BHJ’s 2013 NEC Basketball Media Day Rewind

Today, one of the major days in the calendar finally arrived. The one that guys like me have been awaiting for since it was announced. Yes, today was the second-ever NEC Basketball “Social” Media Day which was held at the new crown jewel of the borough of Brooklyn, the Barclays Center.

The NEC men's student-athletes at NEC Media Day

The NEC men’s student-athletes at NEC Media Day

First, right off the bat let me just say that I failed to complete one of my goals for the day. I had every intent to speak with every NEC men’s basketball coach and player (who were included in the festivities this year) who was in attendance but like last year, I let myself down. Honestly, I just can’t get too down on myself. It really is nearly impossible to visit with every coach and player there in the short period of time (two hours goes by very quick in this setting) especially if you’re there to really concentrate on a particular school or team which in my case was obviously LIU Brooklyn. My main goal was to chat with LIU Brooklyn’s men’s head coach Jack Perri and women’s head coach Gail Streigler as well as chat with the players representing both team in Jason Brickman for the men and Cleandra Roberts for the women. That I’m glad to say was accomplished and I will have plenty of content from my talks with the LIU Brooklyn contingent in the coming days.

Still, I can’t help but be a little disappointed that I didn’t get my way around to chatting with everybody. It was great to hear these NEC coaches talk about their teams, the conference and about college basketball in general. Then add the fact that this year, one player from each team was invited to come and it made it (at least for me) an NEC Media Day that even surpassed the great experience I had last year which was outstanding in its own right. I put it this way, if I don’t have time to stop and get something to eat at the nice spread provided by the NEC and the 40/40 club at the Barclays Center because I’m wrapped up listening and talking to some this year’s NEC coaches and players, then you know the NEC put together a really well done event.

Here are some of the observations I took away from this year’s NEC Media Day.

– I didn’t wrap my head around the NEC Preseason Men’s Coaches Poll other than to see that LIU Brooklyn was picked fourth on the men’s side and eighth on the women’s end but once I got a moment to pause at the end of the media day and take a good look at it, a couple of things jumped out at me. One, Bryant was picked to finish tied for second with Robert Morris although they didn’t garner a single first place vote. I think Bryant will be in the mix this season but I think placing them tied for second was too high in my opinion. Second, the coaches picked Mount St. Mary’s, who played in the NEC final last season and returns back plenty of talent, to finish sixth in the NEC. I’ll be very surprised if at the end of the season, the Mount were to finish that low in the standings. I don’t think they finish below fourth.

– There was no surprises at all in the NEC preseason men’s all-conference team. Jason Brickman, Kyle Vinales, Jalen Cannon, Alex Francis and Dyami Starks, all were very worthy selections. The only difference I had from my preseason All-NEC first team was I had Wagner’s Latif Rivers over Starks but Starks is just as worthy a selection so I can’t knock it at all.

– My most enjoyable moment: I got to talk to the Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian before the festivities began and we talked for a good ten to fifteen minutes about my favorite NFL team, the New York Jets. Christian was the one who brought up the Jets since we follow each other on Twitter and he sees how incensed I get sometimes tweeting about Rex Ryan, Geno Smith and the Jets. I learned how much he likes Rex Ryan as a head coach and how he loves the fact the players play for him. It was a great conservation the two of us had and in talking to him at that point and then later on when I got to ask him about his team this season, I can see why the Mount has turned it around so fast with him at the helm. The man has energy, charm and is extremely easy to talk to. I really came out of today with much more respect and admiration for Jamion Christian. I really do think he has a bright future as a head coach.

– I was surprised by how much the NEC men’s coaches were high on Howie Dickenman’s team at Central Connecticut State. They were picked fifth in the NEC coaches poll, one spot ahead of last season’s NEC finalist Mount St. Mary’s. It was definitely one of the themes of media day, how almost every coach it seemed like had glowing things to say about CCSU and how they think there are going to be one of the dark horses in the NEC championship run. They might be right. I believe they are the sleeper team in the NEC this season but I’m not sure I can totally put them as possible title contenters, at least not just yet. Although I can’t argue what some of the coaches were saying about CCSU depth this season. They definitely can spread some minutes around this season and not play guys over 36-plus minutes a game like last season.

– Although Wagner was picked to finish first by the coaches this season and received seven of the ten first place votes, I really didn’t hear a whole lot of talk about how Wagner can’t be beat. I think there was plenty of respect for Wagner and I did hear plenty of praise for head coach Bashir Mason and his Wagner squad but I think the coaches are gearing for another wild NEC season especially with a 16-game schedule and they think that any good, consistent team can win it.

– There was plenty of talk about the new hand-checking rule going into effect in college basketball this season. Some of the coaches who had officials meet with them about it have said that the refs are going to blow the whistle on anything close to a hand-check. If you recall when the NBA eliminated the hand-check and how many whistles were blown for it, yeah it is probably going to be something similar to that especially in November and December as players learn to adjust to the calls. The coaches seem to agree that teams who thrive on playing aggressive defense are going to have a hard time adjusting to the new rule. Wagner’s Bashir Mason was honest in saying he was a little worried how much of an impact it would have early on with his team’s aggressive defensive approach. It will definitely bear watching the first couple of months of the season.

– In speaking with Wagner’s Kenneth Ortiz, he spoke like a player on a team who is extremely motivated to get to an NEC championship game and win it. He feels he doesn’t get the due respect when he is compared to some of the other point guards in the NEC like LIU’s Jason Brickman and Sacred Heart’s Phil Gaetano even after being named NEC Defensive Player of the Year two years in a row. He looked hungry, focused and ready to go for the season.

– Sacred Heart’s new athletic director, former New York Mets and Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, appeared at NEC Media Day and as you would expect, was a popular figure at the festivities.

Sacred Heart AD Bobby Valentine (Credit: Bob Dea)

Sacred Heart AD Bobby Valentine (Credit: Bob Dea)

– Just to briefly sum up our meeting with Jack Perri which I will have more on in later posts, he was very cautious about this season. There is a lot of new faces on his team and he was felt sort of uncomfortable that his team being thought of in high regards as respect for what LIU has done over the last three seasons. He was cautious because he is well aware he only has one senior for now in Jason Brickman, a huge question mark regarding the future status of Julian Boyd and the unknown quantity of what all the other players are going to bring to the court. There is no doubt the burden of this year’s team success will fall on the shoulders of Jason Brickman who is going to be asked to do a lot this season and to his credit, he seems like he is ready for the challenge. Perri even at one point called Brickman his “Peyton Manning” (the all-world Denver Broncos quarterback and future pro football hall of famer). That is a hell of a high praise for a player and you know what, Perri might actually be 100 percent right.

Those were just some of the notable takes I left the Barclays Center with after NEC media day today. In less than three weeks, we can finally get this college basketball season going. After a day like today, you almost wish opening day was this coming Friday instead of three Fridays from now. We just have to continue to grind out the wait, it is almost here folks. It is almost here.


  1. Jerry Williams says:

    Terrific job as usual Nelly..Heeey Congrats to NEC Raulph and wife.

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