Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tour Gives Youthful Niagara Early Start

Joe Mihalich has been working college basketball sidelines for 31 years, the last 12 of those as Niagara's head coach, but he is currently doing something he has never done before.

Mihalich is coaching his Purple Eagles on an international tour, a four-game trip to play exhibition games in Montreal.

These days it almost seems automatic that Division I programs, at least the well-funded ones, take the NCAA-allowed international summer tours for games once every four years.

But, it's a first for Mihalich. Neither the La Salle teams he served on as an assistant nor his current Niagara team has ever taken that kind of off-season trip.

Mihalich, though, knows the benefits, particularly for a team in transition, like his own. The Niagara coach gave us a few minutes earlier this week, talking from the team bus en route from Monteagle Ridge to Montreal, to provide his thoughts.

"First time for me," said Miahlich, about taking a team on an international trip for summer games," said Mihalich. "And, there are definitely benefits. "You hope it accelerates your progress, particularly for a team like ours that's so young. We don't have a single senior on our team. We only have three juniors, and one of them (Ali Langford) is a junior college transfer, so he's never played at the Division I level before. Basically, we've got two veteran players on our roster.

"It's a great chance to get together in the off-season and see what we can do and what we can't do."

It's not just playing the games that helps. Teams going on international tours are also allowed 10 full practices prior to the trip.

"Those 10 extra practices help," said Mihalich. "It puts you a little ahead of schedule. You try to put in some things you'll do during the regular season, but you also have to keep it basic. You don't want to throw everything at them at once ... that would be a mile long and only an inch deep. In practices, we're emphasizing quality of of a few things we'll do rather than quantity."

And, then, there are the games. Niagara got a win in its first game in Canada, knocking off the University of Quebec, 79-64.

"Obviously you're trying to win games, but it's also a great opportunity for our young guys to get game experience," said Mihalich. "And, it gives me a chance to see them in game situations."

Thirty-one years as a college-level coach, and Mihalich sounds as excited as he's ever been prior to a season, if a bus-ride conversation is any indication.

"My god we're excited," said Mihalich. "The excitement is about what we don't know about this team and waiting to see what develops."

It appears Niagara has plenty, although the youth and lack of prior experience in many cases might require some time for what the Purple Eagles have to develop.

What it does have, for one, is an experienced front court with 6-8 junior forwards Eric Williams and Scooter Gillette, who both progressed as last season went on and seem poised for strong years.

They'll get help up front by athletic 6-6 forward Langford, a transfer from Hancock Junior College.

Niagara also has a nice young backcourt in sophomore Marvin Jordan, an all-MAAC Rookie Team selection a year ago; and, 6-3 Antoine Mason, a red-shirt freshman who played three games last season (averaging 16.7 points) before a foot injury kept him out after that. And, sophomore guard Malcolm Lemmons was sharp in the tour's opener, scoring a team-high 20 points.

There actually is a a fifth senior in the program who looks like he'll eventually be a significant contributor. That would be 6-5 swingman Josh Turner who is not on the trip.

Turner, enrolled at Niagara since last year's spring semester, has not yet gained eligibility status due to academic issues.

The swingman averaged 27.5 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game at Sacred Heart H.S. in Connecticut in the 2009-10 season and, then, attended Southern Caroline Prep Academy in Charlotte, N.C., to bolster his academics. But that prep school closed in mid-year and Turner opted to enroll at Niagara.

However, he needs a full year of academic success at Niagara to fulfill eligibility requirements. If he stays on schedule, he'll be eligible to join the program for the second semester. Until then, though, he is not eligible to play or practice.

Just another new piece for a young, talented team in transition.

But, the current four-game swing in Montreal should help develop team chemistry.

"It gives you an advantage ... has you a little more ready to go at the start of the season," said Mihalich. "At least that's what you hope for."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

News & Notes From Rider Men's Hoops

Here are a couple of interesting items related to Rider men's basketball, discovere recently and written about by your hoopscribe while weatering the upstate New York version of Tropical Storm Irene.


Fans of the Rider men's basketball team, no doubt, will be stocking up on strong coffee for the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 15.

That's the day Bronc fans can wake up to basketball as Rider will host rexel for a 6 a.m. game that will be televised nationally on ESPN, part of the sports network's 4th annual Tip-Off Marathon for college hoops.

Game coverage begins at midnight an, in all, the network will televise 17 total games non-stop over 25 hours.

It's the second time MAAC teams have been featured, and the second time a conference squad will have the honor of playing in the early morning eye-opener. In 2009, Saint Peter's hosted Monmouth in the 6 a.m. slot. Also that year, Niagara got a little extra sleep when it played in an 8 a.m. event against Drexel. That same year Siena was also part of the marathon schedule, hosting Northeastern in a noon contest.

