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Somerset, NJ --
Could a “three-peat” be in the air? In the 32-year history of the Northeast Conference (NEC), no team has won three consecutive men’s basketball titles, but if the league’s coaches are to be believed, LIU Brooklyn is on the cusp of making history.
The two-time defending champion Blackbirds were picked first in the annual preseason poll, which was announced on Tuesday morning during NEC “Social” Media Day at the brand-new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. LIU, which claimed nine of the possible 12 first place votes, defeated Robert Morris in each of the past two NEC championship games.
2012-13 NEC Men’s Basketball
Preseason Coaches Poll
1. LIU Brooklyn (9)
2. Robert Morris (3)
5. St. Francis (NY)
6. Sacred Heart
8. Central Connecticut
9. Mount St. Mary’s
11. Fairleigh Dickinson
12. Saint Francis (PA)
First place votes in parentheses
The Colonials, who have played in four straight NEC title tilts and won it all in both 2009 and 2010, were picked second with three first place nods. Wagner was chosen third, followed by Quinnipiac and St. Francis (NY) in the fourth and fifth positions.
Sacred Heart, Monmouth, Central Connecticut, Mount St. Mary’s and Bryant occupied spots six through ten. Fairleigh Dickinson and Saint Francis (PA) rounded out the poll.
Conducted annually, NEC coaches correctly forecast the eventual league champion last season for the first time in 13 years by picking LIU to defend its crown. Over the last 25 years, the coaches have proven inaccurate 22 times or 88 percent of the time (see chart at end of article).
It could be a history-making season for an LIU Brooklyn (25-9, 16-2 NEC)
program that has captured back-to-back NEC crowns and rewritten the league recordbook over the last two years. The Blackbirds posted a 32-4 record in NEC play and racked up 52 total victories from 2010-12, both conference records over a two-year span. LIU also enters the 2012-13 campaign riding a 27-game home win streak, the second longest in the nation behind Kentucky. No team in league history has three-peated, but with a seemingly endless supply of firepower, the run-and-gun Blackbirds have circled March 12th on their calendar in their quest for unprecedented NEC glory.
Don’t look for first year head coach Jack Perri to stray much from the tried and true formula that has brought the downtown Brooklyn school to the NCAA Tournament each of the last two seasons. Perri, who served as associate head coach for the Blackbirds under Jim Ferry the past seven years, brings back three NEC all-stars to headline a loaded lineup. Reigning NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd (San Antonio, TX/William H. Taft)
joins first team All-NEC pick Jamal Olasewere (Silver Spring, MD/Springbrook)
in a formidable senior frontcourt. A unique 6’7” talent who can dominate on the block, soar in transition and stick the three-pointer, Boyd ranked in the NEC top-10 in a host of categories as a junior, including double-doubles (first, 14), scoring (fourth, 17.4), rebounding (third, 9.3) and field goal percentage (sixth, .557), and was named NEC Tournament MVP. He enters his final season having amassed 1,319 points, and with 794 boards, is on track to finish his career as the league’s all-time leading rebounder. Olasewere is a 6’7” crafty lefty with one of the quickest first steps to the hoop in the collegiate ranks. Also a 1,000-point scorer, the Silver Spring, MD native has accumulated 1,266 points and 689 rebounds in his three years. Last season, he tallied 16.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg and shot 57.1 percent from the field, all top-10 NEC marks. Running the point is junior Jason Brickman (San Antonio, TX/Clark)
, one of six Texas products on the roster and a second team All-NEC selection in 2011-12. With astounding court version and an ability to flawlessly execute the high screen and roll, Brickman has led the conference in assists in each of his first two seasons, and in the process, set NEC freshman and sophomore records for most helpers. After ranking fifth nationally last season with 7.3 apg, he leads all active NEC players with 429 assists, and could move into second on the league’s all-time list by year’s end. Brickman also averaged 9.6 ppg and shot over 40 percent from downtown. Seniors CJ Garner (Silver Spring, MD/Springbrook (South Alabama))
and Brandon Thompson (San Antonio, TX/Paul Stevens (South Plains College))
will likely fill out the starting unit in a three-guard alignment for Perri. Garner, a cagey off-guard with a solid mid-range game, ranked third on the club with 12.6 ppg last season, while Thompson provides a long distance shooting threat, having hit 31 shots from three-point territory in his first year on the club. Coming off the bench is rock solid 6’7” senior forward Kenny Onyechi (Sugar Land, TX/Kempner)
(5.3 ppg), a battle-tested veteran who is a career 50 percent shooter from the floor. Canadian import Troy Joseph (Toronto, Ontario/Pickering)
, who sat out last year, freshman E.J. Reed (Mesquite, TX/Mesquite)
and San Francisco transfer Khalil Murphy (Willingboro, NJ/Life Center Academy (USF))
will battle for minutes in a very deep frontcourt.
