The NEC News Wire: July 31

It is the final day of July already (where has the summer gone?!) and according to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein’s daily countdown, we are currently 64 days until the official start of the new college basketball season on October 3rd.

Summer leagues are either over or nearing an end. Some players are either going to be heading back home for what is left of their summers or staying at school and putting more work in as the season draws near. Before you know it, the new season will be here.

We here at Blackbirds Hoops Journal continue doing our part to get you excited and ready for the upcoming college basketball season with this latest edition of the NEC News Wire.

– On Wednesday, Craig Meyer, who covers RMU basketball for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, wrote a post in his blog evaluating the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am summer league performances of current and incoming RMU players.

RMU returns just six of the eight remaining players from the team that finished in first place in the NEC and appeared in the NEC final before losing to Mount St. Mary’s and returning back to the NIT. It is a good read if you want to get an early idea on the makeup of the 2014-15 RMU Colonials roster.

– Saint Francis University is gearing up for the 2014-15 season by doing some upgrades to their home gym, DeGol Arena. SFU recently completed a new paint job to the inside of their home gym.

Also, SFU added a new scoreboard…

and are about to add a brand new video board.

SFU reached the NEC semifinals in March and could likely be a top three team in the NEC when early season NEC predictions and polls start getting released this fall.

– The NCAA posted last season’s men’s basketball attendance figures for the 2013-14 season. The NEC saw a decline in average home attendance to games last season after producing a record-high average home attendance for the league the season prior.

NEC Attendance

For the second straight season, LIU Brooklyn led the NEC in average attendance with 2237 fans per game in twelve home games last season even though their average attendance fell by 282 with five fewer home games. LIU definitely has benefitted from playing a few of their home games at the Barclays Center over the past two seasons which is the main reason for their huge attendance numbers of over 2000 even though the Steinberg Wellness Center capacity is 1700.

Half the NEC teams saw an increase in home attendance over the prior season with Robert Morris seeing the biggest increase. Central Connecticut saw the biggest drop with 312 fewer fans even with one more home game.

League-wide the NEC saw their average attendance fall by 166 to 1250 fans per game after seeing an all-time high in average attendance in 2011-12 with 1416 fans per game. Last season was the NEC’s first season without Monmouth and Quinnipiac who left the NEC for the MAAC.

The NEC Tournament (1,571) last season outdrew average-wise both the Patriot League Tournament (1,275) and the WAC Tournament (1,284) and was just 244 fans short average-wise of the MAAC Tournament (1,815) even though the NEC tournament had more fans come to their tournament games (10,999) than MAAC fans turn out for their conference tournament up in Springfield, Massachusetts (9,077).

– The Great Britain senior men’s national team continues on their preparations toward the 2015 FIBA EuroBasket qualifiers in September with a pair of friendly games against Belgium over this past weekend. Team GB once again dropped the pair of games and are now 0-4 in their friendly games this summer.

Although we couldn’t find a box score from game one on Friday in which Great Britain lost 79-64, we were to track one down from game two on Saturday in which Great Britain lost 104-78. LIU Brooklyn alum Kyle Johnson lead Team GB in scoring off the bench with 20 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the field and 7 of 8 shooting from the free throw line. St. Francis Brooklyn alum Ben Mockford also appeared in game two playing just over three minutes but didn’t take a shot in the game after not appearing in the game one on Friday.

Great Britain will next play three games in three days as they take on Belarus on Saturday, August 2nd, Georgia on Sunday, August 3rd and then Moldova on Monday, August 4th.

The NEC News Wire: July 24

Here is the latest edition of NEC News Wire:

– Fairleigh Dickinson men’s basketball released their full schedule on Tuesday. The Knights will have four home games in their eleven games non-conference schedule against Division III FDU Florham, Lafayette, Princeton and Delaware. Interestingly, the Princeton game is scheduled to be a 9:30pm start. FDU has a pretty formidable non-conference road schedule with games at Saint Joseph’s, Rutgers, Columbia, Notre Dame, St. John’s, St. Peter’s and Towson. As far as their NEC schedule, they will play seven of their nine NEC home games in an eleven-game span between January 8 and February 12 and will play St. Francis (PA) in back-to-back games.

– Wagner released their NEC schedule after releasing their non-conference schedule last week. Wagner will start the conference season playing three straight at home after the NEC opener at St. Francis (PA). The Seahawks close conference play with three straight on the road. They also will play St. Francis Brooklyn in back-to-back games.

– Ryan Peters of Big Apple Buckets wrote a post last week on their early picks for NEC All-Conference teams. Not surprisingly, their entire first team consist of the NEC’s top five returning scorers. All five players finished in the top ten in NEC scoring last season which is why they are pretty easy choices for NEC All-First team. The likely debate this season will be who will finish in the NEC second and third teams given the large talent turnover in the NEC going into this season. In fact, of the NEC top thirty scorers from last season (scoring over 9.3 ppg), only 14 of them are returning back to their respective teams this upcoming season.