"The 6 a.m. ESPN game with Drexel is going to be a lot of fun," said Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey, in a recent press release issued through his school's sports information office. "It seems everyone on campus is looking forward to the game. This is going to be a strong Drexel team so we will need our student body and fans to set the alarm clocks and come out and support us."

School officials indicate that planning for a variety of events to involve students is already underway, probably starting about 2 a.m. and will include music, contests, prizes and giveaways.


Jon Rothstein, who does work covering college and professional basketball for the MSG network, recently did a blog item about five coaches he perceived as being underrated at the college level.

Rider's Tommy Dempsey came in as one of the five, along with Kevin Stallings of Vanderbilt, Fran Dunphy of Temple, Randy Bennett of St. Mary's and Blaine Taylor of Old Dominion.

Rothstein points out that Dempsey probably isn't underrated by those who closely follow Rider's program and the MAAC.

And, for sure, the Broncs' coach isn't underrated by this hoopscribe.

Yours truly made that mistake last year, picking the Broncs to finish eighth in the 2010-11 conference standings.

And, then, Dempsey directed Rider to a 13-5 MAAC record that was good for a share of second place.

We now know better than to underestimate Dempsey's coaching ability, and shoul have known even before that,

Now entering his seventh season as Rider's hea coach, Dempsey's teams have been to three national post-season tournament (once to the CBI, twice to the CIT). Over the past four years Rider's 82 total victories is the best four-year total in the program's history.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Women's Recruiting: Loyola Adds Four

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

Up now...


- Naiesha Brown, 5-10 guar, Sanford School of Newark, Del.

She averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game this past season.

Brown helped lead the New York Gauchos to an Albany GymRat Challenge AAU tournament title in May, 2010. Your hoopscribe saw her play several games, and was particularly impressed with her long-range shooting ability an overall versatility. However, she is a very slender perimeter player and probably needs to add some strength to her game to be a consistent contributor.

- Kara Marshall, 5-8 point guard, Gaithersburg (Md.) High School.

She averaged 13.2 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 5 steals per game this past season.

Reports indicate that she led her high school team in scoring and assists for four consecutive seasons. She is said to be an extremely quick guard who id most of her scoring in transition.

Cierra Darden, 6-2 center, Grace Christian Academy of Hughesville, md.

She averaged 12.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game this past season. Reports indicate that she is a lanky, athletic inside player.

- Stephanie Smith, 6-0 forward, Mount Saint Joseph's Academy, Lower Gwynedd, Pa.

She averaged 12.8 points per game this past season and finished her career with 1,129 points and more than 700 rebounds.

ANALYSIS: Marshall appears to be the top incoming player, although the point guard spot was more than capably filled this past season by junior-to-be Katie Sheahin. But, Sheahin could move over to the off-guard spot if Marshall is ready to contribute. The Greyhounds also appeared to bring in some potential answers to its vertically-challenged team of a year ago, primarily with the 6-2 Darden, but both Smith and, even, Brown have enough height and rebounding skills to help out. The incoming group appears strong. Loyola was the MAAC's second-best team last season and this year's recruits should help keep it near the top of the MAAC standings for the foreseeable future.

Men's Recruiting: Loyola Loading Up

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

Up now ...


- Chen "David" Cai, 6-8, 240-pound forward, Lee Academy of Maine.

The native of Guangzhou, China, averaged 12.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game at Lee Academy this past season. He previously played three seasons at Marantha Christian School in San Diego before being ruled eligible to continue playing there. However, reports indicate he was not directly involved in alleged violations (a news story indicated that a church affiliated with the school paid for his tuition)and that the situation there neither restricted him from playing at Lee nor affects his college elibibility. Cai averaged 26 points and 17 rebounds as a junior at the California school.

"Chen is another great get for us," said Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos. "He is a player who has a very bright future if he puts in time and works hard."

- Tyler Hubbard, 6-1 guard, Montrose Christian School of Rockville, Md.

He averaged 12.7 points per game this past season an is considered one of the Baltimore/D.C. area's top outside shooters. He made five 3-pointers in six different games this past season.

"We are very pleased to get a player from Stu Vetter's tremendous program at Montrose Christian," Patsos said. "Tyler is a very good shooter who will compete for time here. He hit a big 3-pointer against Oak Hill (Academy) to win the ESPNRise National Championship game. He also played for a Loyola alum, Damien Jenifer, an assistant at Montrose Christian."

- R.J. Williams 5-8 point guard, St. Francis Academy of Baltimore

He averaged 20 points and 9 assists per game this past season.

