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Metro Atlantic Conference Preview

November 5, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Metro Atlantic Preview

by Todd Keryc

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The 2002-03 MAAC season was the story of Luis Flores and the Manhattan Jaspers. The 2003-04 season could be similar thanks to the return of Flores, the senior guard who transferred from Rutgers in 2000. A two-time selection to the MAAC First-Team, Flores is the clear favorite to repeat as the MAAC Player of the Year and has already received some attention by being one of 50 chosen to the John Wooden Preseason All-America Team. With Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez back for another year, the Jaspers will look for a return to the NCAA Tournament, where they bowed out to eventual champion Syracuse in the first round a year ago.

The usual suspects will again challenge Manhattan for the regular season title. Fairfield, the runner-up a year ago, returns the reigning MAAC Defensive Player of the Year in Deng Gai, as well as guards Terrence Todd and Kudjo Sogadzi. Gai, much like fellow Connecticut hoops star Emeka Okafor, has been a defensive force since the moment he set foot on the Fairfield campus. His offensive skills have improved in each of his first two seasons, and now he will be expected to carry the Stags on both ends of the floor.

Siena, Niagara, and Iona will also compete for the MAAC Title in 2003-04. Siena coach Rob Lanier, back for his third season, returns four starters from a team that reached the second round of the NIT a season ago. Niagara is a popular choice to give Manhattan their stiffest test this season. Junior Forward Juan Mendez returns for the Purple Eagles, as does rebounding monster James Reaves. Iona, led by the trio of Greg Jenkins, DeShaun Williams, and Steve Smith, gives Coach Jeff Ruland high hopes of supplanting Manhattan for the conference crown in 2004.

Preseason MAAC First-Team
G – Luis Flores (SR) – Manhattan
F – Deng Gai (JR) – Fairfield
F – Juan Mendez (JR) – Niagara
F – Greg Jenkins (SR) – Iona
G – Keydren Clark (SO) – St. Peter’s

Honorable Mention
F – James Reaves (SR) – Niagara
F – David Holmes (SR) – Manhattan
G – Jerry Johnson (JR) – Rider
G – Tremmell Darden (SR) – Niagara

Most Valuable Player – Luis Flores, Guard, Manhattan

The best in the league and arguably the best player of any Mid-Major team in America. Flores has the ability to carry the Jaspers back to the NCAA Tournament and could steal a game or two once there.

Coach on the Hot Seat – Bobby Gonzalez, Manhattan

This is not to suggest that Gonzalez might be fired given all of his recent success in Riverdale. On the contrary, Gonzalez is probably the most likely to leave after the season and move up, possibly to a lower-level Big East job. For this to happen, Gonzalez needs to continue to ride Flores back to the NCAA Tournament and maintain the high profile he built for himself with last season’s run.

Team-By-Team Previews (Projected Order of Finish)

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

Projected Starters
G – Kenny Minor
G – Luis Flores
F – Dave Holmes
F – Mike Konovelchick
C – Jason Benton

Players Lost:
Jared Johnson

Stepping Up:
Dave Holmes

Peter Mulligan (6’5″ transfer from UMBC)
Christano Johnson (6’6″ forward from the Bahamas)
Darren Johnson (6’7″ forward from Yonkers, NY)
Guy Ngarndi (6’8″ F/C from Cameroon)

Schedule Highlights
Nov. 24 – Columbia (Westchester County Center)
Nov. 29 – Fordham
Dec. 2 – Wichita State
Dec. 17 – at Syracuse
Dec. 28-29 – Dreyfus Holiday Festival at MSG
Feb. 21 – ESPN Bracket Buster Game (Opponent TBA)

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

Projected Starters
G – Tyquawn Goode
G – Kudjo Sogadzi
G – Terrence Todd
F – Deng Gai
C – Rob Thompson

Players Lost:
Ajou Deng
Oscar Garcia
Nick Delfico

Stepping Up:
Terrence Todd

Marty O’Sullivan (6’7″ F from Honeoye Falls, NY)
Michael Van Schaick (6’2″ G from Glen Falls, NY)

Schedule Highlights
Nov. 21 – at Harvard
Nov. 24 – at St. John’s
Dec. 5 – Manhattan
Dec. 23 – George Washington
Dec. 28-30 – Rainbow Classic in Hawaii
Jan 3. – vs. Michigan (Madison Square Garden)
Jan. 6 – at Duke

3. Niagara Purple Eagles (17-12, 12-6, T-3rd)

Projected Starters
G – Alvin Cruz
G – Tremmell Darden
F – James Mathis
F – Juan Mendez
C – James Reaves

Players Lost:
No Key Losses

Stepping Up:
Alvin Cruz

Lorenzo Miles (6’0″ G from Washington D.C.)
Greg Noel (6’7″ F from Montreal)

Schedule Highlights
Dec. 17 – St. Bonaventure
Dec. 30 – Central Connecticut State
Jan. 3 – at St. John’s
Jan. 9 – Manhattan

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

Projected Starters
G – Marvin McCullough
G – Ricky Soliver
F – DeShaun Williams
F – Steve Smith
C – Greg Jenkins

Players Lost:
Courtney Fields
Steve Burtt, Jr.
Maceo Wofford
Charles Henson

Stepping Up:
DeShaun Williams (more expected from the Syracuse transfer this year)

Anthony Bruin (6’6″ F from Albany, NY)
Justin Marshall (6’8″ F from Queens, NY)

Schedule Highlights
Nov. 24 – Vermont (Westchester County Center)
Dec. 10 – at St. Bonaventure
Dec. 20 – at Connecticut
Dec. 28 – at Rhode Island
Dec. 31 – Holy Cross

