March 29, 2010
Awe-inspired efforts. All-American performances. All-world personas. And a few champions were crowned, too. Welcome to the Long Island high school winter sports scene. Jason Molinet and Long Island Pulse magazine followed it all, from its snowy beginnings to its breathless conclusion in overheated gyms. Here are our highlights:
Best Season: What a wrestling season it was. The contingent Suffolk County sent to the state Federation Wrestling championships in Albany was a record-setting bunch. Eight wrestlers from Suffolk won titles, tying a meet record. Rocky Point alone had three winners. Rocky Point senior Stephen Dutton led the parade of champions, capturing the 140-pound weight class in the state Division I final. It was his second straight title. Newsday crowned Glenn wrestling as the top winter sports team on Long Island after winning its second straight Suffolk Division I team title. The program has won 58 dual meets in a row and senior Nick Meinsen took home the state crown at 130 pounds.
Best Finish: In 2009, North Babylon’s Berfrantz Charles lost the state title in the 55-meter dash by one hundredth of a second. Talk about agonizing. This winter, the senior looked to be on pace for an encore. Charles ran second to Edison Tech’s Mark Canady in two preliminary heats of the 55-meter dash, only to come back and leg out a victory in the final at the state Federation Indoor Track and Field championships in Ithaca. Charles ran the 55 in 6.391 seconds, winning by 0.007 of a second. It was a personal best. But what goes around comes round as Charles was edged out in the long jump. His leap of 23 feet, 8.5 inches was good for second.
Best Effort: No one made a more determined effort in a loss than North Babylon’s Bria Hartley. The senior point guard set a Suffolk playoff record with 51 points in a 72-69 loss to eventual state champ Sachem East in the Suffolk Class AA title game. It’s reminiscent of a similar performance from the past when Cold Spring Harbor’s Wally Szczerbiak went off in a playoff loss to Hempstead. Hartley was recently named Miss Basketball in New York and signed with Connecticut. See her play in the McDonald’s All-American game on ESPNU at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 31 at the Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Best Coach: Sure, Tom Diana has a gym full of talent. But the Uniondale boys basketball coach pulled off a remarkable 18-4 run and a Nassau Class AA title with a 64-61 win over Baldwin. It was the program’s eighth county title since 2002. Why the fuss? Because Diana did it with just one returning starter from last season’s Long Island championship squad – and with a cast of freshmen and sophomores. It takes supreme ability to harness 14- and 15-year-olds and recast them as champions.
Best Follow: Tobias Harris, who else? The Tennessee-bound basketball standout from Half Hollow Hills West was not just a phenom on the court. He was a social networking star, too. Harris created a fan page on Facebook and Twittered, where he shared his every thought in what turned out to be a wild ride of a season. Harris led Hills West to its first Long Island Class AA title and lost in the state title game. Along the way, Hills West went 24-2 and Harris was named Mr. Basketball in New York. But his season isn’t over. The McDonald’s All-American game is next. Follow him at:
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
March 8, 2010
That thud you heard over the weekend? No, not the body blows landed in the war between ABC and Cablevision. I’m talking about the sound of the Long Island men’s college basketball season coming to an abrupt end.
Stony Brook, Hofstra, C.W. Post, Old Westbury and USMMA each lost in postseason play over the span of 24 hours. And yet to dwell on the losses would miss the point. Each school laid the foundation for strong runs in 2011.
USMMA (24-5) lost in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament on Saturday night, falling to Franklin & Marshall, 73-64. It was the best season by the Mariners since the 2003 team also reached the NCAA Tournament. And when you consider three of the top four scorers return, led by former Holy Trinity guard Jon Snead, the Mariners look good.
Stony Brook suffered a deflating loss on Sunday in the semifinals of the America East Tournament. The Seawolves could not overcome an early hole and fell to Boston University, 70-63, in Hartford. The Seawolves (22-9) are not done yet. By virtue of winning the regular season conference title, Stony Brook will get an invite to the NIT. And considering where the program was just a few years ago, reaching the postseason is quite a feat for coach Steve Pikiell and Co. He’s got the program headed in the right direction.