The Colonials are in the midst of an unprecedented NEC run and it doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon for Andy Toole and the Colonials. Under the third year head coach and his predecessor, Mike Rice, Robert Morris (26-11, 13-5)
has played in four straight NEC title games, winning two, and racked up 117 victories over the last half decade, setting a new conference record for a five-year span. In fact, the 117 wins are the ninth most among mid-major programs in that period, a list that includes such heavy hitters as Butler, VCU and Gonzaga. A year ago, the Colonials established a new school record with 26 victories, led the nation with an astounding 14 road wins and advanced to the CIT quarterfinals after beating Indiana State and Toledo. As Toole turns his attention to 2012-13, the expectations remain high in Moon Township with his top seven scorers back and ready for another NEC title run.
Perhaps no player in the league is more synonymous with his school than first team All-NEC standout Velton Jones (Philadelphia, PA/Northeast Catholic)
. The face of the RMU program enters his senior year as the NEC’s fourth-leading active scorer (1,259 points) and second-leading distributor (393 assists). A clutch performer known for his vaunted grit, Jones led the Colonials with 16.0 ppg, went to the line a conference-leading 270 times and finished fourth in the league with 4.5 apg. Junior two-guard Coron Williams (Midlothian, VA/Christchurch School)
(10.8 ppg) emerged as one of the NEC’s most lethal three-point threats a year ago, sinking a league-best 87 shots, while converting a robust 41.0 percent of his opportunities. Sophomore swingman Lucky Jones (Newark, NJ/St. Anthony’s)
was an All-Rookie honoree last season, and is a budding star for RMU. Long, lean and super-athletic, Jones averaged 8.5 ppg in a reserve role, and attacked the glass to the tune of a team-best 6.1 rpg. Junior point guard Anthony Myers-Pate (Washington, D.C./Charis Prep)
(6.2 ppg, 3.0 apg) is a reliable backup who shot nearly 41 percent from beyond the arc. Seniors Russell Johnson (Chester, PA/Chester)
and Lijah Thompson (Philadelphia, PA/Monsignor Bonner)
, along with junior Mike McFadden (Newark, NJ/Technology (Iona))
form the backbone of a sturdy frontcourt. The 6’6” Johnson (8.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg) brings a diverse skill-set to the small forward position, while the 6’7” Thompson (7.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg) has continued to improve as a post presence. McFadden (8.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg), a 6’8” combo forward, was a welcome addition to the lineup a year ago, and proved adept both facing the basket and in the post. Look for junior college transfers Karvel Anderson (Elkart, IN/Glen Oaks CC)
, a 6’2” shooting guard, and Vaughn Morgan (Pittsburgh, PA/Southwestern Christian College)
, a burly 6’6” forward, to bolster an already deep lineup for Toole.
The 2011-12 season was a landmark campaign for the Wagner (25-6, 15-3 NEC)
program. The Seahawks reeled off a school record 25 victories, knocked off Big East foe Pittsburgh on the road, won the Cable Car Classic and posted eight and nine game win streaks over the course of the year. While expectations remain high this coming year with the bulk of the squad back, the Seahawks enter 2012-13 under new leadership with assistant Bashir Mason replacing Dan Hurley, who in two years, engineered a 20-win improvement in Staten Island.
