Friday, October 11, 2019

JP's 4 Thoughts: Big things ahead for Seton Hall in 2019-20

Myles Powell was all smiles Thursday as he was voted Big East Preseason Player of the Year shortly after his Seton Hall team topped conference's preseason poll. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

NEW YORK -- It seems like only yesterday that Kevin Willard was introduced as the head coach at Seton Hall in 2010. 

Hot on the heels of replacing Bobby Gonzalez, Willard was tasked with returning the Pirates to prominence in the Big East Conference.

Heading into 2019-20, his tenth season in South Orange, the fruits of his labor appear to have come in. At the Big East's annual media day Thursday at Madison Square Garden, Seton Hall was picked to win the conference title by the league's coaches for the first time since 2000, getting half of the first-place votes and edging out perennial favorite Villanova. Superstar guard Myles Powell was also named the conference's Preseason Player of the Year. It is the first time the Pirates have swept the top honors in the preseason poll since 1992, and expectations are officially high in South Orange this winter.

Here are four thoughts from the World's Most Famous Arena:

1. SuperPowell

With the expectations now placed upon both him and the team, I asked Powell how they would handle them, and he was quick to point out that the rigors of the Big East haven't changed despite the higher prognosis.

"We're taking it like we did last year," he said. "I'm telling these guys that the preseason (poll) doesn't mean anything. Last year, we were (picked) eighth. This year, we have the target on our back, and we're going to get everyone's best game. Last year, the conference was decided by one or two games, so we've got to be ready for the battles."  

It's easy to get caught up in the immediate future for Powell and the Pirates, but there have also been moments that have brought the journey over the last four years full circle for the Trenton native, such as when he spotted himself on a highway billboard recently, and pulled over to snap a picture for Instagram.

"That's a dream come true," Powell said. "Especially coming from where I come from. When you're driving around, you always see billboards, and that one kind of caught me off guard. When I saw it, I kind of got teary-eyed, with where I come from, just being a kid from Trenton and to come out and do all this, playing with the players I played with, and for me to be the one who's up on the billboard, that means so much to me."

So, what can we expect for an encore? Powell says a more complete performance.

"Being a leader and making plays for my teammates," he said. "I learned so much playing for the USA in the Pan-Am Games this summer that you don't have to just score the ball to be effective on the court. I can go out and score 35 points, but everyone knows I can do that. If I go out and score 12-13 points, but with nine assists and a couple rebounds and we're winning, that means more to me than just going out and doing what everyone knows I can do."

Considering the maturation of the supporting cast around Powell, that could definitely take place this year. Speaking of which...

2. Sandro Slides Over

The best basketball teams tend to have a balance between inside and outside play. Terry Dehere had Jerry Walker and Anthony Avent. Shaheen Holloway had Samuel Dalembert. Isaiah Whitehead and Khadeen Carrington (and, to a lesser extent, Powell) had Angel Delgado.

Sandro Mamukelashvili could turn into that compliment to Powell this year. Averaging nearly double figures in scoring and rebounding last season while also having to bang with players who edged him out in overall size, Mamu now gets a chance to move back to his natural power forward position, which could allow him to show off more of the stretch-four style game that he was known for. That, in turn, could boost his confidence level, which he admitted would wane at times last year.

"I'm a lot more comfortable right now because Coach is telling me I'm going to have a big year," Mamukelashvili said. "He gives me more confidence, my teammates are giving me more confidence, telling me to keep shooting the ball and not think about my mistakes. I feel like I've grown up mentally. I was getting down on myself (last year), but now I feel more comfortable on the court. I feel like having that trust from my teammates and coaches, and playing my normal position, will give me a boost this year."

Confidence breeds consistency, and with not one, but two shot-blocking presences occupying the paint this year alongside Mamukelashvili in Florida State transfer Ike Obiagu and returning senior Romaro Gill, consistent play from the versatile Mamu would make Seton Hall a very dangerous team.

3. Willard's Bond

The bond between Kevin Willard and his star player is one that feels uncommon, even given that there are lots of coach-player relationships that stand the test of time. When Powell was going through the process of testing the NBA Draft waters this summer, Willard dropped everything and flew out to California to attend his pro day. Both men acknowledged the impact that had on Powell today, and you don't do those types of things without a special connection.

"Every day in practice, he has a level of enthusiasm that's contagious," Willard said of Powell as a player. "You love coaching a kid that loves to be in the gym, you love to coach a kid that wants the big moment. As a person, we've been through a lot together. We've grown together, and I think that's why he is where he is, and that's why our program is where it is.

Powell expounded even more on his bond with his coach.

"I didn't think we could get any closer, but I was wrong," Powell said. "This summer, with helping me through the (NBA Draft) process, with him taking a month away from his family in Peru at the Pan-Am Games with me and Myles (Cale), along with other kids in the Big East, it just showed how much he really cares about the conference and the kids he's dealing with. Coach knows I have his back, and I know he has mine."

"I wouldn't be the Myles Powell I am today if it wasn't for Kevin Willard," he added. "None of this would be possible if it wasn't for him believing in the fat kid that was 250 pounds three years ago."

