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MAAC 2002-03 Season Recap

April 24, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Metro Atlantic 2002-03 Season Recap

by Adam Shandler

The 2002-03 MAAC men’s basketball season definitely had it’s share of red letter moments. St. Peter’s freshman point guard Keydren Clark was in the top ten in scoring in the nation for the most of the season. Manhattan scored major victories against St. John’s and Seton Hall, and Iona shocked North Carolina. Siena finished up strong as well. In the NIT the Saints beat teams from conferences with higher RPIs. All this made the rest of the basketball nation sit up, take notice and realize that the MAAC is not a conference to be messed with.

MAAC Tournament Overview

Both the MAAC regular season and conference tournament came down to a dogfight between Fairfield and Manhattan. At 14-5, the Jaspers ended the regular season one game up on the Stags for first place. After a scare against Niagara in the semifinals, 82-81, the Jaspers regrouped and took the conference title over Fairfield, 69-54.

The MAAC in the Post-season

MAAC teams were well represented in postseason play. Manhattan, the 14th seed in the East, went up against eventual national champion Syracuse, the committee’s 3-seed in the region. The Jaspers hung tough, forcing 12 ‘Cuse turnovers and trailing 35-31 at the intermission. But Syracuse freshman Carmelo Anthony did the things that make him one of the most exciting players in college hoops: he attacked the rack. Manhattan trailed by five with only seven minutes left, but Anthony hit a layup and two free throws and it never got any closer than 9 points. Syracuse went on to the second round with a 76-65 W over Manhattan. Jared Johnson hit for 22 to lead Bobby Gonzalez’s much-inspired team.

In the NIT, Fairfield took an early exit after bowing to Boston College, 90-78, but fellow MAACer Siena had a decent run. The Saints upset Villanova in Round 1, 74-59, then squirted by Western Michigan 68-62. Siena finally got burned by the UAB Blazers in the quarterfinals, 80-71. The Saints had a one-point edge with just over six minutes remaining, but UAB went on a 16-4 spurt to close out the game. Michael Haddix led the losing Saints with 16 points.

First Team All-MAAC:
G – Prosper Karangwa, Siena
G – Keydren Clark, St. Peter’s
G – Luis Flores, Manhattan
F – Juan Mendez, Niagara
F – Deng Gai- Fairfield

Second Team All-MAAC
G – Brian Dux, Canisius
G – Jerry Johnson, Rider
G – Nick Eppeheimer, Marist
G/F – Hodari Mallory, Canisius
F – James Reaves, Niagara

MAAC Player of the Year:
Luis Flores, 6-2 Jr. Guard, Manhattan

No one really knew what to expect from Manhattan after point guard and leader
Von Damien “Muggsy” Green graduated last year. No one except Luis Flores.
Flores, who was named to the NABC Division I, All-District 2 team, was second
in the MAAC in scoring (24.6 ppg) and was tops in steals at 1.93 per game. But
his most attractive attribute does not appear in the stat pages. Flores’
acceptance of the team-leader role helped lead the Riverdale school to an NCAA

MAAC Freshman of the Year:

Keydren Clark, 5-8 Point Guard, St. Peter’s

Not only did Keydren Clark lead the MAAC in scoring at 24.9 ppg, he was also
one of the top ten scorers in all of Division I men’s basketball. Thanks to Clark,
the Peacocks improved somewhat on last year’s 4-24 record with a 10-19
performance in 2002-03. Scary to think that next year he might be doing even
more scoring, as Clark moves to shooting guard, his natural position.

MAAC Defensive Player of the Year:

Deng Gai, 6-9 Sophomore forward, Fairfield

Gai wins this one by a nose as the MAAC is known for a cavalcade of supreme
defensive players. (Check out the steals, blocks and d-rebs sheet to see what
we mean) Gai, who averaged 4 blocks and 4.7 rebounds per game last year,
kept up his stingy behavior this season. He swatted away a total of 96 shots for
a 3.84 average (#1 in the MAAC in that category) and averaged 5.36 defensive
boards a game — good for second best in the conference.

MAAC Coach of the Year:

Rob Lanier, Siena

While Manhattan’s Bobby Gonzalez might have been the clear-cut favorite for
leading his team to the Dance, Hoopville gives the nod to Siena’s Rob Lanier.
Why? Cause the second year coach loves to surprise us. Last season, Lanier
took an 18-19 team that peaked at the right time, won the MAAC tourney and
the NCAA tournament play-in game. This year, despite missing two of their best
senior scorers from a year ago, the Saints finish third in the MAAC at 12-6 (21-
11 overall), and upset Villanova and Western Michigan in the NIT before losing a
toughie to UAB.