Hofstra played heroically against second-seeded Northeastern Saturday night in Richmond. Yet the Pride lost, 74-71, in double overtime in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. Junior guard Charles Jenkins, the CAA player of the year, led the way with 24 points. Hofstra (19-14) had won 10 of its last 11 until Saturday. An exciting cast returns in 2011, led by the explosive Jenkins. So expect the Pride and coach Tom Pecora to build on its strong finish.
Perhaps no team faced a more agonizing end than C.W. Post (23-6). The Pioneers fell in the title game of the East Coast Conference Tournament on Sunday, losing to Bridgeport, 70-61. Not only were the Pioneers denied a repeat, but were shut out of the NCAA Division II Tournament and saw their 43-game home winning streak snapped. Ouch! Like the aforementioned programs, coach Tim Cluess has a great core returning. So look out.
Top-seeded Old Westbury (21-8) lost in the semifinals of the ECAC Metro Tournament on Saturday, dropping an 88-81 decision to Baruch. That came on the heels of a tough loss to Purchase in the title game of the Skyline Conference Tournament one week earlier. Despite the rough landing, the Panthers are sure to bounce back under the direction of veteran coach Bernard Tomlin.
Five programs. Five losses. Yet there are plenty of positives to salvage from the wreckage. This was as thrilling a college basketball season Long Island has seen. But believe me, even greater things await in 2011.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
March 1, 2010
They call it March Madness for good reason. The Long Island winter sports season has reached critical mass. There is no shortage of events this week (March 1-7) with championships on the line. Here is Long Island Pulse magazine’s day-by-day rundown of the most significant:
High School Boys Basketball
Half Hollow Hills West vs. Longwood (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. @ Farmingdale State): No. 1 Half Hollow Hills West (21-0) routed Bay Shore, 96-48, in the Suffolk Class AA semifinals on Sunday. The highly-touted Harris brothers put on a show. Tennessee-bound Tobias Harris had 21 points in three quarters while junior Tyler Harris scored 23. Hills West, ranked 24th in the nation by USA Today, goes for its second county title in three years. In the other semi, Longwood (19-2) scored 51 second-half points to race past Lindenhurst, 79-62. The second-seeded Lions are the undefeated League I champs, a rarity for the black-and-blue league. Longwood, in the county final for the second straight year, last won the Suffolk crown in 2000, when it lost in OT of the state title game to Ben Gordon and Mount Vernon. Longwood’s Dennis Terry is a great coach, but it’s asking a lot to draw up a game plan to take down such a complete team in Hills West. It’s a small gym, so get there early. Admission $6.
Hofstra vs. Georgia State (Friday, 6 p.m. @ Richmond Coliseum): No team is hotter than Hofstra (18-13, 10-8), which enters the Colonial Athletic Association first round game as the No. 7 seed and winners of nine of its last 10 games. The Pride beat Georgia State, 87-74, to close out the regular season and draws a rematch here. Then it becomes a battle of endurance. Second-seeded Northeastern awaits the winner in a quarterfinal on Saturday at 6 p.m. If the Pride can keep winning, its semifinal is 5:30 p.m. Sunday with the CAA title game on Monday night.
High School Track and Field
State Track and Field Indoor Championships (Saturday, 9 a.m. @ Cornell University in Ithaca): It’s two meets in one and an adrenaline rush of a day. Public School and Federation titles will be awarded at historic Barton Hall. Garden City senior Emily Menges is the defending state champ in the 1,000 meters. With Menges running a leg, the Trojans should also be a factor in the 4 x 800 relay. The Northport girls will give chase. Roslyn senior Emily Lipari won the 1,500 a year ago and goes back as the Nassau champ in the 3,000 and 1,500. North Babylon’s Vanessa Stewart has a chance in the shot put. Connetquot senior Amy Cheung, who took third in the 1,500-meter racewalk last season, will challenge. On the boys side, Riverhead senior Mike Smith is the defending champ in the shot put and North Babylon senior Berfrantz Charles returns one year after finishing second in the 55 meters. If you’re driving, leave early to avoid bad conditions. The road to Ithaca can be treacherous.
