After five years, my final thank you.

“What a long, strange trip it’s been.” — Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead

Yes, it has been a long, strange trip. But then I guess I probably wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

When I started Blackbirds Hoops Journal in the summer of 2012, I really didn’t know what to expect at all. I had wanted to start an LIU basketball blog for quite some time but didn’t know how to go about it and didn’t know how much readership I would get. Then one day, I decided to just give it a go and see what happens and as they say, the rest is history.

It has been a roller coaster of a ride the last five years watching LIU Brooklyn men’s and women’s basketball from up close. I went from watching LIU win an NEC title as a 3-seed in year one to seeing them get upset in the first round of the NEC tournament as a 2-seed and then seeing the head coach surprisingly not get his contract renewed.

I went from seeing LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball team seemingly sputtering its wheels to now a renewed hope in the program finally starting to move forward as the building process truly has begun.

The last five years working on and building this blog has been one of the most fun times in my life and if it wasn’t for the enormous amount of help and support I have gotten along the way, I doubt this adventure would have gone far.

Next season, a new adventure begins but sadly it will not be with Blackbirds Hoops Journal. This is my final write-up for the blog I created and put in five years of hard work and sacrifice into.

Let’s me start off by saying this decision had nothing to do with the recent LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball coaching change.

Last year, I made the decision that the 2016-17 college basketball season would be Blackbirds Hoops Journal’s final season on the full-time beat. Obviously, to come to this decision was far from easy. I had a hard time deciding to let something I truly loved doing with absolutely nothing in return go. I put in many long hours and plenty of my own money into this site and I had built a nice little following which I have been more than grateful for.

But the time had finally come for me that I couldn’t continue putting up content to the degree I was once accustomed to. When I started, I had plenty of free time to write to my heart’s content and the first year, I wrote. A lot.

In May of 2014, my life changed forever with the birth of my daughter Victoria who is my absolute pride and joy and the person that makes me most happy in this world. The minute she was born, I knew things that I had grown used to would never be the same again as much as I would try especially the first couple of years.

Last year, around the time of my daughter’s second birthday, it finally dawn on me that I will likely not be able to continue putting in the time I once did to the blog anymore, that I would have to pull back the reigns some this season and hopefully make through the season without much interruptions knowing what was ahead for me from both a home-life and work-life aspect.

In January, my work-life started getting really busy to the point where a lot of my free writing time was getting dramatically cut down in addition to home-life just getting crazier and busier and harder to manage at times, making writing posts for the blog a distant priority. It was getting harder to consistently write anything as much as I wanted to do, the time and energy just weren’t there.

I wanted to finish what I started and even though I wasn’t at many LIU games in February and missing senior night which I never do, I made it a point even though I knew I wouldn’t get there by opening tip coming from work and nearly deciding last second to just skip it and go home, I went to the Steinberg Wellness Center for what would end up being their final game of the season and unknowing then, Jack Perri’s last game as LIU Brooklyn’s head coach in that upset loss to Robert Morris.

I’m so happy now that I decided to go that night and got to cover one more game for Blackbirds Hoops Journal. It was my finale for a website that I have had tremendous joy in working on and it deserved one more postseason run even though it ended up being unexpectedly cut short thanks to Kavon Stewart. Thanks, Kavon.

Every year, on the day of the final game of the men’s basketball championship game, I like to post up my thanks to all those who had a hand, whether big or small, in the success and continued support of Blackbirds Hoops Journal. This will be a little different. I want to give my thanks to the many who help me along the journey and who I made great relationships along the way.

First off, I have to thanks my wife and daughter, Millie and Victoria. Millie was my first supporter. She was the one who encouraged to write especially in year one and was like my editor-in-chief until she had had enough. She has been a true sport in the many years since and her patience with me at times when I needed to head out to a game after she had come home from work and then had to care for our daughter makes her worthy of sainthood. She is a great wife and an even better mother and someone who always has my back no matter what. She is my rock and I love her to death.

Victoria is my little ray of sunshine. I love that little girl to pieces. She is a handful. She is my everything.

I have to give tremendous thanks to my partner in all of this, the great Bob Dea, photographer extraordinaire. He joined me almost from the very beginning and we have been pretty much attached at the hip even since. His love for LIU basketball matches mine which is why we have gotten along so well for so long. We’ve taken many road trips together. Trips to Philly and Connecticut and Staten Island and seemingly everywhere in between. I enjoy his work greatly but more I enjoy his company and grateful he has been alongside me for the ride. Thanks Bob for the photos, meals, drinks, companionship and fun we had the last five years. You have had as big a hand of the success of Blackbirds Hoops Journal as I had and for that, you should take great pride and joy.

