BHJ’s NEC Basketball Media Day Rewind
Today was the day many of us were long awaiting for and it came and went in a blur. Today was the NEC Basketball “Social” Media Day at the brand spanking new Barclays Center at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues in the new heart of Brooklyn, New York.
I, myself, was greatly looking forward to this day as it was my first opportunity to introduce myself to the head coaches, meet and greet with the NEC administrators who have been great to me since last season when I was ranting and raving on Twitter, before this blog was even a thought. I also got to meet fellow bloggers and media types, some for the first time, that I have been either following on Twitter for a while or have been reading their stuff on their sites online. For me, that was a great experience in itself.
Let me start this review by talking about the Barclays Center. It is absolutely gorgeous arena. I took the subway from Manhattan to the arena and when you come out of the subway station and see this huge arena standing right in front of you, it is quite impressive. I remember a time when that area of Brooklyn was desolate. Before the arena, even before the Atlantic Terminal Mall right across the street, it was just an area that had nothing going on. Now, you can actually see and feel life in that part of Brooklyn. It is part of the revitalizing of this great borough that I called my home for the first 28 years of my life.
The arena looks amazing, inside and out. I got a chance to peak in at the arena from the 40/40 club where the NEC Media Day was held and the place looks huge. The arena has all black seats in line with the new color of their new NBA resident, the Brooklyn Nets. Since they were setting up for a concert it seemed like, there was no hardwood laid down. That would have been nice to get a sneak peek of but I guess I’ll have to wait until November 9th when I’m back at Barclays for the Barclays Center Classic which the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds are playing in.
As far as the NEC Media Day went, it couldn’t have been a better experience. I got to speak with several of NEC head men’s basketball coaches. I got to speak with Wagner’s Bashir Mason. Coach Mason was being either very humble or maybe he was trying not to put any pressure on his team by telling me that Robert Morris and LIU Brooklyn are the teams to beat. Everyone with even the slightest knowledge of the NEC knows that Wagner who won 25 games last season and return a veteran team with the addition of some high-touted freshman are in the elite level tier of the NEC along with RMU and LIU. He was being very modest though and he looks like a person who is truly cherishing the great opportunity he has at Wagner.
Next, I got to meet Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian. Christian is bringing the VCU/Shaka Smart coaching philosophy to his alma mater. There has been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere and on Twitter if he can make The Mount an NEC playoff team in year one. Some think he can, others think he can’t. The coaches don’t believe so, picking his team to finish 9th and just out of the NEC playoffs. He told me he has a team he believes can play the up-tempo style that he wants to implement. He is one of the many young coaches in a league that now features a bunch of them.
Up next, was Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole. Coach Toole has had much success in his first two seasons as head coach at RMU. I had to ask Coach Toole how hard has it been getting to two straight NEC Championship games, both on the road at LIU, and losing twice to the Blackbirds? Coach Toole replied “Obviously, it’s brutal. You work all year to get into that game and when you get there you try and take advantage of it and we haven’t been to do that. Both years LIU played great games and they beat us. It wasn’t a situation where we didn’t play well, they were the better team on both those nights.” Robert Morris will once again be a tough out in the NEC tournament. Coach Toole did reveal that senior forward/center Lijah Thompson will be out for the season with ACL tear. This now means someone on that rather deep bench of theirs will need to step up for them. This someone might have to be either freshman Stephan Hawkins or junior college transfer Vaughn Morgan.
I also got a chance to listen to St. Francis (NY) head coach Glenn Braica answer questions. Coach Bracia was last season’s NEC Coach of the Year for finishing 4th in conference when they were pick to finish next to last. When asked if he feels he can crack the top four again this season, he was optimistic on his team’s chances. “We had a very good conference record last year so I feel with a year of maturity our team should be much better.” said Coach Braica. St. Francis was selected to finish 5th in this season’s coaches poll.
My main goal of NEC Media Day was to finally get an opportunity to speak with both the men’s and women’s head coaches at LIU Brooklyn, coaches Jack Perri and Gail Striegler. I was able to accomplish just that in the one-on-one time we all got with the coaches. I was very impressed with the energy level of both head coaches. Jack Perri’s enthusiasm with the opportunity to lead this top-notch team into possibly a historic season can be felt across the table. Gail Striegler’s desire to get the most out of her team and have them get an opportunity to experience what the men’s team has been experiencing the last two seasons was clearly noticeable. In the coming days, I will have a men’s and women’s LIU Brooklyn 2012-13 team previews that will include quotes from the Q&A with the Blackbirds head coaches. Those will be out in the very near future.
Overall, the NEC put together a wonderful basketball media day and it was exactly as advertised. It was fun and exciting. It was a fast two hours. It was definitely a pleasure for me to get this great opportunity to attend. Now, let’s get ready to watch some hoops!