, playing parts of four seasons in the major leagues.

The MAAC currently has one of its former players in the NBA, Rider graduate 6-11 center Jason Thompson, who will be entering his second season with the Sacramento Kings. He averaged 11.1 points and 7.4 rebounds as a rookie.

Hasbrouck went undrafted in this past June's NBA draft. Since 1992 only three MAAC players have been drafted by NBA teams. They have been Thompson, a first-round pick by the Kings in 2008; Jared Jordan of Marist, a second-round pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2007; and, Luis Flores of Manhattan, a second-round pick by the Houston Rockets in 2004.

Flores played 23 regular-season games in the 2004-05 season and has not appeared in an NBA game since. Jordan has not appeared in a regular-season NBA game.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Keep watching this space over the next few days. We'll provide a list of all MAAC players drafted by NBA teams.