Thursday, August 30, 2012

Romano Moves From Marist To Rhode Island College

While reading the "transactions" reports of my local newspaper this morning we learned of a coach with MAAC connections moving on to join the staff of another coach with past MAAC connections.

The coach with the new position is Mike Romano who, for the past two seasons, served as a graduate assistant for the Marist men's program. Romano, earlier this week, was named the top assistant at Rhode Island College, a high-powered Division III program located in Providence.

He joins the staff of Bob Walsh, who enters his ninth year at RIC, whose tenure so far has produced the best stretch of success in that program's history. Walsh's record at the school is 158-50 as a member of the Little East Conference. His teams have been to six straight D-III NCAA tournaments, one of just five programs nationally to have done that.

Walsh, for those with a relatively lengthy memory, began his coaching career career when he served as an administrative assistant on Tim Welsh's staff at Iona in the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons. Walsh also worked on Welsh's staff for several years at Providence of the Big East.

Besides his work at Marist, Romano has worked on the staff of the annual GymRat AAU tournaments (both boys and girls) in the upstate New York area. Your blogger is also involved with that event, and can attest to Romano's expertise and work ethic, sentiments expressed by Walsh upon hiring Romano.

"Mike has great basketball experience and refuses to let anyone outwork him," said Walsh, through a press release issued by RIC. "He's going to help our program in all phases and we are very lucky to have him."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Loyola Leaves MAAC For Patriot League Affiliation

The MAAC is losing a member with the somewhat surprising announcement earlier today that Loyola will join the Patriot League beginning in the 2013-14 academic year.

The move means the conference loses its southern-most member, and one of its more-prominent athletic programs of recent years, at least in a basketball sense.

The men's program returned to prominence in recent years including a trip to the NCAA tournament this past season, while the women's program has been consistently solid for the past several seasons.

MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor said he was somewhat surprised by the school's decision, but was aware that Loyola administrators had been having discussions with the Patriot League for the past six-to-eight weeks.

"I am disappointed with Loyoa University's decision to withdraw from membership in the MAAC, which I learned about in a telephone call from Loyola President Brian Linnane this morning (Tuesday)," said MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor. "Loyola was a good member and they made a business decision not reflective on the MAAC, but consistent with decisions made by many schools that have changed conferences in recent months."

There is one national report that the move prohibits Loyola competing for the MAAC's automatic berths in the NCAA basketball tournament this coming season, but that is not the case. MAAC by-laws, according to Ensor, do indeed permit Loyola to compete in the MAAC tournament, to defend its tournament title and to compete as the MAAC's representative in the NCAA event, if it qualifies.

Ensor said he perceived Loyola's move to be based primarily on business as well as a desire to be affiliated  with the academic level of other programs in the Patriot League where member institutions (for basketball) include Bucknell, Lehigh, American, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Colgate and Army and Navy.

Changes of this type are almost universally made for business reasons, and Loyola administrators have to believe that the new affiliation will have financial benefits in an era when finances are tight and school officials wage a constant battle to maintain enrollment numbers.

Loyola athletic director Jim Paquette told the Baltimore Business Journal that moving to the new conference will have its biggest impact in the pocketbook rather than the playing field by helping the school reach new markets for students and donations.

Paquette said the new conference is a good fit because of its ties to Boston and Washington, D.C., both cities from which the college already draws large amounts of students.

Conference member American University is located in Washington, D.C., while Holy Cross is in Worcester, Mass. Boston University also joins the Patriot League for the upcoming academic year.

The Patriot League, theoretically, will give Loyola more exposure in those markets, which is expected to increase admission rates and alumni donations.

"We also think it will help us with fundraising and the general marketing of the school," Paquette told the publication.

It's not the first time the MAAC loses a conference member to the Patriot League. Both Holy Cross and Army were charter members of the MAAC before breaking away to join the Patriot League in 1990.