Thank you to all the great people at the Northeast Conference. Starting with NEC commissioner Noreen Morris who leads a tremendous group. Two big thanks go out to Ralph Ventre, NEC Director of Communications and Social Media and to Ron Ratner, NEC Senior Associate Commissioner for PR/New Media/Television. Both Ralph and Ron have been great supporters of the site from the beginning and I greatly appreciate all their help and support. I hope to continue having a great relationship with the NEC in whatever my next capacity might be.

Thanks also to all the other NEC coaches who were gracious with their time and their thoughts and continual luck to them and their programs in the future.

A HUGE thanks go to the people at the LIU Brooklyn media relations department in particularly the two people I worked most closely during the last five years. A big thank you goes to former LIU Brooklyn Director of Media Relations Dan Lobacz who is now at LaSalle but was with LIU up to this past October. Dan was a great help to me and I greatly appreciated it. Another big thanks go to Casey Snedecor, who took over Dan’s position and had to be the contact for both the men’s and women’s basketball team this past season. To say she was busy this season is an understatement. I’m happy she is the new Director of Media Relations at LIU Brooklyn and deservingly so. Thanks, Dan and Casey for everything. Casey, I hope to still be around to bother you from time to time.

I have to give thanks also to the LIU Brooklyn Athletics Department who really couldn’t have been more supportive of me and the site. Starting with those who are no longer at LIU, from former Athletic Director John Suarez and former associate AD Greg Fox to current AD Brad Cohen, Deputy AD Margaret Alaimo, associate AD Sharon Abbate and on down the line. Thank you all for your help and support these last five years.

Thank you to the LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball team. From former LIU head coach Gail Streigler and her former assistant coaches to current LIU head coach Stephanie Del Preore and her coaching staff and all the former and current LIU players for letting me cover them when I could and being a great help to me. I’m a fan of Stephanie Del Preore and her staff and I believe they are doing things the right way and slowly building up the program. Once she starts having all her players in place, I think it will be then just a matter of time they get back to becoming consistent winners again.

Of course, there is not one person I have to thank more than former LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball coach Jack Perri. This blog started two months after Perri was named LIU head coach after Jim Ferry left for Duquesne so ironically it covered his entire head coaching tenure.

First off, Jack Perri is a heck of a coach. Some people for some dumb reason(s) don’t like giving him credit for the NEC championship he won his first season, saying they weren’t his guys and he inherited a good team. Well, those were HIS guys. He just didn’t pop up in 2012 and took over a winner. He was at LIU for SEVEN years prior to being named head coach. He was elevated from associate head coach to head coach, deservingly so. He helped recruit many of those kids that helped LIU win these NEC championships from 2011 to 2013. To not give him credit, is an insult to the man.

Perri loved LIU Brooklyn. He really did. The man cared. He hated losing. The last three years prior to this season as he was rebuilding the program back up, wasn’t easy for him. To go from consistently winning to having to rebuild is hard especially at LIU. But he stayed on track and got them back to contention this season. I feel he should still be the head coach. LIU administration felt otherwise and it is within their rights to do so.

They were many times I would be the only one whether it was at home or on the road covering his team. He never said no to me. Not once. Even after tough, bitter losses. I would have understood if he wanted to not deal with me especially after an upsetting loss but he never did. He was always willing to answer any questions I had and I greatly appreciated it.

Perri allowed me to attend his team’s practices and give me insight to some of the x’s and o’s to their style of play. He was always great to talk to and be around and I wish him nothing but the best for him in the future. Thanks Coach for all your help and all your support.

I also have to thank every LIU assistant coach and player who I covered over the last five seasons. Here is the list:

Players

Jashaun Agosto, Kwe Askew, Landon Atterberry, Julian Batts, Darien Best, Julian Boyd, Ashtyn Bradley, Jason Brickman, Chris Carter, Ganlandou Cisse, Raiquan Clark, Glenn Feidanga, Iverson Fleming, Elvar Fridriksson, Raul Frias, Jerome Frink, C.J. Garner, D.J. Griggs, Martin Hermannsson, Joel Hernandez, Jamil Hood, Booker Hucks, Troy Joseph, Kaleb Marquis, Gerrell Martin, Mitchell McMullen, Khalil Murphy, Jamal Olasewere, Kenny Onyechi, Mark Parisi, Gilbert Parga, E.J. Reed, Aakim Saintil, Brandon Thompson, Jonathan Tshibuy, Caylen Williams, Trevin Woods, Trevon Woods, Nura Zanna, Julius van Sauers.

Coaches

Jason Harris, Chuck Bridge, Mark Calzonetti, Jim Mack, Kenyon Spears, Alvin Vivican, Tobe Carberry, Greg Van Pelt, Josh Pelletier

Thank you all.