"It is great to get a point guard who had a great senior year in the prestigious Baltimore Catholic League," Patsos said of Williams. "We believe that R.J. will be able to contribute for us right away. He was the (Catholic League) co-Player of the Year for a reason, and it's great that he is following in (current Loyola guard) Dylon Cormier's footsteps in going from the Catholic League to Loyola."

- Jordan Latham, 6-8, 245-pound forward, transfer from Xavier University.

Latham played one season for Xavier, appearing in just 16 games and scoring eight total points in an average of 4.8 minutes per contest. He graduated from Baltimore's City High School, where he averaged 17 points and 9 rebounds per game as a senior there. Latham can practice but not play, as per transfer rules, this coming season and has three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2012-13 season.

ANALYSIS: One of the better recruiting classes in the conference, accounting for two likely future backcourt starters in Williams and Hubbard. Williams might be a significant contributor right away, and Hubbard's long-range shooting ability will likely make him a sniping specialist this coming season. Cai has a nice, left-handed shooting touch from the perimeter and also appears to have a developing inside game. Latham is Loyola's latest return-home transfer from a higher-level conference school, and should have an immediate impact for the Greyhounds when he becomes eligible. This recruiting class looks more than capable of helping Loyola maintain its upper echelon of the MAAC standings for the next several years.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Recruiting: Fairfield Women Add 2 Guards

Here's another in the series looking at players joining MAAC programs for the upcoming season.

Up now ...


- Felicia DaCruz, 5-7 point guard, Albertus-Magnus H.S., Bardonia, N.Y.

Cruz averaged about 15 points and 5 assists per game as a senior, and 10.4 points over a four-year varsity career.

“Felicia is a tough competitor with great point guard instincts,” said Fairfield coach Joe Frager. “She can penetrate and finish in traffic, or knock down an open 3. She is an unselfish player who sees the floor and finds the open teammate. She will have an opportunity to compete for significant minutes as a freshman."

Sydney Ranson, 5-8 guard/forward, Cardinal McCarrick H.S., South River, N.J.

She averaged 7.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.5 steals per game as a senior.

“Sydney comes to us with a great deal of potential,” said Frager. “She is an aggressive defender and an intense competitor, with an emerging offensive game. Sydney can play multiple positions, but will compete for time primarily as an off-guard."

ANALYSIS: By all accounts the Stags are bringing in two quality guards. DaCruz, a true point guard, could challenge for significant minutes right away, potentially moving senior Desiree Pina to off-guard, on occasion, where she began her career. Ransom is a versatile performer who does a little bit of everything and appears destined to get into the playing group early. The class, though, did not address Fairfield's biggest need which continues to be an effective post player.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Men's Recruiting: Fairfield's Group Strong

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

Up now ...


- Rakim Sanders, 6-5 senior forward, transfer from Boston College.

Sanders played three years for the Eagles, averaging 11.3 points (freshman year), 12.9 (sophomore) and 11.3 as a junior. He is already a 1,000-point career scorer (1,043 points). He averaged a career-high 4.4 rebounds per game as a soph. Sanders joined Fairfield last season and, as per transfer rules, was able to practice but not play. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

- Desmond Wade, 5-8 point junior point guard, transfer from University of Houston.

Wade played two seasons at Houston and had more than 100 assists in both, becoming just the third player in school history with back-to-back 100-assist seasons. As a sophomore in 2009-10 he averaged 5.7 points and 4.8 assists. He had 167 total assists against just 62 turnovers. Like Sanders he joined Fairfield last year and practiced with the Stags. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

- Adam Jones, 6-8 forward, St. Thomas More Prep School.

Jones averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds this past season at St. Thomas More Prep School.

Jones has one of the most-interesting life stories of any player in college basketball, living with an uncle in Ocala, Fla., since fifth grade because his mother didn't have the financial means to support him. When Jones was 15, though, the uncle's health and financial problems did not allow him to continue to support Jones. The youngster, though, had developed a friendship with Austin Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics' coach Doc Rivers, who eventually became Jones' legal guardian.

- Vincent Van Nes, 7-foot-0, 235-pound center, Northfield (Mass.) Mount Herman School.

Van Nes, a native of Dorcester, England, was at Mount Hermon for two years, but only played two games last season before suffering a foot injury that required surgery in January. Prior to the injury Van Nes had drawn some interest from programs from higher levels. After the injury, though, scholarship offers only came from mid-maor level programs.

- Kevin Thomas, 6-8 forward, St. Mary's Ryken H.S., Md.

Thomas averaged 8.9 points per game last season. He is originally from Toronto.

