Top 25 Players in NYC Metro Area: 25-21

There’s a lot of great talent in the New York City area. As it’s defined the metro region encompasses 23 schools from Princeton to Army to Yale and everything in between. That means there are a lot of players here. In this countdown I’m going to be revealing five each morning as we go from 25 down to No. 1.

Continue reading “Top 25 Players in NYC Metro Area: 25-21”

Season At A Glance — Wagner

This is the fifth of what will eventually be capsules for each of the NYC teams when I’m sure their season has concluded.

Team: Wagner

Record: 25-6 (15-3 in the NEC)

Season High: Winning at then #15 Pittsburgh

Season Low: Losing final regular season game to Central Connecticut

Really Good At: Defense — Wagner had the best defense by far in NEC play this season. The Seahawks led the conference in effective field goal percentage defense, three-point percentage defense and block percentage.

Struggled With: Fouling too much — The aggressive, pressing style that Wagner plays leads a lot to the interpretation of the officials. It might’ve been Wagner’s downfall in the conference semifinals against Robert Morris. The Seahawks finished 11th in the NEC in defensive free throw rate.

Key Losses:

  • Tyler Murray (All-NEC Second Team guard, 12.0 PPG, efficient scorer)
  • Chris Martin (spark off the bench, 7.1 PPG, 82.3% FT%)

Key Returnees:

  • Latif Rivers, So., G (All-NEC Second Team, 14.6 PPG)
  • Jonathon Williams, Jr., F (13.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 53.4% FG%)
  • Kenneth Ortiz, So., G (NEC Defensive Player of the Year, 4.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • Naofall Folahan, So., F/C (1.7 BPG, strong offensive rebounder)

Outlook: Great. The season came to an abrupt end for the Seahawks, but that doesn’t mean the future isn’t bright. Dan Hurley is going to keep bringing talent to Grymes Hill and it’ll just supplement the young core that’s already here. The addition of transfer Ortiz gives Wagner an amazing sophomore class that should just continue to develop. Also, another year of development and a healthy off season could mean Mario Moody is the NEC’s most improved player next season. After finishing second in the NEC to LIU this season, Wagner still has unfinished business left. It has the talent coming back to unseat the Blackbirds if everything goes right and return to the postseason, maybe even in the NCAA tournament.

Wagner’s season ends too quickly

In stunningly swift fashion a special Wagner season that had taken months to build came to a crashing end on Sunday afternoon against Robert Morris at the Spiro Sports Center in the NEC semifinals. Robert Morris’ Velton Jones controlled play and led the Colonials to a 71-64 win.

The game was a story of two halves. In the first the officials dominated play, calling 29 personal fouls. Both teams struggled offensively, but Wagner came out of the first 20 minutes with a 31-29 lead on its home court.

But at the opening of the second half it all disappeared. RMU scored 10 of the first 11 points of the second half to build an eight-point lead, 40-32, and never looked back, pushing the lead to as many as nine and withstanding a late Wagner charge for the victory.

“We’ve been a great start of second half team all year,” said Wagner head coach Dan Hurley. “We weren’t tonight. We had some opportunities for some finishes around the basket. We could’ve maintained control of the game. We didn’t make the plays. They made the plays.”

Jones was the best player on the court. Robert Morris’ junior point guard 25 points on 5-10 shooting and 14-16 from the free throw line. He picked up three fouls in the first half, but managed to avoid picking up his fourth until 1:24 remained in the game. It was a foul he drew against Kenneth Ortiz with 1:03 remaining, the shot clock expiring and the Colonials hanging onto a three-point lead that was the biggest play of the game. He calmly knocked down all three free throws and RMU finished out the game.

For Wagner it was the culmination of two seasons of hard work under Hurley coming to their first crest. The Seahawks finish with a record of 25-6 (15-3), a place no one could’ve imagined them being two seasons ago.

“Coach came in here with a style two years ago and we bought it right away,” said senior Tyler Murray. “To make a such transition, it’s incredible.”

Part of the resurgence has been the leadership and play of Murray. He scored 15 points on 6-11 shooting in 26 minutes on Saturday before fouling out. Sophomore Latif Rivers led the way with 18 points, most of them coming on 11-12 shooting from the line.

