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November 18, 2003 Columns No Comments

Preseason Update

by Phil Kasiecki

The first games of the 2003-04 regular season aren’t far away. Teams have been practicing for nearly a month now, and a few teams have played their opening game. Here is a look at how several teams are progressing to this point.

Massachusetts recently held an intra-squad scrimmage that was open to the public. Head coach Steve Lappas told fans that he’s very excited about this season’s team, a fairly young but athletic group. Freshman Maurice Maxwell impressed in the scrimmage, as he was very active and handled the ball often. He could get a lot of minutes right away. The Minutemen are very athletic up front, but also raw, though Gabe Lee didn’t play due to an injury (not serious). Rashaun Freeman ran the floor well but wasn’t a big factor inside, while Stephan Lasme showed some potential (he needs to get stronger). Jeff Viggiano looks stronger and was workman-like, but still struggled with his jump shot. Point guard Anthony Anderson is the team’s clear leader. Although it’s still early yet, shooting looks to remain a major concern for this team, which was last in the Atlantic Ten in scoring and three-point shooting last season.

Assistant coach Pat Skerry tells us that things look very good at College of Charleston. The Cougars look to be 10-11 deep and might be more talented than last season’s team, which has head coach Tom Herrion excited. They like what they see from newcomers Robert Swain (Connecticut transfer), while freshman point guard Dontaye Draper should see plenty of time backing up Tony Mitchell, and forward Jeff Horowitz has been a pleasant surprise so far.

Northeastern won both of their exhibition games, 97-86 over the GT Express team from Canada and over the Boston Amateur Basketball Club. The expected strength of the team led the way, as guards Marcus Barnes and Jose Juan Barea each had 27 points while combining to shoot 20-30 from the floor against GT Express. Barnes looks to be shooting well in practice, while Barea looks stronger. Sophomore center Gene Oliynyk has clearly lost weight and is running the floor better; he still must cut down on fouls. Head coach Ron Everhart says the chemistry is still coming together, getting ready for next Friday’s opener at Rhode Island.

Northeastern’s first opponent, Rhode Island, won their second exhibition game on Thursday night. After a close contest with GT Express last week, the Rams left little doubt against the Czech Select team. Senior Brian Woodward shot the ball well from long range, while junior guard Dawan Robinson played well at both ends of the floor. The perimeter-oriented Rams look to be very balanced.

Assistant coach Ted Hotaling tells us that Yale looks good as they approach their season opener in the Preseason NIT. The coaching staff is confident about their chances in the Ivy League with the veteran team they have, feeling they know what they have and will get a lot out of their holdovers.

On one last note, our best wishes go out to Ohio State head coach Jim O’Brien, who recently suffered a damaged vocal cord that could end his coaching career far too soon. O’Brien suffered it while he had surgery last month to correct chronic neck pain that had spread to his right arm. It is not known whether his voice will completely come back, as well as how soon it would happen. Get well soon, Coach.


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