Thank You All for Making This A Great Season Three of Blackbirds Hoops Journal

As what has become one of my annual traditions, on the eve of the final college basketball game of the season between Wisconsin and Duke, I once again want to give my thanks to all those who supported Blackbirds Hoops Journal through season three of our journey together.

The 2014-15 LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball season had more ups and downs than riding on the World Famous Cyclone on Coney Island. We got to see a lot of youth go through the growing pains and get valuable game experience and learn what it takes to win in the NEC. Unfortunately for LIU women’s basketball, another single-digit win season, their third straight, brought the dismissal of their head coach Gail Streigler and there will be a new person at the helm for the women’s program starting next season.

For LIU men’s basketball, I honestly feel that the future is bright. Sure, it didn’t end the way a lot of us who are LIU fans wanted to see it end. Losing the final five games of the season leaves a sour taste in our mouths after going through a stretch in which they had won six of seven and were putting themselves in prime position to finish in the top four of the NEC standings. Still there has to be plenty of optimism about this Blackbirds team going into next season.

LIU loses just two rotation guys and will hopefully bring back nine players who will all be a big part of next season and add a player like Jerome Frink to the mix who will be eligible plus hopefully a couple of impact freshmen and LIU will have some cooking going into the 2015-16 season.

As far as the LIU women’s basketball goes, first of all, I feel terrible for former head coach Gail Streigler. I believe she did everything she could to get LIU back on track after three solid seasons between 2009 and 2012 but things just never panned out. I would like to thank Coach Streigler and her coaching staff for their generosity with their time and their williness to help me out in whatever way possible. I had wished I would have had more of a chance to cover them more this season but I just couldn’t pull it off. I thank them all dearly and wish them all well in their future endeavors.

Now, time to thank those who made another season of Blackbirds Hoops Journal possible. It’s quite a list.

First of all, I really really have to thank my wife Millie. As many of you know, my wife and I had our first child last May, a baby girl we named Victoria. I didn’t know how this season with the blog would go now that we had a child to take care of at home. Thanks to my wife and her infinite patience and tolerance, I was able to continue the blog while catching every single LIU this season whether it was via online, on television or for the most part in person on press row. She had made no bones that she misses having me in the stands watching games together and quite frankly I miss it too. Now with a baby to watch as well, even more so. Yet, she also knows how much I enjoy writing this blog and chatting up LIU and NEC hoops which is why she allows me to continue doing what I’m doing. For that, I greatly thank her and my daughter for letting dad cover LIU hoops this season.

I also have to thank my mother-in-law Irma who has helped us watch our daughter and by doing so, allowed my some time when I’m home to do some writing. Her health in the past month or so has turned for the worse and I wish could do more for her to help ease her pain that she is going through presently. I would appreciate if some of you can send some prayers her way.

Next, I have to thank Blackbirds Hoops Journal photographer Bob Dea who has been with me since season one. Bob and I were once again road trip companions as he was crazy enough to take two trips to Philly with me in a span of a week to cover two LIU games early in the season. Bob was not just at all the LIU men’s home games this season but he was at almost every LIU women’s basketball games as well with his camera, getting great action shots. Bob is as big an LIU fan as you will find and passionate about what he does. The man works tirelessly into the night editing photos to get them to me so they can be in the game recaps. He, as I, do it for the love of LIU hoops and the love of watching NEC basketball. I can’t say how much I appreciate all he has done for me and for the blog in these past three years. He is already fired up to get things going for next season. Thank you Bob for all you do for the blog!

Thanks goes out to LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri and his assistant coaches and all his players. Coach Perri once again was a pleasure to speak to all season long. He was always willing to make time to speak with me even after the toughest of losses and sometimes when I was the only there to cover his team. I greatly appreciate his professionalism and his generosity.