– International basketball is gearing as the summer goes along. The Great Britain senior men’s national team is currently featuring two NEC alums in LIU Brooklyn’s Kyle Johnson and St. Francis Brooklyn’s Ben Mockford as they begin preparations for their next round of 2015 FIBA European Championships qualifications.

This past weekend Great Britain played a pair of exhibition games against Latvia in Worchester. Great Britain dropped both games by scores of 77-73 and 76-68.

Kyle Johnson started game one on Saturday. He finished with five points on 2 of 5 shooting from the floor with four rebounds. Mockford made his senior national team debut and played in just under 13 minutes and finished with two points on 2 of 4 shooting with three rebounds. Johnson cam off the bench in game two on Sunday and finished with seven points and five rebounds on 1 of 7 shooting in 24-plus minutes. Mockford did not play. Great Britain will next play a pair of exhibition games against Belgium on Friday and Saturday.

The 5 Best LIU Brooklyn Men’s Basketball Moments of 2013-14

Last season, the LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball entered the season as three-time defending NEC champions. Optimism was high entering the season but as we all know, a multitude of injuries helped rob the Blackbirds any real opportunity to continue their winning ways and finished the season 9-20 and out of the NEC tournament for the first time in eight years.

Although it was a rough season for the LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball in 2013-14, there were still several memorable moments that caused Blackbirds fans to cheer and feel good about their team. Here are our top five best moments from this past season:

5. Iverson Fleming’s 22 points saves LIU vs NJIT

In what turned to be his biggest game of the season, freshman guard Iverson Fleming put on a tremendous second-half display to help stave off a furious NJIT comeback to help LIU get their first road win of the season in a high scoring 96-93 win in Newark.

The outburst from the North Brunswick, NJ native come out of nowhere since he had scored just six total points prior to this game. He scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half and did it all varieties of ways from driving to the hoop, shooting the three and hitting clutch free throws at the end to ice the game. It was easily his breakout performance of the season and the best performance by an LIU freshman in 2013-14.

4. LIU wins Battle of Brooklyn

In what was considered somewhat of an upset considering where both teams were in the standing at the time of this game, LIU beat St. Francis Brooklyn in the annual Battle of Brooklyn held for the first time at the Barclays Center. St. Francis Brooklyn had played LIU to begin the NEC season and the Terriers easily handled LIU 78-64 at the Pope Center.

When they meet again in February, LIU was in midst of a four-game losing streak while St. Francis Brooklyn was 3-1 in their previous four games coming in. Thanks to 20 points from junior forward Landon Atterberry and a season-high tying 14 assists from Jason Brickman, LIU was able to take their fourth straight Battle of Brooklyn victory 69-68.

3. E.J. Reed dunk versus Indiana

The best single highlight play of the season came in LIU’s second game of the season. LIU nearly pulled off a monumental upset of the then-23rd ranked Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall. The Blackbirds were in a close one with Indiana all game long before a hot Will Sheehey help pull the game away for Indiana late.

But one LIU play that stands out was the one handed dunk by now former Blackbird E.J. Reed who took a pass at the top of the key, drove to the basket through three defenders and slammed it down hard over one of them.

2. Gerrell Martin’s buzzer-beaters vs Norfolk State and Lamar

Early in the season, LIU had a pair of buzzer-beaters provided by the Jason Brickman to Gerrell Martin connection. Both buzzer-beaters coming in back-to-back home games.

The first came in LIU’s first home game at the Steinberg Wellness Center against Norfolk State on a layup by Martin off the feed from Brickman. The second came seventeen days later in their next home game against Lamar on a three pointer by Martin off another feed from Brickman.

1. Jason Brickman brakes NEC assist record and gets his 1000th career assist

The number one moment goes to Jason Brickman, LIU’s most valuable player in 2013-14. He set a new standard for career assists in the NEC when he broke the 26-year old record of 804 on December 12th against NJIT. His 805th assist came on a pass to Troy Joseph in the second half.

In LIU’s final game of the season with Brickman going into the game needing just three assists to become the fourth player in college basketball history to ever reach 1000 assists, Brickman got to the magical mark in the first half against Bryant on a pass to Gerrell Martin for an open three-pointer. Brickman ended his LIU career with 1009 assists.

LIU Brooklyn AD John Suarez reportedly leaving his position after 17 years

Long-time LIU Brooklyn AD John Suarez reportedly leaving the school after 17 years. (Photo Credit: LIU Brooklyn Athletics/liuathletics.com)

Long-time LIU Brooklyn AD John Suarez reportedly leaving the school after 17 years. (Photo Credit: LIU Brooklyn Athletics/liuathletics.com)

In a bit of stunning news this afternoon, it was announced by Northeast Conference commissioner Noreen Morris on her Twitter account that long-time LIU Brooklyn Athletic Director John Suarez is leaving his position at the university.

