LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds: 25-8 (16-2 NEC), Regular Season and Conference Champions
Michael Culpo, G – 31.5 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG
Arnold Mayorga, F – 9.8 MPG, 2.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG
Pete Aguilar (transfer) – 1.8 MPG, 0.8 PPG, 0.6 RPG
Robinson Odoch Opong (transfer) – 3.9 MPG, 1.2 PPG, 0.6 RPG
D.J. Griggs, 6’0″, G, Lake Jackson, TX
E.J. Reed, 6’5″, SF, Mesquite, TX
It’s rare that a team that has won back-to-back titles returns almost all of its key pieces, but that’s the situation that LIU Brooklyn will encounter as it goes for the NEC’s first ever threepeat in 2012-13. Gone are a few faces, most notably Michael Culpo, Arnold Mayorga and head coach Jim Ferry, but the beat of the Blackbirds marches on.
New head coach Jack Perri has been around the program for the past seven seasons. So there’s continuity there. As Culpo did last season, new players will step up to fill the void. Two players that will get an impact to make an impact are newcomers D.J. Griggs and E.J. Reed. Both were on LIU’s campus during the summer preparing for the upcoming season along with seasoned veterans like Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere.
“It was good to help get their feet wet,” Perri said about the summer sessions. “We usually don’t have our freshmen come in beforehand.”
Unfortunately, one freshman that didn’t come in was Taurean Waller-Prince. The 6’7″ forward originally committed to LIU, but will be attending Baylor this fall. That has left Perri with one additional scholarship, which he intends to fill before the season starts. LIU hopes to fill-in some more depth on the wing with their final slot.
“We need to fill the final scholarship before the season because of lies ahead next year,” Perri said. “We already have six scholarships for next year with all the graduations. We have some good guys that we’re involved with right now.”
In the meantime Griggs and Reed are getting to learn on the job and prepare for their roles in the LIU rotation. Griggs, a 6’0″ playmaker is more of a combo guard at this point in his career. He was a scorer in high school and averaged over 22 points per game during his final high school season. He’s also got the potential to be an excellent defensive player. That’s where he could find his niche during his first season behind C.J. Garner and Jason Brickman.
Reed on the other hand has a bigger body at 6’5″. He also has an excellent motor and was considered by higher level programs with offers from TCU and Wichita State before settling on LIU. Reed has been very impressive during summer workouts.
“He’s got a great motor,” Perri said about Reed. “He’s been tremendous during workouts and he’s really picked up on things. He’s a little unique for a freshman. I have to find a way to get him some time early on.”
Of course, in an ideal world Perri would avoid using any of his freshmen too much this season. Brandon Thompson is expected to slide into Culpo’s role as the third guard in the starting lineup and the hope is that 6’6″ redshirt sophomore Troy Joseph can make an impact after having last season ended by microfracture surgery. Perri also mentioned that both Garner and Thompson have been preparing hard for their roles this off season.
In fact, maybe the change to a new coach has helped refocus the Blackbirds as they prepare to go for an unprecedented third season of winning both the regular season and tournament titles.
“It was like clockwork with our individual workouts,” Perri said. “With a new voice they’ve gotten a little more amped up and have worked a little harder. After the first title they didn’t have the same urgency that I have this year. Maybe it’s because this is it.”
This is it for six seniors, but LIU is hoping these two Texans help form the basis for a successful future.