Mason, the nation’s youngest Division I head coach at 28 years old, has high hopes for the Green & White, who return four starters, including second team All-NEC pick Latif Rivers (Elizabeth, NJ/Elizabeth (Avon Old Farms (CT))
. Rivers showed his mettle in the win over Pitt, scoring all 18 of his points in the second half, and was often Wagner’s go-to player down the stretch of games. He led the Seahawks with 14.6 ppg, hit 59 three-point shots and ranked second in the NEC in free throw accuracy at 88.4 percent. Rivers will partner in the backcourt with junior Kenny Ortiz (Newark, NJ/Science Park (Southern Mississippi))
, a pass-first point guard and the reigning NEC Defensive Player of the Year. Ultra quick and fearless with the ball, Ortiz finished in the NEC top-five in both steals (second, 1.8) and assists (fifth, 4.3). While NEC all-star Tyler Murray has moved on, Seahawks fans are excited about the arrival of Dwaun Anderson (Suttons Bay, MI/Suttons Bay (Michigan State))
, a transfer from Michigan State, who at 6’4”, gives Wagner a dangerous wing player with a multifaceted skill set. Small forward Jonathon Williams (Richmond, CA/Kennedy (College of San Francisco))
was a welcome addition to the lineup last season. A crafty lefty with an endless supply of low post moves, he ended 2011-12 averaging 13.4 ppg and a team-best 5.0 rpg. At 6’11”, junior center Naofall Folahan (Cotonou, Republic of Benin/Wilbraham and Monson Academy (MA))
is a defensive presence who led the conference with 1.7 bpg, while springy 6’7” sophomore Mario Moody (East Orange, NJ/East Orange Campus)
may be ready for a breakout year. Veteran high flyer Josh Thompson (Bridgeton, NJ/St. Augustine Prep)
, one of just two seniors on the roster, can fill in at a number of positions off the bench.
Thanks to the likes of all-time greats Justin Rutty and James Johnson, Quinnipiac (18-14, 10-8 NEC)
has enjoyed a golden era of hoops with three straight postseason appearances. Though an NEC championship has remained elusive, the Bobcats have averaged 21 wins over the last three years and appear well positioned to make another run at the league title come March.
While sixth year head coach Tom Moore must replace Johnson - a two-time All-NEC guard who graduated as the 19th leading scorer in conference history - he returns one of the most formidable front lines in the league. The all-out aggression of 6’7” junior forward Ike Azotam (Boston, MA/O’Bryant (Marianapolis Prep))
, 6’9” sophomore center Ousmane Drame (Boston, MA/New Mission (Marianapolis Prep))
and 6’7” senior forward Jamee Jackson (Newark, NJ/St. Anthony’s)
once again resulted in a huge rebounding advantage last season for the Bobcats, who ranked second nationally in rebound margin (+10.2) behind North Carolina. Azotam blossomed as a sophomore, putting up some eye-catching numbers while developing into one of the top interior players on the circuit. The second team All-NEC performer led the conference with 9.5 rpg and 14 double-doubles, and netted 15.8 ppg. As Drame began to harness his immense potential, the rest of the NEC began to take notice. Long armed and active around the hoop, Drame collected All-Rookie honors after he averaged 6.5 ppg and 7.3 rpg despite playing under 20 minutes per outing. The veteran Jackson (8.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg) battled injuries last year, but was productive when healthy. Senior Dave Johnson (Jackson, NJ/St. Mark’s (MA) School)
(8.8 ppg, 3.7 apg), a wily veteran, returns to run the point alongside sophomore Zaid Hearst (Bethesda, MD/Salisbury School CT))
(7.2 ppg), who quietly put together a solid freshman season. Defensive stopper Garvey Young (Washington, DC/Georgetown Prep (Vermont))
(5.9 ppg) brought energy off the bench in his first year with the Bobcats. Looking to add depth to the backcourt, Moore inked a number of guards in the offseason including Kendrick Ray (Middletown, NY/Middletown)
, brother of former Villanova star and Boston Celtic Allan Ray, and Tariq Carey (Union, NJ/St. Anthony’s)
, out of national powerhouse St. Anthony’s (NJ).
St. Francis (NY)
No team surprised pundits more than St. Francis (NY) (15-15, 12-6 NEC)
last season. Picked 11th in the NEC preseason poll, the Terriers energized the Brooklyn Heights faithful by jumping out to a 9-2 start in league play before settling in to the postseason with a 12-6 record. By claiming the fourth seed, St. Francis hosted an NEC playoff game at the Pope Center for the first time since 2004, a feather in the cap for third year head coach Glenn Braica, who was tabbed NEC Coach of the Year by his peers. With all the key players back aside from three-point specialist Stefan Perunicic, the Terriers seemed primed to make another run at their first-ever NEC title in 2012-13.
