NEC Team Primer: #6 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds

Head Coach: Jack Perri, 2nd season (20-14, 12-6 NEC)
Last Season: 20-14 (12-6 NEC), lost to James Madison in the NCAA tournament first round
RPI/KenPom: 173/191
NEC Preseason Poll: 4th out of 10 teams
State of Programs: Rebuilding (but hungry)
Starters Returning: 2
Key Loss(es): Jamal Olasewere (18.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.5 spg, NEC Player of the Year), C.J. Garner (16.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.6 spg), Brandon Thompson (8.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Booker Hucker (5.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg), Kenny Onyechi (4.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
Incoming Players: Nura Zanna (F), Iverson Fleming (G), Joel Hernandez (G), Landon Atterberry (F), Glenn Feidanga (F/C), Chris Carter (F)

LIU-BlackbirdsProjected Starting Lineup:
PG: Jason Brickman (9.5 ppg, 8.5 apg, 2.2 A/TO ratio)
G: Gerrell Martin (3.7 ppg, 41.2% 3pt%)
G: Gilbert Parga (sat out last season)
F: E.J. Reed (7.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
F: Landon Atterberry (Jr. JUCO transfer)

Key Reserves: Troy Joseph (G/F), Chris Carter (F), Julian Boyd (F – Jan. return), Iverson Fleming (G)

Major Storylines:

  • Boyd Battling Back – Julian Boyd has been dealt some tough blows during his collegiate career. He’s missed time for his heart and his knee. Granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after injuring his knee against Rice last season, Boyd worked all the way back before tearing the same on in July. Now he’s trying to get healthy enough to contribute for one final run by the Blackbirds.
  • Fantastic Four-Peat – LIU has won three consecutive NEC tournament titles and advanced to the NCAA tournament each time. Last year it was thanks to the excellent tournament play of Jamal Olasewere and C.J. Garner. The Blackbirds even got to clinch on their home court again thanks to Mount St. Mary’s upsetting Robert Morris during the tournament. The Blackbirds have a chance to do something without precedent in the NEC – win four straight titles. It’s definitely not going to be easy. The team has now lost many of the key pieces of those championship teams.
  • The Injury Bug Bites Fast – As if losing Boyd until January wasn’t enough, the Blackbirds lost star freshman forward Nurra Zana for the season due to a wrist injury. Ryan Peters laid out all of their other injury problems. Thanks to the misfortune health wise, Perri hasn’t been able to practice a full roster this preseason. That could be a real problem for a team loaded with newcomers.

The Skinny:

Here we are again. Another season. Another opportunity for Blackbirds fans to wonder how they’re going to find a way to pull off another NEC title. Once again it isn’t going to be easy. Jack Perri is basically implementing an entirely new lineup. There’s a lot of talent on the wings though with Gilbert Parga, Troy Joseph and Gerrell Martin. The question is which of those players is going to step up given the gigantic opportunity put in front of them.

One player that Perri doesn’t have to worry about is point guard Jason Brickman. The nation’s leader in assists, Brickman is still struggling to gain national respect. I don’t really get it. He had a 2.2 assist/turnover ratio last season and the Blackbirds have won the NEC every season he’s been the starting point guard. What more could you want? How about being a vocal leader? Brickman has often been the type to lead to by example, but as a senior he’s taking more of a leadership role and is in charge of making sure LIU stays on top.

The expectation was that the Blackbirds would have Julian Boyd back to solidify the front court. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen this season. Even if Boyd is able to return in January it’ll take him some time to get used to the speed of Division I basketball again and have all of his movement on the court feel natural. The best athletes in the world take two years to fully recover from major knee surgery. Boyd’s had to go through it twice. In his stead expect E.J. Reed to pick up  a lot of the slack. Reed developed into a potent threat during NEC play last season and should do even more as a sophomore. He’ll typically be flanked by a junior college transfer – either Landon Atterberry or Chris Carter. Right now it seems like Atterberry has the inside track for the other starting forward spot.

The biggest wild cards for this LIU team are on the wing. How Parga, Joseph and Martin perform when given a starring role will go a long way towards determining if the Blackbirds can actually compete with the rest of the NEC and take home that fourth straight championship.

Coach’s Quotes:

“I would say Landon Atterberry has been clearly my next best frontcourt guy (other than E.J. Reed). Landon is a little undersized, but he’s definitely fine in our league. He’s athletic, he’s got great hands, and he’s great with Brickman because he catches everything and he can finish around the basket.”
– Perri, when asked who has emerged as the second frontcourt player opposite of Reed

“He makes us go. He’s a special kid. He is by far our hardest worker, by far the most cerebral kid I’ve ever been around… I think it’s crazy he hasn’t been an (NEC all-conference) first team guy.”
– Perri, talking about senior point guard Jason Brickman


Ryan – It’s so difficult to bet against LIU and Jack Perri, but here goes nothing. After Brickman and Reed, there’s far too much roster uncertainty for me to stomach. Yes, Parga and a frontcourt guy will likely emerge, but with so much quality in the top half of the conference, I have trouble believing the Blackbirds will make it four straight titles. Can this team make a run in the NEC tournament? Sure! But for the regular season, I’m far more pessimistic then my counterpart. (13 wins, 8-8 NEC)

John – So many injuries. It’s tough to pick LIU that high after the Blackbirds got so beat up. Still, the NEC has basically played right into Jack Perri and co.’s hands. Everything is fast and everything is a shootout. LIU has the best player at the controls in Jason Brickman. This is overly optimistic, but… (15 wins, 10-6 NEC)

Other NEC Team Primers:
#10 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
#9 St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
#8 Sacred Heart Pioneers

#7 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers

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