We have arrived at the midway point of the NEC season and at 2-6, LIU Brooklyn is off to its worst start in conference since the 2007-08 season where they started that season 2-7.
We knew this season was going to be different without a couple of LIU all-time greats in Jamal Olasewere and C.J. Garner having graduated and head coach Jack Perri implementing seven new scholarship players into this program but the transition this season has been far from smooth.
Freshman Nura Zanna goes down for the season right away and then Julian Boyd does down for the season right before the start of conference play when he was about to make his remarkable return and then add on the carosel of injuries LIU Brooklyn has faced this season and it is no wonder why LIU Brooklyn has struggled this season. There hasn’t been much cohesion to this team this season with guys in and out of the lineup and not being able to practice.
With this mind, it is time to hand out some mid-season grades to the Blackbirds and see has done well so far and who needs to start picking it up in the second half of the conference season if LIU is to avoid missing the NEC Tournament this season.
With players like Olasewere, Boyd, Garner and Jason Brickman, this offense was once a juggernaut that most NEC teams couldn’t keep up with. This season, without a real go-to scorer on this team, LIU’s offense has fallen from the graces of the NCAA elite. LIU is fourth in the NEC in scoring offense at 73.6 ppg but are seventh in the league in offensive efficiency with a rating of 105.8. The Blackbirds are the worst three-point shooting team in the NEC at 33%. What has helped their offense is that have the third-bets percentage on two-point field goal at 50.2%. LIU has also turned the ball over on 18.2% of their possessions this season which is eighth in the NEC. LIU is not getting to the free throw line at the rate they had been in their championship seasons. LIU is ninth in the NEC in free throw rate at 29.5% and are ninth in the NEC in free throw percentage at 70.9%. Because of the roster turnover and the injuries, LIU has had to play a much-slower pace this season. They are playing at the fourth-slowest pace this season at 68.1 possession per game. LIU has scored above 75 points just eight times this season. As comparison, last season LIU hit that mark 22 times.
At times most of this season, LIU Brooklyn defense has been worthy of an F grade. To say their defense has struggled this season is putting it kindly. The only reason I didn’t give them an F grade is because teams still have a hard time getting to the free throw line against them. LIU’s 26.2 defensive free throw rate is ranked first in the NEC. After that, they are a lot of ugly numbers next to their name. They are either ninth or last in the NEC in almost every defensive category. With the injuries to Boyd, Zanna and then to Chris Carter and Gilbert Parga, LIU’s front court depth is super thin and with the foul troubles their remaining front court players have had, Perri has had to change his defensive philosophy from a man-to-man defense to a zone defense. The result, LIU is last in the NEC in three-point defense at 39% and defensive turnover percentage at 15.2%. LIU has given up 80 or more points to their opponents 11 times so far already this season.
Jason Brickman: A
How can you give Jason Brickman a grade lower than an A so far? He has been LIU best player all season long. Brickman has nine double-doubles (points/assists) this season, three of them coming in the last four NEC games. He is having career-highs in scoring (11.6 ppg), assists (10.0 apg), and rebounds (3.4 rpg). The guy plays over 36 minutes a game and has an assist-to-turnover margin of 2.8. He is on pace to be the fourth player in NCAA history to reach 1000 career assists. Think about this. Where would this team be without him? Probably winless in conference.
E.J. Reed: C-
Reed was supposed to take the next step this season and he has been sort of disappointing. He is second on the team in scoring at 12.0 ppg and leads the team in rebounding with 5.0 rpg. Yet, he has had a hard time staying on the court this season due to foul troubles. Reed is second on the team in fouls with 66 and has fouled out of six games so far. He has played 30+ minutes in just eight games this season and just three times in NEC play. His maturity is still a work in progress. The good thing is he may be starting to pick up his play. He has scored 18 and 24 points in last two games this past week and has picked up his shooting. If he can stay on the court more and stay poised, he can help turn things around.