"We'll be OK (as a league)," added Ensor. "We've lost or gained members in the past. Over the past two years the league has discussed in detail how league realignment has impacted Division I conferences and, unfortunately, it now has extended to the MAAC. The MAAC Council of Presidents has a scheduled conference call for net Tuesday and the presidents will review this matter at that time.

Loyola joined the MAAC prior to the 1989-90 academic year and currently competes in 16 of the league's 24 sports offered.

The MAAC had been stable since 1997-98 when Rider and Marist joined its ranks.

"It's an honor to join the Patriot League's distinguished member institutions, all of which consistently demonstrate a profound commitment to excellence both in the classroom and on the field," said Loyola's President Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., in a statement released through Loyola.

 "That commitment is one we share at Loyola, and we see this move as a vital opportunity to continue to elevate our already outstanding athletics programs in keeping with our goal of becoming the nation's leading Catholic, comprehensive university."

Since 1998 the Patriot League has ranked first among all Division I conferences in student-athlete graduation rates in the NCAA Graduation Rates report.

Ex-Siena Coach Castelli Takes Rhode Island Post

When the Siena women's basketball team travels for a non-conference game at Rhode Island on November 17, there will be a familiar face on the opposing bench.

That would be Gina Castell who, for the previous 23 seasons (one as an assistant coach, the last 22 as head coach) had directed the Siena program.

Castelli recently accepted a newly created position as director of player personnel with the Kingston, R.I., program under head coach Kathy Inglese.

Castelli is held in such high regard by Inglese that the position was created specifically for her. She will serve not only directly with players but also be another veteran voice on a staff that, otherwise, had been inhabited mostly by lightly-experineced assistant coaches.

Inglese had been in contact with Castelli about the position since shortly after Siena decided to go in a new coaching direction this past March. The ex-Saints' coach opted to take the Rhode Island job earlier this month, and traveled to Rhode Island today (Tuesday) to sign her contract and begin working there.

By bringing Castelli aboard Rhode Island gets a veteran, experienced former head coach who has had considerable previous success (five times the MAAC's Coach of the Year) on the Division I level.

The Siena program, though, has had a string of eight straight sub-.500 losing records overall, thus prompting school administrators to break ties with Castelli.

A variety of injuries to key players, during that stretch, contributed to the team's recent stretch of non-winning records, but the bottom never truly dropped out. And, even despite the injury woes (the team lost its starting point guard for all of last season in its opening game, and had two talented freshmen redshirt due to injury), Siena finished in fourth place in the MAAC standings in each of the past two seasons.

The position enables Castelli to remain in the profession and to be visible within college basketball.

This blogger has no doubt that Castelli will soon resurface as a head coach at a Division I program, and the school that hires her will be fortunate to bring her aboard.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reports: Iona Lands Big-Time Recruit Norvel Pelle

Quite possibly the most highly rated recruit to ever join a MAAC program will be playing at Iona this season.

That would be Norvel Pelle, a big man in (according to his brother) from the Kevin Durant mold. How big? Pelle is listed, in news reports as either 6-foot-9, 6-10, 6-11 or 7-0.

He definitely is tall, and certainly Durant-lanky at a reported 210 pounds. And, his game begs the comparison ... a tall athlete who runs the court and does his best work shooting from the perimeter.

Without any doubt, though, Pelle is a very talented player and could immediately ensure that the Gaels don't slip much, if at all, from last year's regular-season MAAC championship/NCAA tournament appearance results.

But ... first, Pelle has to be declared eligible by the NCAA. He was initially slated to attend St. John's last season,  but three summer courses he took (summer, 2011) at Northeast Prep School in Philadelphia were not accepted by the NCAA and Pelle never did attend classes at St. John's.

A new ruling from the NCAA on whether he'll be eligible for this season is expected soon. Pelle attended Brewster (N.H.) Academy this past academic year.

