A first look into next season for LIU Brooklyn

The 2014-15 LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball season brought about plenty of ups and downs as the Blackbirds finished the season 12-18 and 8-10 in the NEC. Youth was the theme of this season as LIU’s six freshmen and three sophomores accounted for 77% of the team’s total playing time. This valuable on-the-court experience as well as getting back into the NEC tournament after a one-year absence should help the returning group of Blackbirds as they head into the summer and the offseason and begin preparations for the 2015-16 season.

As we close the door on this season, I wanted to take a first early look at next season and take a peek of what is hopefully returning back for the Blackbirds.

Nura Zanna

Upside: The LIU big man in the middle started in all 30 games for the Blackbirds this season after missing all of last season with a wrist injury. Finished on the All-NEC Rookie Team with 8.5 ppg/6.3 rpg while shooting 47.4% from the field. Finished with 12 games of at least eight rebounds and recorded one double-double this season. At times showed dominance in the low post and ability to be a game-changer down in the blocks.

Downside: He led LIU in fouls by a wide margin. Committed 111 fouls this season, 28 more than the next player on the list. Played the fewest minutes of three freshmen starters this season due his foul woes. Also was terrible from the free throw line at 54.1%.

What Needs to Improve: Zanna has to work on his foot work and developing his low post moves this offseason. He didn’t get a chance to work much on his game last summer due to his injury so this offseason will be his first opportunity to really improve on his game. Also, needs to work on his poise and watch tape of himself making tons of silly, ill-advised fouls that would put him on the bench. If he works on that as well as his free throw shooting, sky is the limit for the big man.

Role next season: No change, he will be a starter at the 5 once again come next season.

Martin Hermannsson

Upside: Hermannsson was the second LIU freshman to be named to the All-NEC Rookie Team this season. He finished second on the team in scoring at 10.1 ppg and was second in assists with 3.8 apg. He led LIU in minutes played at over 31 minutes per game. Able to play both guard positions and did so very well this season. Surprised me how good of a ball handler he was and how good he was whenever he was asked to play the point. Outstanding free throw shooter at 86.4%. Also has a great ability to get to the basket on dribble penetration and did a good job most of the season finishing on those drives.

Downside: His outside shooting this season was disappointing and he is the first to admit it. Only shot 27.5% from three. It took him a while into the season to find the range on that outside shot of his. He also fouled a little too much, finished second on LIU in fouls with 83. Crazy to say this but sometimes I thought he wasn’t selfish enough, didn’t score a single 20-point game this season when he probably could have had a handful had he taken more shots and maybe gotten to the free throw line more instead of dished it off to teammates.

What Need to Improve: Obviously, he will need to do a better job with his outside shooting. I think his goal should be to become at least to become a 40% shooter from three. Also, will need to do a better job of playing without fouling as much. He can also work on his finishing at the rim. If he improves on all three of these, he will be an All-NEC player next season without a doubt.

Role next season: No change, day one starter at the off-guard position.

Elvar Friðriksson

Upside: Good point guard who proved this season he can score as well as dish the ball off to teammates. Finished third on the team in scoring with 8.9 ppg and first in assists and steals with 3.8 apg and 1.1 spg. Showed at times this season that he can carry the team offensively. He impressed with at times this season with his defense, moves his feet very well to stay in front of players and does well picking up charges against opposition.

Downside: After a splendid start to the season, was pretty much inconsistent the rest of the season. Had a great assist-to-turnover ratio early on and then started turning the ball over a little too frequently. Finished with a 1.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Has a bit of tendency to hang his head and get frustrated with himself when things are not going his way. Although, he shot the ball better than his Icelandic teammate this season, still shot just 36% from the field and 32% from three.

What Needs to Improve: I think he needs to continue working on his ball handling to tighten up that dribble of his. Late in the season, teams were testing his ball handling and he was turning the ball over too much. Also, he needs to play more consistently and not as much up and down as he did this season. Can also continue working on his outside shooting and see if he be more of a 40% shooter from three. Also, needs to be more of a leader next season and be more confident in himself as well.

