Brickman to participate in Gotham Hoops Invitational

(Photo Credit: Bob Dea (L)/Gotham Hoops (R))

(Photo Credit: Bob Dea (L)/Gotham Hoops (R))

Wednesday was a pretty good day once again for departing LIU Brooklyn point guard Jason Brickman. In the morning, it was announced he signed with Interperformances as his representative as he begins his journey toward playing professional basketball.

In the afternoon, it was announced that Brickman would be one of the many participants in the inaugural Gotham Hoops Invitational. This new invitational will be a showcase for tri-state area men’s basketball college seniors from all levels (NCAA Division I, II, & III). The Gotham Hoops Invitational will take place on Sunday, April 13th at Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale, NY out in Long Island.

Other players participating in the Gotham Hoops Invitational which have been invited at this time include NEC players, Sidney Sanders Jr. (FDU) and Naofall Folahan (Wagner) as well as Rhamel Brown (Manhattan), Brian Oliver (Seton Hall), Ike Azotam (Quinnipiac), Brendan Frazier (Fordham), Tre Bowman (Iona), J.J. Moore (Rutgers) and others. Rosters will be finalized on April 4th.

This is a scheduled doubleheader with the first game starting at 6pm and the second at 8pm. For more information regarding this inaugural Gotham Hoops Invitational, visit www.gothamhoopsinvitational.com. Also check out Gotham Hoops website at www.gothamhoops.com.

Jason Brickman signs with Interperformances as his representatives

Brickman's journey into professional begins by signing with Interperformances to be his representatives. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Brickman’s journey into professional basketball begins by signing with Interperformances to be his representatives. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Graduating LIU Brooklyn point guard Jason Brickman has signed with Interperformances to become his professional representative, it was announced today.

Brickman who finished his LIU Brooklyn career with 1,180 points and 1,009 assists while leading the nation in assists for the second year in a row and becoming the fourth player in NCAA history to reach 1000 assists and second player ever to average 10 ppg and 10 apg in a season.

According to their bio, Interperformances represent over 300 players who are playing in over twenty countries. Some of their more known clients include Luol Deng of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs, and Sasha Vujačić, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Congrats to Jason on taking his first step towards playing professional basketball. BHJ will keep you up-to-date as we follow Brickman’s journey into pro ball.

The NCAA First Four: The Catch-22 of low mid-majors like the NEC

On Tuesday night, the NCAA tournament officially began with the first two games of what the NCAA likes to call it the ‘First Four’. Mount St. Mary’s, the NEC representative with its 16-16 overall record, were one of the eight participants in this year’s ‘First Four’.

After coming back from an ice cold 21-2 start to take the lead, the Mount couldn’t hold on and were the first team eliminated from the NCAA tournament with a 71-64 loss to Albany of the America East Conference. The joy of being NCAA tournament participants lasted just a cruel 50 hours.

After the loss, Gregg Doyle of CBS Sports put out this great piece on why the First Four is basically a series of play-in games and that it is an “insult” to call it anything but. In the article, he wrote about how the Mount was being robbed of the full tournament experience since these games are being played outside of the main 64-team bracket that gets underway on Thursday and Friday. How the Mount gets snubbed of the full attention that playing in the full tournament comes with and that although the NCAA try their best to make it feel like an NCAA tournament experience, it really is just a glorified play-in game to play in the actual NCAA tourney.

While I full-heartedly agree with Doyle that these games are really glorified play-in games the NCAA wants to play up to fans and folks so they can legitimize the reasons why they accepted a 14-year, $10.8 billion television deal from CBS and Turner Sports (home of TBS, TNT and the channel you check out just in March, truTV) and with that expanded the 64-team field to 68 teams in April of 2010, there is a little more to it for schools in conferences like the NEC, America East, Big West and the SWAC and like everything else it comes down to what else, money.

In an article that Nicole Auerbach of USA Today wrote prior to this year’s NCAA tournament, she wrote on the other side of the First Four debate. Why teams and schools and their administration would rather play in a First Four than go straight into the 64-team field and be matched up with a 1-seed for their first game knowing their is very little chance of winning. The reason behind it, the possibility of taking home what is for both the school and the conference, something quite valuable. Something called a unit.

What is a unit? A unit is share of the winnings that goes to every winning school and conference for every win that team gets during the NCAA tournament. A unit is worth according to Auerbach’s article, $1.5 million (spread over six years). For a school and a conference like the NEC, this is big-time money.

