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The LIU Road Warriors?

Long Island forward Jamal Olasewere (1) walks off

Long Island forward Jamal Olasewere (1) walks off the court after garnering his fifth foul in the second half of an East Regional NCAA tournament second-round college basketball game against North Carolina. (March 18, 2011) Credit: AP

In an earlier post, we mentioned how many miles the Hofstra women’s program will be putting in the first month of the season. The Pride women will travel a total of 14,288 miles from November 11th thru December 18.

You can add the LIU mens program to the “road warrior” list. The Blackbirds may not be gallivanting across the country like Hofstra, but they’ll miss home just as much.

Jim Ferry’s crew, fresh off its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1997, plays 10 of its first 11 games on the road. To be fair, LIU’s first game is on November 11 at Hofstra, which is literally nothing more than an hour’s ride from Brooklyn to Hempstead on the Long Island Railroad. That notwithstanding, it’s tough to build campus momentum when your team is on the road the first four weeks of the season.

LIU’s first home game is against Wagner on December 1. And the schedule isn’t a walk in the park. The Blackbirds have games against the Pride, Old Dominion, Penn State, Iona, Columbia and St. Peter’s, all of which are on the road. The Old Dominion and Penn State games are part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament.

Old Dominion, Penn State and St. Peter’s were NCAA Tournament teams last season.

One of LIU’s strengths heading into this season is experience, which will help the Blackbirds deal with being on the road for so long. The Blackbirds return five of their top seven scorers from last season, including juniors Julian Boyd, C.J. Garner and Jamal Olasewere, who were starters last season.

The Blackbirds also return senior three-point specialist Michael Culpo, sophomore point guard Jason Brickman and rugged forward Kenny Onyechi, a junior.

Even with that experience, Ferry knows it will be a tough road. “It’s going to be brutal,” said Ferry. “We led the country in road wins last year. But that was a different team. We’re missing two seniors.”

Ferry was referring to David Hicks and Kyle Johnson, both four-year letter winners who are LIU’s all-time leaders in games played. Ferry also noted how winning increases a program’s profile.

“With the success we had, we were invited to play in the Hall of Fame Tournament,” Ferry said. “It was an opportunity we had to take with Kentucky and Maryland and those guys.”

Success doesn’t always bring on all comers, however, especially for mid-majors. In fact, Ferry said scheduling is more difficult when you win.

Said Ferry: “We’ve upgraded a little bit, so it put us on the road for the first week of the season. We had a hard time getting games. We had success and a lot of guys back, so a lot of people didn’t want to play us. It’s rare to have a schedule like we have. It’s going to be very challenging.”


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