Role next season: No change, starting point guard next season.

Joel Hernandez

Upside: He started in 14 of the 29 games he played this season, all NEC games. Finished with 8.0 ppg and 4.0 rpg. Showed toughness and the ability to play multiple positions whether it was the 2, 3, or 4. Has a nice mid-range jumper and can get after it on the glass. Also was one of the better defenders on the team.

Downside: Had trouble hitting the three-point shot, finished with a 29.4% three-point shooting percentage. He was also terrible from the free throw line this season at 51.9%. You can’t have a guard shoot that poorly from the charity stripe.

What Needs to Improve: His three-point shooting and his free throw-shooting. Those need to get better he wants to continue getting increased minutes next season.

Role next season: Will be in competition for the open guard starting position that is going to be left behind by departing senior Gerrell Martin.

Iverson Fleming

Upside: He did a nice job all season mainly as the backup point guard behind Elvar Friðriksson. At times this season was the one point guard finishing games for LIU. One of the few players on the team with above average speed. Solid ball handler. Also shot the ball better than expected from the outside. Good defender. Good at driving to the basket.

Downside: Somewhat inconsistent. Tends to sometime disappear in games or not do too much while given the opportunity. Average free throw shooter at 65%. Made just 37.5% of his two-point shots. Only average 1.4 assists this season and had just a 1.3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

What Needs to Improve: Needs to continue working on his outside shot. Could use another solid summer in the weight room. Become a better distributor on the offensive end and reduce the turnovers. Also, continue working on his free throws.

Role next season: Likely will have the same role next season as he had this season, backup point guard and occasionally play some minutes at the two guard spot.

Trevin Woods

Upside: Good stretch wing that can hit the outside shot. Very good free throw shooter at 86.7%. Very good rebounder at 3.5 rpg coming off the bench. Decent shot blocker and defender thanks to long arms.

Downside: Streaky shooter. Below average ball handler, struggles with his dribble. Like most of the freshman was inconsistent.

What Needs to Improve: Needs to continue working on his shooting, 38% from the field and 32.8% from three. Also needs to spend time in the weight room this summer as well as work on his ball handling. Teams exposed his ball handling in a press.

Role next season: Should compete for a starting spot next season at either the 3 or the 4. Like to see him be the starter at the 4 next season with the departure of Landon Atterberry this season.

Glenn Feidanga

Upside: Played in only limited minutes as a reserve due to injury but showed an improvement to his game from his freshman year. Has added a nice looking short mid-range jumper to his game as well as continued to show his ability to rebound the ball. Also looked like he improved his free throw shooting albeit in a small sample size of just 34 attempts.

Downside: Did not play full season (missed 13 games) due to lingering ankle injury. Only shot 40% from the field in 55 shot attempts. Still commits too many fouls, led LIU in fouls committed per 40 minutes (7.2).

What Needs to Improve: It would be great to see if Feidanga can get his shooting percentage up to above 50% from the field and can keep his free throw percentage around 75% next season. Also, if he could reduce his fouls next season it would be a big help.

Role next season: I see Feidanga as continuing what he did this season when he was healthy which was as Zanna’s backup in the 5. I can easily see his playing time increase to around 20 minutes per game playing both 4 and 5 positions.

Trevon Woods

Upside: Like his brother, can shoot the three and rebound the ball. Although he only shot seven free throws all season, he made six so like his twin brother, he is also a very good free throw shooter.

Downside: Although in limited opportunities, he still shot 31% from the field and 26.7% from three.

What Needs to Improve: An offseason in the weight room can do him some good. He has to continue working on his shot and hopefully get his shooting percentages up next season.

Role next season: I believe he will likely continue his role as a reserve off the bench although I see his minutes taking a nice step up next season, playing minutes at either the 2, 3 and 4 positions.