4. Don't Sleep On Shadeen

The Pirates' men's basketball team isn't the only program that had a spotlight on it today in New York City. Seton Hall women's basketball was picked third in the Big East preseason coaches' poll, and for the first time since 1988, the Pirates also had the Preseason Player of the Year in senior forward Shadeen Samuels. 

Samuels led the Big East in scoring last year en route to being named the Most Improved Player in the league, and that gives Seton Hall both the men's and women's Preseason Players of the Year, a rare feat indeed and something that had not been accomplished in the Big East since 2003.

"I was so excited for her," head coach Tony Bozzella said. "She had to work for all of this, from averaging four points a game as a freshman and not playing in some games, then averaging seven-and-a-half points as a sophomore and going through a lot of ups and downs to where she is today. And she's not just a great offensive player, I think she's the best defensive player in the league, so for her to get the award shows that people have acknowledged how good she is. I give so much credit and the staff for working individually with her. It's easy to say, 'oh, just get better,' but she really has gotten better."

The Pirates as a program have made the postseason in five out of the last six years, building a foundation under the charismatic Bozzella that shows in the development of a player like Samuels, who was relatively unheralded out of high school. That type of development takes time and effort, and that's not lost on Powell.

"Whenever I go back to get extra shots or do something extra, I always see Shadeen right next to me," Powell said. "If it's me going to get extra treatment, or me staying in the weight room a little longer, I always see her. Just to have that in the Seton Hall family, that means a lot to the university. Props to her, too, because she deserves it."

The admiration of the two star players is also mutual between the two programs.

"I'm a big Myles Powell fan," Bozzella said. "I walked in the gym at a quarter to seven this morning and he's shooting. It's media day, he's got to get ready! And he's so respectful, he's such a nice young man. Kevin has not only recruited a bunch of great basketball players, but the kids are really great. They come to our games, our practice, they hold the door for me, they were respectful to my daughter when she was here, they're just a nice bunch of young men. I'm excited for them to do well this year."

Seton Hall men's basketball opens its season on November 5 on campus at Walsh Gymnasium against Wagner at 6:30 p.m., while the women open their campaign the following night at 7:00 against Sacred Heart. If all plays out according to the newfound preseason hype, this could be a winter to remember at The Hall.

Big East Media Day Photo Gallery

Photos from Big East Men's and Women's Basketball Media Day, on October 10, 2019:

(All photos by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Seton Hall picked to win Big East for first time since 1992-93, Powell voted Preseason Player of the Year

Myles Powell's senior season begins with Big East Preseason Player of the Year honors as his Seton Hall team was voted consensus choice to win conference for first time in nearly three decades. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

NEW YORK -- Before it even began, the 2019-20 season was already one in which the proverbial bar for Seton Hall would be raised to a level rivaling the Prudential Center rafters.

The Pirates got a preliminary firsthand look at the sky-high expectations Thursday morning.

For just the third time in program history and first since the 2000-01 season, Seton Hall was selected as the consensus No. 1 team in the Big East Conference preseason coaches' poll, receiving 77 points to pace the field, one clear of perennial league powerhouse Villanova, which enters a retooling phase on the heels of two national championships in four years and the graduations of Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. The return of senior guard Myles Powell after a dominant junior campaign, coupled with the emergence of fellow senior Quincy McKnight; as well as juniors Sandro Mamukelashvili and Myles Cale, has Seton Hall primed for what could very well be a banner season in a year where the NCAA Tournament's East Regional -- a definite goal for this iteration of the Pirates -- returns to Madison Square Garden, a second home of sorts for the program in the latter of half of this decade.

In addition to being revealed as the pick to win the Big East, the Pirates also garnered further recognition in the form of Powell being named the conference's Preseason Player of the Year as he embarks upon his coda to a career that has taken root as one of the greatest tenures in and around South Orange through just three seasons. Powell was the driving force behind Seton Hall going from an eighth-place prognostication at this time last year to its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, galvanizing the Pirates down the stretch on the way to averaging 23.1 points per game and ultimately earning the Haggerty Award, bestowed annually upon the best player in the New York area, as voted by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association. The Trenton native now seeks to become just the third Seton Hall player to be named Big East Player of the Year at season's end, where he -- should he capture the honor -- would join program greats Dan Callandrillo (1981-82) and Terry Dehere (1992-93) as recipients of this illustrious accolade.

