A Fantastic Career Far From Over for Jason Brickman

In a frantic and much-needed LIU Brooklyn victory over NJIT on Thursday night, Jason Brickman made history. He became the NEC’s career assist leader and did it with 20 guaranteed games remaining in the 2013-14 season. Continue reading “A Fantastic Career Far From Over for Jason Brickman”

Lehigh 76, LIU Brooklyn 69

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (by Josh Verlin, City of Basketball Love) — LIU Brooklyn’s woes away from home continue. The Blackbirds battled Lehigh close the entire game but couldn’t get the run they needed, falling short to the Mountain Hawks 76-69 at Stabler Arena on Monday night. Continue reading “Lehigh 76, LIU Brooklyn 69”

Jason Brickman’s Passing Trends

It looks like Jason Brickman is picking up right where he left off last season. The LIU Blackbirds’ senior point guard has been almost unstoppable with the ball in his hands. According to the ESPN box scores he has 24 assists thus far this season and he almost led LIU past Indiana. What makes the start even more remarkable is that Brickman is doing it with an almost entirely new cast of characters. Continue reading “Jason Brickman’s Passing Trends”

NEC Recap: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

It’s time to begin a non-conference tradition – our “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” post for the NEC! The first edition is a little late this week, so a few teams already have a couple of games under their belt. Let’s highlight the biggest positives and negatives from the first four days of the 2013-14 season.

The Good

  • New Blackbirds May Soar, But One Remains the Same – No Jamal Olasewere, C.J. Garner, Julian Boyd, Booker Hucks, and Kenny Onyechi? No problem! All the Blackbirds did was score 1.18 points per possession and drain 11 of their 24 three-point attempts in their season opening victory over St. Peter’s. The long distance onslaught was led by guard Gerrell Martin, who after only playing a quarter of LIU Brooklyn’s available minutes last season, scored a career high 24 points. As impressive as Martin and others like Gilbert Parga and Landon Atterberry were, though, Jason Brickman was the star of the show. His NEC Player of the Week effort yielded a sensational line of 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 14 assists. Currently, Brickman has 733 career assists. He would need to average approximately 9.5 dimes per game for the remainder of the season (28 games, plus any postseason games) to crack 1,000 career assists, which would make him only the fourth player ever to do so in NCAA history. Are you going to bet against him? Yeah, we didn’t think so.
  • A Stunning Upset Down South – John already went over the Terriers remarkable takedown of Miami, but given the magnitude of the accomplishment, this story bares repeating. St. Francis Brooklyn’s season opening win was the first time the program has ever upended an ACC school. Previously, the NEC’s record against ACC schools since the turn of the century was 2-52, with both victories coming against hapless Boston College (Robert Morris in 2008, Bryant in 2012). Jim Larranaga may be in a deep rebuilding mode after losing point guard Shane Larkin and five seniors from a championship roster, but a win versus a power conference is impressive nonetheless. It puts the rest of the NEC on notice – St. Francis will be a contender, even if that wasn’t the consensus thought prior to November 8th. This team is far more athletic with Kevin Douglas, Amdy Fall, and rookie Wayne Martin logging big time minutes around Jalen Cannon, Ben Mockford, and others.
  • New Faces, Same Result – Even though he likely won’t admit it, the 2013-14 season will be the biggest challenge of Andy Toole’s young career. Lots of production has graduated and/or moved on, yet it was business as usual in their home opener versus Savannah State. Last season the Tigers – a defensive stalwart ranked 30th nationally in defensive rating – stymied the Colonials’ offense, holding them to 0.78 points per possession on 29% shooting. This time around, Robert Morris got their revenge as 11 different players – five newcomers – scored in a decisive 20-point victory. Three players scored in double digits and Anthony Myers-Pate and Kavon Stewart combined for nine assists and two turnovers. Velton and Russell who?

The Bad

  • A Massive Rebuild Ahead – We here at Big Apple Buckets don’t put much value in non-Division I wins, hence our stark refusal to acknowledge FDU’s Friday night victory over Caldwell. Rather, we’ll treat that as an exhibition and focus on the Knights’ inconsistent effort in Hofstra. It wasn’t much of a game from the start, with the Pride pulling away after a couple of early runs. Not surprisingly, the Knights struggled to score, posting 0.85 points per possession. A field goal percentage of 30.2% surely didn’t help, nor did an unsavory 9:13 assist to turnover ratio. Obviously, the rebuilding effort in Hackensack is going to take a while, so don’t expect the turnaround to occur in the next couple of months. With the exception of home games against St. Peter’s and Hofstra, every other non-conference showdown gives FDU a 6% chance or less to win, according to KenPom. It’s improbable, yet not wacky to envision Greg Herenda’s group with zero Division I victories heading into NEC play.

