Three Thoughts: Quinnipiac 62, Holy Cross 56

Quinnipiac freshman Chiase Daniels celebrates

The third time was the charm for Quinnipiac, as the Bobcats picked up their first victory of the season 62-56 over Holy Cross Sunday afternoon after faltering in their first two contests of the year. Continue reading “Three Thoughts: Quinnipiac 62, Holy Cross 56”

Three Thoughts: Quinnipiac 80, Lehigh 65

Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore knew he had seen it. At least in spurts. But maybe that was in practice or was it a scrimmage? Could he have been imagining it? Maybe Gio McLean held the key to it, but he wasn’t going to be playing this season. No, it was there in the season-opening win over a very good Yale team when they put up 88 points, and he had most certainly seen it when his team dismantled a good Vermont defense to the tune of 89 points three weeks ago. Continue reading “Three Thoughts: Quinnipiac 80, Lehigh 65”

Umar Shannon to Have Season-Ending Surgery.

Umar Shannon's buzzer-beating 3-pointer lifted Quinnipiac to a stunning victory over Niagara (Photo Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics)
Umar Shannon has been clutch for the Bobcats this year, but his teammates will have to fill the void.  (Photo Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics)

Quinnipiac announced Friday afternoon that guard Umar Shannon will undergo season-ending surgery on his left knee this coming Wednesday.  The graduate transfer from Saint Francis University was averaging 14.3 points and 2.3 assists per game this year for the Bobcats.

The addition of Shannon has been vital to Quinnipiac’s success this season.  Shannon earned a redshirt year in 2011 after tearing his ACL in practice following the Red Flash’s season opener against VCU.  The injury required surgery on the same knee he will have repaired next week.

After graduating from SFU last year, Shannon received interest from a number of schools, but chose to use his final year of eligibility at Quinnipiac. He is the team’s third leading scorer this year behind Ike Azotam and Zaid Hearst, and has repeatedly come through in the clutch.

Two of Shannon’s biggest moments of the season came on game-winning buzzer-beaters against Hampton and Niagara.  He has continually been the go-to guy in end-game situations, but now it will be up to coach Tom Moore to find a way to fill the void.

Most of Shannon’s lost minutes will likely be shared between guards Evan Conti and James Ford.  Freshman Kasim Chandler, who has been sidelined with a broken toe for the last eight games, would also be projected to take over some of those minutes upon his return.

Conti was a regular starter last season, but saw his playing time diminish this year, largely due to Shannon transferring in.  Since receiving more consistent playing time at the end of January, Conti is averaging 8.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game over 11 contests.

Ford is averaging 4.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game this season, but fills the role of 3-point specialist which Shannon had filled this year.  However, Ford missed the recent trip to Buffalo with a mild head injury before going 0-2 from the field in just five minutes against Siena in the team’s last contest. Shannon has made nearly twice as many 3-pointers as any other player on the team, and Ford is a 40% shooter from behind the arc.

Shannon finishes his career with 1,307 points over his time with the Bobcats and Red Flash.

Vincent Simone will be chronicling Quinnipiac’s move to the MAAC and helping cover the conference this season for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.

Observations and quotes from Quinnipiac’s practice

Recently, I traveled to Hamden to watch the Quinnipiac Bobcats practice. It was my first time meeting Tom Moore, who in Connecticut and the NEC, has a bit of a target on his back from fans of other nearby schools. Maybe people are envious of his recent success, contract, or perhaps the beautiful TD Banknorth Arena has them jealous. No matter how much you dislike Moore and his program though, critics simply can’t ignore Quinnipiac’s recent success. In the past three seasons, Moore has a NEC regular season championship and an average of 21 wins per season.

Below you’ll find my random thoughts and several quotes from my hour plus conversation with Moore.

– Zaid Hearst was impressive in practice. His practice intensity and confidence shooting the mid-range jumper stood out the most to me. About a month ago, I identified Hearst as one of my breakout candidates, and really, this practice reiterated my belief in him. Moore has been impressed with Hearst’s work ethic, since his strong finish last season.

“To be honest with you, I wouldn’t have said [Hearst is ready] in January, but he got better as the year went on,” said Moore. “The thing I love about [Hearst] is he took that ending and from April to now, no one in our program has worked harder. He’s just one of those kids – like James Johnson was – you don’t have to force to the gym and you don’t have to beg him to the gym. He just works, so his body is great right now, his toughness is great right now, and his game is improving all of time.”