How They Finished, What’s in Store:

1. Manhattan Jaspers (23-7, 14-4 MAAC)

Seniors Jared Jackson, a forward, and Justin Jackette, a much relied-upon
guard, toss their caps into the air this May. The most notable potential exit may
come from along the sidelines. Head coach Bobby Gonzalez has made this
program a consistent contender in his four-year stint and may be on the top of
many coaching-job short lists. Player of the year Luis Flores, as of this writing,
plans to stay in Riverdale for his senior season. Forwards Dave Holmes, who’ll
be a senior, and pleasant-surprise freshman Mike Konovelchick return to
the Jasper lineup. 7-foot Center Mihai Enescu, a Romanian who saw
limited action in 10 games this year, returns as a sophomore to give the Jaspers
even more potency underneath.

Manhattan Leaders:

Luis Flores, G, Jr., 24.6 ppg, 2.9 apg, 1.9 spg
Dave Holmes, F, Jr., 7.4 rpg
Jason Benton, C/F, Jr. 1.1 bpg

2. Fairfield Stags (19-12, 13-5 MAAC)

The Stags put together an admirable season this year, but just didn’t have
enough firepower to knock Manhattan off the throne. A MAAC finals appearance,
an NIT bid (where the Stags fell to a strong Boston College club 90-78) are
things coach Tim O’Toole can build on for next year. The Stags lose only three
seniors, though one of them is forward Oscar Garcia from Spain, a top 20
conference scorer, and Nick Delfico, their best free-throw shooter. 5-7
sophomore Tyquawn Goode is one of the speediest point guards in the league
and Deng Gai comes back to menace would-be scorers inside.

Fairfield Leaders:

Deng Gai, F, So., 12.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.84 bpg
Tyquawn Goode, G, So., 3.71 apg , 1.55 spg, 45% 3-Pt

3. Siena Saints (21-11, 12-6 MAAC)

When the Saints marched into 2002-03 without last year’s MAAC tourney
heroes Dwayne Archbold and Andy Cavo, the critics were sure that another
postseason miracle run was out of the question. But remember, these are the
Saints. Rob Lanier’s club split the season with conference giants Manhattan and
Fairfield and won two games in the MAAC tourney. While their NCAA tourney
run fell short, Siena zoomed through three rounds of the NIT before succumbing
to UAB in the quarterfinals (see above). And the joy just kept on coming. Senior
guard Prosper Karangwa got an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational in Virginia, a
pre-pro stage for the some of the best college basketball seniors in the country.
Picking up the slack next year will be freshman forces Michael Haddix and
Antoine Jordan.

Siena Leaders:

Prosper Karangwa, G, Sr., 16.6 ppg, 4.94 apg, 84% FT
Michael Haddix, F, Fr., 7.2 rpg, 52% FG
Antoine Jordan, G, Fr., 1.69 spg

4. Niagara Purple Eagles (17-12, 12-6 MAAC)

The Purple Eagles soared into the MAAC tourney semifinals only to lose to
Manhattan, but they got forward Juan Mendez named to the all-tournament
team. Mendez was first on the team in scoring and third best in the conference
and Mendez and teammate James Reaves were the best two rebounders in the
MAAC. Both players, plus MAAC assist leader Alvin Cruz, return next year.
Traditionally one of the better defensive teams, Niagara disappointed this year,
coming in ninth in the conference in scoring defense. But with four of their
statistical leaders returning next year Niagara looks to be competitive with
the top echelon teams of the MAAC.

Niagara Leaders:

Juan Mendez, F, So., 18.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 60% FG
Alvin Cruz, G, So., 5.8 apg
Trammell Darden, G, Jr. 1.48 spg

5. Iona Gaels (17-12, 11-7 MAAC)

Early in the season, the Gaels looked like they could give Manhattan, Fairfield
and Niagara runs for their money. In addition to a win against then-ranked North
Carolina, they had beaten the A-10’s Fordham and the Jaspers and Purple
Eagles at least once each this year. But a quarterfinal loss to Niagara in the
MAAC tourney wasn’t enough for an NIT invite. Team scoring and rebounding
leader Courtney Fields exits, as does another offensive catalyst Maceo Wofford.
6-6 forward Steve Smith returns for one more year and he’ll likely be the go-to-
Gael. Freshman Martin McCullogh could be the most exciting guard in the
MAAC next season.