Morris tweeted out the following early Wednesday afternoon:

Suarez has been the Athletic Director at LIU Brooklyn since 1997 and just wrapped up his 17th season at the school. LIU Brooklyn Athletics has seen an incredible amount of growth during his tenure.

Suarez with NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris at a game at LIU’s Steinberg Wellness Center. (Photo Credit: Northeast Conference/NEC Overtime Blog)

In terms of basketball, he was the key figure in getting LIU out of Schwartz Athletic Center better known to many people as the converted Brooklyn Paramount Theater although great to watch games, it was quite dated and lack the appeal current student-athletes look for in facilities, to the new $45 million Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center now known as the Steinberg Wellness Center on Ashland Place back in 2006. He helped renovate LIU Field for baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse by adding new turf and new scoreboards.

He also helped spearhead a five-year partnership with the new neighboring Barclays Center down the street from LIU Brooklyn allowing LIU teams to play four games there each season.

Suarez hired three men’s head basketball coaches during his tenure, Ray Martin, Jim Ferry and current head coach Jack Perri. He hired four women’s head basketball coaches in Patty Delehanty, Tony Bozzella, Stephanie Gaitley, and current head coach Gail Striegler.

Suarez at LIU Brooklyn 2014 Senior Day with Julian Boyd and HC Jack Perri. (Photo Credit: Bob Dea/Blackbirds Hoops Journal)

He saw the LIU men’s basketball team finally break through in 2011 to win their first of an unprecedented three straight NEC championships. He also saw the LIU women’s basketball team win their only NEC tournament championship back in 2001.

Suarez tenure was also not without some difficulties. In his first year as AD in 1997, he had to deal with the fallout of LIU’s 117-point blowout win over Division III Brooklyn school Medgar Evers, which still stands in the NCAA record book for biggest margin of victory and after the season the resignation of head coach Ray Haskins. Presently, he has been dealing with community backlash over LIU’s proposal to extend LIU Field to make it NCAA regulation size so they can have the possibility of hosting future soccer NEC championships which they can’t currently host.

Overall, Suarez tenure at LIU has been remarkable on the court and on the field. According to his bio on LIU Brooklyn Athletics website, he oversaw LIU win 34 NEC titles in all their sports in the last ten years including 12 championships in the last three seasons.

LIU Brooklyn has yet to make an official announcement so it is not quite sure if Suarez is planning on retiring or is planning on moving on to another position elsewhere.

A couple of internal candidates that I can see that can get the promotion up to Athletic Director if they want it are two long-time staffers in the LIU Brooklyn Athletic Department. One is Margaret Alaimo who is currently LIU’s Senior Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator. The other is Greg Fox who is currently LIU’s Associate Director of Athletics/External Relations.

As for myself, I would like to thank John Suarez for his support in Blackbirds Hoops Journal over the last two-plus years. He was always very cordial with me and BHJ photographer Bob Dea whenever we saw him at home or on the road. He even joked with me last season seeing the LIU men’s basketball team going through all their injury woes and asked me if I still had any eligibility left.

I wish him well in whatever his future holds for him. LIU Brooklyn will definitely miss him.

The NEC News Wire: July 16

Here are a few noteworthy items which came across the NEC News Wire in the past few days.

– Wagner released their non-conference schedule on Tuesday becoming the second NEC team to do so. Wagner’s head coach Bashir Mason and his team has a pretty tough slate of opponents in their 11-game non-conference schedule. They will play just four home games at Spiro Sports Center with games versus Division III SUNY-Old Westbury, Penn, Monmouth and Rider. Their seven non-conference road games will be a tough slate with games at Maryland who starting life in the Big Ten, Columbia who could be outside contenders in the Ivy League, Hofstra who is a contender in the CAA, Maine, Lafayette, Vermont who are always good in America East, and Cincinnati who is one of the powers in the American Conference.

– Currently Rutgers is in the lead as most common non-conference opponent among NEC teams. Rutgers will play four NEC teams in their non-conference slate, all at home at the RAC. They will face Fairleigh Dickinson, St. Francis Brooklyn, Saint Francis (PA), and Sacred Heart.

Hofstra is currently next on the list with three games against NEC teams with games against Central Connecticut, LIU Brooklyn and Wagner.

– Sacred Heart’s 6’7” junior forward Tevin Falzon recently completed competing for Malta in the 2014 FIBA European Championship for Small Countries in Gibraltar.

Falzon in four games for Malta averaged 7.0 ppg and 3.8 rpg in 10.5 mpg. He shot 8 for 26 from the field and was 1 for 9 from three during the tournament in helping Malta to a runner-up finish.