One of the key factors in the team’s ascension last season was the arrival of Jalen Cannon (Allentown, PA/William Allen)
on the scene. Rebounding became his calling card, and as such, sparked a remarkable turnaround on the boards for the Terriers, who went from the third worst rebounding team to the third best rebounding team in the league. Cannon, who was tabbed to the NEC All-Rookie team, was the second-leading freshman rebounder in the country behind Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, averaging 8.8 per game. That mark ranked him fourth in the NEC, and he also pitched in with 8.0 ppg. Senior forward Akeem Johnson (Brooklyn, NY/Susan S. McKinney)
remains one of the top post players on the loop. Last season, he was the NEC’s third most accurate shooter (.574) and ranked third on the club with 11.1 ppg. Classmate and fellow Brooklyn product Travis Nichols (Brooklyn, NY/Food & Finance)
(9.3 ppg, 40.7 3PFG%) is an instant-offense type who can heat up quickly from any spot on the floor. Nichols poured in 25 points in the Terriers’ season-opening overtime loss at Seton Hall last November. Senior point guard Dre Calloway (Harlem, NY/Abraham Lincoln (CO))
is back after missing nearly the entire 2011-12 season with a shoulder injury. He’ll team up with sophomore Brent Jones (Brooklyn, NY/Bedford Academy)
(7.9 ppg), who ably filled in last season and led St. Francis with 3.9 apg. Leading scorer Ben Mockford (Shoreham-by-Sea, England/Oak Hill Academy (VA) (Iona))
(11.8 ppg) is set to resume his long range shooting assault on opposing defenses. The junior made 83 three-point shots in his first year with the Terriers, a league-best 2.8 per game. Freshman guard Anthony White (Mastic, NY/William Floyd)
is another option for Braica in the backcourt.
While Sacred Heart (14-18, 8-10 NEC)
is far from a one-man show, one thing is for certain - Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT/Killingly)
is a headline act who has the ability to lead the Pioneers back to NEC upper echelon status. Longtime coach Dave Bike, who begins his 35th year at the helm of the program, spent the offseason building around his franchise player, adding size and athleticism to a lineup that now features a well balanced mix of experience and youth.
A prodigious talent, Gibson comes off one of the most efficient seasons in league history. He led the NEC and ranked fourth nationally with 22.0 ppg, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The 6’2” NEC first-teamer also shot 51.0 percent from the floor, finished with a league-leading 87 shots from long distance and converted at a 43.3 percent clip from outside the arc, the second-best mark in the conference. He posted four games of 30+ points, including a 41-point explosion against Mount St. Mary’s in late January. The Killingly, CT native also shot 86.2 percent from the line, hauled down 4.7 rpg and tallied 1.5 spg to round out his incredible statistical line. Gibson enters 2012-13 as the leading active scorer on the conference with 1,453 points. Bike often went small last year with 6’4” Evan Kelley (Norwalk, CT/Norwalk)
(7.3 ppg), 6’3” Chris Evans (Stamford, CT/Stamford (Taft))
(8.1 ppg) and 6’4” Louis Montes (Brockton, MA/Brockton)
(7.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) all starting more than half the team’s games as sophomores. Sophomore Phil Gaetano (Wallingford, CT/Sheehan (Choate Rosemary))
showed promise at the point, leading the team with 4.0 apg. At 6’9”, Justin Swidowski (Cinnaminson, NJ/Holy Cross (Holy Family))
gives the Pioneers a legitimate post threat, though the senior can also step back and fire away from three-point range. Swidowski, who averaged 11.1 ppg, a team-high 5.3 rpg and shot 53.6 percent from the field, will benefit from the arrival of 6’6” De’Aires Tate (Lithonia, GA/Martin Luther King)
and 6’7” Tevin Falzon (Newton, MA/Newton North (Winchendon School))
, a pair of athletic forwards.
The King Rice regime is in full swing, and after a late season surge vaulted Monmouth (12-20, 10-8 NEC)
into the upper half of the NEC standings a year ago, optimism is running high in West Long Branch. With a change in offensive philosophy to a more free-flowing, up-and-down style, Rice has brought in a host of players to fit his system, and it could start paying immediate dividends for the Hawks, who finished last year with their best NEC mark (10-8) since 2005-06.
