Is there anything not to like about the state of LIU’s basketball program?
Sure, there was a coaching change and an off-the-court issue involving four of the team’s top players that could’ve derailed the season, but that’s all in the rear view mirror for LIU, which will have the honor of playing the first college basketball game at the Barclays Center on Friday.
The Blackbirds, picked to finish first in the NEC and fresh off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, will play Morehead State as part of a double header in the first annual Barclays Center Classic. Tip off is scheduled for 5:45. LIU coach Jack Perri is understandably pleased to have his team play the first college basketball game at the new arena.
“It is going to be really exciting. All the seniors have worked so hard over the last three years to get to this point,” said Perri. “We’ve been in there for tours. The place looks great. We’re excited. The guys are excited. They’re really [fired up] for it.”
Perri, who stepped in for the departed Jim Ferry (Duquesne), has more than just a game at the Barclays Center to look forward to. He has most of his top players back from last season, including NEC reigning player of the year Julian Boyd and first-team all conference selection Jamal Olaswere.
Perri also has junior point guard Jason Brickman, who he refers to as “the best passer in the country”. Perri and his program also received a break when the NCAA granted University of San Francisco transfer Khalil Murphy a hardship waiver to play immediately. The 6-8 forward is expected to give the Blackbirds more depth in the paint.
LIU also returns starting senior guard C.J. Garner, key reserve guard Brandon Thompson and 6-7 bruiser Kenny Onyechi.
Perri, although in his first season has head coach, is as familiar with the roster as anyone. Perri served as an assistant to Ferry for seven years before being promoted.
“It’s certainly is a comfort level. I’ve known these kids since they were 16-years old recruiting them,” said Perri. “It’s very simple. They know what to expect from me. They know my voice. I’ve coached in practice before. Jimmy [Ferry] let me do a lot…The transition has been easy.”