Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Women's Recruiting: Manhattan Addresses Needs

Here's another in the series looking at newcomers to conference programs for the coming season:

Up now ...


- KYLIA CHAMPAGNE (5-11 forward, John F. Kennedy H.S., Paterson, N.J.): She averaged 14.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game as a high school senior.

- SHAYNA ERICKSEN (6-0 Forward, West Morris, N.J. Central H.S.): She averaged 20.1 points and 2.3 rebounds per game as a high school senior. She is a slender "scoring" forward and is her school's all-time leading scorer for both boys and girls.

- KATIE REESE (5-8 Guard, Mountain Lakes, N.J., H.S.): She averaged 20.3 points per game as a high school senior.

- BRIANA SCHNARE (6-2 Center, Wachusett, Mass., H.S.): Some internet sites list her as being 6-3. She averaged 11.3 points per game as a high school senior.

- BLAKE UNDERHILL (5-6 Guard, Ashland, Mass., H.S.): She averaged 17.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists as a high school senior.

ANALYSIS: The Jaspers used five different players at the point guard position last year, and two of them return. Manhattan coach John Olenowski is a master at helping a shooting guard run the point, and the likelihood is that either Reese or Underhill, neither of which was a true high school point guard, will get significant minutes (and be successful) as the Jaspers' point during their careers. Manhattan also struggled on the boards last season, getting outrebounded by an average of 5.6 per game. Olenowski attempted to address that deficiency with three front court players in the incoming freshman class.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Men's Recruiting: Manhattan Adds Some Depth

Here's the latest entry in the series looking at newcomers to conference programs this season.

Up now ...


- PAUL BAYT (6-foot-4 shooting guard, Park Tudor H.S., Carmel, Ind.): No high school stats available. He is a very slender (listed at 170 pounds) long-range shooter. His high school team captured Indiana's Class 2A state championship this past season and Bayt scored 18 points, making 6-of-8 three-pointers in the title contest.

- C.J. JONES (6-2 point guard, St. Thomas More, Ct., Prep School): No high school stats available. Jones originally committed to attend Ball State before opting for Manhattan. Reported to be a pass-first point guard and a terrific on-the-ball defender.

- SHANE RICHARDS (6-6 forward, York Prep of Manhattan): No high school stats available, but Richards reportedly is an outstanding scorer in a variety of ways.

- ADAM LACEY (6-10 center, San Diego H.S.): He averaged 10.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game as a high school senior.

- ASHTON PANKEY (6-10 center/forward, transfer from Maryland); A well-built inside player, Pankey averaged 4.7 points and 4.9 rebounds as a freshmen for the Terps this past season. He has applied for a waiver to play this season at Manhattan, but the NCAA has not yet ruled on that application. When he becomes eligible he will have three remaining seasons at Manhattan. He started 16 games for Maryland in the 2011-12 season.

- MARK JACKSON Jr. (6-3 guard, transfer from Louisville): Yes, he's the son of the former NBA standout and now NBA coach of the Golden State Warriors. A walk-on at Louisville where he played limited minutes last season. He is a red-shirt sophomore, meaning he has to sit out this season but has three remaining seasons of eligibility.

ANALYSIS: Manhattan is going to be one of the top two or three teams in the MAAC this coming season, but if Pankey gets the eligibility waiver and can play this season, then the Jaspers might become the favorite to claim the regular-season crown. Jones should be a nice addition as a back-up point guard. When starter Mike Alvarado went down with an eye injury late last season the Jaspers didn't have a replacement. Bayt and Richards will both come off the bench this year, but both are capable of providing some offensive contributions. Bayt looks like he will be one of the better long-range shooters in the MAAC at some point,.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Newst MAAC Honor Roll named, plus some memories

One of the nice things about the MAAC's off-court operations, particularly in recent years, is that it honors its own so well.

The Hall of Fame Honor Roll was established last year to recognize standout former basketball players from the conference's 10 current members. A league committee picks one male and one female from each school, based not only for on-court abilities but contributions in life beyond athletics.

Honorees will be enshrined in The MAAC Experience exhibit at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. A private dinner event will be held on Friday, March 8, at the Hall of Fame where the honorees' names will be added to the MAAC Experience exhibit and receive special recognition from a Hall of Fame legend.