Iona Leaders:

Courtney Fields, G/F, Sr., 13.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg
Steve Smith, F, Jr., 60% FG
Marvin McCullough, G, Fr., 4.03 apg
Maceo Wofford, G, Sr., 46% 3-Pt.

6. Marist Red Foxes (13-16, 8-10 MAAC)

It would be easy to cop out and say this was a rebuilding year for the Foxes,
but they did return forward Nick Eppehimer and guard David Bennett, both
seniors. While the starters played steady ball, Marist lacked the depth to
compete with the best the MAAC had to offer. Good wins came early, against
LaSalle and tourney team Holy Cross. Head Coach Dave Magarity will look to
sophomore point guard Brandon Ellerbee to resurrect this team next year.

Marist Leaders: Nick Eppehimer, G, Sr., 17 ppg
Chris Handy, F/C, Jr., 6.3 rpg
Brandon Ellerbee, G, So., 3.8 apg, 1.76 spg
David Bennett, G, Sr., 90% FT

7. Rider Broncs (12-16, 7-11 MAAC)

If you go to the GoBroncs.com website, you’ll see that the latest update is a
flashback to an event that happened ten years ago — the Darrick Suber buzzer-
beater that won the Broncs the Northeast Conference tourney and a trip to the
Dance. This year, the Broncs could have used Suber and his jumpshot miracles
because there were few for coach Don Harnum this season. A seven-game
losing streak midway through the season and a four-game losing streak to end
the season plagued Rider in 2002-03. On the up-note, the Lawrenceville, NJ
program scored wins against Princeton, Delaware and Fairfield and sent
freshman Edwin Muniz to the conference all-rookie team.

Rider Leaders:

Jerry Johnson, G, So., 18.3 ppg, 3.15 apg
Robert Reed, F/C, Sr., 6.8 rpg
Robert Taylor, G, So., 1.86 spg

8. St. Peter’s Peacocks (10-19, 6-12 MAAC)

Don’t laugh. The Peacocks’ 10-19 record is a stark improvement over last year’s
4-24 campaign…and the 4-24 campaign from the year before. Keydren Clark, a
freshman point guard from the Bronx, was one of the top ten scorers in the
nation, and next year he moves to his natural position, shooting guard. The frosh
also broke the national record for 3-pointers made by a rookie with 109. For his
efforts, Clark was named to the national all-freshman basketball team. This is
a young team that loses only three seniors, including the very athletic Devin
Thompson, who competed for the Final Four Slam Dunk Championship in New
Orleans. It’ll probably take about another year before St. Peter’s becomes a

St. Peter’s Leaders:

Keydren Clark, G, Fr., 24.9 ppg, 4.17 apg, 39% 3-PT
Devin Thompson, F, Sr. 7.6 rpg, 54% FG, 1.31 bpg

9. Canisius Golden Griffins (10-18, 6-12 MAAC)

What was with the Griffs this year? With super-seniors Brian Dux and Hidori
Mallory leading the way, Canisius was a preseason favorite to challenge
Manhattan for the MAAC title. But, as is always the theme in college hoops,
nothing is guaranteed. The Griffs went winless from December 19 to January 14
(7 games) and won only 5 games the remainder of the season. Redshirt
freshman Kevin Downey and F/C John Ferris are next year’s hope.

Canisius Leaders:

Hidori Mallory, F, Sr., 16.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.85 spg
Kevin Downey, G, Fr., 3.14 apg
Brian Dux, G, Sr, 92% FT

10. Loyola Greyhounds (4-24, 1-17 MAAC)

Loyola, heavy on the Oy. The Greyhounds were the one constant in the MAAC
this year, constantly losing games as their 1-17 conference record attests. After
three seasons and a combined 15-70 record, it has to make you wonder
whether head coach Scott Hicks will be fired or running for the hills on his own.
The Hounds averaged only 59 points a game as a team and managed only 39 in
an opening-round MAAC tourney loss to Iona. But don’t blame it on ineptitude
alone, this is a team wrought with underclassmen. In fact, Loyola says farewell
to only one senior. Sophomore guard Lucious Jordan is no Michael — heck, he
ain’t much of a Lucious either, — but he is one of a few bright spots that returns
to a team just aching with problems.

Loyola Leaders:

Lucious Jordan, G, So., 13.2 ppg
Bernard Allen, F, So., 7.0 rpg, 5.14 offensive rpg


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