– While Hearst is the leading candidate to replace most of Johnson’s production on the court, Moore expects multiple guys on the team to replace Johnson’s leadership. Seniors Dave Johnson and Jamee Jackson, Ike Azotam, and Hearst were quickly identified as those guys. The thing that worries Moore the most, however, is who will step up late in the game and become that go-to-guy when the Bobcats need a bucket. It’s a big time concern for Moore.

“The ability at the end of games and at big times in the shot clock where [James Johnson] wanted the ball and guys were used to deferring a bit, and he was always willing to take those shots. So I don’t know [who will fill that role]. I hope that’s something that evolves, because we brought in some real talent on the perimeter, but it’s inexperienced talent.”

– Speaking of perimeter talent, Kendrick Ray’s athleticism and James Ford’s perimeter stroke grabbed my attention. The 6-foot-3 Ray is a terrific leaper, and he should make an impact on the floor as a combo guard. Moore would like to ease Ray’s role early on, mainly by playing him off-the-ball, rather than backing up starting PG Dave Johnson. James Ford has a real opportunity to fill a long range shooting niche as a freshman. Quinnipiac struggled last year shooting behind the arc, so Ford’s energy and shooting prowess could find him time right away. At practice, even Ford’s contested misses found the inside of the rim more often than not. This kid can flat out shoot.

“He is our most natural three-point shooter right now,” said Moore in regards to Ford. “I have to make sure he keeps thinking like a three-point shooter and we’ve been really impressed by him.”

– There’s always one player on the team that challenges a coaching staff, and that player for Quinnipiac is 6-foot-9 center Ousmane Drame. Drame is a physical speciman in the NEC, so now the struggle for Moore is to reve up his competitive fire. The beast in the paint lacks intensity at times, and at one point during practice, Drame was told by Moore to leave the scrimmage and sit on the sidelines (6-foot-3 guard Evan Conti came in for Drame and had to guard Azotam, which as you could imagine was wildly entertaining to watch). When talking about Drame, Moore proclaimed how much he loves to coach talented and intelligent players such as Drame. Yet Moore is still trying to tweak and push the right buttons when it comes to handling his big forward.

“[Drame] was a guy – watching him in July [during the recruiting period] – that I loved,” said Moore. “But because of his body language – it can be a little casual and he can stand a lot off the ball – he was one of those guys that the more I saw him, the more convinced I was of his talent, but the more concerned I was with [Drame’s competitive] fire. But I just felt that he was so talented, that when we got him in the program it could really work.”

Moore also reiterated that he expects Drame to have a “monster season.”

– Moore also expects big things out of the versatile Jamme Jackson, who sat out of practice with a minor groin injury. Last season, Jackson suffered a freak injury in the warmup line before Niagara when he awkwardly landed on a ball he had just dunked. Before then, Jackson had an impressive three game stretch where he averaged 16.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. If healthy, Moore plans to give his senior forward big time minutes in the frontcourt along with Drame and Azotam.

“Jamee’s been a monster so far,” said Moore. “In my opinion, he’s the most athletic and hardest playing inside player in this league. I feel like I’m sitting on a secret right now, because he was just getting to that point last season before he broke the bone in his foot on December. He can play low post guys, move them off the block, alter their shot, he can do anything you need out of a low post guy. He can also guard fours that pick and pop.”

– Jackson will be part of a deep frontcourt that also includes Justin Harris (who displayed a solid 15 foot jumper) and Marquis Barnett. In the backcourt, there appears to be a three-way competition for playing time between Evan Conti, freshman Tariq Carey, and Shaq Shannon. Expect Moore to ride the hot hand among those three in-season.

And there you have it. 1000 words and I’ve barely mentioned All-NEC preseason first team selection Ike Azotam. The junior will continue to command the ball in the post, and has developed a quick-release jump hook. A season of 17 ppg/10 rpb/1.2 bpg from Azotam is not out of the question.

Add it all up, and you have a legit contender in the NEC. Perhaps this season, Quinnipiac will find some of the luck needed to represent the NEC in the NCAA tournament.

Top 10 Recruits of the Northeast Conference – The rich get richer

With many of the top NEC programs returning most of their talent, playing time will be scarce for a majority of the recruits coming in.  Nevertheless, we here at Big Apple Buckets painstakingly created our consensus list of the top 10 NEC recruits.  Ranking them wasn’t easy – information on most newcomers is limited at best and there are easily 20 players that could have an immediate impact on their team.