Each honoree will be profiled in the game program for the 2013 MAAC Basketball Championship tournament, and will also be featured in a video display at the MAAC Experience. The honorees will also be recognized at halftime of a men's first round game set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 8.

The MAAC now enters its 32nd year of operation and there certainly have been enough quality players/individuals to have taken to the hardwood over that time. But, the Honor Roll isn't just inclusive to the MAAC's existence. It recognizes any player from any era in the history of current MAAC members, and several of those either being honored this year, or from last year, played before the MAAC's inception.

Your Hoopscribe certainly didn't witness play from all this coming year's honorees ... heck, I was still in diapers when former congressman Hon. Henry Nowak (Hammerin' Hank) begain his playing career at Canisius in 1954 ... but I do have fond memories of some of the upcoming individuals to be inducted and will share some thoughts on those.

- GINA CASTELLI: Most know her as the longest-tenured and winningest coach in Siena history, having been director of the women's program for 22 years (for a 336-296 record) before she was fired shortly after this past season. But, she was also a standout player at Canisius in the 1980's (for which she is being honored), and still ranks fifth on that school's all-time list in scoring, third in assists and fourth in steals. She was also immersed in community involvement over her time at Siena, and is one of the finest individuals your scribe has ever met in close to 40 years of professional involvement in sports. She is now on the women's staff at Rhode Island.

- TONY GEORGE: Nearly 25 years since his playing days, he remains one of just 11 players in league history to score more than 2,000 career points (2,006) and is still Fairfield's all-time leading scorer. Just a very gifted big guard who this scribe still considers to be one of the top 10 players ever to grace a MAAC court.

- KEITH BULLOCK: A versatile big man (6-foot-7) who was the MAAC's Rookie of the Year in the 1989-90 season, and a three-time first-team all-conference pick in the three seasons after that. He is one of just four players in league history with career totals of more than 1,900 points and 1,000 rebounds (Lionel Simmons, Juan Mendez and Jason Thompson are the others).

- RACHELE FITZ: Certainly in the conversation in any debate about the conference's best female player ever, and without any doubt in the top three. One of just three MAAC players with career totals of more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds (Melanie Halker and Patty Stoffey are the others). A 6-foot-1 foward who seemed to excel effortlessly.

- CALVIN MURPHY: When he was putting up huge scoring numbers at Niagara in the late 1960s, your Hoopscribe was still in high school, but already a big-time fan of college basketball. College games on TV back then were rare, but I might never have missed one of the handful in which Niagara and Murphy appeared. Just 5-foot-8, he might be the best sub-5-10 player in basketball history. And, if I look hard enough, I can probably find the Sports Illustrated College Basketball issue that featured Murphy, Pete Maravich and Rick Mount (the "Three M's") on its cover from the 1969-70 season. Murphy is already in the Naismith Hall of Fame for his playing career.

- MIKE GRANELLI: The long-time (32-year) coach of the Saint Peter's women's program, and arguably the most-successful coach in conference history with a career record of 607-249. At the time of his retirement he was one of just three coaches in women's college hoops history with at least 600 victories at the same school (Pat Summitt at Tennessee and Jody Conradt at Texas were the others). A five-time MAAC Coach of the Year winner. He was also his school's men's soccer coach for 18 years and remains the leader for all-time victories at the school in soccer (163-110-28). Known for his casual sideline attire. Based on that, no one is sure if he even owned a tie or a sports jacket.

- BRUCE SCHROEDER: A slender 6-foot-3 player who was too short to be a forward and not quite skilled enough as a ball-handler to truly be a guard, but he was just a player during his career at Siena from 1987-88 through 1990-91. Siena might have been the only Division I school to offer a scholarship, but then-head coach Mike Deane had a way of finding overlooked players and helping develop them into standouts, and Schroeder might have been the best evidence of that. For sure, no one worked harder in practice or played harder in games. He remains 20th on Siena's all-time scoring list (1,290 points).