ANALYSIS: There's no questioning the talent Fairfield has imported from higher-profile programs in Sanders and Wade as both have had considerable success elsewhere against better competition than they'll see in the MAAC. The only question is how quickly they can fit in, whether team chemistry can be established since not only are the two transfers likely to step into the starting lineup, but head coach Sydney Johnson is in his first year at Fairfield. The team, though, got the benefit of playing four games in Italy this month. Sanders was terrific, scoring 70 points in the first three games. If the playing rotation remains the same as on the overseas trip, then Wade will start at point guard and junior Derek Needham will move off the ball. Van Nes looks like a nice project who will back up 7-0 senior center Ryan Olander for the coming season and, potentially, replace the current Stags' big man. Jones and Thomas are both intriguing projects primarily due to their solid 6-8 frames. Thomas played in tough D.C. area competition. Jones has a remarkable life story, one in which he has succeeded thus far in the face of strong adversity. It's not likely anyone will work any harder than he will. Bottom line is that if team chemistry develops the Stags will be strong again as Sanders and Wade move into the starting five. The traditional freshmen (Van Nes, Jones and Thomas) give the program's front-court much promise for the future.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Recruiting: Iona Women Add Key Parts

Here's another in the series looking at incoming players to MAAC programs for the coming season.

Up now ...


- Aleesha Powell, 5-6 point guard, William Penn Charter School of Philadelphia.

She averaged 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals per game as a senior.
"I am really excited to have a player of Aleesha’s character and ability joining our Iona women’s basketball family,” said Iona coach Tony Bozzella. “I am sure she will follow in the footsteps in our great point guard tradition here at Iona.”

- Jiya Dorcas-Eye, 6-2 center, Northwest Florida State JC

The native of Lagos, Nigera, averaged 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game this past season.

"I am so excited that Jiya has committed to our family. She is a wonderful young woman with tremendous personal qualities and values. I feel that she will have an immediate impact in our program and I am really excited to coach her during the next two years,” said Bozzella.

Damika Martinez, 5-7 point guard, O.H. Platt H.S., Meriden, Conn.

She averaged 26 points and 10 rebounds per game this past season.

"Damika can do so many different things from both guard positions on the floor. She is a dynamic player who I feel will have an immediate impact on our team," said Bozzella.

Briana Graham, 6-0 forward, Martin Luther King H.S., Dearborn, Mich.

She averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds per game this past season.

"Briana will bring a toughness and aggressiveness to our team at both the guard and post positions. She is a true competitor who will have an exceptional career here at Iona," said Bozzella.

ANALYSIS: Iona's primary weakness last year was at the point guard position, and it brings in two very good ones. Martinez was ranked among the top 25 high school point guards nationally by one recruiting service, and can play either back-court position. Dorcas-Eye is an athletic "big" who will likely come off the bench and help out with rebounding and shot-blocking. Graham is a rugged post player who should have an eventual impact.

Men's Recruiting: Iona Adds Strong Group

Here's another in the series looking at players joining MAAC programs for the upcoming season.

Up now ...


- Ra'Shad James, 6-1 guard, transfer from St. Thomas Aquinas College

He averaged 12.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists over two seasons at the Division II level. James transferred to Iona after the 2009-10 season and was able to practice with the Gaels this past season. He is eligible to play this season and has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

"Ra'Shad is as good an athlete as you will see in Division I basketball," said Iona coach Tim Cluess. "It was a pleasure to have him in practice this past season as his ability helped push our guards to improve their overall game."

- Josh Gomez, 6-10, 200-pound center, Rice H.S., Bronx

He averaged 5.5 points per game this past season, but improved as the season progressed. Gomez posted 14 points against St. Raymond's to help lead Rice to its sixth-straight Archdiocesan AA varsity boys' basketball championship in a late-season game. He also posted a double-double on the regionally televised SNY Invitational with a 14-point, 10-rebound effort in a win over eventual New York State Federation Class AA champion Mount Vernon High School.

Nyandigisi Moikubo, 6-7, 205-pound forward, transfer from Cochise Junior College in Arizona.

Moikubo, known as "Digs" averaged 15.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game at the junior college level last season. Moikubo originally was at the University of Montana as a freshman (2008-09), but did not play there. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

"Digs is a tough, skilled forward who can score inside and out," said Cluess. "He is an extremely competitive player with a great feel for the game. We'll look for him to contribute for us next season."

- Taaj Ridley, 6-7, 215-pound forward, Lawson State CC of Alabama.