It’s often said that good guards are paramount to a team’s success, and it that’s the case, then Monmouth is in good shape. Cat-quick and fearless, senior Jesse Steele (Milford, NJ/Oak Hill Academy (Army))
led a balanced scoring attack last season with 12.6 ppg and was one of the NEC’s top marksman with 62 three-pointers. A terrific athlete, Dion Nesmith (Union, NJ/Union (Northeastern))
came into his own as a defensive stopper, and proved himself an able bodied scorer (8.8 ppg) and reliable three-point shooter (.384). Andrew Nicholas (Wrightsville, PA/Eastern York)
, a versatile 6’6” swingman with terrific range, dropped 22 points in a nationally televised game against North Carolina, and could see his scoring numbers (8.8 ppg) swell this season. South Carolina transfer Steve Spinella (Colts Neck, NJ/Apex Academy (South Carolina))
, a 6’4” senior, returns to his home state and adds to the talent base at the guard spot. The Hawks sport a pair of battle-tested veterans up front in seniors Ed Waite (Fort Lauderdale, FL/Pine Crest)
(7.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Marcus Ware (Vineland, NJ/Vineland)
(6.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg), who finished one-two on the team in rebounding last season. Rice added more frontcourt depth for his second season with 6’5” Tyrone O’Garro (Newark, NJ/Saint Peter’s Prep)
and 6’7” Collin Stewart (Glenville, NY/Mekeel Christian Academy
) looking to break into the rotation.
In his 17 years at Central Connecticut (13-16, 10-8 NEC)
, Howie Dickenman has presided over three NEC championship teams and generally kept the Blue Devils at or near the top of the league standings. His ability to seamless transition from one era to the next may be unmatched in conference annals. Dickenman and his program will certainly be put to the test in 2012-13 as they adjust to life without CCSU all-time great Ken Horton and 1,500-point scorer Robby Ptacek. Horton, a former NEC Player of the Year who ranks fifth on the league’s all-time scoring chart with 1,966 points, will go down as one of the most multi-faceted players in conference history.
Dickenman is aiming for more balanced offensive production this coming year as those two, along with sophomore guard Kyle Vinales (Detroit, MI/Phelps School)
accounted for over three-quarters of CCSU’s points last season. There is no question, however, that Vinales will be CCSU’s go-to weapon. The 6’1” Detroit native was named NEC Rookie of the Year and matched the league record with eight NEC Rookie of the Week honors. He was the leading freshman point producer in the nation with 17.9 ppg, hit 71 three-point shots and averaged 3.6 apg. Backcourt-mate Malcolm McMillan (Baltimore, MD/John Carroll)
also comes off a solid freshman campaign. He led the NEC in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.02) and paced the Blue Devils with 4.0 apg. Sophomores Adonis Burbage (Orlando, FL/Orlando Christian Prep)
and Shelton Mickell (Queens, NY/Cardozo)
, along with junior De’Angelo Speech (Oak Park, IL/Lee Academy)
, all contributed last season as part of a deep guard core. Up front, Joe Efese (Spring Valley, NY/St. Joseph Regional)
(3.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg), a chiseled 6’6” senior forward, could be primed for a breakout year, and junior Terrell Allen (Virginia Beach, VA/Cape Henry)
has shown promise as a low post scorer. At 6’7”, freshman forward Brandon Peel (Forestville, MD/Riverdale Baptist)
is expected to make an impact both on the boards and as a shot blocker.
Mount St. Mary’s
Mount St. Mary’s (8-21, 6-12 NEC)
turned the page in the offseason, aiming for a fresh start and new approach with former Mount player and recent VCU assistant Jamion Christian taking over the reins. Known over the last decade for its stingy defense and deliberate halfcourt game, the 30-year old Christian has promised a more freewheeling, end-to-end style of play at the Mount, which could be a perfect fit for the team’s young, athletic roster.
Poised for a breakout year is junior guard Julian Norfleet (Virginia Beach, VA/Landstown)
, who transformed from spot-up shooter as a freshman to all-around threat last season. He paced the Mount with 13.7 ppg and drained a team-best 69 shots from outside the arc. Another player who made noticeable gains a year ago was Josh Castellanos (Orlando, FL/Orlando Christian Prep)
, a slick point guard with a knack for finding the open man. Castellanos finished third in the NEC with 4.6 apg while also contributing 8.1 ppg. Kelvin Parker (York, PA/William Penn)
, a rugged 6’3” walk-on, was awarded a scholarship in the offseason after an eye-opening freshman campaign (9.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 43 three-pointers) that saw him earn a starting spot early on and NEC Rookie of the Week nod in February. Senior forward Raven Barber (Edgewood, MD/Paul VI (VA))
is among the most athletically gifted big men in the conference. At 6’8” and 225 lbs., Barber (9.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg) has a nose for the hoop and has converted 58.6 percent of his shot attempts over the course of his career. Burly 6’9” junior Kristijan Krajina (Osijek, Croatia/Blue Ridge School (VA))
(5.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg) started 23 games in the pivot for the Mount last season. With Marist transfer Sam Prescott (Philadelphia, PA/Imhotep Charter (Marist))
and George Mason transfer Rashad Whack (Hyattsville, MD/Bishop McNamara)
now eligible, and Christian’s first recruiting class yielding four promising newcomers, the competition for playing time will be fierce as the first year head coach brings his “Mount Mayhem” approach to Emmitsburg.