We apologize in advance if your favorite recruit missed the list.  This is the time of year when every fan-base believes their newcomers will push their team to great heights.  Just remember, all of those Youtube clips of your favorite team’s recruits are highlight videos.  Everyone looks good on those.  They edit out the bad plays for a reason.

(Cut to the confused Monmouth fan asking, “Wait, you mean to tell me Tyrone O’Garro won’t finish every play this year with an alley-oop jam??”)

Later this week, we’ll submit our NEC recruiting class rankings for all 12 teams.  For now though, we give you our 2012-13 Top 10 preseason newcomers of the NEC!

10) Ronnie Drinnon, PF, St. Francis (PA) – With Scott Eatherton heading to Northeastern, Drinnon will see significant minutes in a brutally thin Red Flash frontcourt.  There will be struggles early on, but Drinnon’s high basketball IQ and nose for the basketball should serve him well in his freshman season.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that Drinnon practiced with the team a semester early.

9) James Ford, SG, Quinnipiac – Ford does one thing that none of Quinnipiac’s other newcomers can do as well – shoot lights out from beyond the arc.  With the Bobcats’ need for a shooter to stretch the defense, Ford should occupy a niche role as he improves in other facets during his rookie season.

8) Eric Fanning, SG, Wagner – We have difficulty placing Fanning any higher on this list, due to Bashir Mason’s crowded backcourt.  Nevertheless, Fanning should have the opportunity in limited minutes to display a wide array of scoring abilities, which allowed him to score over 1,000 points at two different stops in high school.  His athleticism and length at 6-foot-4 should also help on the defensive end.

7) Tariq Carey, SG, Quinnipiac – Tom Moore made it a priority in the offseason to bolster his backcourt, and Carey may have been his best acquistion.  The moderately recruited combo guard has a chance to make up part of James Johnson’s production on both ends of the floor, given his ability to attack the basket, get to the charity stripe, and defend with tenacity.

6) Matthew Hunter, F, Central Connecticut – After two very productive seasons at junior college, Hunter persevered to earn a Division I scholarship after a difficult upbringing.  The “stat filler” – as Howie Dickenman likes to call him – should help Kyle Vinales make up 56% of the scoring CCSU lost due to last year’s graduating class.  After all, Hunter was offered by three DI schools for a reason.

5) Shivaughn Wiggins, PG, Mount St. Mary’s – Wiggins is the type of player Jamion Christian covets – a celebral athlete that makes excellent decisions with the basketball in transition and the half-court set.  This season, he’ll most likely share time with Josh Castellanos, but make no mistake, Wiggins is the player with more potential.

4) Vaughn Morgan, PF, Robert Morris – An athletic freak who reeks havoc in the paint, Morgan will contribute to a deep Robert Morris team that returns their top seven players in terms of efficiency.  Morgan should see the majority of Lawrence Bridge’s minutes if he can grasp the mental aspect of the game and let his athleticism shine.

3) D.J. Griggs, SG, LIU-Brooklyn – The Blackbirds lost a potential NEC star in Waller-Prince, but Griggs is certainly a nice consolation prize.  LIU has a thin bench, so the opportunity is there for the Texas native to grab the final spot of LIU’s backcourt rotation with Jason Brickman, C.J. Garner, and Brandon Thompson.  As a high schooler Griggs was a high-scorer, averaging 22.6 points per game and scoring 2,590 points, so he should provide a spark off the bench for the Blackbirds.

2) Karvel Anderson, SG, Robert Morris – A prolific, yet efficient scorer at every level he’s played at, Anderson should serve as a nice offensive weapon off Andy Toole’s bench.  His insertion into the Colonial’s rotation will take pressure off of Coron Williams – who struggles at times creating his own shot – and will give Robert Morris the reliable deep threat they dearly missed last season.

1) Dwaun Anderson, SG, Wagner – This was the easiest pick by far.  It’s not very often when Tom Izzo has recruited and signed a future NEC player.  Anderson’s athleticism will make him an impact player immediately, especially when he’s allowed to create in transition or off the dribble in half-court sets.  We’d be shocked if he wasn’t a finalist for NEC Rookie of the Year at season’s end.