Certain to be ranked among the Top 25 teams in the nation when the preseason polls are officially released later this month, Seton Hall will face a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule as Kevin Willard enters his tenth season at the helm, a frequent occurrence in recent years. The Pirates' latest non-league slate, though, headlined by a November 14 showdown with potential No. 1 Michigan State in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, may be the most daunting in program history, let alone in Willard's tenure. Marquee matchups against Maryland and Iowa State are also on tap, as well as a trip to the Bahamas to compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis, where Seton Hall could face off against the likes of Gonzaga and North Carolina depending on how the Pirates fare in the tournament bracket.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Breaking down Manhattan’s non-conference schedule

Steve Masiello returns one of his most experienced teams to Manhattan, where Jaspers will attempt to return to NCAA Tournament for first time since 2015. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Steve Masiello’s ninth season at the helm of Manhattan College will begin with nine games that will afford the Jaspers the opportunity to experience a multitude of varying degrees of competition before transitioning into Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play in January.
“We’re very excited about this upcoming basketball season in Riverdale,” Masiello remarked when the Jaspers’ non-league slate was released Monday afternoon, an appetizer in which Manhattan will begin its quest to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015, and overturn a stretch in which the program has gone 48-78 since a veteran core led by Emmy Andujar and Ashton Pankey delivered a second consecutive MAAC championship – and fifth in program history – to the Bronx to further establish Masiello as a rising star and proven tactician in the coaching ranks. “We will be challenged throughout the non-conference schedule, not only by terrific basketball teams, but also by playing six of nine on the road, which we feel will prepare us for; as always, a difficult 20-game MAAC schedule.”
One added benefit for Manhattan, which contests six of its nine non-conference games away from Draddy Gymnasium, is the experience that returns to the hardwood this season, arguably the most battle-tested group that Masiello has had since assuming the reins in 2011. Senior forward Tyler Reynolds and burgeoning sophomore big man Warren Williams are joined by a healthy Pauly Paulicap going into the November 12 season opener against Delaware State, and a backcourt that improved its offense and discipline as last season progressed is anchored by diminutive point guard Samir Stewart, whose skill set will undoubtedly increase in what should be his first full season as a starter.
Beginning on November 12, when the Jaspers officially raise the curtain on the 2019-20 campaign, and ending on December 22 with a local skirmish against Hofstra, we now go into further detail on each team taking the floor against the residents of Riverdale, setting the table for the January 3 MAAC opener against Canisius in Buffalo:
Delaware State: Tuesday, November 12 – Draddy Gymnasium
Manhattan opens its season at home by welcoming the Hornets, whose last high-profile trip to New York resulted in an upset victory over St. John’s in 2016, to the Bronx as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference outfit joins St. Francis Brooklyn and Elon as initial opponents for the Jaspers. Both of Delaware State’s leading scorers from last season have since graduated, but point guard Pinky Wiley, the Hornets’ assist leader with over four helpers per game on average a year ago, steps into the anchor role as he begins his final go-round in the First State. Forwards D’Marco Baucum and Ameer Bennett, a junior and senior, respectively, will likely be double-figure scorers after combining to post an average of 17 points and seven rebounds collectively per game last year.
Did You Know? This season marks the fifth in the last six that Manhattan will face a MEAC program. The Jaspers engaged in a four-year series with Morgan State from 2014 to 2017, with Shane Richards breaking the school record for career three-point field goals in the first installment of the contract with the Bears.
Albany: Saturday, November 16 – Draddy Gymnasium
The Great Danes, a longtime America East Conference power over the past decade, went through a rebuilding season en route to an uncharacteristic 12-20 record this past year, but the status quo will be closer to reality in the Capital Region this season under the steady hand of Will Brown, whose clash with Masiello will be sure to be intense on the defensive end with a survival-of-the-fittest mentality. Six of UAlbany’s top seven scorers return for Brown this season, led by sophomore Australian sharpshooter Cameron Healy and senior guard Ahmad Clark, who led the Great Danes with 21 points in last year’s season opener against eventual MAAC champion Iona. Sophomore guard Antonio Rizzuto will be an efficient complement to Healy, whose fellow countryman, sophomore Adam Lulka, will be the force down low that Brown was accustomed to receiving from Richard Peters and Greig Stire in years past.
Did You Know? Masiello made his postseason coaching debut against Albany, from which he emerged victorious after Manhattan defeated the Great Danes by the final of 89-79 at SEFCU Arena in the 2012 Postseason Tournament.
Samford: Tuesday, November 19 – Pete Hanna Center, Birmingham, Ala.
The second first-time opponent on Manhattan’s ledger is Samford, out of the Southern Conference, and the Bulldogs possess a potential SoCon Player of the Year in 5-foot-10 senior point guard Josh Sharkey, a Philadelphia-tough warrior who averaged over 16 points and seven assists per game last season. Fellow seniors Brandon Austin and Myron Gordon, each double-figure scorers in their own right last year, will once again be Sharkey’s complements in the backcourt, while sophomore forward Robert Allen is a double-double waiting to happen after posting averages of nearly ten points and over eight rebounds in his rookie campaign. If you’re looking for a deceptively strong non-conference game early in the season that will serve the Jaspers well later in the year, circle and highlight this one on your calendar.
Did You Know? Although Manhattan and Samford are meeting for the first time in the history of the two schools, this maiden contest will seem like a family affair. Samford head coach Scott Padgett was Masiello’s college teammate at Kentucky, where the two won the 1998 national championship together (Masiello and Padgett, along with Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards, give the Wildcats three active head coaches from that team), while Padgett’s associate head coach, Shawn Finney, was on Masiello’s staff for two years at Manhattan, and also gave Masiello his first coaching job as an administrative assistant at Tulane in 2000.