He averaged 15.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game last season. Ridley's freshman year was spent at Barton CC in Great Bend, Kan., where he averaged 9.4 points and 4.0 rebounds. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

"Taaj is a long, athletic wing player with three-point range," said Cluess. "He is a multidimensional forward that can score inside and out. More importantly he will add good length to our lineup on the wing."

Lamont Jones, 6-0 point guard, transfer from the University of Arizona.

Jones, known as "MoMo," started all 38 games as a sophomore for Arizona last season and averaged 9.7 points, 1.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He is seeking a "hardship" waiver, claiming he transferred to be closer to an ailing relative, that would make him eligible to play this season. The NCAA's ruling on that application will come next month. If rejected, Jones would have to sit out the traditional one-season as a transfer and be eligible for the 2012-13 season. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Jones was ranked as the No. 68 overall prospect in the country and the No. 11 point guard by to go with a scout grade of 88 by ESPN after he averaged 21.3 points and 8.0 assists per game as a senior in leading Oak Hill Academy to a 41-1 record. Jones attended three high schools in all, playing at Rice High School in NYC as a freshman and a sophomore and, then, as a junior at American Christian School in Aston, Pa.

ANALYSIS: The rich get richer. The potential preseason favorite to win the upcoming season's championship, needed some height and got it, particularly with Moikubo, who should be a nice book-end forward alongside Player of the Year candidate Mike Glover. Although Ridley is also 6-7, he is more of a wing player. The Gaels, already loaded at the wing and guard spots, got even more firepower there with Ridley and with James, who becomes eligible this season. Iona observers who saw practices last season claim that James was often the best perimeter player on the court and he is expected to have a significant impact this season. Gomez is a big-man project who needs to add some strength. If Jones gains his eligibility this season he becomes quality overkill, a second all-league quality point guard along with senior Scott Machado. If Jones has to wait a year to be eligible, then he becomes the perfect replacement after Machado's graduation. The strong incoming group, along with returning players, ensures the Gaels should be among the league's better teams for at least the next two or three seasons.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Recruiting: Siena Men Add Six Pack

Welcome back to the blog, after a brief hiatus to recharge the proverbial batteries with a week's vacation in beautiful southern Maine, otherwise known as lobsterland. And, yes, several of the crustacians are no longer among the living after your hoopscribe's visit. Unfortunately, while the lobsters were plentiful the rental cottage where we stayed was technically deficient ... no internet for a week.

But, we're back in business and return to continue tfeaturing new players joining conference programs.

Up now ...


- Evan Hymes, 5-9 point guard, Kestrel Heights Charter School, Durham, N.C.

Hymes, a lightning-quick backcourter, averaged 14 points, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game as a high school senior. Hymes is already familiar with the area, having lived in Clifton Park, N.Y., just a few miles away from Siena, until his family moved when he was 10.

"I'm really excited with Evan's decision to come to Siena," said Siena coach Mitch Buoanguro. "He will be a very good point guard in our program. He can push the ball and run our transition game, which is exactly what we were looking for."

- Davonte Beard, 6-2 guard, St. Vincent-St. Mary's H.S., Akron, Ohio.

He averagted 19 points per game as a high school senior, playing at the school that also produced LeBron James. Beard originally made a non-binding verbal commitment to St. Francis (Pa.) before he opted to consider other schools.

"We are really excited to have DaVonte join the program - he has been a target for us all year," Buonaguro said. "He comes from a great program, and adds a great deal of athleticism and scoring ability to our backcourt."

- Marcus Hopper, 6-9 center, Holy Cross (NYC) H.S.

He averaged 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game as a high school senior, and made 45.2 percent of his 3-point attempts.

- Lionel Gomis, 6-9 forward, Blair Academy

Originally from Dakar, Senegal, he averaged 10.5 ponts per game at Blair this past season.

Reports indicate that he is an extremely active big man whose work at the defensive end is ahead of his offensive skills.

- Rob Poole, 6-5 guard, Paul VI School of Haddenfield, N.J.

He averaged 16.8 points and 5.6 rebounds as a junior. No senior statistics are available.

Poole made a verbal commitment to Siena during his senior year in high school. He also participated in the annual GymRat Challenge AAU tournament in the Capital Region in late May, 2010, and was selected as that event's Most Valuable GymRat. You hoopscribe saw several of Poole's games in that event, and he is a superlative shooter from anywhere on the court with range out to 23-, 24-foot distance. He also exhibited a high court IQ, and an ability to find open teammates with his passes.

Imoh Silas, 6-8 forward, Holderness School of Plymouth, N.H.

No senior season statistics are available. Like Gomis, Silas is also a native of Africa (Nigeria) and has a similar game. He is reported to be active and athletic, but his offensive skills are still developing.