Landon Atterberry: B
Atterberry has been the best newcomer on the team this season. He leads the team in scoring (12.2 ppg) and shooting percentage (53.8%). He has been playing out of position at the 5 spot all season long, having to guard the opposition’s tallest/strongest player and for the most part has held his own. Because of this though, he was also in foul trouble a lot and foul out twice this season and has had four fouls in eight games. He has been great around the basket and has great athleticism. He has probably been LIU’s most consistent player in terms of scoring.
Gerrell Martin: C
Martin has had a couple of nice moments this season with a pair of game-winners and has had a couple of good games in conference with a 18-point outing against St. Francis Brooklyn and 17 points against Bryant. Martin shooting numbers could be better. He’s shooting 39% from the field and under 39% from three. He is a career 41% three-point shooter. He has had to battle an ankle injury during NEC play causing him to miss a game. Needs to be more consistent. He has a good game one game and then a quiet game the next.
Troy Joseph: B-
Joseph has been battling a shoulder injury all season long and you have to give him credit for the effort his play with all season. His shooting has been erratic at times. He is shooting 34% from three. He has been good on the boards with his 4.6 rpg average. The thing with Joseph, he tends to get lost in the game for stretches where you don’t even realize he is on the floor. He too needs to find so more consistency to help LIU have a better second half in conference play.
Gilbert Parga: Incomplete
Parga was supposed to be an integral piece to this LIU team this season but injuries has really derailed things for him. Parga has only really played in two NEC games so far due to his achilles which has given him problem since mid-December. LIU hopes to get him back for the final stretch run and Jack Perri can definitely use him. LIU is really missing his 11.1 ppg (not counting his last two games where he barely played) and his ability to get to the free throw line.
D.J. Griggs: C
I have to say, one of the big surprises for LIU has been the production sophomore D.J. Griggs has given them off the bench during NEC play. He had a five-game stretch where he averaged 8.2 ppg and was playing between 14 and 24 minutes and was playing well. Since his playing time has diminished in favor of freshman Iverson Fleming. Yet, I give him credit for being ready to play and being a spark of the bench and doing a nice job when he was given the playing time. I think though his time playing the rest of the way will be limited as Fleming starts getting more his playing time.
The Freshmans: Iverson Fleming: B-, Glenn Feidanga: C+, Joel Hernandez: C
The freshman class as you would expect has had their ups and downs. Fleming has shown glimpses of his talent. He scored 18 points at Mount St. Mary’s this past Saturday. Shows plenty of confidence. Can get to the rim on drives and finish and also make an occasional three although he is shooting just 25% from deep. Pretty good ball handler and works well with Jason Brickman in the backcourt. Definitely shows plenty of promise. Feidanga has been a foul machine most of the season. He leads the team in fouls with 67. He has fouled out six times this season. Has shown improvement as the season has gone along. Was player of the week a couple of weeks ago after playing a pair of great games. He needs to continue to work and improve and figure out how to play without foul so much. Joel Hernandez missed most of the non-conference season with a bad hip. Hasn’t gotten consistent playing time this season but has shown he can play at this level. Had a good game versus FDU with 9 points. His playing time with spotty and limited this season with the depth at shooting guard LIU has.
It has been another tough season thus far for Jack Perri and his coaching staff. Major injuries and roster turnover has been the main reasons for their current 7-15 record and a 2-6 NEC first half. Yet, it has been a struggle this season to get this team to play defense. LIU is ranked 347th in defensive efficiency. That is very close to the bottom. Grant it, LIU is missing two players that would clogged up the middle in Boyd and Zanna but defense has never been a forte of LIU’s but they also haven’t been ever this poor. All these injuries hasn’t help getting LIU as one cohesive unit thus far with guys not being able to practice or play. LIU’s zone defense is definitely still a work in progress. It has been both good and bad. Yet, they are likely married to this defense the rest of the way so they’ll need to find a way to defend better in it. LIU’s offense hasn’t been bad. They just not play as fast as they have. With this not-so-deep roster, it will also likely stay at a around a 68 to 70 possession pace the rest of the season. Perri will need to find a way to get guys to play better on both ends so they sneak some wins away at what has been the second hardest NEC schedule according to Kenpom.com.