5. Siena Saints (21-11, 12-6, T-3rd)

Projected Starters
G – Jamal Jackson
G – Tommy Mitchell
F – Austin Andrews
F – Michael Haddix
C – Justin Miller

Players Lost:
Prosper Karangwa
Michael Buhrman

Stepping Up:
Jamal Jackson

Joel Green (6’8″ F from Rosemont, PA)
David Ryan (Red Shirt 6’7″ F from Eastchester, NY)
Darryl Gladden (5’10” G from Burlington, NJ)
Tezmar Caldwell (6’8″ F from Morristown, NJ)
Mike Beers (6’2″ G from Broadalbin, NY)

Schedule Highlights
Nov. 25 – Fordham
Dec. 20 – at Syracuse
Dec. 28 – at Providence
Jan. 3 – Manhattan

6. St. Peter’s Peacocks (10-19, 6-12, T-8th)

Projected Starters
G – Keydren Clark
G – Regis Devonish
F – Rafael Martinez
F – Ivan Bozovic
C – Amir Ali

Players Lost:
Devin Thompson
Corien John
Melvin Robinson

Stepping Up:
Ivan Bozovic

Stephen Dyer (6’3″ G/F from Queens, NY)
Shane Nichols (6’0″ G from Radford, VA)
Kinzey Reeves (6’10” F/C from Fairbanks, AK)

Schedule Highlights
Dec. 11 – Yale
Dec. 13 – at Seton Hall
Dec. 23 – at Hofstra
Jan. 14 – at Manhattan

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

Projected Starters
G – Brandon Ellerbe
G – Eric Sosler
F – Carl Hood
F – Dennis Young
C – Chris Handy

Players Lost:
Nick Eppehimer
David Bennett

Stepping Up:
Dennis Young

Jared Jordan (6’2″ G from Hartford, CT)
David Magarity, Jr. (6’0″ G from Wappingers Falls, NY)
Miles Orman (6’5″ F from Engelwood, NJ)
Kenny Parks (6’7″ F from Houston, TX)
Ryan Stilphen (6’8″ F/C from Bay Village, OH)
Will Whittington (6’3″ G/F from Kingwood, TX)

Schedule Highlights
Nov. 18 – Hofstra (Preseason NIT)
Nov. 22/23 – Pepsi Marist Classic
Nov. 30 – at Central Michigan
Dec. 21 – Vermont
Dec. 23 – at Georgia Tech
Jan. 3 – Holy Cross (Madison Square Garden)

8. Rider Broncs (12-16, 7-11, 7th)

Projected Starters
G – Jerry Johnson
G – Lawrence Young
G – Robert Taylor
F – Edwin Muniz
F – Paul Johnson

Players Lost:
Robert Reed
Brandon Wahlmann

Stepping Up:
Edwin Muniz

Steve Castleberry (7’0″ C – JC transfer)
Andre Pereira (6’6″ F from Sao Paolo, Brazil – JC transfer)
Lewis Thompson (6’8″ F from Wall, NJ)
Terrence Mouton (5’11” G from Lafayette, LA)

Schedule Highlights
Nov. 28 – 30 – Hawaii-Hilo Tournament
Dec. 7 – at Manhattan
Dec. 30 – at Farleigh Dickinson
Jan. 10 – Pennsylvania

9. Canisius Golden Griffins (11-17, 6-12, T-8th)

Projected Starters
G – Dewitt Doss
G – Kevin Downey
F – Richard Jones
F – Toby Foster
C – Yaku Moton-Spruill

Players Lost:
Hodari Mallory
Brian Dux
Chris Ravello

Stepping Up:
Dewitt Doss

Chuck Harris (6’3″ G from Detroit, MI)
Randy Minto (5’11” G from Brooklyn, NY)
Dewan Stroud (6’1″ G from Buffalo, NY)
Darnell Wilson (6’6″ F from Wayne, MI)

Schedule Highlights
Nov. 27-29 – Great Alaska Shootout
Dec. 6 – at St. Bonaventure
Dec. 15 – at Marquette
Dec. 18 – College of Charleston
Dec. 30 – at Syracuse
Jan. 7 – Manhattan

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

Projected Starters
G – Linton Hinds
G – Bobby Bossman
F – Bernard Allen
F – Jim Chivers
C – Sean Corrigan

Players Lost:
Lucious Jordan
Donovan Thomas
Delonnie Southall
Ryan Dickey

Stepping Up:
Bernard Allen

Kenny Burr (6’5″ G from Lexington, SC)
Jamaal Dixon (6’2″ G from Braintree, MA)
Shane James (6’3″ G from Toronto, ONT)
Michael Tuck (6’7″ F from Toronto, ONT)

Schedule Highlights
Nov. 21/22 – Battle of Baltimore
Dec. 10 – at Delaware
Dec. 29 – Princeton
Jan. 5 – Central Connecticut State
Feb. 4 – Manhattan

There is a clear break between the top and the bottom half of the MAAC. Manhattan is the prohibitive favorite but will be chased again by Fairfield, Siena, Niagara, and Iona. The bottom half of the league may provide the occasional scare of the top half, but do not look for any of the other five to contend for the league championship. St. Peter’s is potentially the most dangerous given Keydren Clark’s ability to score the ball at will. The two games between the Peacocks and Jaspers will feature the two best scorers in the league. Watch out for Niagara in 2004. They return a very solid group including emerging big man James Reaves. The other team to watch out for is Iona. The Gaels have a terrific trio in Jenkins, Smith, and the Syracuse transfer, DeShaun Williams. Williams could be the breakout star of the conference this year and challenge fellow Big East transfer Flores for the conference’s top honors.

However, as the saying goes, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, and until the four challengers deliver a knockout punch to Gonzalez and the Jaspers, it’s Manhattan’s conference to lose.


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