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Northeast Preview

November 9, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Northeast Conference Preview

by Chris Roddy

The Devil Who Became a King
CCSU Blue Devils’ Corsley Edwards is king, a Sacramento King that is. The NEC saw it’s best player selected as the 58th (and last) overall pick in the NBA draft’s second round in the off-season. As a senior, Edwards started all 32 games and averaged 15.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game en route to an NEC championship and berth to the NCAA tourney (first round loss to Pitt).

Leader of the Flock
LIU has selected Jim Ferry as their new head coach. Ferry takes over a team that barely managed a 5-22 overall record last year. Blackbird fans should feel good about this change at the helm as Ferry’s creds are impressive. At Division II Adelphi, his teams were 82-11 the last three seasons and made back-to-back NCAA DII Elite Eight appearances in 2001 and 2002.

NEC New Home for Small Power Forwards?
With Corsley Edwards gone, the NEC is looking at another senior forward to put them on the evening highlight reel. Wagner senior forward Jermaine Hall is the NEC’s leading active scorer and rebounder with 1,592 points and 548 boards. Hall averaged 21 points per game last season and led the nation in blocked shots (36) for players 6′-5″ and under. He is the player to watch this year and with a little luck, might follow Edwards to the NBA.

Below are team capsules in projected order of finish:

1. Central Connecticut State Blue Devils (19-1, 27-4, 1st)

Out: Corsley Edwards, Drafted by Sacramento Kings

In: The team returns seven of their top nine scorers from a year ago. Two of those players, senior
Damian Battles and junior Ricardo Scott, were Second-Team All-NEC picks last season. Battles earned NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player honors after averaging 19.7 points per game. He also outshined all the Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament scoring 15 points, grabbing six rebounds and had six assists.

Games to Watch:
Dec. 28 vs. Connecticut
Jan. 11 vs. Wagner
Feb. 24 vs. Quinnipiac (at MSG)

2. Wagner Seahawks (15-5, 19-9, 3rd)

Out: Chris Jackson and Cory Underwood (Graduated)

Coach Whittenburg’s fast style of play will be carried out by senior Dedrick Dye and juniors
Courtney Pritchard and Teoine Carroll. Dye plays Princeton-ian style of basketball with his relentless, accelerated defense, combined with his ability to hit the trifecta from well beyond the arc. Pritchard was named the NEC Defensive Player of the Year last season. And of course, senior Jermaine Hall will be the heart-n-soul of this explosive offense.

Fresh Faces: Corey McCrae from famed DeMatha High School in Baltimore and DeEarnest McLemore is a North Carolina prep school phenom.

Games to Watch:
Dec. 7 vs. UCONN
Jan. 4 vs. Maryland
Deb. 22 vs. UMBC

3. Quinnipiac Bobcats (10-10, 14-16, 7th)

Out: Bill Romano, All NEC Center (Graduated), Braves Mascot (replaced by Bobcats)

In: Four of five starters are back for Quinnipiac, which is bad news for the NEC that was shocked by the Bobcats strong finish. They won four out of their last five games of the season and then stormed through the NEC tournament with upsets over Wagner and UMBC before losing to CCSU in a heart-pounding 78-71 contest. Quinnipiac is led by sophomore point guard Rob Monroe. The 2001-02 NEC Rookie of the Year is an open court nightmare for team’s to defend. He is joined by Kason Mims, Jeremy Bishop (nation’s top ranked rebounder last year 12 rpg) and junior forward Rashaun Banjo.

Fresh Faces: New Hampton Prep’s Jerry Fiefie

Games to Watch:
Dec. 30 vs. La Salle
Feb. 1 vs. St. Francis (NY)
Feb. 10 vs. Wagner

4. St. Francis (NY) Terriers (13-7, 18-11, 5th)

Out: Jason Morgan, NEC’s leading three-point shooter and Karl Sanders, point guard. (Graduated)

In: Bronski Dockery and center Christopher Sockwell hope to build on solid seasons. Dockery is a fearless defender and possesses one of the best all-around games in the conference. Sockwell (13.0 ppg) is just plain nasty when it comes to low post offense, as well as his ability to reject shots. Senior forward Clifford Strong was granted an extra year of eligibility after redshirt-ing the 1999-00 season. Expect good contribution from Eric Thompson and Patrice Thevenot. Thevenot returns after missing all of last season with injuries.

Fresh Faces: Tory Calvalieri from Maine was named to the America East all-Rookie team in 2000-01, will take over at the point. Also a transfer is potential starter/sixth-man Mike Wilson a two-year starter from Rider.

Games to Watch:
Dec. 2 vs. Seton Hall
Dec. 11 vs. St. John’s
Feb. 10 vs. CCSU

5. Robert Morris Colonials (11-9, 12-18, 6th)

Out: Matt Smith (Graduated)

In: The two returning starters, senior DaMarcus Ellis and junior Aaron Thomas, will try and lead a young but well-coached team. Ellis is a great passing point guard, while Thomas can hit three pointers all day long. Look for the rise of junior shooting guard Chaz McCrommon and sophomore Maurice Carter to make a lot of buckets. Young, unknown and under estimated, the Colonials tested the one of the nation’s longest win streak teams (CCSU) in a buzzer beater loss late last season. The grit and tenacity displayed against CCSU could foreshadow Robert Morris’s emergence as the surprise team of the NEC this season.