Elon: Saturday, November 23 – Schar Center, Elon, N.C.
The Phoenix have a new head coach in Mike Schrage, the one-time director of basketball operations at Duke before spending eight years on Johnny Dawkins’ staff at Stanford and the past three with Chris Holtmann at Butler and Ohio State. Schrage replaces Matt Matheny, and will need to shepherd a team that enters the season having to replace each of its four leading scorers from last year. In the absence of the quartet of graduated seniors, junior guard Nathan Priddy, a marksman from Texas, becomes the focal point of the offense now, with sophomore forward Chuck Hannah hoping to improve upon an efficient freshman season in which the Bostonian shot over 51 percent from the floor.
Did You Know? The return game from last year’s season opener for the Jaspers is Manhattan’s first in North Carolina since 2013, when a Masiello team led by Michael Alvarado, George Beamon and Rhamel Brown defeated UNC Wilmington en route to a MAAC championship and near-upset of Louisville in the NCAA Tournament.
Rhode Island: Wednesday, November 27 – Ryan Center, Kingston, R.I.
Now in his second year as successor to Dan Hurley, David Cox continues to maintain the upward mobility in the Rams’ program, building toward a future equally as impressive as its present. Each of Rhode Island’s five starters returns to Kingston this season, led by the senior duo of point guard Jeff Dowtin, Jr. and bruising big man Cyril Langevine. Junior guard Fatts Russell should be even more explosive this season than his first two campaigns have shown, while forward Jermaine Harris and wing Tyrese Martin could be among the biggest breakout freshman-to-sophomore jumps in the nation.
Did You Know? The last time Manhattan faced Rhode Island, Bobby Gonzalez was still at the helm, in his final season before departing for Seton Hall. The Jaspers fell by just nine points on December 6, 2005, coming up short in a 78-69 encounter. Also, Masiello and Cox are no strangers to one another, having served as assistant coaches in the Big East Conference at the same time. While Masiello served under Rick Pitino at Louisville, Cox fortified his strong recruiting ties under Jamie Dixon at Pitt, John Thompson III at Georgetown, and Mike Rice at Rutgers.
Stony Brook: Monday, December 2 – Island Federal Credit Union Arena, Stony Brook, N.Y.
The Seawolves have a new head coach, as former assistant Geno Ford moves over one chair to replace Jeff Boals, who filled the vacancy at his alma mater, Ohio University. Ford must also figure out how to replace Akwasi Yeboah, the senior forward who transferred to Rutgers for his final season of eligibility, but to his benefit, he retains the services of Elijah Olaniyi and Miles Latimer, who enter their junior and sophomore seasons, respectively. Junior wing Andrew Garcia will be a potential X-factor, and 6-foot-11 junior Jeff Otchere could be the best interior presence Manhattan will have to deal with before league play.
Did You Know? Stony Brook has won each of the past two meetings with the Jaspers, most recently a 69-62 victory at Draddy Gymnasium last December. The first of two trips to Long Island for Manhattan will be its first at Island Federal Credit Union Arena since it was renovated during the 2013-14 season.
Fordham: Saturday, December 7 – Rose Hill Gymnasium, Bronx, N.Y.
The 112th edition of the Battle of the Bronx will play out at historic Rose Hill, where Fordham has defended its home floor in each of the past two meetings with Manhattan. Leading scorer Nick Honor, whose last-second jumper at Draddy Gymnasium turned out to be the game-winning basket last December, has since transferred to Clemson, but the Rams still possess a cadre of guards capable of taking over any game. Antwon Portley, a longtime Jasper nemesis from his days at Saint Peter’s, enters his senior season with the ancillary options of sophomore Jalen Cobb and Ty Perry alongside him in the backcourt, but the question mark for Fordham lies in its front line. If Chuba Ohams and Onyi Eyisi can stay healthy, they – along with perimeter threat Ivan Raut and Stepinac product Joel Soriano, a 6-foot-9 freshman – will be able to match the Manhattan interior in what should be a physical contest in every sense of the word.
Did You Know? Fordham has won four of the last six meetings with Manhattan, and head coach Jeff Neubauer is 3-1 against the Jaspers since replacing Tom Pecora. Also, in each of the four years that the Battle of the Bronx has been contested in December during Masiello’s tenure, Manhattan has yet to allow more than 57 points to its intraborough brethren.
Western Michigan: Saturday, December 14 – Draddy Gymnasium
The last of Manhattan’s three first-time opponents this season is also the last of three home games before MAAC play begins, and it comes against the Broncos, of the Mid-American Conference, a team coming off an eight-win season and needing to replace three of its four leading scorers. Junior guard Michael Flowers, who averaged almost 16 points per contest last season, should have mounds of opportunities to pad that total this year, as will senior sharpshooter Jared Printy, whose older brother, Jordan, played at Indiana State earlier in the decade.
Did You Know? Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins, now in his 17th season at the helm in Kalamazoo, began his tenure at Western Michigan the same year that Manhattan won its last NCAA Tournament game, in 2003-04.
Hofstra: Sunday, December 22 – David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex, Hempstead, N.Y.
A familiar opponent for the Jaspers closes out the non-league ledger, as Hofstra welcomes Manhattan into Nassau County for the seventh meeting between the two schools in Masiello’s nine seasons. The Pride will begin life without the irreplaceable Justin Wright-Foreman this season after the two-time Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year was drafted by the Utah Jazz and subsequently signed a two-way contract, but Joe Mihalich comes prepared this season with a quartet of guards in Eli Pemberton, Desure Buie, Jalen Ray and Tareq Coburn, the latter of whom was perhaps the biggest key to Hofstra’s 30-point victory in Riverdale last season due to his floor spacing and perimeter shooting. Up front, Georgia transfer Isaac Kante, along with incumbent Stafford Trueheart, will be tasked with picking up where Jacquil Taylor left off protecting the rim and defending the paint for a Hofstra team whose defensive intensity improved by leaps and bounds over the past two campaigns.
Did You Know? Although Hofstra defeated a Masiello-coached team for the first time last December, the Jasper coach has still yet to lose a non-conference game on Long Island in his head coaching career.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Upward mobility continues on for Quinnipiac in year three under Dunleavy