ANALYSIS: One of Siena's biggest needs last season was outside shooting, and Poole, Hopper and Beard should help there. Beard might be an immediate starter and Poole is likely to be in the playing group right away. Hymes is an extremely quick and capable ball-handler who appears to be set for a back-up point guard role as a freshman. Gomis and Silas are both athletic inside players who can rebound and blocked shots. But, at least initially, neither is likely to score much.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Recruiting: Siena Women Fill Needs

Here's another in the series looking at incoming players to conferece programs.

Up now ...


- Kelsey Booth, 6-2 forward, East Hampton (Conn.) H.S.

She averaged 19.5 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks per game as a high school senior.

"Kelsey is a very active forward," said said Siena coach Gina Castelli. "She can score both inside and out. Her energy and scoring ability will fit in nicely with the style we play. She has the potential to make an immediate impact in our program."

Your hoopscribe saw Booth play several times in the 2010 GymRat Challenge AAU tournament, and was impressed. She showed an ability to play both inside and outside. She also fielded offers from several Atlantic 10 teams.

- Tehresa Coles, 5-9 guard, Colonie (N.Y.) H.S.

She averaged 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.1 assists per game as a high school senior.

"We are very excited and honored to have Tehresa Coles join our program," said Castelli. "Her athleticism and intensity at both ends of the floor will compliment nicely with the players we have returning and those coming in. I feel she is really going to be a defensive nightmare for teams as she is one of the quickest and fastest players in our program. I am also delighted to have a local standout player like Tehresa in our program. She is a standout guard at Colonie High and also one of great character."

Your hoopscribe has also seen Coles play on a number of occasions, and she uses rare quickness and athleticism to her benefit at both ends of the court.

- Ida Krough, 6-0 guard, Aarhus, Denmark.

She averaged 14.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the Aabyhoj club team in Demnark this past season.

She also has international experience, having played for the U-18 Danish team in the European Championships last summer."Ida is a very, very special player," Castelli added. "We feel very fortunate to have her and to compliment our other international players. She is a gifted perimeter player with excellent offensive skills and a hard working defensive player. She too has the potential to make an immediate impact in our program."

Kim Lysius Cote, 5-10 guard/forward, Champlain College in Saint Lambert, Quebec.

She averaged about 20 points and eight rebounds per game this past season.

"I feel we have a steal in Kim Lysius Cote," commented Castelli. "She is a strong, athletic and fundamentally sound guard that is a versatile scorer. Her potential to do great things here at Siena is enormous. I am looking forward to having her in our program and to help her grow as a player."

Janine Davis, 5-7 point guard, transfer from George Washington University.

Originally was going to attend Adelphi University, a Division II school, before opting to chose Siena. She led GW in assists with 61 as a freshman, but an injury limited her playing time during her sophomore year. She can practice, but not play, this season and has two remaining years of eligibility beginning in the 2012-13 season.

ANALYSIS: This appears to be a very strong group. Siena graduated its two starting inside players, so Booth should get time early. Coles is one of the best perimeter players to come out of the Capital Region in several years. Krough, according to some who have seen her play, will eventually become an impact player at this level, and Lysius Cote is a versatile player at both ends. Davis was a highly rated recruit coming out of high school. This group should ensure Siena has some good years ahead.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Promoting Next Tourney Well Under Way

It's still a full seven months until the MAAC men's and women's post-season basketball tournaments are played at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.

But, the league and both arena and civic officials in the western Mass. area, have already been working to make the conference's premier event a success in its initial appearance at the venue.

Preparation began immediately after the league decided to allow the MassMutual Center to host the event for a three-year window starting this coming season. And, the results were evident at this past season's conference tournament in Bridgeport, Conn., as officials from the Springfield facility had a daily booth set up to distribute brochures and other promotional items all centered around the new slogan "MAACachusetts."

The affiliation is a perfect union of a basketball-minded community ... remember, Springfield is the birthplace of the sport and home of the Basketball Hall of Fame ... with a mid-sized arena (slightly over 7,000 for basketball), and a league whose school administrators wanted their event on a neutral court.

Springfield had formerly hosted the Division II level's Elite Eight, that division's championship event. But the traditional lack of regional teams in the event ... Bellarmine of Louisville, Ky., played BYU-Hawaii in this past season's championship game ... meant few fans followed their respective teams to the event.

After six years in Springfield, the Elite Eight tournament has opted to move to the Bank of Kentucky Center in Heighland Heights, Ky., for the next two years, in part to attract larger crowds.

Even with limited crowds and just an eight-team field the Division II event, according to reports, meant between $1.2 million and $1.6 million was spent on hotels, meals, tickets and other related items.