Jamil Hood

Upside: Hood showed this season he is quick and is a good team player. Shot 34.6% in his limited playing time off the bench. Has the capacity to be a good scorer as he did in scoring 11 points in 9 minutes against Mount St. Mary’s late in the season. Great athleticism.

Downside: Didn’t get to see what he can really do this season due to injuries that he played through for most of the entire season which limited his great explosiveness. Didn’t make a three-pointer this season (0 for 8). Also committed 13 turnovers to 6 assists all season.

What Needs to Improve: Hood needs to get healthy and continue working on his outside shot. Showed some signs of what he is capable of doing if he is fully healthy. Need to cut down his turnovers and dish out more assists next season.

Role next season: Could very much seeing him getting increased minutes as the backup point guard and playing with Fleming or Friðriksson in two point guard lineups as he did this season.

Jerome Frink

Role next season: Expected to be inserted immediately into the starting lineup at the four next to Zanna in the front court. His strength will be as an inside-post player although he can make the three on occasion. Good rebounder who can be a great rebounder in the NEC. Frink along with Zanna could potentially be one of the best one-two punches in the front court in the NEC next season.

Jonathan Tshibuy

Role next season: Hurt his knee before the season. Not sure what his role or impact will be on this team next season. If he has any role, it will likely be as a deep reserve player.

LIU Brooklyn currently has two scholarships open for 2015-16 season. The Blackbirds did not sign any players during the early signing period back in November. The National Letter of Intent regular signing period begins on Wednesday, April 15th.

Editor’s Note: 3/26 – 4pm – I forgot to include freshman Jamil Hood in my original post. He has now been added. My apologizes for mistakenly leaving him off. 

Gail Striegler is out as LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball coach

LIU Brooklyn Women's Basketball Head Coach Gail Striegler will not return to coach the Blackbirds next season. (Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU Brooklyn Women’s Basketball Head Coach Gail Striegler will not return to coach the Blackbirds next season. (Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU Brooklyn Athletics this afternoon announced that seven-year women’s basketball head coach Gail Striegler has been relieved of her duties.

Striegler just completed a 9-21 season (6-12 in the NEC) at LIU Brooklyn and finished in the eight-seed in the 2015 NEC women’s basketball tournament. LIU Brooklyn lost to top-seeded Central Connecticut State 72-51.

Striegler had just completed her seventh season in Downtown Brooklyn as women’s basketball head coach. She guided her teams to a 96-115 record (.455 win percentage) in her seven seasons.

She came to LIU before the 2008-09 season in replacing current Fordham women’s basketball head coach Stephanie Gaitley who had left LIU to become women’s head basketball coach at Monmouth. Striegler inherited a team that went 24-8 and 13-5 in the NEC the season before. In Striegler’s first season at LIU, her team went 9-20 and 4-14 in the NEC.

The next three seasons was Striegler’s best at LIU. Her teams went a combined 62-31 overall and 33-19 in the NEC. Her best season at LIU was in her second season in which LIU finished 22-10 and 12-4 in the NEC before losing to Saint Francis U. in the NEC championship game. She got her only two NEC tournament wins that season.

In the last three seasons, things went sour for Striegler and her program. She went a combined 25-64 overall and 17-37 in the NEC in that span. She guided her teams to an eight-seed in the NEC tournament in the last two seasons.

Striegler guided her teams to five NEC tournaments in her seven seasons. She went 2-5 in LIU’s five NEC tournament trips.

Striegler got her 200th career win back on February 7th in a home win against Saint Francis U.

In the last couple of seasons, LIU has struggled on the offensive end. This season, they finished sixth in the NEC in scoring offense at 64 points per game but were dead last in the NEC last season at 60 points per game.

Her entire coaching staff is also being let go along with her. LIU Brooklyn has announced they will begin a national search for their next head women’s basketball coach.

**UPDATE** (8/2/15): Gail Striegler has been hired by Minnesota as their new assistant coach on the women’s basketball team.