The Ugly

  • A Sacred Shooting Slump – Anthony Latina summed it up best in his postgame comments after a disheartening defeat at the hands of Fairfield, “It’s almost impossible to win when you shoot 24%.” Extrapolate that to just three-pointers, and the Pioneers were a paltry 19% (on 26 attempts) from behind the arc. Yikes. Much of the poor shooting had to do with Fairfield’s newfound post presence, Malcolm Gilbert (11 rebounds, 8 blocks), but the Pioneers missed a lot of open looks from within 15 feet. Chalk it up to first game jitters, over aggression, whatever, yet it wasn’t a good start to the Anthony Latina era. With a whopping 25 Stag turnovers committed in the contest, Saturday evening was Sacred Heart’s best chance to beat Fairfield (now 0-5 all time) for the first time in its Division I history. Instead, the Pioneers must now regroup against an improved Holy Cross squad on Wednesday. To make matters worse, freshman De’von Barnett – who Latina believes can provide an instant impact off the bench – will likely miss his second straight game with a sprained ankle.
  • 13 Minutes of Blue Devil Hell in Bridgeport – With 13 minutes remaining in the second half, CCSU was cruising against in-state rival Yale. Kyle Vinales was red-hot, Matthew Hunter was his usual stat stuffing self, and newcomers Juwan Newman and Faronte Drakeford were contributing. Everything was sunny at the Webster Bank Arena for the blue and white. And then Yale began their furious comeback. When the smoke cleared, James Jones’ crew delivered a stunning 33-point turnaround by the final horn. In order to pull it off, the Bulldogs scored 32 points on 15 consecutive possessions (yes, you read that correctly) to give them the lead for good. Moreover, the Blue Devils fell apart on the boards, as they were out rebounded 23 to 9 in those final 13 minutes. Of those 23 rebounds, seven were offensive rebounds that led to 10 second chance points.

Player of the Week: Jason Brickman for reasons stated above. With all due respect to Dyami Starks, I can’t get too excited about an individual performance when the team was routed by Gonzaga.
Rookie of the Week: Wayne Martin, of course. A well deserved honorable mention goes to St. Francis point guard Malik Harmon, who was sensational against Navy (20 points on 7 shots, 5 assists, 4 steals) on Monday. It isn’t premature to say that Rob Krimmel has his point guard of the future. This kid is legit.
Team of the Week: St. Francis Brooklyn. That was one heck of a Florida trip for Glenn Braica’s crew, knocking off both Miami and the Mike Jarvis coached (remember him?) Florida Atlantic within a three-day span on the road.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

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

NEC All-Conference Teams: The Way Too Early Edition

In keeping with the spirit of those “way too early ratings” for the upcoming 2013-14 season, I decided to unveil my all-conference teams for the NEC. Mainly because I had nothing better to do. Plus it’s fun to speculate with over five months left before the season begins! Here we go, and of course feel free to disagree with me in the comments section.

All-NEC Preseason First Team
PG: Jason Brickman, LIU Brooklyn
SG: Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut
F: Alex Francis, Bryant
PF: Julian Boyd, LIU Brooklyn
PF: Jalen Cannon, St. Francis Brooklyn

Well so much for Kyle Vinales leaving. With the graduations of Jamal Olasewere, Shane Gibson, and Velton Jones, I strongly felt these five players will represent the preseason All-NEC team. In my opinion, all five are virtual locks to make the preseason first team, barring injury of course. Let’s see, we have an assist leader in the NCAA (Jason Brickman), a former NEC Player of the Year (Julian Boyd), a former NEC Rookie of the Year and leading scorer in the conference (Vinales), and two forwards in Alex Francis and Jalen Cannon that are so difficult to guard for NEC competition. This is a loaded first team.

All-NEC Second Team
PG: Kenneth Ortiz, Wagner
SG: Dyami Starks, Bryant
SG: Latif Rivers, Wagner
F: Lucky Jones, Robert Morris
F: Matthew Hunter, Central Connecticut

Now it gets a little tricky. I’m still confident in my second group, even though there’s plenty of high upside talent lurking underneath. Kenneth Ortiz is coming off another NEC Defensive Player of the Year title, yet people should also be impressed with his climbing assist rate. Dyami Starks led the NEC in three pointers made and was fourth in scoring last season, so I’m expecting a monster junior season, as long as someone can get Starks the ball with Frankie Dobbs now gone. Latif Rivers had a down season mainly due to a bad wheel. Obviously his knee will need to check in at 100% for a return to the all-conference team, but he sure has the potential given the athletic ability around him. Two do-everything stat fillers, Lucky Jones and Matthew Hunter, have first team potential. Still, given the star power above them, the safe bet is seeing each player settle into the second team.

All-NEC Third Team
PG: Shivaughn Wiggins, Mount St. Mary’s
G: Rashad Whack, Mount St. Mary’s
F: Jay Harris, Wagner
F: Louis Montes, Sacred Heart
PF: Earl Brown, St. Francis (PA)

We are officially in the speculation point of the exercise. If you replace someone here with someone from my “also considered list” below, I would have no qualms. I love the overall game of Shivaughn Wiggins, therefore I’m expecting he’ll catapult into All-NEC contention. With an excellent junior season under his belt, Rashad Whack should continue to produce in Jamion Christian’s shooter friendly system. Jay Harris is the most unfamiliar face in this group of 15, yet I’m expecting the Valpo transfer to have an immediate impact in Staten Island. He may very well be the best skilled athlete in Bashir Mason’s rotation, and that’s saying a lot. I gave some love to Louis Montes, whose numbers were quite impressive down the stretch last season. With a solid core of sharpshooting veterans in the backcourt to stretch defenses, look for Montes to optimize the interior game with his big, wide body. Earl Brown may be the most speculative athlete of this group, but with exceptional rebound rates, we’re looking for continued growth. He could lead the league in double-doubles next season.

Also Considered: Phil Gaetano, Sacred Heart, Karvel Anderson, Robert Morris, E.J. Reed, LIU Brooklyn, Sam Prescott, Mount St. Mary’s, Julian Norfleet, Mount St. Mary’s, Malcolm McMillan, Central Connecticut

Our All-NEC Conference Teams: A Difficult Exercise Indeed

It was the year of parity and unpredictably in the NEC, and that notion certainly extends out to our all-conference awards. There are several worthy candidates, so it was a challenging exercise for John and I to sort out our All-NEC first, second, and third teams. For our individual awards, including Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, etc., go here. So without further ado, let’s begin! Continue reading “Our All-NEC Conference Teams: A Difficult Exercise Indeed”