Now entering his third year at Quinnipiac, Baker Dunleavy has evolved in lockstep with his program, which looks to be among MAAC’s upper echelon again this season. (Photo by Morgan Tencza/Quinnipiac Chronicle)

With a pair of successful seasons in each of Baker Dunleavy’s first two campaigns at the helm, Quinnipiac got exactly what it wanted when it tabbed the then-34-year-old to lead its men’s basketball program in 2017. But for all the progress made in returning the Bobcats into a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference competitor, there remains a sense of not only unfinished business, but also a firm belief that the best truly is yet to come in Hamden for a rising star who continues to evolve in his own role as the developer of an up-and-coming unit.

“You learn a lot about yourself and a lot about your players, how you respond to situations as the games progress,” Dunleavy said as Quinnipiac prepares for a season in which it will be expected to be forwardly placed within the MAAC by taking a three-game trip to Canada that begins Thursday evening. “I felt like in year two, we handled a lot of situations better than we did in year one, and that’s a good sign. We’re certainly not where we want to be, but we feel like if we can continue to maintain this growth, we’re going to do some good things.”

“I think I’ve learned the things that I thought as an assistant at Villanova translated into being a head coach at a different level, and you learn some of the things that you’ve got to tweak and adjust based on some of the factors that are different. A little bit of it is trial and error, a little bit of it is having a good staff that can help you through certain situations and choices, and I certainly have that.”

An integral part of the Bobcats’ leap last year — one that saw Quinnipiac finish tied for second place in the regular season MAAC standings — was the emergence and evolution of Cameron Young into the conference’s leading scorer and player of the year, coupled with the development of Rich Kelly and Jacob Rigoni into legitimate team leaders as opposed to ancillary options. Young has since moved into the professional ranks, but his ascent into the standard-bearer for Dunleavy’s system and its potential has left an indelible mark on Quinnipiac’s identity as life after its offensive rock begins.

“Cam is obviously a very unique story, and at the core of it is just how good of a player he is,” Dunleavy reiterated. “That’s the main thing. There is a void in terms of the numbers, but that’s not all the game is. The roles will shift across the board, so we’ll lean more on the experience of Rich Kelly and Jake Rigoni. Tyrese Williams started 30 games as a freshman, we’re bringing Aaron Falzon in as a fifth-year transfer, Kevin Marfo’s been in college for three years now, so it’s across the board. We feel good about it, especially the fact that we know what we have.”

Falzon, a New England native who returns home by way of Northwestern, and Marfo — the George Washington transfer who was the MAAC’s leading rebounder at one point last season before being derailed by a knee injury — will take on the joint task of replacing Abdulai Bundu in the Bobcats’ four-out, one-in attack, and Dunleavy seems satisfied with the early returns of having experience on the front line in a conference that has gotten progressively younger over the past two seasons.

“Kevin can be a special player,” he said with regard to Marfo, who is now operating at 100 percent. “I think he can be one of the best rebounders in the country, and his game offensively is developing. But replacing Abdulai is like replacing Cam, just in a different way. To replace that edge that he brought every day in practice is going to be hard. I think at this level, you value continuity and experience.”

“Aaron hasn’t been on our roster before, but he’s got great experience and he’s got great intelligence. He’s a team player and he’ll want to fit into what we do, he’ll want to get into our mold, and that’s important when you bring somebody in for one year. The fit’s gotta be there, the mentality’s gotta be right, or it could definitely blow up on you. We trust that a guy like Aaron is in it for the right reasons. He believes in what we’re doing and he’s a pure team guy, and we’re lucky to have him.”

Experience comes in all shapes and sizes on this year’s Bobcat squad, even in the form of Williams, a sophomore who was a MAAC All-Rookie selection last year that gave Dunleavy the option of shifting Kelly off the ball or playing him at the point while Williams got his repetitions in offensively. With one year under his belt, the combination facet of Williams and Kelly has given Quinnipiac a two-dimensional backcourt that promises to win more games than it may have lost in months and years past, as well as the long-awaited arrival of Matt Balanc and Savion Lewis to the plethora of guards after both redshirted last year.

