Yesterday, I got a chance to observe this young group of LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds get put through their paces in practice at the Steinberg Wellness Center. It was my first glance at this season’s team and likely be my only one before their season opener against St. John’s on November 19th. I would like to thank head coach Jack Perri for offering the invite to practice once again and thanks also to Dan Lobacz, LIU’s Director of Media Relations for helping me out as well.
I went to LIU not really knowing what I was expecting to see when I got there except I knew I had to try and figure who was who among the many new faces on this revamped roster. It turned out that it didn’t take that long to figure everyone on the floor.
The fact is, on a team with nine freshmen and sophomores, there are going to be plenty of growing pains along the way with all of its ups and downs and this practice kind of personified that in the brief time I got to observe them.
After watching them practice and speaking with Jack Perri after practice, here are several notes I took away:
– It was nice to see Perri work on defense and rebounding with his team for a good amount of time. It is clear in talking with him during the preseason he doesn’t want to see a repeat of the defensive difficulties they had a year ago where they were one of the worst defensive teams in the country with a terrible 117.8 defensive efficiency.
– The Blackbirds are still banged up. Don’t be too alarmed yet Blackbird fans. Luckily, it is hasn’t reached the extent of what it was last season but it hasn’t been smooth sailings on the injury front especially with some of the front court guys who are expected to be heavily counted on this season. Glenn Feidanga is still dealing with an ankle injury that has had him miss a chunk of the preseason. His condition is improving though and Perri hopes to have him back in time for LIU’s season opener. Nura Zanna sat out of practice with a thumb injury he suffered the day before in practice. They are hoping it is minor and he will back practicing soon but he has missed some practice time this preseason with various injuries.
Senior Chris Carter was pretty much not at practice. Perri told me afterwards he is currently dealing with mono so he could be out for quite some time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like his LIU career is ever going to take off but hopefully he can come back to make a contribution to this season. All these injuries and medical conditions, if they linger could mean an opportunity for minutes for both the Woods twins who each had their moments while I was watching them in practice. A couple of other guys who dealing with nagging minor injuries but were still practicing were Jamil Hood and Landon Atterberry.
– Coach Perri was high on FIU transfer Jerome Frink at NEC Media Day and now I see why. He looked impressive in practice. He has a solid body frame which will only likely get bigger and stronger during this sit out year. He looked great working against Landon Atterberry in the paint and made several mid-range jumpers. He will be a big part of LIU’s team the next two seasons.
– Martin Hermannsson is going to quickly become a fan favorite among LIU fans. The kid from Iceland can do almost everything. He can shoot from almost anywhere. He has no fear penetrating into the paint. He can handle the ball and can deliver some dime passes. He delivered a perfect pass on the run to a streaking Landon Atterberry for a dunk which really caught my attention. Plus, in briefly speaking with him after practice, he is a nice kid who is loving his time in Brooklyn and New York City. I think Perri found a gem with this guy.
– Fellow Icelander freshman Elvar Friðriksson looks like he has grabbed the starting point guard position. He showed his shooting range, dropping several threes and even hit a running buzzer-beating three during a five-on-five drill. It will be interesting to see if he can carry over his 2+ assist-to-turnover ratio he had in Iceland last season.
– The seniors, Landon Atterberry and Gerrell Martin, looked solid as expected. The Blackbirds are really going to need to lean on these two guys to help carry this team at times. If Atterberry plays at his more natural 4 position, he is going to have a really good season barring that he stays healthy.
– Look for sophomores Joel Hernandez and Iverson Fleming to have bigger roles this season. It looks like they are going to get an opportunity to get increased minutes especially in the early going.
– The ups and downs of this team were pretty evident in watching them practice. At times, they looked like a team who couldn’t do a whole lot right. There was passes going astray, players not getting themselves to the right defensive position, miscommunication and all that sort. Coach Perri was less than thrilled but then things started to pick up and it was like the funk this team started out with all of sudden went away and started playing with better purpose and intensity. It showed the nature of how up and down this group might likely be especially during the first half of the season.
– Perri told me he has not decided yet on any set rotation. He is hoping to get most of his guys healthy and back practicing especially in the front court so he could have a clearer idea of what his rotation might be.
– Going by what I saw my projected starting five would be: Elvar Friðriksson (G), Gerrell Martin (G), Martin Hermannsson (G), Landon Atterberry (F), Nura Zanna (F)
– Toughness seems to be a theme Perri is trying to get his young team to understand and become. Last year, there was no doubt LIU lacked the toughness that the previous championship teams had and he is trying to bring that back and instill that into his players.