Pelle's decision to attend Iona has been reported on a variety of news and recruiting sites. He is expected to officially enroll within a week. Iona, as per NCAA rules, cannot comment on Pelle until classes begin in the fall semester. NCAA rules prohibit schools from commenting on players who have not signed a letter of commitment and the period to do that ended in May.

If Pelle becomes eligible it will give the Gaels an eventual and potential starting lineup that also includes returning guards Momo Jones (whose career began at Arizona State) and Sean Armand (who had a MAAC record 11 three-pointers in a game last season), small forward Curtis Dennis, a transfer from Toledo where he averaged nearly 12 points per game last season, and 6-8 forward David Laury, a multi-skilled transfer from Western Kentucky who becomes eligible after first-semester games.

In terms of talent, it looks to be (at least to this scribe) potentially the league's greatest collection of talent within a program since the La Salle teams of the late 1980's included three future NBA draft picks.

Of course, talent has to mesh and Iona not only will could two new players (Dennis and Pelle, if eligible) at the start of the season, another (Laury) in mid-December and two others (Jones and Armand) both in new roles.

How good is Pelle? As a high school senior during the 2010-11 season he was rated by scouting services as either the No. 1 or No. 2 high school center nationally and 23rd best player nationally.

After de-committing from St. John's, he was also being courted by the likes of Auburn, DePaul and New Mexico State and certainly has the type talent that rarely winds up at a MAAC school.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Former MAAC Ass't Clifford Joins NBA Lakers' Staff

NBA superstar center Dwight Howard might have disliked former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy enough to get Van Gundy fired this past season, but it appears he has a good relationship with another former Magic coach who has some MAAC ties.

That would be Steve Clifford, who coached as a MAAC assistant for one season (1994-95) at Siena and one season (1989-90) at Fairfield.

Barely a week after the four-team trade that sent Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers recently, Clifford also moved to the City of Angels with the announcement earlier this week that he was joining Laker coach Mike Brown's staff as an assistant.

Clifford, over the years, has developed a very solid reputation as a defensive-minded coach and his work with Howard not only helped turn the 6-foot-11 big man into one of the league's best interior defenders but also kept the Magic in the top 10 in defensive stats all five years that Clifford was with the Orlando franchise.

The upcoming season will be the 13th that Clifford has been in the NBA which makes him, according to my reckoning, the longest-tenured former MAAC coach in terms of NBA experience.

Clifford might well eventually become an NBA head coach, and nearly did this off season getting some consideration both with the Magic and with the Portland TrailBlazers, where he was one of only four candidates to be interviewed for that position, according to a variety of reports.

Clifford has also been on Siena's radar often during coaching searches there over the years, but timing and circumstances never meshed.

Still, he was a solid candidate for the job prior to the 2000-01 season, but Siena instead went with Louis Orr (wrong choice, it says here).

Orr lasted all of 49 weeks before using the Siena position as a launching pad into the Seton Hall coaching job.

When Orr vacated, a variety of sources (including my work in newspaper field) reported that Clifford was the top choice to take the Siena job.

At the time, though, he was just finishing up his first year in the NBA as an advance scout for the New York Knicks. At the time, that franchise had a bench assistant move on Clifford opted to stay in the NBA to become an assistant rather than taking the Siena position (which eventually went to Rob Lanier).

Clifford's move to the NBA, too, is an interesting story. He was the head coach at Division II Adelphi during the 1998-99 season, a year in which the NBA had a work stoppage.

Coaches could have no contact with players, and then-Knicks' coach Jeff Van Gundy was looking for some basketball-related activities to keep him occupied during the lockout.

Adelphi, in Garden City, N.Y. (Long Island), was the program most-proximitous to his home and, one day, he called Clifford to informally offer his services at Adelphi's practices.

Through that connection, Clifford developed a friendship/working relationship with Van Gundy. When Van Gundy had an opening as an advance scout with the Knicks in 2000, he hired Clifford.

Those two were together not only with the Knicks, but also when Van Gundy coached the Houston Rockets (2003-07). When Van Gundy eventually parted ways with the Rockets, Clifford was hired by the other NBA Van Gundy, Stan, to be an assistant with the Magic (2007-12).