Since the NCAA expanded from the 64-team field back in 2001 when they went to 65 teams and then to 68 teams in 2011, the NEC has played in the play-in games four times. Monmouth (2006) and Mount St. Mary’s (2008) won their play-in games and got to advance to play one-seeds. LIU Brooklyn (2013) and not Mount St. Mary’s (2014) lost in the ‘First Four’ games and didn’t get past day one. Both times they were the first team eliminated from the field.

It’s a tough catch-22 for schools in conferences like the NEC, America East and others that are usually candidates for being slotted into the 16-seed from a one-bid conference. You would like to see your team who earned the right to play in the main field and get the glory and attention that comes with it, having the entire nation focused in on your school and your conference. Yet, that carrot the NCAA puts out there of a unit share for every winner in the entire 68-team field, makes going to the First Four bearable, especially if you win.

That is the rub though. You have to win for it to feel like your school and your conference got something out of it. Albany and the America East benefited greatly from winning on Tuesday against Mount St. Mary’s. They got a game on national television, in the confines of the NCAA tournament and they WON! They take home an extra share and get further exposing as they move on to face the number one team in the nation at the moment in the Florida Gators. For the loser, they just go home. No more money, no more games, no further exposure. Done.

It is tough. But for a pair of 16-seeds from low majors, that is annual reality. It is the gamble that some coaches and administrators don’t mind taking because the rewards can be huge. But it is gamble, like anything else, when you gamble there are huge rewards and there are huge losses.

The NEC for two years in a row now have been sent to Dayton looking to reap a reward for going to this glorified play-in game and twice have come out of it with getting a short time in the spotlight and then getting nothing more.

I still feel the NEC’s time will come when they will win a game or two in the NCAA tournament, I do believe that. Yet, it is always a demoralizing feeling when you know your team’s season is over in a winnable game in something called a ‘First Four’ and you’re basically not really even a part of that unless they mean first four out.

Brickman makes one list but is denied in another

(Photo: Bob Dea)

(Photo: Bob Dea)

It was a good news/bad news week for departing LIU Brooklyn senior point guard Jason Brickman.

First, the good news. Brickman this past Tuesday was named to the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) All-District II Team. He along with Iona’s Sean Armand and Canisius’s Billy Baron were the only mid-major members of the team. Syracuse’s C.J. Fair was named USBWA All-District II Player of the Year.

Now for the bad news. On Friday, the finalists for The Bob Cousy Award which goes to the nation’s top point guard was announced and Brickman, who was among the 24 candidates for the award, was not named to the list of the six finalists.

Brickman, who still leads the nation in assists even though his season ended on March 1st, finished with 1009 assists for his career and this season become only the second player in NCAA history to finish his season with a double-double points and assists average (11.3 ppg and 10.0 apg).

Mount St. Mary’s reaches the NEC mountaintop

Mount St. Mary's is heading back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Mount St. Mary’s is heading back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Congratulations are in order for the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers and second-year head coach Jamion Christian for winning the 2014 Northeast Conference men’s basketball tournament and defeating the top-seeded Robert Morris Colonials on their home court 88-71 on Tuesday night.

The Mount rode the wave of their dramatic 19-point comeback win against St. Francis Brooklyn in the NEC tournament quarterfinals last Wednesday to two huge road victories to get themselves back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008. In fact, in Christian’s first two seasons as head coach of the Mount, they are now 4-1 in NEC tournament road games and have been to two NEC finals and now winning one.

Mount St. Mary's Rashad Whack named 2014 NEC Tournament MVP (Photo: Bob Dea)

Mount St. Mary’s Rashad Whack named 2014 NEC Tournament MVP (Photo: Bob Dea)

The Mount got great balanced scoring from their entire lineup. NEC tournament MVP senior Rashad Whack lead the way with 20 points but they also got major contributions from the other members of the Mount’s “Big 3” with senior point guard Julian Norfleet scoring 17 and senior guard Sam Prescott scoring 15.

Whack was a terror on both ends of the court for Mount St. Mary’s and was well-deserving of the tournament MVP award. He scored 69 points in three games of this NEC tournament and help neutralized the opposition best scoring threat especially in the last two games in hold Wagner’s Latif Rivers and RMU’s Karvel Anderson to a combined 28 points on 10-31 shooting.

Norfleet started off hot from the field especially from beyond the arc, swishing open three-pointers. Prescott played the role of high-post facilitator to perfection. When he was open, he knocked down the elbow jumper all game long and then when the zone collapsed on him, he either found Whack, Norfleet or Will Miller for open shots or pass it down low to the open 7-footer Taylor Danaher for easy layups. They could not have played the RMU 2-3 zone any better. They seemed to find all the open spots and made every single open shot.