One LIU player I would like to personally thank this season is outgoing senior Gerrell Martin. He was in unenviable position this season as the lone four-year player on this team, the lone remaining player with a NEC championship ring and the leader of one of the youngest team in the country. Of all the LIU players, he was easily the one the media got to speak with the most and he was always very gracious. I wish him well in his life after college basketball.

Once again, a huge thanks goes out to Dan Lobacz, LIU’s Director of Media Relations in charge of men’s basketball. Dan has always been a huge help with anything I needed. He is one of the best SID guys you will find anywhere. Also thanks to Casey Snedecor in Media Relations and to the entire LIU Brooklyn Athletic Department from interim AD Brad Cohen and Associate AD Greg Fox and everyone else on down.

Also, I need to thank the entire Northeast Conference staff. It starts with NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris who has done a great job with the conference. Thanks to Ron Ratner, associate commissioner of the NEC. The man is THE NEC hoops guru, no question about it. If you’re not following him on Twitter (@NECHoopsRon), you’re doing it wrong. Thanks Ron for everything once again. Thanks also to Ralph Ventre, NEC Director of Communications and Social Media and the rest of the NEC staff. I’ve said it before and I will say again, the NEC is one of the most fan-friendly conferences you will find in the nation. The staff at the NEC do a tremendous job all year round.

Thanks also to my fellow bloggers and all the newspaper writers and all other media types who I chatted with this season whether in person or via Twitter and have shown support to Blackbirds Hoops Journal. Some of those guys I want to recognize is the ever-growing staff at Big Apple Buckets but especially to their founder John Templon and NEC writers Ryan Peters and Ray Curren, Jaden Daly (A Daly Dose of Hoops), Josh Adams (College Hoops Digest), Rob Abruzzese (Brooklyn Daily Eagle), Chris Cappella and Lee Kunkel ( – Colonials Corner), Anthony Rushing (Sports Journal Daily) and many, many others along the way.

I also have to say thanks to LIU Brooklyn’s NEC Front Row/Red Zone Media play-by-play announcers, Gregg Casserta on the women’s side and Ray Martel on the men’s side for supporting the blog and having me on as a halftime guest several times this season to further promote the blog and lend my LIU and NEC hoops knowledge.

Finally and yes this is the last one, I would like to thank all of you, the readers, the supporters, the fans of LIU basketball and/or of NEC hoops. I truly appreciate you all coming by the blog and checking it all out and reading my posts whether it was a preview of some sort or a LIU game recap, whatever it might be. I can’t say enough how much I enjoy the kind words of many regarding my writing and the blog itself. It truly is a labor of love. I don’t earn a single penny from this site, not one. In fact, it cost me money to keep this blog going. From annual fees for the site, to gas and toll money to get to both road and home games, to whatever miscellaneous costs comes up, it’s all funded by me and me alone. That is why I have to laugh when I get criticized and accused by a very select few who are not fans of mine and the blog who thinks LIU pays for my work. It is pretty comical. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me every single time but I expect people to be respectful of other people’s opinions and be respectful of others.

As we head into the long offseason which is usually slow and mostly quiet although there are some things to look forward to this summer. We should soon know as the signing period approaches in the next couple of weeks, what recruits are coming to Brooklyn for next season. As the summer goes along, we’ll learn bits and pieces of LIU’s schedule for next season. Also, there will be a couple of FIBA competitions to possibly keep an eye on as Iceland will play in the European basketball championships for the first time ever this summer so we might see one or both Icelandic Blackbirds playing international ball as well as one or two LIU alums playing in either the FIBA European or African basketball championships. So there will be things to write about this offseason.

Next season might bring some changes to the blog and possibly some changes to the amount of coverage I will put forth to the blog but right now it is too early to get into all of that. We’ll shall see what the future holds before anything is finalized in regards to next season.

As always, please continue to follow the blog as well as follow me on Twitter @NelCastBHJ. The Mets and Jets rants as always will continue on there as well as constant LIU and NEC tweets all offseason.

Thanks again everyone for a great season three and I hope to continue the journey into the 2015-16 season.

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