The rest, as they say, is history ... a very productive and lengthy history for Clifford, a former MAAC assistant coach, who will continue to work with some of the sport's best players for what will be his 13th NBA season.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Baron (the son) Joins Vastly Improved Canisius Team

A few blog posts below this one, when posing some questions about MAAC men's basketball and providing (at least trying to) some answers, we speculated that the team with the best chance of being a positive surprise this coming season would be Canisius.

We made that assertion based not only on the eligibility for 2012-13 of three quality transfers, but there was also a strong inkling that the Golden Griffins would be adding yet a fourth high-level player to their program.

That became official earlier this week when the school announced that Billy Baron, the son of newly hired head coach Jim Baron, would be following his dad from Rhode Island to the Buffalo school.

Baron, who began his playing career at Virginia before transferring to Rhode Island, was also granted a waiver by the NCAA which allows the 6-foot-2 point guard to become immediately eligible. He has two seasons of playing eligibility left.

After becoming eligible at Rhode Island last season he played 20 games there (14 starts). He averaged 13.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.

He is likely to move into the starting lineup as point guard for Canisius and be another of the key parts of a new cast within the program.

Other transfers becoming eligible for the coming season are 6-10, 280-pound senior center Freddie Asprilla, who averaged 4.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game at Kansas State in the 2010-11 season; Isaac Sosa, a 6-3 senior guard who averaged 8.0 points and 1.8 rebounds per game at Central Florida in the 2010-11 season; and Jordan Heath, a 6-10, 225-pound junior center who averaged 14.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game in 2010-11 at Robert Weslyan, an NAIA program.

The Griffs return their top two scorers from a year ago, guards senior Harold Washington (17.0 ppg.) and junior Alshwan Hymes (15.4), along with last season's top rebounder, 6-6 junior forward Chris Manhertz (7.0 points, 7.4 rebounds).

Canisius only won five games in the 2011-12 season, its fewest in a season since it joined the MAAC in 1989. But, if the incoming talent can mesh with some solid returnees the program could produce one of the  the best positive turnarounds not only within the conference but within all of Division I nationally.

Former Siena Assistants Now D-III Head Coaches

Good coaches don't stay unemployed for very long.

Two of Siena assistants from the Saints' women's team who lost their positions when the school fired its long-time head coach Gina Castelli this past March recently were name as head coaches at Division III programs in New York State.

Michelle Collins, a Siena assistant for the past five seasons, was recently named to take over the program at Hamilton College.

Josh Suttles, a member of the Siena staff this past season, was recently hired as head coach at Manhattanville.

Collins not only coached at Siena but played there (1988-89 through 1991-92). She is the MAAC's all-time leader in assists per game (5.69) and is eighth on the league's all-time list for steals per game (2.62).

Collins had also been an assistant coach at Canisius and the University of Buffalo. Before returning to Siena as an assistant she was the head coach at Division III SUNY Oswego where she compiled a 114-73 record.

She turned around a struggling program there, one that only won five games in her first season but had 20 or more victories in her last four seasons with the program.

Suttles also has an extensive background. Prior to spending last season at Siena he spent two seasons as the top assistant at Division I Sacramento State University.

Before that he was the head coach at SUNY Cobleskill from 2003-09. There he helped transition that program from the junior college level to NCAA Division III status, and coached the team to the most-successful years in program history. He had a 125-44 record there, after taking over a program that had nine total victories in the two seasons before his arrival.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tough to Make Call on Best/Worst Coaching Jobs

Don't you just love it when so-called college basketball "experts" out there in the internet world talk about the MAAC without, in almost all certainty, a lot of actual insight?

Latest case in point: A recent ESPN blog seeking to identify the best and worst coaching jobs in every basketball conference. The "rankings" were done, according to the blog, by 14 television analysts or writers from the network who are involved in college basketball in some form or other.

