Niagara junior Emile Blackman keeps a list in his wallet of the All-MAAC teams revealed in March. The main reason he keeps the list is because his name is not among the MAAC’s best three teams.
— Emile Blackman Jr. (@Milli_black) March 30, 2015
“It lets me go in with a big chip on my shoulder,” Blackman said. “I keep it in my wallet, the list of all three teams with the names on it, knowing that my name isn’t there, but it belongs there. So hopefully my play this season puts it there.”
The LIU Post transfer, after sitting out the 2013-14 season due to transferring up from Division II, always felt like he could succeed at a higher level. In fact his coach then, Chris Casey, made sure he knew it.
“He always told me that I was a Division I basketball player, even when I was at that level,” Blackman said. “When it was time for him to come up here, I asked him if that was still the case and he said of course. I mean it was never a question, I always believed that I could play at this level and now I’m just working to prove that.”
In his first season with the Purple Eagles the 6’4″ guard led his team in scoring, field goal percentage and free throw percentage again under Casey’s watch. Blackman reached double figures 20 times last season, and over 20 points in a game four times, but he hopes that his improvement can help spark Niagara to a better record in MAAC play.
He has worked on attacking more as he will have to drive to the basket as opponents are well too aware of his spot up shooting ability. Casey said he knew Blackman could be successful transitioning with him from Division II to Division I and knows he will have to carry some of the burden this season to lead.
“We’re going to place more responsibility on him this year,” Casey said. “I want him to rebound more. I want him to be better defensively. I want him to handle the ball better again this year and have an even better assist to turnover ratio.”
Blackman wants to embrace being a leader on a team that will have no seniors, but as his coach knows, the junior guard has high expectations for himself.
“I’ve been held to high standards my whole life,” Blackman said. “I have an uncle that played in the NBA and another uncle that played worldwide on the AND 1 Streetball tour, so definitely been held to high standards. Just because I’m at this level I mean, it’s an achievement, but it’s not as far as I want to go, so that fuel always burns inside of me.”
Over the next season, the 6’4″ guard would like to see his name cemented as one of the MAAC’s best 15 players – and it could be argued he is one of the 15 best returning players in the conference. However, the individual accolades do not motivate him as much as turning around the Purple Eagles’ record does.
“I know if I come and play my best every night that we’ll be in the best position to win,” Blackman said. “At the end of the day, the ‘W’ is what counts.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.