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Local hoops teams ready to go
Last season was good to the New York City metro-area college basketball teams as four squads (Stony Brook, St. John's, Iona, LIU Brooklyn) made post season appearances.
Will there be a repeat of that success? You can make a strong case for it. Stony Brook and St. John's are loaded, while Iona returns five of its top seven scorers. LIU Brooklyn returns one of the nation's top passers, while Manhattan gets George Beamon (ankle) back, along with four starters and a key transfer.
Hofstra is starting over with new coach Joe Mihalich, but he has the benefit of two transfers who will play immediately. Fordham coach Tom Pecora hopes his youngsters are a year older and a year wiser.
Head Coach: Joe Mihalich (16th season, 1st at Hofstra)
2012-2013 record (7-25, 4-14 CAA)
Returning starters: 3
Notable non-conference games: @ Louisville, vs. Manhattan, @ Richmond, @SMU
Outlook: New Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich has his work cut out for him. In addition to getting used to his new surroundings and having to overhaul most of the roster on the fly, he needs to change the direction of a once proud program that has fallen on hard times. Forwards Stephen Nwaukoni, Moussa Kone and Jordan Allen are the three returning players with experience. Fortunately, Mihalic will have the luxury of two experienced backcourt players to lean on in transfers Zeke Upshaw (Illinois State) and Dion Nesmith (Monmouth). Both will be eligible to play immediately, which will prevent Mihalich from forcing a lot of minutes on his freshmen guards. Nesmith averaged 8.4 points in 63 starts during his two years playing for Monmouth, while Upshaw played in 62 games in three years at Illinois State. Expect contributions from reserve sophomore forward Darren Payen and freshmen Eliel Gonzalez, Jamall Robinson and Chris Jenkins.
St. John’s Red Storm
Head Coach: Steve Lavin (10th season, 4th at St. John’s)
2012-2013 record (17-16, 8-10 Big East)
Post Season: NIT (2nd round)
Returning starters: 5
Notable non-conference games: vs. Ole Miss or Georgia Tech (@Barclays Center), vs. Syracuse (@MSG), vs. Wisconsin (@ South Dakota)
Outlook: Everyone is back for St. John’s. And that means all five starters, including D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson, two players who are good enough to carry the squad. Fortunately, coach Steve Lavin won’t need them to do all of the heavy lifting. Last season’s NCAA blocked shots leader Chris Obepka is back. As is Phil Greene IV and Sir’Dominic Pointer. Newcomer Rysheed Jordan could be the real deal, while Orlando Sanchez and Gods’gift Achiuwa are both expected to give quality minutes. With so much depth and experience and a new Big East (with no UConn, Syracuse or Pitt) it would be a surprise if the Red Storm didn’t win at least 20 to 22 games and challenge for the regular season conference title. The challenge will be keeping the team on the same page. Lavin had to suspend Harrison toward the end of last season and was forced to sit Obepka for the exhibition games this year for violating team rules.
Stony Brook Seawolves
Head Coach: Steve Pikiell (9th season, 9th at Stony Brook)
2012-2013 record (25-8, 14-2 America East)
Post season: NIT (2nd round)
Returning starters: 4
Notable non-conference games: @ Indiana, La Salle (@MSG), @ Loyola, vs. Northeastern, @ VCU
Outlook: Stony Brook has a reached a point in its growth as a program where a 20-win season is expected. With the return of most of its key players, including Dave Coley, Anthony Jackson, Jameel Warney, Eric McAlister and Carson Puriefoy, a fourth America East regular season title in five years is certainly within reach. It won’t be all roses all the time for coach Steve Pikiell, however, as the squad will need to adjust to playing without do-everything forward Tommy Brenton. A difficult non-conference schedule will be just what the Seawolves need to get used to playing without Brenton, who won the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year Award last season. Look for forwards Warney, McAlister, Scott King and Anthony Mayo to pick up where Brenton left off.
Head Coach: Tom Pecora (13th season, 4th at Fordham)
2012-2013 record (7-24, 3-13, Atlantic-10)
Returning starters: 4
Notable non-conference games: @ Manhattan, @ St. John's (MSG), @ Syracuse
Outlook: Branden Frazier's return should keep the Rams competitive. Sophomore guard Mandell Thomas and junior guard Bryan Smith, who missed the final four games of last season with a broken hand, are also back on the floor for coach Tom Pecora. Sophomore guard Jermaine Myers, who started 18 games, also returns. If bruising forward Travion Leonard can make his presence felt in the paint, the Rams could surprise.
Head Coach: Tim Cluess (9th season, 4th at Iona)
2012-2013 record (20-13, 11-7 MAAC)
Post Season: NCAA (2nd round)
Returning starters: 3
Notable non-conference games: vs. Dayton, @ George Mason, @ Kansas
Outlook: With Sean Armand and David Laury back, the Gaels are poised to win its third straight MAAC tournament title and make its third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. Former Hills West star Tavon Sledge also returns with Tre Bowman, DaShawn Gomez and A.J. English also return.
LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds
Head Coach: Jack Perri (3rd season, 2nd at LIU)
2012-2013 record (20-14, 12-6 NEC)
Post Season: NCAA (1st round)
Returning starters: 2
Notable non-conference games: @ Indiana, @ Seton Hall, vs. Temple (Barclays Center)
Outlook: The Blackbirds will be without the services of forward Julian Boyd (ACL) until at least January. But senior point guard Jason Brickman, who led the NCAA in assists last season (8.5), is back with promising sophomore forward E.J. Reed, junior swingman Troy Joseph and junior guard Gerrell Martin. LIU has been the class of New York City college basketball, making three straight NCAA Tournaments.
Head Coach: Steve Masiello (3rd season, 3rd at Manhattan)
2012-2013 record: (14-18, 9-9 MAAC)
Returning starters: 4
Notable non-conference games: vs. George Washington, @ La Salle, @ South Carolina
Outlook: The Jaspers have everything a team needs to success, which is why they were picked first in the preseason MAAC poll. The return of star shooting guard George Beamon, who played in just four games last season, guards Mike Alvarado and Shane Richards and rugged forwards Rhamel Brown and Emmy Andujar will make the Jaspers a tough out. Add to that 6-10 Ashton Pankey, a Maryland transfer who sat out last season, and you have a Manhattan team that could run away with the regular season MAAC title.