Here's what the ESPN blog came up with for the best and worst of MAAC jobs ...

Best: Siena -- The Saints haven't been able to find their footing post-Fran McCaffery, but our voters still consider this the top spot in the MAAC.

Worst: Canisius -- This school went to three straight NCAA tourneys from 1955-57 and have been back exactly once since.

OK ... let's examine the source. How many of ESPN's full-time analysts and/or writers actually deign to actually attend a MAAC game? Radio talkshow host Freddie Coleman, who once plied his trade in the Albany, N.Y., area, has been attending MAAC post-season tournaments for years. But, the very strong guess here is that Coleman wasn't on the "committee of experts" who helped make these dubious ratings.

ESPN also employs Fran Fraschilla, who actually coached in the MAAC (Manhattan) in the mid-1990's, but Fraschilla is so heavily involved in basketball overseas as part of his ESPN duties that another guess here is that he didn't vote..

MAAC games do get on ESPN's family of outlets on occasion, but there isn't a lot of behind-the-scenes work done by the network's staff beyond getting ready for the specific game

Why are we taking offense? First, trying to figure the best and worst of any job is a difficult task without knowing the inner workings at each school, and not even the dedicated beat writers/radio and TV personalities in each MAAC team's respective market truly know enough about that to really make a definitive statement about this topic.

It's a knee-jerk reaction to pick Siena's the best coaching job in the MAAC, since the Saints have had so much recent success, play in a large arena and draw, by far, the conference's largest crowds.

But, what about Fairfield, which has had some success of late and also plays in a good-sized arena?

Worst job? How can one identify Canisius? Clearly, administrators there have made more of a commitment than ever to the men's program with the hiring of former Rhode Island coach Jim Baron and, according to a variety of published reports, increasing the program's budget for recruiting and for salaries of assistant coaches.

Are facilities part of the equation? Other than Siena and Fairfield, no other MAAC program plays in anything other than a mid-major level on-campus gym, all fairly similar to each other.

The MAAC has consistently maintained a membership of schools of similar size and philosophy. The goal, theoretically, is to ensure that none of the member institutions places an overly abundant more emphasis on their athletic programs than other members.

In truth, the only way to truly judge the best or worst coaching jobs at a MAAC-level league is to exam financials to see what programs are most committed financially. Some of that information is available, but not all of it.

And, for the most part, the school's academic budgets are well within reason of each other, enough so that it's difficult even for the most-dedicated of MAAC reporters/followers to truly be able to identify the best and worst coaching opportunities.

In reality, that's truly a subjective call. And, for sure, a large and national entity like ESPN, whose college basketball reporters/analysts have minimal contact with the MAAC, probably aren't qualified to make that kind of judgment.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Questions, Answers For Upcoming Men's Season

Questions and some answers (OK, call them semi-educated guesses) about a variety of men's basketball-related expectations for the coming season.


The MAAC should be a league former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle would love ... one full of parity. And, much of that will be near the top. Loyola and Manhattan look like, from here, to be the early front-runners. But, Siena, Niagara, Iona, and even, possibly, Canisius won't be too far behind. The guess here, though, is Loyola, which lost two very good role players from a year ago but appear to have decent replacements.


A: Since, a few blog postings back, we picked Manhattan as this year's second-place finisher ... it's not a surprise to think it could be the Jaspers. Manhattan has just about everyone back from a team that lacked only a real good two-way post player. That might be coming with 6-foot-9, 230-pounder Andy Pankey, who started 20 games at Maryland last year (4.7 points, 4.9 rebounds) and should be a real force at this level. Manhattan and Pankey have applied for a waiver so the big man can be eligible this season, but they still await a ruling from the NCAA. If Pankey is eligible this season, Manhattan will most definitely be more than a legitimate contender. If not, well, Pankey will still have three years of eligibility beginning in the 2013-14 season.