“Both of those guys, very similarly as freshmen, we kind of threw them to the fire,” said Dunleavy of Williams and Kelly. “We started them, were dedicated to them and played them through mistakes, and because of that, they’re more equipped to go into the battles as sophomores and juniors. We think they could be a good backcourt for us in our league, and they’re guys that’ll stick together for the next couple of years.”

“I’m really excited about what both those guys can bring, especially because they’ve both been in our program,” he added when highlighting the potential impact of Balanc and Lewis. “They see what’s expected in practice, and even on the bench in games, and now they’ll get a taste of it themselves. I think Matt and Savion both bring incredible energy and athleticism to the game, the ability to really break down a defense off the dribble and defensively pressure people — something we haven’t really had — and I think that’s exciting.”

In addition to Balanc and Lewis, Quinnipiac’s rookie class includes a trio of true freshmen highlighted by seven-foot center Seth Pinkney of Philadelphia — whom Dunleavy praised as a rare commodity in the MAAC given his size and length — as well as 6-foot-7 forward Brendan McGuire of Long Island and a second Philadelphian in Jamil Riggins, a 6-foot-6 wing who can play three positions on the floor at any given time. All in all, the influx of talent blended with the established incumbent pieces has shown — if nothing else — that the Bobcats may not miss a beat no matter how irreplaceable Young may be to this roster.

“We’ve got a lot of competition within the roster,” Dunleavy observed. “We’ve got an energetic group that’s gonna play hard, play fast, shoot a lot of threes and spread it out. If we can combine all those things, I think we can have a really great year. We’ve got great chemistry, the guys like each other, but there’s competition for spots, which I think makes everybody better.”

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Evaluating Mike Anderson’s first 100 days at St. John’s

Since replacing Chris Mullin in April, Mike Anderson has turned murky St. John’s future into reasonable optimism as Red Storm prepares to navigate 2019-20 season. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

St. John’s hire of Mike Anderson this past April as its newest head men’s basketball coach raised eyebrows across the country, and was met by more than a fair share of critics who not only panned athletic director Mike Cragg’s decision to hire a coach who — despite having never had a losing season in his 17-year career — had no ties to the New York area, and whose furthest northern foray into Division I had been his five-year stint at the University of Missouri; but also, the meandering search process that filled the gap between Chris Mullin’s resignation and Anderson’s arrival, a circuitous journey in which three candidates turned down offers — and one other, Iona’s Tim Cluess, a logical fit given his success with the Gaels and family history at St. John’s — removed himself from consideration.

Since his April 19 press conference, though, Anderson has gone about his business in his new locale the same way he has in each of his three prior head coaching stops, actively recruiting and developing his incumbent talent. The grinder mentality has helped dispel the notion that St. John’s would be rebuilding in the 2019-20 season, as several key pieces remain from last year’s NCAA Tournament outfit to help shepherd the transition into a new era of Red Storm basketball. And just as every new President of the United States is usually evaluated for the first time after his first hundred days on the job, so too is Mike Anderson through a similar timeframe eclipsed this weekend on the corner of Union and Utopia:

With a coach admittedly unfamiliar with St. John’s Northeast territory, hiring assistant coaches well acquainted with the terrain was essential to the Red Storm’s short-term survival. Aside from longtime deputy TJ Cleveland, Anderson addressed that need with the additions of Van Macon and Steve DeMeo, both New York natives who served under Tom Pecora and Mo Cassara, respectively, at Hofstra. Macon also has Big East experience from his time under Mike Rice at Rutgers, and has already been active on the recruiting trail, as has DeMeo. Chris Huey, Mullin’s former graduate assistant, was held over as the new director of basketball operations, and former NBA player Paul Pressey was brought in as Anderson’s special assistant, lending further gravitas to a staff that could prove to be one of the more underrated units in the Big East.

After Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon both elected to forgo their senior seasons, coupled with the graduation of Marvin Clark, recruiting was a major point of emphasis for the Red Storm, and the coaching change forced Anderson to hit the ground running. In his three short months, Anderson shored up the massive point guard hole created by Ponds’ exodus, signing freshman John McGriff and backing it up with the arrival of graduate transfer Nick Rutherford by way of Monmouth. St. John’s is also currently planning to host former St. Francis Brooklyn combo guard Rasheem Dunn — a high school teammate of Ponds at Thomas Jefferson in Brooklyn — for a visit this week after Dunn transferred from Cleveland State. In the frontcourt, junior college arrival Damien Sears is a 6-foot-7, 230-pound bruiser who can be a deceptive rebounding threat, and Bishop Loughlin forward Julian Champagnie reclassified a year early to play for his father’s alma mater.

As far as the incumbent roster, Anderson’s biggest commitments were received in the form of both Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa — the Red Storm’s most productive returning players — coming back to Queens for their senior and junior seasons, respectively. The duo will most likely garner preseason all-Big East honors while a supporting cast led by burgeoning sophomores Josh Roberts and Greg Williams continues to develop.