Danaher was impressive down low for the Mount with his nice hands and quick shooting. He was a perfect 6 for 6 in the game for 15 points. Jamion Christian inserted Will Miller to hit some open corner threes and that is exactly what he did, making 4 of 5 from the left wing corner. “Coach told me that the corner three would be open all game and they were.” said Miller in the post game interview on NEC Front Row.

So it is on to the NCAA tournament for the Mount as they will likely find themselves on Selection Sunday seeing their names coming up in the First Four bracket in Dayton. Their RPI is 216. Kenpom has them at 207. Their BPI is 221. They have a 16-16 record going into Selection Sunday. The First Four seems like an inevitability. Yet, they are riding a hot wave that might actually get them a win in that First Four game if they can get the right matchup.

Mount St. Mary's Jamion Christian could make a name for himself with a good run in the NCAAs. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Mount St. Mary’s Jamion Christian could make a name for himself with a good run in the NCAAs. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Also, if Mount is capable of making some noise in the Big Dance, they might be more than some eyes at bigger mid-majors looking at Christian as a possible head coaching candidate. Although, I personally believe he needs some more time at the Mount. He still have things he has yet to prove. Can he build a consistent winner and not a team that gets hot in February and March? Can he recruit and retain talent? He has won mostly from a lot of players he inherited from when he arrived. I think these are legit questions which is why I believe he ultimately stays at the Mount for a while. Plus, it would be nice to see the NEC keep their young, talented coaches in the league.

As for RMU, what next for them? It seems like head coach Andy Toole might not be the hot commodity everyone was thinking he would be going into the NEC tournament. Toole is now 0-3 in NEC championship games with one being in his own gym. That still can’t take away from the amazing job he did this season getting a team of just eight players from mid-January on to go 14-2 in the regular season and get them to within a game of the NCAA tournament. Toole might still get some looks but he just won’t be THE hot name had he gotten his team over the hump.

RMU now heads for the NIT where more than likely, they won’t get the fortuitous break of hosting a first-round game against a national powerhouse and defending national champion like they did last season against Kentucky. After the loss to the Mount, it didn’t sound like the RMU upperclassmen wanted to keep playing if it wasn’t an NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, they don’t have much choice.

As for the roster, after the NIT they will lose point guard Anthony Myers-Pate and NEC Player of the Year Karvel Anderson to graduation. They will return Lucky Jones for his senior year and a solid group of returnees with Charles Oliver, Stephan Hawkins, David Appolon and Karon Stewart if they all return. They will likely have a huge class of newcomers coming in with several open scholarships likely available after their suspensions and a couple of players leaving the team. It will be another tall order for Toole next season if he does return to the RMU bench.

Congratulations to both RMU and the Mount for excellent seasons and good luck to them both in their runs at the NIT and NCAAs respectively. Now it is time to pull for the NEC and wish these teams a long and successful postseason journey.

BHJ Photo Gallery Retrospective: Jason Brickman – The Quiet Leader

Blackbirds Hoops Journal photographer and long-time LIU Brooklyn fan and alum Bob Dea has watched point guard Jason Brickman through the lens of his camera for the past four years. Here is a four-year retrospective with just some of the highlights of a wonderful college career which he put together of LIU Brooklyn’s and the NEC’s all-time career assist leader.

2010-2011

2011-2012

2012-2013

2013-2014

Four becomes Two as NEC Championship matchup is set

Mount St. Mary's returns to the NEC Final for second straight year with win at Wagner on Saturday in NEC semifinals. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Mount St. Mary’s returns to the NEC Final for second straight year with win at Wagner on Saturday in NEC semifinals. (Photo: Bob Dea)

It was Semifinal Saturday in the 2014 Northeast Conference men’s basketball championship tournament. One game featured a team looking for a breakthrough in reaching their first NEC final after two years of heartbreak at home at this same stage of the tournament in Wagner with one team was looking for a return back to the NEC final after a amazing run last season and are coming off as dramatic a victory as you will find in Mount St. Mary’s. The other game featured another team who was upset-minded and looking to take down another NEC giant in Saint Francis (PA) against the long-time NEC powerhouse and this season’s front runner in Robert Morris.

I attended the first semifinal game at the Spiro Sports Center in Staten Island for Mount St. Mary’s and Wagner. For forty minutes, it was an intense game which figures high-flying dunks, big blocks, huge steals, clutch shooting, suspect decision-making and so much more. In the end, it was the Mount with who left Staten Island victorious with a 77-72 win for advance to the NEC Championship Game on Tuesday night.

This game was as good as a heavyweight championship fight from back in the good ol’ days. It started with both teams trying to deliver haymakers and Dwaun Anderson took all of 29 seconds to deliver the first punch, a one-handed reverse slam to open the festivities.