Fresh Faces: Mekele Cooper (Saginaw, MI)

Games to Watch:
Nov. 24 vs. Kent State
Dec. 29 vs. Purdue
Jan. 19 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson

6. Monmouth Hawks (14-6, 18-12, 4th)

Out: Rahsaan Johnson, Former NEC Player of the Year (Graduated)

In: Monmouth will rely on sophomore Dwayne Byfield, a 6-2 guard who earned a spot on the NEC’s all-Rookie team. Junior Jason Krayl is the key component in the Hawks’ offense. Krayl (11.3 ppg) is the team’s leading returning scorer. Much of the success hinges on the health of center Kevin Owens who has battled injuries throughout his career.

Fresh Faces: 6-9 forward Pat Deveney transferred from Drexel

Games to Watch:
Dec. 3 vs. Princeton
Dec. 29 vs. Kansas State
Jan. 25 vs. Quinnipiac

7. Sacred Heart Pioneers (7-12, 8-20, 8th)

In: Omar Wellington (G) plays solid all-around mistake-free ball. A transfer from Rider, Maurice Bailey averaged almost 19 points per game and was selected as to the all-NEC second team. Junior guard Chris Assel, is a consistent long range and ranked third in the league in three-point percentage (42.4%). Tre Samuels was named to the NEC all-Rookie team and looks to build on a huge inaugural season in the NEC.

Fresh Faces: Mike Parker. Connecticut all-state point guard
Games to Watch:
Dec. 5 vs. Yale
Jan 4. vs. Minnesota
Jan. 8 vs. Wagner

8. UMBC Retrievers (15-5, 20-9, 2nd)

Out: First team all-NEC pick, Peter Mulligan (Transfer); Starters Will McClurkin and Malik Wallace, and key reserve Ronald Yates (graduated)

In: The Retrievers return just one double figure scorer, junior guard Kareem Washington and he wasn’t even a starter. Sophomore Rob Gogerty became an unlikely starter at the point as a freshman, creating chances for his teammates while turning the ball over less than one time per game and making the NEC all-Rookie team.

Fresh Faces: Freshmen forwards John Zito and Jerrell Dinkins will need to mature quickly to help out this young team.

Games to Watch:
Dec. 13 vs. Villanova
Jan. 11 vs. Robert Morris

9. St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (5-15, 6-21, 9th)

Out: Reiner Mougnol, Leading Scorer (Graduated)

In: Head coach Bobby Jones has a wealth of young talent. Junior Steveroy Daley is supposed to be one of the most underrated players in the conference. Daley led the NEC in field goal percentage by hitting 67.1 percent of his shots. Rodney Gibson collected a lot of experience and playing time as he started all 27 games as a freshman. Bad news for the Red Flash though as NEC all-Rookie pick, Rahsaan Benton, will miss the 2002-03 season to recover from a back injury.

Fresh Faces: Transfer Jason Osborne (Dayton) will miss the first five games of the season due to NCAA transfer rules and freshman Daniel Reed was an all-State selection in West Virginia.

Games to Watch:
Dec. 7 vs. Bucknell
Feb. 8 vs. St. Francis (NY)

10. Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (4-16, 4-25, 11th)

Out: Center, James Felton (Graduated)

In: Coming off the worst season in the school’s 53 year history, FDU will look to senior Matt Hammond who finished second on the team in scoring to help turn things around. FDU’s hopes may lie with Lionel Bomayako, as they will see if he can recover from lower back injuries that killed his offensive output last season, and junior Ryshaun Sunkins as the starting small forward. Look for the Knights to run and press, relying heavily on fast breaks to make up for their lack of size.

Fresh Faces: Freshman forward Davor Filipovic (Croatia)

Games to Watch:
Jan. 7 vs. Army
Jan. 25 vs. CCSU

11. Long Island Blackbirds (5-15, 5-22, 10th)

In: Antawn Dobie graduated to earn back his fourth year of eligibility. Dobie is arguably the best player in the NEC, right next to Hall and Robinson. He led the NEC in scoring (21.2 ppg) and ranked second in assists. Dobie will need the help of junior forward JaJa Bey to open up the court and allow Dobie to penetrate the paint for easy scores.

Fresh Faces: Freshman Brandon Thomas (San Antonio, TX), an all-state selection as a senior.

Games to Watch:
Dec. 28 vs. South Florida
Jan. 4 vs. Northwestern

12. Mt. Saint Mary’s Mountaineers (2-18, 3-24, 12th)

In: Guard Pat Atangana is a double-double threat each time he steps on the court. While inconsistent, he can hit an open three-pointer. Angel Rivera is one of two seniors on the team, and an overrated shot blocker. Look for teams to post up against this weak defense. Phelan might have to wait a few more seasons before contending for the all-time victories list (819). He is first among active coaches and fourth behind Dean Smith (879), Adolph Rupp and Clarence Gaines.

All Conference Pre-Season Picks
G, Damian Battles, CCSU
G, Antwan Dobie, LIU
F, Jermaine Hall, Wagner
F, Ron Robinson, CCSU
F, Jeremy Bishop, Quinnipiac

Honorable Mentions
G, Rob Gogerty, UMBC
G, Dwayne Byfield, Monmouth
G, Tory Calvalieri, St. Francis (NY)

Newcomer of the Year
G, Maurice Bailey, Sacred Heart

Coach On Hot Seat: Dereck Whittenburg, Wagner
He has to lead Wagner to the title while he still has arguably the league’s best player in Jermaine Hall. But, it will be tough to unseat the talented and experienced Blue Devils.

Runner-up: Jim Phelan, Saint Mary’s


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