Thanks also to fellow bloggers who have been a have always been gracious and supportive. The guys at NYC Buckets: John Templon, Ryan Peters and Ray Curren who all do a great job year in and year out. Jaden Daly at Daly Dose Of Hoops who has an incredible amount of energy to cover over 100 games every single season. Plus many others who I have come across in my time on press row writing for this blog.

Many thanks also to Ray Martel and Mike Kerr, the LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball home NEC Front Row broadcast team and the LIU Brooklyn NEC Front Row staff who were very nice to allow me to come on and talk LIU and NEC basketball and promote Blackbirds Hoops Journal on their air. Also, thanks to Gregg Caserta, the voice of LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball, who does a great job calling games.

Finally, I just want to give my thanks to you the reader. Thanks for reading my work for the last five years. Without all of your continual support and returning back for either a game story, NEC notes, whatever the case might be, I wouldn’t have gone this long. Thank you for making Blackbirds Hoops Journal a destination to your day at one point or another. I greatly appreciate the many kind words most of you had for me whether it was in the comments sections, via email or face-to-face at a game. Those thoughts meant a lot to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I don’t plan on this being the end for me. Blackbirds Hoops Journal may be over but I don’t plan on to just stop writing cold turkey. I want to continue writing even if it is in a smaller capacity as a contributor somewhere. The game-to-game stuff might be done for now but I hope to continue covering LIU hoops even if it is in a lesser role and I would also like to try and cover more of the NEC overall.

Not having Blackbirds Hoops Journal will allow me to focus some of my energies on maybe some new things I would like to try. But right now, I’m just going to take things one day at a time and see how things go as I get acclimated to new routines and new schedules which currently has my head spinning and seeking plenty of sleep.

I will continue to be on Twitter @NelCastBHJ although I will likely be changing my twitter handle at some point in the near future so watch out for that.

The blog will remain online until Sunday, April 30.  On Monday, May 1, it will no longer exist.

With that said, it is time to put a bow on it.

This is definitely not a goodbye just a see you later.

Until we meet again Blackbird Nation. I’m out.

2016-17 Jack Perri Photo Gallery

Bob Dea and I decided that in honor of former LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball head coach Jack Perri, we would have one final tribute to him with this photo gallery of him from the 2016-17 season.  [Read more…]

LIU Brooklyn MBB 2016-17 Year in Review Photo Gallery

This past season, Bob Dea chronicled the LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball team through his multiple camera lenses and captured some great stills shots. Here are Bob’s personally-selected best from the 2016-17 season. [Read more…]

2016-17 LIU Gameday Opponent Notes – Game 18 – Central Connecticut State

Opponent Info

Opponent: Central Connecticut State
Nickname: Blue Devils
Conference: NEC
This season’s record: 2-13, 0-4 NEC Recent Game: Loss vs Mount St. Mary’s
Head Coach: Donyell Marshall (1st season)
Current KenPom ranking: 342

Game Information

Location: Steinberg Wellness Center
Time: 7:00 pm
Online: NEC Front Row (PBP -Ray Martel, Color – Mike Kerr)
Live Stats: http://www.sidearmstats.com/liubrooklyn/mbball/

[Read more…]

BHJ Photo Gallery: St. John’s – LIU Brooklyn – December 11, 2016

All photos were taken by Bob Dea for Blackbirds Hoops Journal during St. John’s-LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball game at Barclays Center on December 11, 2016. [Read more…]

2016-17 LIU Gameday Opponent Notes – Game 9 – North Carolina Central

Opponent Info

Opponent: North Carolina Central
Nickname: Eagles
Conference: MEAC
This season’s record:5-3, Recent Game: Loss at East Carolina
Head Coach: LeVelle Moton (8th season)
Current KenPom ranking: 209

Game Information

Location: McLendon-McDougald Gymnasium
Time: 7:00 pm
Game Stream: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/nccu/ ($) $8.95
Live Stats: http://www.sidearmstats.com/nccu/mbball/

[Read more…]

LIU Brooklyn: Building Community Connections Through Basketball

(This is a special edition post written by Michael Randazzo)

FORT GREENE, BROOKLYN. – When the LIU Brooklyn women’s basketball team tips off its 2016-17 basketball season Saturday night against Army at the Steinberg Wellness Center, hundreds of local children will be cheering for the Blackbirds, courtesy of LIU’s Games 4 Gear (G4G) program.

Initiated in the 2011-12 season by LIU’s athletic department, G4G is an innovative approach to community-building in neighborhoods surrounding the university’s downtown Brooklyn campus. Vouchers distributed to elementary schools and community centers located throughout the borough provide local children and their families free admission to certain Blackbird men’s and women’s home basketball games. [Read more…]