BHJ Photo Gallery: 2015 NEC Championship Game – Robert Morris vs St. Francis Brooklyn

All photos taken on March 10, 2015 at the Pope Physical Education Center on the campus of St. Francis Brooklyn by Bob Dea for Blackbirds Hoops Journal as he chronicled the 2015 Northeast Conference championship game between Robert Morris and St. Francis Brooklyn. Robert Morris defeated St. Francis Brooklyn 66-63 to win their eighth NEC men’s basketball championship.

Robert Morris and St. Francis Brooklyn will meet in 2015 NEC Tournament Final

The final has been set for Tuesday night. It will be the two-seeded Robert Morris Colonials, in their sixth appearance in a NEC final in the last seven years, against the one-seeded St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers, making their first NEC final appearance since 2003.

In a year in which there was as much parody and unpredictability in the conference, it is ironic the conference championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament comes down to #1 vs #2.

Robert Morris arrives at their second straight NEC tournament by virtue of defeating Wagner in NEC quarterfinals 91-68 and then defeating Bryant on Saturday in the NEC semifinals 66-53. It is crazy to think this same RMU team were in midst of losing three out of four and were about to lose to CCSU at home before this Aaron Tate tip-in pretty much saved their season.

After a loss to Sacred Heart in the next game, RMU has rattled off five straight wins to get to this point.

NEC Player of the Year, SFBKs Jalen Cannon Photo:Bob Dea

NEC Player of the Year, SFBK’s Jalen Cannon (Photo:Bob Dea)

Meanwhile back here in Brooklyn, St. Francis Brooklyn has gone about the NEC tournament business of usual. The Terriers got a game from a young LIU Brooklyn squad but defeated them 79-70 and on Saturday they took down Saint Francis U. 62-48 at home.

The Terriers have now won 11 of their last 12 games coming into the NEC final. They are making their first NEC final appearance since 2003 when they lost to top-seeded Wagner.

It is well chronicled that the Terriers have never made it to the NCAA tournament in their long program history. The Colonials with all their successes of the last seven years, has lost three straight NEC finals and has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2010. Although RMU head coach has guided his teams to the NEC finals in four of the last five years, he has yet to win an NEC tournament championship. RMU head coach Andy Toole knows that by just getting there and having the experience of playing in that remarkable atmosphere and under that immense pressure, it doesn’t guarantee his team anything.

“We’ve played in a couple (of championship games) and it hasn’t necessarily worked in our favor yet. Maybe this will be the year that it does.” said Toole. “Maybe some of the new blood that is a part of the team this year has a different kind of outlook and mindset but it’s got to be two great days of preparation regardless of opponent and it’s got to be maximum energy and effort when we step on the floor on Tuesday.”

Robert Morris Marcquise Reed

Robert Morris’ Marcquise Reed (Photo: Bob Dea)

Robert Morris and St. Francis Brooklyn both split their regular season meetings against one another, both winning on the road. In fact, RMU is the only team in conference play this season to beat St. Francis Brooklyn at the Pope Physical Education Center.

St. Francis Brooklyn’s head coach Glenn Braica knows that RMU is going to come with a different style of play defensively that they are going to need to get themselves prepared for.

“It is a different game. It is a totally different game.” Braica said. “Saint Francis (PA) is man-to-man, we are man-to-man. Robert Morris is going to play zone. I can’t you everything and I don’t know if it’s going to matter anyway, it’s going to be a different game. But we are still going to have to stick to who we are and what we do and try to do the things that we do well.”

Robert Morris has has several players step up for them in the first two NEC tournament games. First, it was senior Lucky Jones (27 points) and freshman Marcquise Reed (22 points) that provided the scoring punch to get by Wagner. On Saturday, it was sophomore Kavon Stewart with his 19 points, eight assists and seven steals that helped do in Bryant. With Stewart, Reed, Jones and Rodney Pryor, the Colonials have some offensive weapons that the Terriers will need to focus on.