- VAL HIGGINS O'DELL: Your Hoopscribe not only had the pleasure of watching the 6-foot-1 inside force play at Siena (1987-91), but also saw a few of her games while she was at Schalmont High School. Like Schroeder, a hard worker whose career performance probably were as much a product of her work ethic as her natural ability. She still has the second-highest single-game point total (37) in the history of the Siena women's program. The school still honors her via a post-season award, the "Val Higgins Award," given annually, at the program's post-season banquet, to a player who best epitomizes Higgins' leadership skills.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Some Transactions: More MAAC Flavor at JMU

Some comings and goings related to the MAAC ...

-- Former Siena player and, later, Marist men's head coach Matt Brady continues to bring some Albany, N.Y./MAAC connections south to James Madison University, where he enters his fifth season as head coach.

Brady's most recent hire is bringing in Lucious Jordan, an Albany native, who played his first two seasons at Loyola (where he averaged 13.1 and 13.2 points per game), to be an assistant at JMU. Jordan left the Greyhounds after his sophomore year to return home and play for the University at Albany, where he helped lead that program to an NCAA tournament berth. Jordan scored 1,420 points over his four-year playing career.

After college he played professionally in the Netherlands and in the Continental Basketball Association. Most recently he was coaching in the Albany City Rocks' AAU program and at the Green Tech Charter School.

Jordan joins a staff that already includes Mike Deane, the former Siena head coach who was in that position when Brady was a player as a senior.

Also on Brady's staff is Rob O'Driscoll, who was on Brady's staff at Marist for four seasons (2004-08) and, prior to that, coached on Jeff Ruland's staff at Iona for six seasons.

-- Norvel Pelle, the highly-touted 6-foot-11 center who said he would attend Iona College this year is still not at the New Rochelle school.

Pelle originally committed to attend St. John's last season, but did not qualify academically and never attended that school. Instead, he attended a prep school in 2011-12 and is awaiting a decision from the NCAA on whether his work there qualifies him to play at the college level.

Now it appears that the timetable for Pelle's career at Iona to begin would include enrolling at the school for the second semester, thus becoming eligible for play in late December, after first-semester games are completed.

-- Janine Davis, a highly-touted point guard who transferred from George Washington University to the Siena women's program last season has left the Saints without having played a game.

Ineligible last season due to transfer rules, the team's expected starter at the point instead opted to transfer again and is now at Fisk University, an NAIA program in Nashville, Tenn. She is eligible to play there immediately.

Monday, September 17, 2012

UConn Picked Calhoun over Buonaguro in 1986

It's interesting, in the wake of Jim Calhoun's sudden decision to retire as UConn's long time men's basketball coach, to remember what almost was ...

It was 1986 when Calhoun's predecessor Dom Perno resigned after four consecutive losing seasons.

UConn administrators launched a regional search for a replacement. The final two candidates were Calhoun and Mitch Buonaguro, who is now entering his third season as Siena's head coach.

The knee jerk reaction is to say that UConn made the right choice. Buonaguro has never been a head coach above the mid-major level, got fired from his first job as head man at Fairfield in 1991 after six seasons there and didn't get another chance until Siena promoted him prior to the 2010-11 seasons after he served as Fran McCaffery's lead assistant with the Saints the previous five seasons.

Back in 1986, though, UConn's choice wasn't a clear one.

Buonaguro was one year removed from being part of an NCAA championship-winning staff, Rollie Massimino's lead assistant for the 1984-85 Villanova team that pulled off one of the sport's biggest upsets, a victory over the Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown team in the title contest.

Buonaguro had prepared the game-winning scouting report.

Shortly thereafter Fairfield hired Buonaguro and, in his first season there, he directed the Stags to a 24-7 record and its first appearance in the NCAA tournament.

And, then, UConn was interested.

Buonaguro was 32 years old at the time.

Calhoun was 44 and had never coached above the mid-major level in any capacity. He was a high school coach until moving to Northeastern. That school had a vacancy for a head coach in 1972, but failed to attract at least a half dozen of its primary candidates before settling on Calhoun, who had been 18-0 at nearby Dedham (Mass.) H.S. the previous season.

Calhoun directed Northeastern to a 19-7 record his first season there (1972-73), but the program reverted to mediocrity (75-75) over its next six seasons.