Malta lost in the final to Andorra 66-63. Falzon has his best game in the final for Malta going 4 for 9 from the field in 12 minutes for 11 points.

– Congratulations are in order for now former Mount St. Mary’s point guard Julian Norfleet. He announced on his Twitter feed on Tuesday that he will be playing professionally overseas next season.

Norfleet has signed on to play for the Bulgarian club called Rilski Sportist who plays in Bulgaria’s National Basketball League. Norfleet becomes the third NEC 2014 graduate (as well as the third point guard) to play professionally overseas joining LIU’s Jason Brickman (Dynamo Moscow – Russia) and Bryant’s Corey Maynard (Skytrans Cairns Taipains – Australia).

Jordan Allen decides to head to Sacred Heart instead of LIU Brooklyn

Apparently, Hofstra transfer Jordan Allen has had a change of heart and has decided to not attend LIU Brooklyn and play for the Blackbirds.

ESPN’s Recruiting Scout/Analyst Adam Finkelstein on his Twitter feed tweeted out the news this afternoon:

Allen, the 6’6″ forward who will be a redshirt junior this season, will still be playing in the NEC but it will apparently now be for head coach Anthony Latina and his Sacred Heart Pioneers. The Pioneers lost forward Louis Montes to graduation so Allen could slide into that spot in their starting lineup. Allen will be immediately eligible to play for Sacred Heart this upcoming season and have two years of eligibility remaining.

Back in May, BHJ had learned of the Allen’s possible intent of joining LIU Brooklyn after transferring from Hofstra after graduating from the school in three years time.

The news comes as a bit of a surprise as it seemed like Allen was going to be a part of Jack Perri’s front court rotation if not in competition for a starting role this fall. Obviously, that won’t be the case anymore.

Where Perri and LIU goes from here will remain to be seen? This news does hurt LIU’s front court depth some as Allen could have played the 3 or 4 position next season either coming off the bench or as a possible starter.

The NEC News Wire: The Catching Up Edition

Hey, what do you know. It is July! It has been more than 3 months now since the college basketball season ended and nearly 4 months since we saw the Mount’s Big Three rise the NEC championship trophy at Robert Morris to finish the NEC season. Time to get back into the swing of things and get caught up on stuff we might have missed over the last few months as we check out what came across the what I would like to call The NEC News Wire.

– This was the first offseason in quite a while where there was no head coaching changes in the NEC. Although, Robert Morris’ Andy Toole was a candidate for the Marshall job, he stayed put at RMU and will return for his fifth season at the helm of the Colonials.

– Back on June 12, the Robert Morris Colonials become the first NEC team and so far only team to release their full men’s basketball schedule. They will play six non-conference home games beginning with their season opener against Lafayette on November 14th. They will also play at powerhouses North Carolina in Chapel Hill on November 16th, at Georgetown in DC on November 22nd and at Clemson to cap off their non-conference schedule on December 30th. Their first NEC game is a rematch of last season’s NEC final as they will host Mount St. Mary’s on January 3rd.

– On Monday, we saw the return of Ryan Peters to Big Apple Buckets after a brief hiatus as him and his wife recently had a baby girl as well. (Congrats Ryan!) Ryan broke down the up-to-the-moment 2014 NEC transfers. There were names we knew about, obviously the two LIU transfers in E.J. Reed and D.J. Griggs, as well as Wagner’s Mario Moody and Jay Harris. Also, you can forget the three suspended St. Francis Brooklyn players who weren’t reinstated in Sheldon Hagigal, P.J. Santavenere and Anthony White as well as the two RMU players suspended mid-season in Jeremiah Worthem and Britton Lee. There were also a couple of names that may have slipped by such as SFU’s Stephon Mosley, Bryant’s Declan Soukup, and Sacred Heart’s Leo Vincent.

– The NEC quietly announced in their 2013-14 NEC Year-In-Review that their ever-popular, free web streaming service, NEC Front Row, next season will stream all their events included men’s and women’s basketball in true high-definition.

“Last summer, the Conference provided broadcast quality HD equipment for each institution. With this long-term upgrade, all games are now taped in HD and highlights from Front Row broadcasts have been fed to local news stations, regional sports networks and ESPN (SportsCenter Top-10), and used during NEC-TV games on NEC Front Row. The equipment also allowed games to be streamed in a higher quality for those watching on their computer or mobile device. The Conference plans to upgrade to true HD streaming of NEC Front Row webcasts for the 2014-15 season.”

Next season, NEC Front Row along with its new mobile app NEC On The Run will put high-quality NEC games at our fingertips, on any device, at any time and any place. Awesome!! Thank you NEC!

Check in regularly as our NEC News Wire will be out periodically all summer long keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and notes going on around the NEC.