A: Again, many candidates. But, we'll go with Canisius and that would be a nice resurgence for a program that needs to start showing a few more signs of competitive life. Things haven't exactly been golden for the Golden Griffins in a very long time. How long? The last better-than-.500 overall record came in the 2000-01 season (20-11). The last winning ledger in league play came in the 1998-99 season (11-7). And, last year's won-loss records, both league and overall (1-17, 5-25), were the program's worst since it joined the MAAC in 1989. So, why the optimism? A new coach (Jim Baron), for one. But, mostly, a new cast of talented players in three quality transfers and some solid returnees. If things mesh, Canisius could be looking at one of the best positive turnarounds in the country.


A: Many talented incoming transfers are eligible this year, and it's always tough to figure how they'll perform. The likelihood is that one, maybe two, will definitely contend for first-team recognition, but we'll stick to returning conference players: Siena's senior center O.D. Anosike, Loyola's senior forward Erik Etherly; Manhattan's senior guard George Beamon; Fairfield's senior guard Derek Needham and Iona's senior guard Momo Jones.


A: We'll go with Siena's sophomore 6-5 swingman Rob Poole, who had an inconsistent freshman season but, on his good nights, looked capable of doing plenty. Poole is a multi-dimensional player who can shoot, handle the ball reasonably well and pass like a point guard. He played behind senior guard Kyle Downey mostly a year ago, but will have a much-expanded role this season.


A: Almost no need to ask that question. Of course it's Siena's Anosike, whose 12.8 rebounds per game last season not only led the MAAC but also led the nation. He became just the second conference player to ever lead all Division I players (Darren Phillip of Fairfield was the other).


A: Again, this one is pretty obvious. Junior guard Sean Armand ranks with the best nationally, and he showed why in one particular December game against Siena when he made a conference record 11 treys. His 46.2 percent bonus-shot accuracy would have been fifth-best nationally had he just four more made treys (national leaders need a minimum of 2.5 made three-pointers per game).


A: We've got a pretty good track record on this one, having picked Manhattan's George Beamon, as far back as last summer, to be the 2011-12 conference scoring leader, and he delivered with a 19.0 ppg. average. Beamon is back to defend that statistical category's title, and his role pretty much remains the same: score, score, score. So, we'll go with Beamon, again.


A: Many, many candidates for this. We'll go with Rider's 6-3 guard Nurideen Lindsey, a transfer from St. John's where he averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds per game through first-semester games this past season. He becomes eligible after first-semester games in mid-December this season. If not Lindsey, then another guard, Desi Washington at Saint Peter's who sat out last season as a transfer from Delaware State.


A: After a slew of freshmen had impacts this past season, few conference teams appear to have the need this season for major contributions from true freshmen, particularly with so many incoming transfers becoming eligible. So, call this a "future" pick. We like 6-foot-7 freshman forward Phil Valenti, who was the Rochester area's high school Player of the Year after averaging 25 points and 11 rebounds as a senior this past season at Aquinas H.S.


A: Manhattan's junior guard Mike Alvarado. Not a great scorer, but he does that well enough. He's just the prototypical tough New York City-bred point guard, who really knows how to run a team and make it better. It was no coincidence that the Jaspers were 2-2 down the stretch of regular-season play and, then, lost their first round game of the MAAC's post-season tournament when Alvarado wasn't able to play due to an eye injury.


A: The conference's leading scorer (Beamon) and rebounder (Anosike) are both back and both will be major candidates for the award. But, the choice here is Loyola's Erik Etherly, who appears likely to even expand his role after a season in which he averaged 13.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and shot 53 percent from the field. He went out strong, putting up 19 points and seven rebounds in a first-round NCAA loss to Ohio State.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Questions, Answers for Upcoming Women's Season

We recently predicted the order of finish for men's and women's basketball teams. Now, it's time for more predictions.

So, here are some questions, and one person's answers about happenings throughout the league this season. We'll start first on the women's side...


A: Hmmmmmm .... maybe Marist?