St

St. Francis Brooklyn’s Brent Jones (Photo: Bob Dea)

“(Robert Morris) is a great team. They are really talented. They are a tremendous offensive firepower on the perimeter. They have some decent bigs. They have some matchup guys that are tough matchups. It’s going to be a war.” said Braica. “We are just going to do our best and if it is going enough, that’s fine and if it is not then it is what it is. But I know my guys are going to come to play and how well we play we will see. They are going to be ready.”

St. Francis Brooklyn big two in seniors Jalen Cannon and Brent Jones have a look of determination in their eyes in trying to go out as champions and be the first in their school’s history to make to the big dance. Jones was the man against LIU in a career-high 31-point performance while Cannon was the one who came up huge against Saint Francis U. With their great supporting cast of Amdy Fall, Chris Hooper, Tyreek Jewell, and Glenn Sanabria amongst others plus the game being played in what will be a loud, wild and practically in-your-face sold out crowd at the Pope Center Tuesday night, it is going to make for a great NEC championship game.

Kenpom is going with St. Francis Brooklyn by six. I like St. Francis Brooklyn to hoist the NEC championship trophy at home Tuesday night and get their first-ever NCAA tournament bid. It should be lots of fun to watch. I’m looking forward to it.

BHJ Photo Gallery: Battle of Brooklyn Round 3 – 2015 NEC Tournament Quarterfinals

All photos taken on March 4, 2015 at the Pope Physical Education Center on the campus of St. Francis Brooklyn by Bob Dea for Blackbirds Hoops Journal as he chronicled the third and final game between LIU Brooklyn and St. Francis Brooklyn in the 2015 NEC Tournament Quarterfinals.

LIU Brooklyn 70 St. Francis Brooklyn 79

LIU Brooklyn's season comes to an end in the NEC tournament quarterfinals in a 79-70 loss to St. Francis Brooklyn Wednesday night. (Photo: Bob Dea)

LIU Brooklyn’s season comes to an end in the NEC tournament quarterfinals in a 79-70 loss to St. Francis Brooklyn Wednesday night. (Photo: Bob Dea)

It was a rare round three of the Battle of Brooklyn and it was going to be an uphill battle for LIU Brooklyn who came into the NEC tournament limping on a four-game losing streak. LIU as the number eight-seed had already lost twice to their top-seeded rivals from St. Francis Brooklyn and needed a near-flawless effort to get the upset inside the standing-room only, sold-out, raucous Pope Center crowd. The Blackbirds were game but the Terriers with their talent and their experience was just the better team and defeated LIU 79-70 to end the Blackbirds’ 2014-15 season.

After a terrific start by LIU to get off to a 10-2 lead, the Terriers put it into overdrive on both ends of the court and went on a 33-12 run in the final 16 minutes of the first half to take a commanding 35-22 lead into the locker room.

The Blackbirds though would try to save their season with a 20-9 run in the first nine minutes of the second half to get within two of the Terriers and put the pressure on the top seed. But the regular season champs would respond with a critical 9-2 run to kill LIU’s momentum and regain theirs and for all intents and purposes put away the Blackbirds for the season.

St. Francis Brooklyn point guard Brent Jones led all scorers with a career-high 31 points. (Photo: Bob Dea)

St. Francis Brooklyn point guard Brent Jones led all scorers with a career-high 31 points. (Photo: Bob Dea)

It was no surprise that St. Francis Brooklyn’s All-NEC first team seniors led the way for the Terriers. Brent Jones was the star of the game as he led all scorers with a career-high 31 points to go along with five assists. He showed tremendous leadership and ball handling against the youthful Blackbirds. NEC Player of the Year Jalen Cannon finished with his 19th double-double of the season with 15 points and 15 rebounds. It was a relatively quiet night for Cannon offensively but he made a pair of key baskets in that pivotal 9-2 run that put the game away for them.

The Terriers continue their march in trying to win their first-ever NEC championship and get to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Congratulations to St. Francis Brooklyn.