Now in his fifth year, the 2012-13 season in many ways marks a fresh start for Tim O’Shea and his Bryant (2-28, 1-17 NEC)
program. First and foremost, the Bulldogs are now NEC Tournament-eligible after completing their five-year NCAA Division I reclassification. An infusion of talent - there are seven newcomers in the mix - to go along with a core of proven veterans also has the Bryant faithful justifiably optimistic about the team’s chances this coming year.
Expect O’Shea’s game plan to revolve around versatile junior Alex Francis (Harlem, NY/Holderness Prep (NH))
, a dynamic talent who has been the face of Bryant hoops over his first two years in Smithfield. The 6’6” forward was the NEC Rookie of the Year in 2010-11, and ranked in the NEC top-10 with 17.0 ppg and 7.4 rpg as a sophomore. Francis, who needs just 48 points to reach 1,000 for his career, has benefitted from the presence of slick point guard Frankie Dobbs (Berea, OH/Saint Edward)
. The senior averaged 13.3 ppg, finished second in the league with 4.6 apg, and also lit it up from the outside with 70 three-pointers a year ago. Junior guard Corey Maynard (Adelaide, Australia/Sacred Heart College)
is another double-digit scorer (11.4 ppg) who can stroke it from long range (40 3PFG). Look for Columbia transfer Dynami Starks (Duluth, MN/Duluth East)
to make an immediate impact in the backcourt after leading the Bulldogs in scoring on the team’s summer trip to Italy. Bryant also added another shooter with range in Holy Cross transfer Joe O’Shea (Burlington, VT/Burlington)
, a 6-4 guard who also happens to be Tim O’Shea’s nephew.
Team chemistry will go a long way in determining Fairleigh Dickinson’s (3-26, 2-16 NEC)
ultimate position within the NEC this season. While fourth year head coach Greg Vetrone brings back four seniors, there are two transfers who sat out last year along with four newcomers who must be incorporated into the mix for the Knights.
FDU is rock-solid in the backcourt with returning seniors Melquan Bolding (Mt. Vernon, NY/Bishop Stepinac (Duquesne)), Lonnie Hayes (Cincinnati, OH/Harmony Prep (Missouri State-West Plains JC))
and Lonnie Robinson (Deerfield Beach, FL/Deerfield Beach (Western Texas))
. Bolding can score from any spot on the floor and is one of the league’s top improvisers with the ball. He led the Knights with 15.1 ppg and 38 3PFG last season, and should thrive this coming year when he moves back to his natural two-guard spot. Hayes (13.0 ppg, 4.1 apg) had an eye-catching debut last season, scoring 26 against Providence in his first game, and appeared headed for a solid season running the point until breaking his foot near the end of non-conference play. Robinson led the Knights in three-point shooting (.354) and contributed 6.9 ppg. Transfer guards Yves Jules (Brooklyn, NY/Canarsie)
(Hofstra) and Mustafaa Jones (Philadelphia, PA/Neumann Goretti)
(Hartford) will also compete for time. Manning the paint will be 6’6” senior forward Kinu Rochford (Brooklyn, NY/James Madison (Globe Institute))
, an efficient player who shot nearly 56 percent from the field, and averaged 9.3 ppg and 6.8 rpg in just over 25 mpg. Look for freshman Xavier Harris (Philadelphia, PA/Constitution (The Peddie School))
, a 6’6”, 230 lb. wing, to make an impact in the frontcourt.
Saint Francis (PA)
With an eye on the future, Saint Francis (PA) (6-23, 5-13 NEC)
reached back into its not-too-distant past during the offseason with the hiring of Rob Krimmel as head coach. Krimmel, who played for the Red Flash from 1996-00, will look to build the program from the ground up, beginning his tenure with a roster that includes 11 underclassmen.