And, then, Calhoun turned things around, bringing in future NBA player Perry Moss, among others and, later, the late Reggie Lewis. Over his last seven seasons Northeastern became the powerhouse of the old North American Conference (which then included current MAAC members Siena, Canisius and Niagara) and ran up a 154-55 record and five trips to the NCAA tournament.

It was enough to attract UConn, which gave the position to the older, more-experienced Calhoun over Buonaguro.

Buonaguro then took his second Fairfield team to the NCAA tournament, despite a 12-15 regular-season record (it won the league's post-season tournament). In his next four years, though, Fairfield had a 33-80 record and Buonaguro was relieved of duties.

He had a successful run as an assistant coach for the next five seasons at Texas A & M, for seven seasons after that at Cleveland State (reunited with Massimino) and, then, moved to UNC Greensboro to coach under McCaffery, who he followed to Siena in 2005.

Siena gave him another chance to be a head coach, but his first team had graduated its core of talent and finished 13-18. Last season, a rash of injuries and two key ineligibilities left Buonaguro with, basically, a six-man playing group. The Saints were a very respectable 14-17.

This season, Siena is poised to finish among the leaders in the MAAC.

But, UConn made the right choice back then. It picked a coach who not only vitalized a program, but took it to three NCAA championships during his time there.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Recruiting: Loyola Women Add Needed Inside Play

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

Up now ...


- BRYANNA ROBINSON (5-foot-9 Guard, Georgetown Day School/Brandywine, Md.): Reportedly a strong, off-guard who played two varsity seasons at St. Mary's Ryken, where she was among that team's leading scorers, before transferring to Georgetown Day. No high school statistics are available.

- TIFFANY PADGETT (6-1 Center, Pallotti H.S., Lauren, Md.): An inside player who averaged 12.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game in her first three seasons at Pallotti H.S. and, then, 13.9 points and 7.0 rebounds as a senior. Also listed as 6-feet (not 6-1) on a variety of internet sites.

- DIANA LOGAN (5-11 Guard, North Point H.S./Waldorf, Md.): A big off-guard, she averaged 10 points and four rebounds per game over her last two seasons in high school.

- BRITTANY BUTLER (5-9 Forward, Howard H.S., Elkridge, Md.): A long, lanky defensive-minded player, she averaged 4.2 steals per game as a high school junior.

- JENEH PERRY (5-11 Forward, Girls Prep School, Chattanooga, Tenn.): Another strong inside player, she was also a standout shot-put performer in high school. Reported to be an outstanding rebounder with the athleticism to run the floor.

ANALYSIS: The program didn't need a huge recruiting budget, other than a couple of trips to Tennessee to scout Perry, as four of the five incoming players are from Maryland and proximitous to the Loyola campus. The Greyhounds have been one of the smaller MAAC teams in recent years, and sought to address that issue by bringing in three forwards. The team appears to have a strong first five or six players coming back, but the incoming players should provide immediate depth and ensure the continuation of the program's strength in future years.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Loyola Men's Recruiting Brings In Strong Depth

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

Up now ...


- JOSH FORNEY (6-9, 230 pounds, Center, St. Frances Academy, Baltimore): Reported to be a big, bruising inside presence, but is likely to redshirt this season. No statistics available. "He's got great size, but will most likely redshirt," Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos said in a recent interview with the Baltimore Sun newspaper. "He's a good player ... reminds me of Rick Mahorn. He's kind of a bruiser, a thick kid. He's an inside guy, a hard-working type of guy. But, with Julius Brooks and Jordan Latham at the 5 (for Loyola this coming season), we wouldn't want to waste the year. He'll most likely redshirt."

- JARED JONES (6-6, 185 pound, Forward, John Carroll School, Baltimore): A slender player who averaged 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game as a high school senior. "He's going to play some 3 and some 4," Patsos told the Baltimore paper. "He's like Erik Etherly (Loyola's senior standout). He's kind of an inside player with a lot of guard skills, so that's good. He's done fine when we had some practices. He's just catching up to the speed of the game, but obviously ... he's coming prepared from the high school level. He's had great high school coaching and it shows in practice, he was ready to go. He was good, a guy who can help us off the bench.