Then it was block shot on one end, a steal on another, a three on side and then an alley-oop on the other. The first four minutes in particular was like watching the Daytona 500 from a couple of weeks ago. Things seemed to be moving at over 200 miles per hour.

But as with an high-speed race, there is going to be a wreck and the Mount were the ones who were seeing their guys crash with foul trouble. Most notably, senior point guard Julian Norfleet who picked up three first half fouls. It that wasn’t bad, then backup point guard Khalid Nwandu picked up his third personal. Now, it was about survival.

Mount senior Rashad Whack who scored a team-high 21 points to lead them to victory at Wagner (Photo: Bob Dea)

Mount senior Rashad Whack who scored a team-high 21 points to lead them to victory at Wagner (Photo: Bob Dea)

The Mount did more than survive, they took over. Lead by seniors Sam Prescott, who had to play the point with everyone else in foul trouble, and Rashad Whack, who was in no other words sensational throughout this game, they closed the half out on a 8-0 to take a 35-31 lead at the break.

That run turned to a 16-2 run and all a sudden Mayhem had taken over going up by ten at 43-33. Yet, Wagner with four seniors of their own and the with the memories of semifinals losses at home lurking in their minds, fought back. Marcus Burton started off by getting hot and then it was Kenneth Ortiz time.

Ortiz started to show why the NEC coaches elected him three straight years as the NEC Defensive Player of the Year. He started doing what he goes best, turning up the pressure and get much-needed turnovers and steals and helping his team crawl back in it.

Unfortunately for Wagner, every time they made a run and got within a possession of either tying or taking the lead, the Mount held their own by making clutch shots, in particularly from Norfleet and Whack.

Yet, with a minute to go it was still a three-point game and Wagner twice got a chance to tie it but neither Marcus Burton who took a tough, contested three from the wing or Ortiz who dribbled himself into a good look, could knock it down and Whack ended up icing the another semifinal road win for the Mount and punched themselves a trip to the NEC finals once again.

“I’m just so proud of guys.” said a jubilant Mount’s head coach Jamion Christian after the win. “Our biggest strength as a unit is that we are really close together. Our guys really play for one another. We talked about being our time. I think our guys have done a great job all season long of accepting challenges. Wagner, wow, what a challenge, they’ve won nine games in a row. We gave a punch, they gave us a punch. We battled back. I think that was a great college basketball game.”

“First, I want to tip my hat off to Mount St. Mary’s. Those guys came in and played well against us, a team that has been playing really well defensively.” said a dejected looking Wagner head coach Bashir Mason after another early exit in the NECs. “That loss wasn’t because of a lack of effort on either team. Tonight, we just came up a little short.”

Wagner now sees the end of the college careers of four seniors with Ortiz, Latif Rivers who had a poor game with 2 of 14 shooting from the field, the NEC block leader Naofall Folahan and Orlando Parker. For the Wagner program, it is now three straight seasons as a two-seed which ends on their own home court in the NEC semifinals. It is a very bitter pill to swallow.

“It is really tough. Especially with the group that we have.” said Mason. “This group was built to get it done last year, to get it done this year. So it’s tough but as a coach I put it on me to figure out a way to get us past this point.”

Wagner's Kenny Ortiz fighting until the end but comes up short. Scores 26 points in his likely college finale. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Wagner’s Kenny Ortiz fighting until the end but comes up short. Scores 26 points in his likely college finale. (Photo: Bob Dea)

“It really hurts to not come out with a championship being here and falling short.” said Wagner senior Kenny Ortiz who scored 26 point in what is likely his final college game. “This is not the end of basketball for me, I’m pretty sure. I’m just going to learn from this and continue to play the way I play, play hard, play to win and keep pushing and not try to come short like I did here.”

Awaiting the Mount is one-seed Robert Morris who defeated the six-seed Saint Francis (PA) in the other semifinal at RMU, 60-57. SFU had a lead for most of the first half and the first two and a half minutes of the second before RMU went on a 13-0 run that got them back the lead and with help of 21 points from NEC Player of the Year Karvel Anderson and 18 points from junior Lucky Jones took control. A late 10-3 run by the gritty Red Flash got them back within one with 1:35 left but that was as close at SFU would get as RMU iced the win at the charity stripe.

RMU returns back to the NEC final after a one-year absence and they have now reached the championship game in five out of the last six seasons which is almost hard to fathom that kind of level of success.

The game between the Mount and RMU will be a rematch of last season’s NEC semifinals at RMU in which RMU was upset in a 69-60 defeat by the then five-seed. This game should be a great NEC final. Mount Mayhem versus RMU Crazy Eight. Only one shall be championship. It should be a good one Tuesday night.