There are some key pieces in place for the first your coach, most notably, 5’11” junior guard Umar Shannon (Atlantic City, NJ/Atlantic City)
. Shannon was a second team All-NEC pick as a sophomore in 2010-11 and seemed primed for a huge season a year ago, but a knee injury in the Red Flash’s season opener - a game in which he dropped 26 points in a spectacular effort at VCU - sidelined the Atlantic City native for the remainder of the year. A healthy Shannon can score in bunches and take over games down the stretch. He averaged 15.8 ppg and hit 68 three-pointers in his last full season. One of just two seniors on the roster, Anthony Ervin (Chesterfield, VA/Fork Union Military Academy)
led the Red Flash in three-point shooting last season (.376) and averaged 11.2 ppg. Stephon Whyatt (Jersey City, NJ/St. Peter’s Prep)
(9.2 ppg) and Ollie Jackson (Dallas, TX/Pinkston)
(6.3 ppg) both come off solid freshman campaigns and look to be two of Krimmel’s building blocks in the backcourt. The duo combined to hit 70 shots from long distance a year ago. Competition for frontcourt minutes will be intense, but look for sophomore Earl Brown (Philadelphia, PA/Imhotep Charter)
(6.0 ppg, 50.0 FG%) to make big strides after a promising first year in Loretto. Senior Tony Peters (Roselle, NJ/Seton Hall Prep)
and the versatile Kam Ritter (Niskayuna, NY/Christian Boys Academy)
also figure into the mix, as does Ronnie Drinnion (Jamestown, OH/Greenview)
, one of five freshman on the roster.
NEC Preseason Coaches Poll History (last 25 years)
Year Preseason Favorite NEC Tournament Champion
(actual regular season finish) (preseason selection)
2011-12 LIU Brooklyn (1st) LIU Brooklyn (1st)
2010-11 Quinnipiac (2nd) LIU Brooklyn (3rd)
2009-10 Mount St. Mary’s (3rd) Robert Morris (tie 3rd)
2008-09 Mount St. Mary’s (tie 2nd) Robert Morris (3rd)
2007-08 Sacred Heart (3rd) Mount St. Mary’s (4th)
2006-07 Monmouth (tie 8th) CCSU (tie 4th)
2005-06 Fairleigh Dickinson (1st) Monmouth (2nd)
2004-05 Monmouth (1st) Fairleigh Dickinson (2nd)
2003-04 Quinnipiac (10th) Monmouth (3rd)
2002-03 CCSU (3rd) Wagner (2nd)
2001-02 Monmouth (4th) CCSU (4th)
2000-01 CCSU (tie 5th) CCSU (3rd)
1999-00 Mount St. Mary’s (tie 7th) CCSU (3rd)
1998-99 Mount St. Mary’s (tie 5th) Mount St. Mary’s (1st)
1997-98 LIU Brooklyn (1st) Fairleigh Dickinson (2nd)
1996-97 Monmouth (3rd) LIU Brooklyn (4th)
1995-96 Monmouth/Rider (tie 2nd/4th) Monmouth (tie 1st)
1994-95 Rider (1st) Mount St. Mary’s (3rd)
1993-94 Fairleigh Dickinson (tie 5th) Rider (3rd)
1992-93 Wagner (2nd) Rider (3rd)
1991-92 Monmouth (tie 2nd) Robert Morris (2nd)
1990-91 Monmouth (4th) Saint Francis (PA) (3rd)
1989-90 Fairleigh Dickinson (6th) Robert Morris (3rd)
1988-89 Monmouth (3rd) Robert Morris (5th)
1987-88 *Marist (tie 1st) Fairleigh Dickinson (2nd)
* Marist was ineligible for the NEC Tournament in 1987-88
About The Northeast Conference
Now in its 32nd year, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 12 institutions of higher learning located throughout six states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to four of the largest markets in the United States - New York (#1), Pittsburgh (#23), Baltimore (#27), and Hartford/New Haven (#30). Founded in 1981 as the basketball-only ECAC Metro Conference, the NEC has grown to sponsor 23 championship sports for men and women and now enjoys automatic or play-in access to 14 different NCAA Championships. NEC member institutions include Bryant, Central Connecticut State, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU Brooklyn, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary’s, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (NY), Saint Francis (PA) and Wagner. For more information on the NEC, visit the league’s official website (www.northeastconference.org
) and digital network (www.necfrontrow.com
), or follow the league on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube @NECsports.