- WILL RASSMAN (6-7 Forwar, Gonzaga College H.S., Takom Park, Md.): No high school stats available. "He is similar to Jared Jones," Patsos told the Baltimore paper. "Remember, freshmen should be concerned with the invisible stats. I want freshmen to take charges, play good defense and get deflections, things like that. Hustle plays. Lots of times freshmen are confused and think `I'll be the man right away.' You play as a freshman for invisible stats. Rassman is that kind of guy. (He comes from) a great program. He and Jones are going to play some minutes this year."

- DAMON RASHFORD (6-5, 200 pounds, Guard, Westwind Prep School, Phoenix): He averaged 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in prep school this past season. A native of Canada, he played for a Toronto-based AAU team coached by Loyola basketball alum Shane James.

ERIC LASHER (6-6, 195 pounds, Wing, Polytech H.S., Smyrna, Del.): He averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks per game this past season and was named Delaware's Player of the Year. "He's young, but he's got talent," Patsos told the Baltimore paper. "Watching a few practices, he's a late bloomer but has a lot of talent and he can score. He's a scorer. Scorers have a funny way of getting on the court. He's a 2/3."

ANALYSIS: It's interesting to see that as Loyola's program has progressed in recent years Patsos has had more success in players from the Baltimore area, which hadn't been the case several years ago. The Greyhounds appear to be set with returnees likely to be the first six players in the rotation, but there is a need for depth and that's what the incoming class is expected to bring. All four freshmen (the fifth, Forney, is likely to redshirt) will get a legitimate chance to earn minutes in the coming season and the five-member group will provide a nice foundation for the program's future.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Recruiting: Iona Women Add to Strong Guard Spot

He's another in the series looking at players joining MAAC programs for this season.

Up now ...


- CASSIDEE RANGER (5-10 Forward, Hamilton H.S., Chandler, Ariz.): Reported to be a long-range shooter, who had six treys in one game this season. She was a finalist in the 3-point contest at the American Family H.S. Slam and 3-point competition.

- JOY ADAMS (5-11 Forward, Evans H.S., Orlando, Fla.): Career scholastic totals of 1,541 points and 1,081 bounds. Named Florida Athletic Coaches Association's 7A District 11 Player of the Year.

- JORDAN HENRY (6-3 Center, Marvin Ridge H.s. Waxhaw, N.C.): She averaged 13.9 points, 15.33 rebounds and 6.3 rebounds per game this past season, and had career totals of 1,021 points, 957 rebounds and 280 blocked shots. She was named Player of the Year by the Union County (N.C.) Weekly.

KALESIA JOHNSON (5-8 Guard, Poinciana H.S., Kissimee, Fla.): Averaged 18.7 points per game both as a senior and a junior. Averaged 6.0 assists per game as a senior. Named Osceola (Fla.) County Player of the Year last two seasons.

CHRISTINA RUBIN (5-9 Guard/Forward Moore Catholic H.S., Staten Island): She averaged 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists as a senior. Finished with 1,308 career points and 182 three-pointers. Her high school has won four straight CHSAA Archdiocesan titles.

AALIYAH ROBINSON (5-9 Guard, Wilbur Cross H.s., Meriden, Conn.): Averaged 17.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game this past season. Named to Connecticut's all-state team by the New Haven Register newspaper.

ANALYSIS: The Gaels already have one of the league's best backcourts in sophomores Damika Martinez and Aleesha Powell, and got even better there via recruiting. Both Robinson and Johnson played well on the team's four-game summer trip to Canada last month, as did forward Adams. Johnson, in particular, could be in line for significant minutes at point guard, although returnee Powell could get minutes there, too.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Machado Signs 3-Year Deal with NBA Rockets

You just knew it wasn't going to be long before last season's NCAA Division I assist king found a home in the NBA.

It happened this week when former Iona standout Scott Machado signed a three-year, partially guaranteed contract, with the Houston Rockets.

The contract, though, doesn't fully ensure that Machado will be on the team's roster at the start of the season.

Newly acquired Jeremy Lin appears set as the Rockets' starter at point guard, but there are several other point guards on the Rockets' roster.