With 20 teams (10 men's and 10 women's), civic administrators estimate the MAAC tournament will mean more than double that total will be spent in each of the coming three seasons. And, MAAC fans traditionally travel fairly well, and they should be coming out to Springfield which is about a 90-mile drive away from three confererence schools (Siena, Marist and Fairfield), and just slightly farther than that for three others (Manhattan, St. Peter's and Iona).

And, with six years of experience hosting a tournament, the community was already well-versed in doing so and was up to speed in preparing for and promoting the upcoming three-year run of the MAAC event as soon as it was announced as the site.

"We've already done quite a bit," said Nate Harris the MassMutual Center's marketing manager. "We've done everything fron setting up local planning committees to working with hotels and restaurants."

The community is already set to place street banners throughout the city trumpeting the presence of the tournament, and the arena already has a MAAC display featuring trophies and photos.

Maybe the best aspect of moving the event to Springfield is an affiliation with the Hall of Fame, which will also have a display related to the MAAC.

The display will celebrate the history of the conference, the experience of being a student athlete and raise awareness of the annual conference championship held just a few blocks away.

The Hall also gives basketball fans attending an event a world-class sport-related venue to visit in their spare time.

Harris said community businesses will also be virtual welcome centers for MAAC teams and fans.

"The community wants this to be a postive experience for fans and players at hotels, restaurants and shops," said Harris. "We've partnered with a well-organized convention and visitors bureau that helps with relationships with hotels and restaurants to get them involved. It means that when teams check into hotels, hotel personnel will be able to suggest places for teams and fans to go to in Springfield to eat or just to hang out."

The potential aspect is that the event will be hosted, for the first time since 1989, by a venue without a "home" team.

"We're optimistic that we'll do well, even though we're a neutral site," added Harris. "One thing we have is a convention center attached to the arena, so we're able to facilitate alumni groups and other gatherings. Plus, we're a basketball city. This area is geared for basketball. There's a strong hoop following. And, now, we've got a Division I event here with winners here advancing to the NCAA tournament."

Crowds can't approach the 10,000+ numbers that turned out at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., when Siena played tournament games there. But, even crowds less than half that size won't look anemic in a smaller facility.

"We talked to a lot of fans in Bridgeport (site of last season's tournament) when we were promoting this coming season's tournament," said Harris. "We learned that a lot of people were willing to drive there from the other schools, and we're encouraged that a lot of them will drive to Springfield, too. Actually, we're pretty much right in the middle of things for most of the schools in the league."

There's even a website ( devoted to promoting the upcoming event.

"We're well under way in terms of promoting and administering the event," added Harris. "We're constantly building relationships and we're very excited to be hosting the event."

And, very active in ensuring it will be a success, a process that started more than a year in advance.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Iona Draws Purdue in Puerto Rico Event

OK, maybe Purdue should just join the MAAC.

After its first game of the coming season Purdue will have faced MAAC opponents twice in its previous three games, and three times in the previous 20 months.

The Boilermakers knocked off Saint Peter's, 65-43, in the first round of this past season's NCAA tournament before their season ended with a 94-76 defeat at the hands of VCU.

And, now, they open the 2011-12 season by meeting potential MAAC preseason favorite Iona in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament.

It will be the first-ever meeting between the programs (game time is 1 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico, and will be televised on ESPNU). But, Purdue has a familiarity with MAAC opponents dating back a year earlier when it knocked off Siena, 72-64, in a first-round NCAA tournament game at the end of the 2009-10 season.

Iona comes in off a 25-12 record last year and advanced to the championship game of the postseason tournament before its season ended. The Gaels have every player of significance returning and are being touted, by some preseason publications, as this season's favorite to win the conference's regular-season title.

The winner of the first game in the 8-team Puerto Rico event will advance to take on either Temple or Western Michigan in the second round on Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. with the loser going to a consolation round game at 3:30 p.m.

The final day of competition is Sunday, Nov. 20, with the championship game to be played at 8 p.m.

The tournament's other bracket has Maryland taking on Alabama and Wichita State squaring off with Colorado. the bracket.

The Gaels should have as good, if not a better, chance to knock off Purdue than the last two MAAC teams to try.

Purdue lost its top two players to graduation, and to the NBA draft, since last season. Center JuJuan Johnson and swingman E'Twaun Moore, were both picked in the recent NBA draft. Together, they scored 35 of Purdue's 65 points in the victory over Saint Peter's.