Of course, Marist. Nine straight regular-season crowns and counting. Like death and taxes, this has become one of life's certainties. There's more than enough returning, along with the addition of Vanderbilt transfer 6-foot-3 inside force Tori Jarosz, to ensure that the streak continues.


A: Take your pick. Any of the next six teams in your Hoopscribe's recent predictions, are as likely to finish second or seventh this season. But, if we have to pick one ... we'll go with Niagara, which took Marist to double overtime in a regular-season game and into single overtime in the MAAC tournament's semifinal round last season. With just about every key player returning, Niagara looks like the league's second-best team right now.


Q: Easy one here: Rider. The Broncs had the best non-conference record (albeit, the schedule wasn't overly challenging) of any conference team a year ago and, then, some injuries and a key academic suspension hindered the team in league play.Just about everyone is back, plus Rider adds two other very good players in Shereen Lightbourne, a small forward who missed 2011-12 with a preseason knee injury; and redshirt freshman point guard Manon Pellet. It wouldn't surprise us at all if Rider, with a long history of sub-.500 records, finishes in the top three of this year's standings.


A: Siena's senior center Lily Grinci, Loyola's senior guard Katie Sheahin, Iona's sophomore guard Damika Martinez, Niagara's junior point guard Kayla Stroman, and Rider's junior swingperson MyNeshia McKenzie.


A: We like Christelle Akon-Akech, the 5-foot-10 junior guard/forward from Fairfield whose quickness and athleticism allows her to go past defenders almost at will. Yet her game, this past season, had developed beyond just athletic skill. With some graduation losses, the Stags will have a need for her to produce, and she did whenever she got the chance last year.


A: Hard to look beyond Rider's MyNeshia McKenzie, a 5-11 junior who led the conference in rebounding this past season.


A:  Again, statistics tell the story. Sophomore Meghan McGuinness of Niagara hit 53-of-115 last season, a 46.1 percentage. Had she attempted enough shots to qualify for the national leaders her percentage would have been good enough to lead all Division I players.


A: Another easy answer: Iona's dynamic sophomore guard Damika Martinez, whose 16.1 point per game average last season made her the first freshman ever to lead the conference in scoring.


A: We'll go with Marist's Tori Jarosz, the 6-foot-3 inside player who is a transfer from Vanderbilt where she only played 15 minutes as a freshman in the 2010-11 season, but had eight rebounds over that short time. She should immediately be one of the top two or three inside players in the league and gives the Red Foxes an in-the-paint dimension they didn't have this past season.


A: Almost impossible to predict. Not many would have predicted Iona's Martinez to have as good a year as she did this past season. Freshmen need not only talent, but an opportunity to play. And, admittedly, your Hoopscribe hasn't seen the majority of incoming freshmen play during their high school/AAU years. We'll go with two here: guard Emily Weber of Canisius, a 5-10 long-range shooter who joins a program that places a premium on outside shooting;, and Manon Pellet, a redshirt freshman point guard for Rider, which has an opening to fill there.


A: Kristine Best of Marist doesn't score a lot of points, but she is a standout floor leader at the point guard position. Probably forgotten by many after only playing six games last season before recurring hip problems forced her to redshirt to return as a fifth-year senior for the coming season. She doesn't score a lot (3.2 ppg. last season), but had a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio when she was on the court.


A: Barring a total surprise, it will be a three-player race: Siena's senior center Lily Grenci, Loyola's senior guard Katie Sheahin and Iona's sophomore guard Damika Martinez. We'll knock Martinez out of contention right away. League coaches, who do the voting, always favor upperclassmen when voting for awards. So, unless Martinez does something phenomenal, it will likely come down to Grenci and Sheahin. Our choice will be Sheahin, one of the league's most-versatile players who will probably need to be more productive than Grenci for her respective team to have success.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rosales Opts For Marist After Siena Coaching Change

Siena's loss is Marist's gain ... or, so it appears.