They include Shaun Livingston, who was the No. 4 pick overall in the 2004 NBA draft directly from high school but has battled continued knee problems for much of his career (he averaged 5.5 points and 2.1 assists this past season; another former Knick, Tony Douglas (6.2 points, 2.0 assists last season) and team holdover Courtney Fortson, a late-season call-up from the Developmental League (he averaged 3.5 points and 1.0 assists in 10 NBA games last season).

Machado earned his spot in that competition by excelling in the Rockets' summer league games in July, particularly the last one he played. Although he averaged 8.0 points and 5.5 assists in 25.4 minutes per game over five contests he averaged 11.3 points and 7.3 assists in the last three of those. In the final game of summer-league play he turned in a 20-point, 6-assist performance including consecutive no-look passes on fast breaks late in that contest.

The 22-year old Machado averaged 9.9 assists at Iona last season, but went undrafted in this June's NBA draft.

"They know I'm a great passer," Machado told the Houston Chronicle newspaper. "I feel like every day I progressed and got better, just getting more comfortable and more used to the style of play and the pace of the game, the players around me."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Recruiting: Iona Men Bring in Highly Talented Group

The leaves are starting to turn and the calendar has flipped to September.

It's officially football season, but the start of college basketball season isn't far behind. In fact, in just a little over five weeks college teams can begin formal practices.

Now, though, is mostly an anticipatory time, one in which team fans can speculate on just how good their favored program can be in the upcoming season.

Much of that will be predicated on newcomers, either traditional recruits or transfers and, it seems, the MAAC has never had as many as it has this off-season.

Nor, have so many come aboard so late. The end of the so-called late signing period no longer means the end of the recruiting season. That many programs were still in the process of adding new players deep into this summer meant we've held off on the recruiting report until now when (hopefully) everyone is in place.

So this begins the annual recruiting reports on each conference program, both for men and women. We'll start with the top-finishing men's team from a year ago and work our way down, in order. After doing a school's men's team, we'll follow with the same school's women's report.

We'll include pertinent statistics, where available, and provide analysis gleamed not only from some first-hand observations but from a variety of other sources.

First up ...


- DeSEAN ANDERSON (6-foot-8 forward, Los Angeles Trade Technical College):  The California native comes in after two seasons on the junior college level. This past season he averaged 15.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a high school senior and 5.3 points and 2.5 rebounds per game as a freshman at San Bernardino Valley College. There are no stats available for his 2011-12 season at LA Trade, but he did have a 31-point single-game high. He is a slender (200-pound) forward who is described as being skilled with ability to run the floor and step out and shoot from 18 feet. He is said to be most comfortable facing the basket and going to the rim.

- CURTIS DENNIS (6-5 small forward, transfer from Toledo): He appeared in 27 games at Toledo in 2011-12, averaging 12.7 points and 3.5 rebounds. He has already played three college seasons. He was granted immediate eligibility from the NCAA due to the probation set on Toledo's program. He is a standout long-range shooter, having hit 35.0 percent of his bonus shots this past season.

- GRANT ELLIS (6-5 guard/forward, Hudson, N.J., Catholic H.S.): He is one of just two freshmen in an incoming group of nine players to the Gaels' program.. As a senior he posted seven games with 10 r more points, including a season's best of 19. He is said to be a long slasher/scorer and is an excellent athlete.

A.J. ENGLISH III (6-3 guard, St. Thomas More, Ct., Prep): A Delaware native he averaged about 18 points per game this past season at St. Thomas More. He is said to be a perimeter scoring threat. English's father, A.J. II, was an all-American at Virginia Union University and played two seasons with the Washington Bullets in the early 1990's.

DaSHAWN GOMEZ (6-2 point guard, Antelope Valley College): He played one season at New Mexico State University before moving on to Antelope Valley, a junior college for the past two seasons. Before Antelope Valley he played seven games at New Mexico State before suffering an injury and receiving a medical redshirt season. He has two years of eligibility remaining at Iona. Gomez averaged 11.3 points and 5.3 assists per game this past season.

- DAVID LAURY (6-8 forward Nia Prep): He becomes eligible after the first semester. He is said to be a highly skilled, versatile big man (250 pounds), often playing as a point forward. He began his college career at Lamar State College where he averaged 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds in the 2010-11 season.