Purdue's top returning player from a year ago is 5-8 point guard Lewis Jackson, who averaged 8.0 points and 4.0 assists per game. Also returning, though is 6-9 senior forward Robbie Hummel, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Hummel averaged 15.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a junior in 2009-10, and is expected to be one of the better players nationally this coming season.

"We're really looking forward to the challenge in Puerto Rico to open the season," said Iona's second-year head coach Tim Cluess. "Purdue presents a tough matchup and to get to play on national television against a program with such great basketball history is a tremendous honor for Iona."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Durant Can't Outscore Former MAAC Star

NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, playing summer basketball during the professional league's lockout, scored 66 points in a Rucker League contest Monday night at the league's Harlem venue.

Durant hit 9-of-11 3-pointers, including treys on five straight possessions.

"This was one of the great nights of my life," said Durant, to reporters, afterwards.

But, not as great as one by a former MAAC standout who played several summers in the legendary Rucker League, the nation's premier summer competitive situation that has drawn a who's who of legendary performers to its venue over the years.

Steve Burtt Jr., a 2006 graduate of Iona College, turned in a 68-point performance in a Rucker's game in the summer of 2007.

Burtt Jr., a 6-2 guard, is the Gaels' second all-time leading scorer with 2,034 career points. That total ranks behind only his father's 2,534 points in the school's record books. Together, the Burtts' 4,568 combined points accounts for the top father-son point total in college basketball history.

Since graduating from Iona Burtt has been playing professionally in leagues overseas, most recently in the Ukraine and, before that, in Israel.

Burtt Jr.'s 68-point night is considered a single-game record for play in the Entertainment Basketball Classic, an event ongoing since 1990. But, before that, summer league play at the famed park had a variety of other names.

Burtt's big game is recorded as the third-highest one-contest total in the history of Rucker League play.

The top two one-game efforts were both recorded by a legendary playground figure of the 1970s, Joe "The Destroyer" Hammond, a 6-4 guard who once turned down a $50,000 annual contract offered by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hammond had scoring totals of 74 and 71 points in Rucker League games in the 1970s.

A three-paragraph item in Tuesday's New York Post also credits 5-10 guard James "Pookie" Wilson, who played collegiately at John Jay College, for also scoring 68 points in an Entertainment Basketball Classic game. Some internet research, though, shows that Wilson's single-game best in that event was only 63 points.

It leaves Burtt Jr. alone with the third-highest single-game point total in the history of organized league play in a Rucker League game, two points better than what NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant could accumulate on Monday night.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Recruiting: Marist Women Keep Reloading

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

Up now ...


- Natalie Gomez-Martinez, 5-6 guard, Andover (Mass.) H.S.

She averaged 14 points, 5 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game as a high school senior.

Gomez was a four-year starter at Andover. She was rated the 105th best player nationally and 26th among combo guards according to Dan Olson's Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.

"Natalie is one of the top combo guards in the northeast," said Marist coach Brian Gioirgis. "She was heavily recruited by major and mid-major schools across the country. She is a player with great breakdown ability and a tremendous scorer, who sees the floor well and has tremendous confidence."

- Briana Holmes, 5-7 guard, Brookhaven H.S./Columbus, Ohio.

She averaged 8.9 points, 1.7 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game as a senior.

Holmes was ranked 67th in the country among point guards according to the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.

"Briana is a pass-first point guard with tremendous defensive skills, as well as the ability to break down opposing defenses," said Giorgis. "She comes from Brookhaven High School, one of the best high school programs in the Columbus area, and that won the city championship last year. She is and will be a great leader both on and off the floor and I see her as a steal in the class of 2011."

- Kristina Danella, 6-1 forward, transfer from UMass.

Danella played two seasons at UMass before transferring to Marist after the 2009-10 season. She was at Marist, where she could practice with the team, this past season and has two remaining years of eligibility beginning this season. As a sophomore at UMass she averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest.

Tori Jarosz, 6-2 center, transfer from Vanderbilt.

She only played in six games for a total of 15 minutes at Vanderbilt in the 2010-11 season, scoring one point but getting eight rebounds and four blocked shots. She was a highly sought-after recruit coming out of Lakeland H.S. in Putnam County, about 50 miles south of Poughkeepsie. Transfer rules allow her to practice, but not play, with Marist this season. She has three years of eligibility remaining, beginning in the 2012-13 season.

ANALYSIS: A group that helps ensure Marist stays in championship contention for the immediate future. Danella helps immediately, and her scoring ability will help particularly after the unexpected transfer defection of 6-4 forward Kate Oliver. Gomez-Martinez and Holmes provide immediate backcourt depth and, likely, two solid players in future years. And Jarosz, a true post player, has the potential to be an all-MAAC caliber performer once she becomes eligible.