Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Rhode Island Ready for Season

November 19, 2003 Columns No Comments

Rams Ready to Face Challenges

by Phil Kasiecki

The 2003-04 season will be the third season under Jim Baron at Rhode Island, and it’s one that many in South Kingston are looking forward to. Fresh off the success of last season, when the Rams opened the new Thomas M. Ryan Center with a 20-12 season and an NIT bid, the Rams are expected to contend for an NCAA Tournament bid this season.

The Rams lose Howard Smith, the consummate pass-first point guard, and Lazare Adingono among starters from last season’s team. The big boost will come from the return of Brian Woodward, who regained the year he had to sit out as a Prop 48. One of only two seniors on this team (guard Steve Mello is the other), Woodward led the team in scoring and rebounding last season, but will have plenty of help – a point Baron stresses in talking about this team.

The Rams have solid veterans in junior guards Dustin Hellenga and Dawan Robinson, with role playing juniors Jamaal Wise and Marcel Momplaisir joining junior college transfer Randy Brooks. Sophomores Terrence Mack and Jon Clark are among the frontcourt holdovers who help out, and will get more help from the lone freshman on the team, J.R. Moore. In December, Scott Hazleton, a transfer from Connecticut, becomes eligible and gives them a big talent boost. He will be just the third McDonald’s All-American ever to play at Rhode Island.

Baron sees this team as being very athletic, and likes the depth on this team.

“We want to be very athletic,” he said. “I think with the numbers that we have, it really gives us an opportunity to use a lot of players, and we want to take advantage of that.”

Baron is challenging them with a tough schedule. Awaiting the Rams prior to Atlantic Ten play are road contests with defending national champion Syracuse, as well as fellow Big East members Seton Hall and Miami (the latter at a neutral site). The Rams also have good home opponents, taking on future Atlantic Ten member Charlotte and in-state rival Providence, as well as good mid-major programs like Iona, Vermont and Northeastern.

“We’re still growing,” Baron said after their second exhibition game. “It’s a process of growth and development.

“We’re using November to prepare us for December, and I think December will prepare us for the Atlantic Ten play in January.”

When Baron arrived, the program was in shambles, even though it had almost reached the Final Four just three seasons prior. In the two previous seasons, mass player defections, poor recruiting and terrible coaching contributed to two of the worst seasons in the program’s history. The 5-25 record in 1999-2000 marked the lowest season winning percentage. What he inherited made the first season a tough one, though anyone who watched the Rams could see an improvement beyond winning three more games.

That is a major reason why the magical season the Rams had last year, which was one of the best stories in college basketball, was a surprise.

“We’re coming off of three of the worst years in the history of basketball at Rhode Island,” Baron said. “So we have to keep it in perspective from the standpoint of getting better. That’s why we were good last year – we didn’t have a lot of expectations, but we were able to grow, and learn and develop. I think we’re going to continue to do that this year.

Baron has been down this road before, a prime reason the Rams and many other programs coveted him. Prior to his days at Rhode Island, he brought fellow Atlantic Ten member and alma mater St. Bonaventure back to respectability. In 9 seasons as head coach, he led the Bonnies to the NIT three times and the NCAA Tournament in 1999-2000. Although his record there was one game over .500, in the last four seasons there they made three postseason appearances and went 70-52.

The Rams’ sudden success wasn’t expected, but Baron takes the success in stride and realizes it then brings the weight of higher expectations. He has been rewarded with an extension that will keep him in town until 2010, giving him more time to accomplish what he wants.

“We’re building a program, not just a basketball team,” he comments. “We have to work through the challenges that are in front of you, from the standpoint of competition and continuing to get better. We just want to take it one step at a time.

Another thing Baron continues to do is graduate his players. Woodward’s graduation to earn back the year he sat out is just one example, as 95% of his players graduated at St. Bonaventure, while every player at St. Francis (Pa.) graduated. The emphasis on this is even shown by his thoughts on what Hazleton brings to the team upon becoming eligible in December.

“Right now he’s bringing academics,” Baron said. “When he brings the academics, then we’ll get to the basketball. He’s another live body that will add to the mix. I think we have a good nucleus to work with, with the guys coming back.”

The Rams have a good team, and one of the game’s better coaches. They won’t sneak up on anyone this season, but they know that and are ready to face the challenge that lies ahead.


Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 18, 2018

January 18, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about big road wins for a few teams, including a couple of bluebloods that looked destined for losses, as well as an unsettled Big Ten beyond one team, an SEC where you shouldn’t pay attention to bracketologists, and the problems with a proposed earlier start to the college basketball season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 11, 2018

January 11, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about several big pieces of news away from game play, one of which puts a lot in perspective. We also talk about the lack of dominant teams and how this has shown up in the results, especially this past weekend.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 4, 2018

January 4, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we start with a big game in the Big East, then move on to the sudden lack of undefeated teams, a big injury in the ACC, and a powerhouse that looks vulnerable in a stacked conference they have long ruled.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – December 8, 2017

December 8, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about a bizarre finish to an early-season tournament game, the Pac-12’s early struggles, Florida teams going in different directions and two northeast teams trending less relevant even as they excite fans at a famous arena.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – November 22, 2017

November 22, 2017 by

In our pre-Thanksgiving podcast, we look at a key injury that is likely to be devastating for his team and an under-the-radar 4-0 week, then move on to some early SEC impressions and a couple of teams that just continue to win.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.