- BRANDON PARGA (6-5 guard/forward, Citrus Junior College of Glendora, Calif.): He averaged 17.8 points per game this past season, hitting 50.3 percent of his shots and 44.8 percent from beyond the three-point arc. Said to be a standout long-range shooter.

- TAVON SLEDGE (5-9 point guard, transfer from Iowa State Univ.): Sledge, as a transfer, will sit out the 2012-13 season and become eligible in 2013-14 as a sophomore. He only saw action in eight games at Iowa State As a high school senior at Hollow Hills West H.S. in Dix Hills, N.Y., he averaged 25.3 points, 5.2 assists and 3.5 steals per game.

- NORVEL PELLE (6-11 center/forward Brewster, N.H., Prep School): Pelle, listed at some sites as 6-9 or 6-10, is an slender, athletic big man with the type skill set that rarely winds up in the MAAC. He was originally slated to attend St. John's this past season but the NCAA did not approve courses he took in summer of 2011 that he needed to gain eligibility to play in college last season. He then attended Brewster Prep this past season, but Iona is still waiting to hear if he will be eligible for the coming season.

ANALYSIS: Between graduations and defections Iona lost plenty of talent off last year's team, but is bringing in a highly regarded group. If Pelle is eligible, he gives instant credibility to the Gaels' front line, particularly after Laury becomes eligible in the second semester. Still, the talent will need to learn quickly how to play together, a process delayed by Laury's delayed eligibility. Individually, Dennis is almost certain to be an immediate starter (Pelle, too, if he is eligible). Anderson could also factor into the playing group quickly. And, Gomez is likely to get a considerable amount of time at the point.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Former Jasper Coach Chiesa Returns To NBA Ranks

A couple of posts ago we reported about the continuing NBA career of former Siena and Fairfield assistant coach Steve Clifford, who will be entering his 13th season of service at that level.

When we made the post, we also offered that Clifford was the longest-tenured former MAAC coach in terms of NBA employment. At the time, that was true. But, it's not any longer.

When the post was written, former Manhattan head coach Gordon Chiesa was not actively employed by an NBA team. That, though, changed earlier this week when Chiesa was hired as a "special adviser" to newly hired Orlando Magic head coach Jacques Vaughn.

This coming season will be Chiesa's 22nd in the NBA, 16 with the Utah Jazz (1989-90 through 1994-95) and five with the Memphis Grizzlies. And, that's if one doesn't count last season when he was a consultant for the NBA's developmental league.

Your blogger had several opportunities to interact with Chiesa when during his Manhattan days when I was an upstate New York newspaper guy and the Jaspers had two prominent players from my area, guard John Leonard and forward Tim Cain, as key contributors.

Chiesa was a witty, wise-cracking and extremely hard-working, knowledgeable individual back then and, by all reports, remains pretty much the same about 30 years later. His annual coaches clinic he conducts at Manhattan remains one of the most popular and best-attended of its kind.

Chiesa has been around for so long that when he served a season as head coach at Providence College (1987-88), one of his assistants was Jeff Van Gundy, who went on to be head coach of the Knicks and Houston Rockets before his current stint as a very successful NBA color commentator for network TV.

Chiesa directed the Manhattan program from 1981-82 (the first season of the MAAC's existende) through 1984-85. Although the Jaspers weren't wildly successful, the team's 15-13 overall ecord in 1982-83 was enough for him to be named the conference's Coach of the Year.

Chiesa's overall record at Manhattan was 18-35 in league play and 45-68 overall. He left Manhattan to become an assistant coach at Providence under Rick Pitino for two seasons. When Pitino abruptly left Providence to become head coach of the New York Knicks in the summer of 1987, Chiesa was promoted to become the Friars' head coach.

Pitino's last season at Providence resulted in a Billy Donovan-led trip to the NCAA's Final Four. But, with Donovan gone after that season, Chiesa's only years as Providence's coach resulted in an 11-17 record and he was dismissed after that season.

That set the stage for his move to the NBA, an affiliation which, now, is entering its 22nd season and making Chiesa the MAAC connection with the longest-tenured connection with the highest professional league.