Unfortunately, Wagner didn’t have the post play to complement those two against Robert Morris’ talented trio of Mike McFadden, Lijah Thompson and Russell Johnson. Thompson in particular helped RMU dominate on the boards with eight offensive rebounds. The Colonials grabbed 21 offensive rebounds and won the overall rebounding battle 45-30. If Thompson had been able to make more of his 10 point-blank shots RMU would’ve had an even bigger cushion to work with.

The Colonials also displayed the maturity that comes with being in this situation multiple times in the last four seasons. As RMU struggled with fouls in the first half they didn’t let the game get away. In the second Andrew Toole expertly shuffled his lineup. The Colonials committed 30 fouls in the game, but not one player fouled out. Six players ended up with four fouls.

“I think [the experience] helps us a lot,” Jones said. “We’ve played in big games like this throughout our years here. I think that helped us a lot to be able to finish out the game and be composed even though they made a run at the end.”

On the other side the youthful Seahawks often forced things that weren’t there in transition. Wagner had just four fast break points off 12 RMU turnovers and shot 27-40 from the line. It’s those types of things that Hurley will have to continue to work on.

“Sometimes you want it so badly, you get in your own way,” Hurley said. “It’s tough to take, but you’re just so proud of who these guys are.”

Hopefully Wagner will get a bid to the NIT. The Seahawks, with road wins over Pittsburgh, Princeton and Penn and just one bad loss (at Central Connecticut) certainly deserve to be considered. Hurley hopes his team will get that chance.

“We hope for the opportunity to play in [the NIT] because of everything that we’ve achieved throughout the year,” Hurley said. “I think we’ve earned it. Hopefully the committee feels the same way.”

It’ll be another opportunity build towards what looks like a bright future.

Final tempo-free NEC, plus awards

All the games have been played and the final weekend provided a big shake up! Not only did LIU Brooklyn fall at Monmouth, a bunch of other teams got knocked out too. Fascinatingly enough, Robert Morris almost caught LIU after the Blackbirds’ disaster, but since it only mattered in tempo-free world LIU will still hang onto home court throughout the conference tournament, which at least gives Jim Ferry’s team a fighting chance at repeating as champions. I’ve also included my All-NEC First and Second Teams and conference awards at the end of this post.

Continue reading “Final tempo-free NEC, plus awards”

Machado and Glover near top of Value Add

Scott Machado and Mike Glover of Iona are in the top 60 players in the entire country according to Value Add, a statistic created by John Pudner. You can see the list of the Top 200 on the site there. Interestingly, three NEC players also appear in Value Add, but it’s not who you’d expect. There’s Central Connecticut’s Ken Horton (#27) and then Wagner’s Tyler Murray (#144) and Quinnipiac’s Ike Azotam (#162). Pouring over I’m guessing that a slight adjustment for playing time is why Azotam is on the list and LIU’s Julian Boyd isn’t. It’s also interesting that Murray’s 124.6 offensive rating is enough to make up for his relatively low usage rate (just 17.1%) and put him in the Top 150.

Wagner Opening Eyes Ahead Of Schedule

Editor’s Note: With Wagner playing so well, and getting ready to embark once again into NEC play after winning the Cable Car Classic we have our first ever guest post on Big Apple Buckets!


That’s the question I was often asked last summer when I became the play-by-play voice of the Wagner basketball team. Calling games last year for Long Island University and St. Peter’s College, I watched both make the NCAA Tournament in the same season. Switching to Wagner meant giving up those other two gigs, including for an LIU team that won 27 games and was picked to win the Northeast Conference title again this season.

So when I decided to join Wagner that question lingered.


In short, I expected second-year head coach Dan Hurley and his staff to continue turning Wagner around. With a 10-3 record so far, I hardly anticipated this much so soon, but then Hurley says he didn’t either. So what has fueled the Seahawks’ fast start so far?

1. Great recruiting. Sophomore transfer Kenny Ortiz (Southern Miss) chose to return close to home (Newark) and has fit perfectly at point guard. His toughness and defensive mindedness (1.8 steals / game) have rubbed off on the entire team. Ortiz’ 5-for-5 first half shooting helped lay the groundwork for Wagner’s upset at then No. 15 Pittsburgh. His over-the-backboard buzzer beater at Santa Clara won last week’s Cable Car Classic. In 31 of the previous 44 Classics, at least one team in the field has gone on to that year’s NCAA Tournament.