The majority of St. John’s slate was formulated before Mullin’s departure in April, so Anderson inherits a non-league ledger that features a neutral-site game against Arizona and a potential matchup with reigning national champion Virginia in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena, not to mention former Big East adversary West Virginia at Madison Square Garden.. Solid foes such as perennial America East contender Vermont are also on a schedule that will see mounds of opportunities for early wins for a program hoping to establish itself as often as possible before conference play begins.

This is arguably the most distinct difference between Mullin and Anderson, as the new Red Storm coach has made sure either he or his assistants have checked in at almost every major offseason recruiting event this spring and summer, gaining valuable face time for an oft-forgotten program on the national scene. This was something Mullin and his staff had become maligned for over the years, after the St. John’s legend boasted about knowing how to get to every gym in the area. With all due respect, it did land Shamorie Ponds in red and white, but the majority of early returns have Anderson exceeding expectations thus far, as a bevy of 2020 and 2021 recruits have continued to keep the Red Storm high among their lists.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

CHSAA June Team Camp notebook: Updates, standouts

By Eugene Rapay (@Erapay5)
Special To Daly Dose Of Hoops

Archbishop Stepinac's R.J. Davis talks 2019 recruiting surge, Marquette, Georgetown visits

He's played alongside current Illinois player Alan Griffin, and his younger brother Adrian (A.J.), a five-star player in the class of 2021.

While Archbishop Stepinac is well aware of his value and what he is able to bring to the court with his energy, scoring ability, and athleticism, sometimes spectators from the outside don't get to see it, as the Griffin brothers receive most of the buzz. However, this year, things are starting to change, as college programs start to notice and the scholarship offers begin to pile up for rising senior R.J. Davis.

"As proud of I am, it's the hard work he's put into it, his family, and his mentality to stay focused at a crazy time in his life," Crusader head coach Pat Massaroni said of Davis' recruitment, which has now grown to over 20 offers, with 11 coming in since January 1. "I'm proud as his coach, I'm also proud of him and his ability to defend and lead. We all know he can score, but he's grown to do so much more for himself during this offseason."

Massaroni continued: "I think he's been a man on a mission that's kind of been underrated. He doesn't speak about it, but I can see it in him that he's been underrated. Now, the nation is seeing what he is and the level he can get to."

Since the New Year, Davis has fielded offers from Cincinnati, Iona, Georgetown, Providence, Pittsburgh, Indiana, Marquette, Northwestern, Florida, UCLA, and Vanderbilt, adding to a collection that also includes St. John's, Seton Hall, Fordham, Maryland, Manhattan, and many others.

He doesn't plan on trimming that list any time soon, and it could possibly grow to include North Carolina and Kansas in the coming weeks. Both schools were in to see Davis, with UNC assistant coach Hubert Davis in to see him Saturday afternoon and the Jayhawks scheduled to see him on Sunday. Of the bunch, he’s only visited two schools: Georgetown and Marquette.

"It was a good experience for both schools," Davis said of his recent visits. "They had a great campus, great coaching staff for both schools. Both schools were very welcoming, which I liked, working to continue to build a relationship."

Davis hopes to go somewhere that he is able to make an impact right away. As schools begin to take notice of the way he is able to score at all three levels of the floor, evolve into a tenacious defender, and a floor general, it will be interesting to see who else will step into the recruiting picture and what schools he will be eyeing more closely.

Cardinal Hayes' big man Shemani Fuller discusses first Division I, MAAC offers

With star point guard Joe Toussaint graduated and headed for Iowa, Cardinal Hayes is in search of a new leader. 

As 2021 guard Jaylen Murray was unavailable on Saturday, 6-foot-9 rising senior Shemani Fuller looked to make his case to step into the forefront as one of the veterans and biggest players on the court.

With his imposing size and athleticism, Fuller bullied the opposing St. Francis Prep Terriers, helping lead the way in a hard-fought victory. Fuller made his impression known with his powerful slam dunks and ability to clean up the glass.

His work throughout the offseason helped culminate in his first-ever Division I offers.

"It feels great, I've been patient," Fuller said of breaking into the Division I conversation. "I'm happy that my work is finally being seen. You don't honestly know how hard I've been working. I'm just glad that people are starting to see what I'm capable of. I haven't touched the surface yet, of what I could do."

Earlier this month, Rider and Quinnipiac offered the Cardinal Hayes big man.

"They said that they like me and that they would love to have me in their program," Fuller said. "They came to watch me today and yesterday. Rider said the same thing, they love how I play and stuff."

Fuller says that he's also received interest from Saint Peter's, Fordham, Iona, and New Hampshire.

St. Peter's Liam Murphy dazzles with 30-point shooting performance

6-foot-7 wing Liam Murphy (2020/St. Peter's) has been studying NBA players like Klay Thompson and Luka Doncic closely.

The Eagles' rising senior has a reputation for his ability to shoot the ball, flashing a smooth stroke whenever the ball is in his hands. In Saturday's game against Holy Cross, he surely put on his best impression of those NBA snipers.