For LIU to have a chance against the Terriers, they needed to protect the basketball, not allow St. Francis Brooklyn to dominant the offensive glass and made their threes. They struggled again with the turnovers which hurt them especially when the Terriers made their run. They committed 15 turnovers, which is actually an improvement from the way they had been turning the ball over down the stretch of the season, but those turnovers led to 21 Terrier points. The Terriers were +3 in offensive rebounds although they were just +1 in overall rebounds for the game. LIU made 6 of 14 threes which was actually pretty good but just not enough.

Once again, it was the turnovers when the Terriers went to a press in the backcourt that help do LIU in. They turned the ball over three times in that pivotal Terriers second half run and it went from a two-point deficit to a nine-point deficit in 81 seconds.

LIU did shoot the ball fairly well at 46% from the floor but in latter part of the second half, they just couldn’t get a big stop when they needed it. Credit the Terriers for making big shots and making most of the free throws in the final two minutes.

Landon Atterberry had his best game of the season in his final LIU game. Photo: Bob Dea)

Landon Atterberry had his best game of the season in his final LIU game. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Two LIU players who deserves a ton of credit for the way they played were Landon Atterberry and Glenn Feidanga. Atterberry in his final game for LIU, saved his best for last, with a season-high 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting with two three-pointers to lead LIU. Feidanga also played great on both ends, drawing a couple of key charges and playing good man-to-man defense on Amdy Fall who had a very quiet night. Feidanga finished with six points.

Gerrell Martin in his final LIU game had a rough one. He ends his LIU career with just five points on 1 of 6 shooting and he did not attempt a three all night. It was not the way he wanted to end his college career.

The Iceland freshmen pair of Elvar Friðriksson and Martin Hermannsson each finished their first LIU season with eight points apiece. Friðriksson had 7 assists and 5 rebounds as well. Nura Zanna also scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds. Iverson Fleming had himself a good night with nine points and a couple of steals. Joel Hernandez did not play for LIU. No reason is known for his absence.

The loss ends LIU’s season at 12-17 with a 8-10 NEC record. LIU finished the season on a five-game losing streak which put a cap on a wildly up and down season for a LIU team that had the tenth youngest team in the country this season.

Iverson Fleming had a nice game off the bench for LIU to close out season. Photo: Bob Dea)

Iverson Fleming had a nice game off the bench for LIU to close out season. (Photo: Bob Dea)

Even though this LIU team was young and inconsistent, they did help improve LIU’s record by three wins and four wins in the NEC over last season and got them back into the NEC tournament after missing out a year ago. This is a good stepping stone season for them and something to build on as they team now heads into the long offseason. I’ll have more on LIU’s future next week.

The future at LIU is bright although it didn’t end the way they probably would have like with this losing streak but there were many positives to take away from it and there are things and individuals who will need to improve if LIU is to get back into contender status next season.

For now, the long wait for next season begins. As always, we’ll see what transpires in the coming weeks after the season. Hopefully, it all stays quiet and LIU will return everyone next season with a couple of key additions.

Since I’m a Brooklyn boy, born and raised, I wish the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers all the luck the rest of the NEC tournament and hope they get make it through and the represent the NEC in the NCAA tournament in a couple of weeks. Congratulations to them. Hopefully next season, LIU will be realistically back in the hunt for a conference title and take this season as a growing year.

LIU Gameday Preview – Game 30 (NEC Tournament Quarterfinals) – St. Francis Brooklyn

Opponent: St. Francis Brooklyn

Record: 21-10, 15-3 NEC (Last game: L vs Bryant, 61-51
KenPom Ranking: 143
Tip-Off Time: 7:00pm
Location: Generoso Pope Athletic Center – Brooklyn Heights, NY
Media Game Coverage: Online: necfrontrow.com
Meeting History: 103th all-time meeting. LIU Brooklyn leads the series, 63-39. St. Francis Brooklyn took both regular season meetings from LIU Brooklyn this season. The Terriers beat LIU 81-64 at SFBK on January 31st and then beat LIU again 74-69 in overtime last Thursday at LIU.

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