Junior JUCO transfer Jon Williams has been as advertised starting at forward, an all-around player (12.8 points / game, 50.4% shooting, team-leading 5.4 rebounds / game) that adds experience up front. Williams can shoot, post up, drive, rebound and defend. What else is there?

2. Player Development. After earning NEC All-Rookie Team honors last year, sophomore Latif Rivers (team-leading 14.2 points / game) is again finding his stride at shooting guard after off-season knee surgery. All of his 18 points came in the second half at Pitt. Rivers was Cable Car Classic MVP after averaging 19 points in the two games.

Senior swingman Tyler Murray raised his scoring about nine points per game last year. While his scoring (12.7 / game) is down, his three-point percentage (51.7%) is up, and among the nation’s best. Murray reached 1,000 career points at Santa Clara, and his steady leadership and underrated ball handling and rebounding are key.

6’11” sophomore Naofall Folahan continues to emerge as a solid center, especially on defense, where he leads the NEC in blocks (2.0 / game).

3. Improved defense. This was Job One this season, and Wagner is holding opponents to an NEC-best 40.7% shooting. After committing tons of fouls earlier this year, the Seahawks cut those way down in the Cable Car Classic against two very tough teams to defend, Air Force with their complex multiple sets, and Santa Clara, which boasts Kevin Foster, who led the nation in three-point shots made last year.

4. Playing to win. Hurley coached future NBA and elite Division I players at St. Benedict’s High School in Newark, creating a Top 5 program nationally. When he tells his players they can compete at UConn (12-point loss) and at Pitt, and vie for a conference championship this season, they believe him. Late in games, the Seahawks have surrendered big leads but have managed to step on the gas again when needed to finish strong and win. Shooting an NEC-best 75% from the foul line also helps.

Already this season, Wagner has become the first NEC team ever to beat Pitt (the Panthers were 70-0 against the league), won ten games before the end of the calendar year for the first time ever, set a school record for non-conference wins (nine), and have won their first in-season tournament since 1997.

So to those who once asked, why? I now counter, why not?

Aside from being the voice of Wagner basketball, Joey Wahler is a sports anchor/reporter at News 12 New Jersey and an update anchor at WFAN.

Interesting reading

Two things you should check out: Dan Hanner at Real GM taking a look at teams that play a lot of freshmen and ones that don’t. Fordham is a good example of the former and Iona one of the best examples of the latter. Iona has one freshman on the roster, Josh Gomez. He’s played in six games and 10 minutes total. The other post to check out is Cracked Sidewalks’ update of Value Add. The list of the Top 100 includes Scott Machado of Iona (#36) and Tyler Murray of Wagner (#65). I’d expect to see Iona’s Mike Glover in the Top 100 soon as well.

Memory of LIU game drives Wagner to big victory

Wagner crushed St. Francis (NY) to get its first NEC victory of the season and in the process started to wash away the bad memories from a close loss to Long Island in the conference opener. The Seahawks blitzed the Terriers for a 90-50 victory on Saturday night at the Spiro Athletics Center.

Continue reading “Memory of LIU game drives Wagner to big victory”

Season Snapshot: Wagner

It’d be hard to categorize Wagner’s early season start as anything but a success. The Seahawks are 4-1, with the lone loss being to Connecticut. In the process they’ve defeated Princeton, Penn, Lafayette and North Carolina Central. Only one of those games was at home too, making the challenge all that more difficult. How has Wagner been successful? What’s working? Let’s check in on Dan Hurley’s club.

Continue reading “Season Snapshot: Wagner”

Hurley building something at Wagner

Besides a one-year blip during the 2007-08 season Wagner hasn’t had a record above .500 in Northeast Conference since 2004-05 season. The Seahawks have had just two winning seasons since 2002-03. But Dan Hurley is doing his best to change all that.

The commitment of 2012 forward Eric Fanning to Wagner on Monday continues a strong uptick in recruiting. (Highlight videos are here and here.)

Continue reading “Hurley building something at Wagner”