Murphy finished with 30 points in St. Peter's win over Holy Cross, playing with every bit of confidence and swagger that comes with being a sharpshooter. By no means did this confidence show up in celebrations or through showboating -- Murphy is far from that of player -- but instead quietly with the shot selection. Murphy was taking and making shots from well beyond the arc. Even with a hand in his face or in tight pressure, Murphy found a way to put the ball through the hoop and did so from almost anywhere on the court.

"I'm putting up hundreds of thousands of shots per day," Murphy said of his greatest strength on the court. "My whole game is built off my shot. I want to keep learning the counters and just study the game -- and good shooters like Klay Thompson, Luka Doncic -- guys like that, just be able to play off my shot and make the game easier for everybody around me."

Murphy says he currently has offers from Arkansas-Little Rock, Saint Louis, LIU Brooklyn, American, Rider, and Lafayette. He's also received interest and has visited Ivy League schools. He says finding the balance between high academics and athletics will be crucial in selecting a school

"The highest academic, I really want to get a major and be able to kind of do something in the business workforce," Murphy said of his dream school. "I'm looking to go into economics and finance and get the best basketball experience, build a great bond with the guys and the coaches, and ultimately get that great degree from one of the schools."

Quick Hits:

-- Archbishop Stepinac five-star 2021 wing Adrian 'A.J.' Griffin emerged as one of the top talents in the New York area and in the entire country. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, he was unable to catch a piece of the weekend's action. He was there to support his teammates on Friday night, however, and was unavailable for the rest of the weekend. He also thinks this injury will hamper his ability to play in next month's Peach Jam. Griffin sustained a back injury during his 18-point performance to help the Team USA U-16 team capture the Gold Medal in the FIBA U-16 Tournament in Brazil over Canada. Griffin recently received a spree of offers from Duke, Villanova, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Michigan, and Kansas, adding to his count that also includes a number of other local schools in the tri-state area like Manhattan, St. John's, Seton Hall, Fordham, Rutgers, and UConn.

-- Malcolm Chimezie (2021/Archbishop Stepinac) is back in a groove after recently returning to basketball in mid-May after a surgery to remove a knee tumor had sidelined him for two months. The 6-foot-8 bruising forward made an impact in Stepinac's victory over St. Peter's, proving to be an anchor on both ends of the floor. An athletic forward that prides himself on rebounding and cleaning the glass, while demonstrating an improving ability to see the floor and pass out of the low block, Chimezie and his coaches hope to see a surge in his play and recruitment once he is fully re-acclimated to playing and improves now that he is fully healthy. He currently holds offers from Saint Peter's, Canisius, Bryant, Marist, and Manhattan. Chimezie says he's also heard from Holy Cross and a number of local schools like Hofstra, Columbia, Fordham, and Stony Brook.

-- It's never easy running with a short bench, but that's all Mount St. Michael had on Saturday night. With only six players suited up, it was locked in a close battle with camp host Archbishop Molloy. Ibrahim Wattara (2020/Mount St. Michael) was a key player, almost never taking a minute off. A 6-foot-5 wing, Wattara is a high-flyer. He has great leaping ability and excels at attacking the basket. While he's not the quickest, he makes up for with his fearlessness, the way he is able to finish strong over traffic and his dunking ability. Wattara currently has offers from Iona, Bryant, and a new one from Saint Peter's.

-- Basketball might be a tall man's game, but don't tell Darrell Victory (2022/St. Francis Prep) that. The 5-foot-6 rising sophomore was a sparkplug off the bench, helping St. Francis Prep almost complete a comeback against Cardinal Hayes. St. Francis was trailing by nearly 20 points before the Terriers started rallying back in the second half. Victory came up with crucial second half points, with his scrappy nature on defense -- generating turnovers and flying out in transition -- to also demonstrating the ability to finish in traffic and knock down the three-point shot. He's still young and has plenty of time to grow, but his quickness and tenacious approach will provide him with a great foundation early on. St. Francis Prep ultimately lost by three, but Victory's second-half effort did not go unnoticed.

-- St. Raymond's 2021 point guard Malachi Smith is hoping to break out and be the next talented guard to come out of the Bronx and the Ravens' storied program. He scored 18 points in St. Raymond's lopsided win over Holy Cross. A quick, elusive 6-foot point guard with solid vision, Smith is a weapon in transition. In the half-court, he's got a quick first step and can burst past his defender. He's unafraid of contact and doesn't get gunshy when it comes to moving through traffic. While he needs to work on being more consistent with scoring and finishing, the potential is there for Smith. He currently holds offers from UMass, Iona, Saint Peter's and Stony Brook. Rutgers, Oklahoma State, Illinois, Morgan State, Colorado, Seton Hall, Manhattan, and Syracuse also came in to see him.

-- Christ the King's Moussa Cisse was unavailable to play at the CHSAA Team Camp. The rising junior is one of the top prospects in the country, ranked as a consensus five-star recruit. He currently has offers from Georgetown, Georgia, UConn, and Pitt.