Other newcomers we considered:
E.J. Reed, G, LIU-Brooklyn
De’Aires Tate, PF, Sacred Heart
Jalen Wesson Palm, PG, Monmouth
Aleksandar Isailovic, G, St. Francis (NY)
Sekou Harris, PG, Fairleigh Dickinson

Quinnipiac targets their backcourt of the future in the 2012 class

Quinnipiac Bobcats, 18-14 (10-8 NEC), Lost Semifinals of NEC Tournament to LIU

Players Lost:
G James Johnson –16.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.3 spg, All-NEC 2nd Team Selection
G Kevin Tarca – 6 games played
F Alex Jackson (transfer) – 1.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg
G Terrace Bobb-Jones (transfer) – 9 games played, 0.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg
G Nate Gause (transfer) – 3.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg

Incoming Recruits:
Tariq Carey, 6’2” G – St. Anthony High (NJ)
Kendrick Ray
, 6’0” PG – Middletown High (NY)
James Ford
, 6’4” G – Quality Education Academy (NC)
Shaquille Shannon, 6’3” G – Conners State Junior College (OK)

The 2011-12 season for the Quinnipiac Bobcats played out much like every other season under head coach Tom Moore. Quinnipiac once again led the NEC in rebounding, played stout defense, and found themselves with a realistic chance to capture their first ever NEC tournament title.  But as was the case for the past few years, Quinnipiac lacked the offensive firepower late in critical games to push them over the top.  To exacerbate the problem, the Bobcats will have to move on this offseason without their leading scorer and captain, James Johnson.  With this in mind, Moore recruited an impressive haul of guards, which should help temper the loss of Johnson and improve their offensive efficiency in the long run.

Perhaps the best-known recruit out of the group is 6-foot-2 guard Tariq Carey.  Carey chose Quinnipiac thanks to the persistence of Moore, despite receiving interest from Auburn, Clemson, and Boston University, just to name a few.  Carey makes his living penetrating into the lane and finishing around the rim.  The 180-pound Carey isn’t afraid of contact, although he’ll definitely need to add bulk and be a bit more cautious when facing stronger collegiate competition.  In addition, his ball control and passing skills are above average, which sets Carey up as a combo guard in year one for the Bobcats.  The outside shot is something the Carey needs to work on, but for now he could serve as a valuable contributor off the bench.  With more opportunity, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if he lands in the starting lineup and on the All-NEC Rookie Team at season’s end.

Another recruit who should see meaningful minutes in the Bobcat backcourt is point guard Kendrick Ray, who committed to Quinnipiac last September.  Kendrick, the younger brother of the former Villanova standout Allen Ray, is known to facilitate and create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates, thanks to his excellent court vision and tight handle.  Ray can also push the ball well in transition – an attribute that should come in handy for a team that rebounds the ball exceptionally well on the defensive end.  Ray projects as the Bobcat’s future floor general, but for now, he’ll gain valuable experience as senior Dave Johnson’s back-up.

After signing Carey and Ray, Quinnipiac had filled all their available scholarships until two more opened up with the transfers of Alex Jackson and Terrace Bobb-Jones.  As a result, Moore used the opportunity to further solidify his backcourt of the future, by recently signing under-the-radar prospects James Ford and Shaquille Shannon.

Ford possesses good athleticism and can score a variety of ways, but it may be his outstanding range that’s his best skill.  Ford’s ability to drain it from downtown should help a Quinnipiac club that finished in the bottom half of the NEC in three-point percentage last season.  With James Johnson’s departure, only Zaid Hearst, Dave Johnson, and Garvey Young remain as Quinnipiac’s competent long-range shooters, therefore Ford has an opportunity to play the niche role of a reliable shooter off the bench in his freshman season.

Little is currently known about Shannon, as the only junior college recruit in the group.  What is known is Shannon (besides having an awesome name) has the potential to be lock-down defender, which is quite the asset considering the many talented wing players that reside in the NEC.  It’s unknown how much he’ll contribute right away, and with the Bobcat’s deep rotation, it may make sense if Moore redshirts Shannon for a season before donning the blue and gold.

Overall, Tom Moore has to be pleased with his latest recruiting class.  Obviously, Quinnipiac wants to compete for a Northeast Conference title now, and will, but the 2013-14 season may serve as the Bobcat’s best chance to capture that elusive championship.  By then, veterans Ike Azotam, Ousmane Drame, and Zaid Hearst supplemented with the upside of this 2012 recruiting class may have Quinnipiac fans celebrating in Hamden, some day soon.

Ryan Peters covers Sacred Heart and Northeast Conference men’s basketball on Pioneer Pride and Big Apple Buckets.  You can follow Ryan on Twitter here.