The "gain" for the Red Foxes' women's basketball program is Sydney Rosales, a very talented 5-foot-10 combo guard with long-range shooting ability.

Rosales is entering her senior season at Colonie High School, about three miles away from the Siena campus. At one time she and current Siena player Tehresa Coles were teammates, and they remain close friends.

The expectation was that Rosales would eventually join Coles at Siena, and Rosales made that intention known last summer when she gave a verbal commitment to the Saints.

But, this past March, Siena fired long-time head coach Gina Castelli, for whom Rosales had hoped to play for, and the player withdrew her commitment (oral commitments are not binding).

Siena's new staff did attempt to "re-recruit" Rosales, but she appears to have found a future home for her talents at perennial MAAC power Marist, according to a report in today's Albany Times Union newspaper, written by good friend and veteran high school sports reporter James Allen.

"The reason I committed to Siena so early was the relationships I developed with those coaches," Rosales told Allen, about the former Saints' staff.  "The relationships I've built (with the Marist coaches) over the past month are strong. He (Marist head coach Brian Giorgis) isn't going anywhere, which was very important. He's got a good thing going there, and it's close to home (about 90 miles south of her home)."

Since de-committing from Siena, Rosales had drawn interest from, among others, St. Bonaventure, Delaware, Hartford, Sacred Heart, Central Connecticut and Canisius.

She led Colonie High School to the Section II (upstate New York) sectional Class AA (large school) championship this past season and was that tournament's Most Valuable Player. She averaged 13.6 points, 5.2 assists and 5.2 steals this past season for her high school team.

Rosales has also been a standout at the AAU level, playing for the Saratoga Sparks program. Two years ago, after her freshman season in high school, she led that program to an age-division title in the competitive GymRat Challenge event held in the Albany area, and was her division's MVG (Most Valuable GymRat).

She recently helped the Sparks to a second-place finish in the AAU National tournament.

Your Hoopscribe has seen Rosales play well over a dozen times, both in high school and AAU games and can attest to her abilities.

In leading her AAU program to the GymRat Challenge title two years ago she played point guard through championship bracket games when a teammate, a Mormon, opted not to play on Sunday. She has often played the point in high school, too, but said she expects to play shooting guard at Marist.

She will immediately be one of the best long-range shooters in the MAAC when she begins play in the 2013-14 season. The former Siena staff was enamored with her deep long-range skills, claiming she was comfortable making shots several feet beyond the three-point stripe. And, at a legitimate 5-10 height, she is able to shoot over most guards.

"I know coach Giorgis recruits very good players, so it is an honor for me to be going there," Rosales told the Times Union. "I'm really excited to get there and for him to develop my game more."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Marist's Yarde Is MAAC's Top Student-Athlete

The reigning MAAC women's Player of the Year recently added another award to her collection, possibly the most impressive one of all.

Recent Marist graduate Corielle Yarde, a do-everything guard, was named the conference's 2011-12 Female Student-Athlete of the Year earlier this week.

The award was instituted in 2001 as a means to recognize overall excellence in the classroom, on the playing field and in the community. Each conference member nominated one male and one female athlete to be considered for the honor. Nominees must have at least a 3.2 overall grade point average, be in at least their second year of residence at the institution and be a starter or important reserve on their team.

Yarde becomes the fourth Marist student-athlete to receive the award, joining former women's basketball players Rachelle Fitz (2009-10) and Alisa Kresge (2006-07) and David Bennett of the men's team (2002-03).

Yarde led the Red Foxes in nearly every statistical category this past season, including finishing as the team leader in scoring (14.3 ppg.), rebounding (6.5), assists (4.2) and blocked shots (1.0).

Yarde also excelled in the classroom. She was a three-time member of the MAAC's All-Academic Team. She was also nominated for the NCAA's Woman of the Year. Along with her teammates, she volunteered at the Special Olympics and participated in a Kids Day Out program this spring. Yarde graduated Cum Laude, receiving her degree from Marist in Psycholoy and Special Education.