America East Tournament quarterfinal (Saturday, noon @ Chase Arena in Hartford): Despite tripping up in a loss Sunday to lowly New Hampshire, Stony Brook University (21-8, 13-3) earned the top seed and a bye in the America East Tournament. The Seawolves face Thursday’s Albany-UMBC winner on Saturday. The semifinal is 5 p.m. Sunday. And if Stony Brook can advance to the title game, it will play March 13 at home. But the bigger question: After getting drilled, 77-55, on Sunday to snap its 10-game winning streak, can Stony Brook refocus?
High School Boys Basketball
Uniondale vs. Baldwin (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. @ SUNY-Old Westbury): This has emerged as the premier rivalry in Nassau hoops. Top-seeded Uniondale (15-3) got past Hempstead, 52-45, in a Nassau Class AA semifinal while No. 2 Baldwin (17-2) outlasted Farmingdale, 47-31. Uniondale, the defending Long Island champ, won Nassau titles from 2002-06. Senior guard Bolade Akingboye is the lone returning starter from last season. Uniondale and longtime coach Tom Diana have been getting it done with a young cast of freshmen and sophomores. Baldwin, under coach Darius Burton, plays stifling defense. The Bruins’ last loss came in December to Uniondale, 67-64. And its last county title, in 2008, came at the expense of Uniondale. That’s right, these teams have a complicated history. Admission $6.
East Coast Conference Tournament semifinal (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. @ C.W. Post): C.W. Post (22-5, 18-3) finished the regular season tied with Bridgeport atop the East Coast Conference and is ranked 10th in the East Region. It needs to win the ECC Tournament to qualify for the NCAA Division II Tournament. Luckily, the second-seeded Pioneers get a first-round bye and host the conference tournament. The title game is Sunday.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
February 22, 2010
We’re headed down the stretch of the most exciting and relevant college basketball season Long Island has ever seen. Jason Molinet and LI Pulse.com take a look at each Long Island men’s basketball team and its March outlook:
Stony Brook (20-7, 12-2; RRI: 142): The Seawolves, winners of nine straight, are enjoying their best season – by far – as a Division I program and have all but locked up their first trip to the postseason. The only question? NCAA Tournament bid or NIT. The game of the decade for the Seawolves is Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. Stony Brook hosts second-place Vermont (21-8, 11-3). The game will be televised on MSG Plus. Stony Brook, which beat Vermont, 65-60, last month, can lock up the regular season conference title with a victory. The title also ensures an NIT bid and gives the Seawolves serious confidence heading into the America East Tournament March 4-7 in Hartford (with the title game on ESPN2 March 13 at noon at the higher seed). Give coach Steve Pikiell his due for bringing in young talent and leading them down the winning path. The lone senior in the lineup, Muhammad El-Amin, has been playing lights out basketball for a month now.
Best Case: Winning the America East Tournament gives Stony Brook an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Seawolves go 25-8 and lose in the first round of the NCAAs.
Hofstra (16-13, 8-8; RPI: 157): After struggling through the first half of its Colonial Athletic Association schedule, Hofstra has rebounded in a big way, winning four in a row and seven of its last eight. The latest was a 92-89 overtime win over Rider on Sunday. Guard Charles Jenkins (profiled in LI Pulse magazine’s February issue http://www.lipulse.com/sports-wellness/article/pride-and-passion ) led the way with 31 points and leads the conference in scoring at 20.1 ppg. And Hofstra coach Tom Pecora earned his 152nd career win, tying Paul Lynner (1962-72) for the second most in school history. The Pride closes out the regular season at home on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 4 p.m. against Georgia State. The CAA Tournament begins March 5 in Richmond. There is no shot at an NIT bid. The only way to extend the season is to win the CAA Tournament – and that’s not impossible with a prolific scorer in Jenkins.
Best Case: Hofstra is locked into the No. 7 seed and will play the No. 10 team in the first round of the CAA Tournament. The winner gets the No. 2 seed. Prediction: The Pride finishes 18-15 with second-round loss in CAA.
C.W. Post (20-5, 16-3): One year removed from a run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II Tournament, C.W. Post has the look of a contender once again. Coach Tim Cluess has done it with an entirely retooled roster. The Pioneers’ 79-50 win over Molloy on Saturday locked up the program’s third-straight 20-win season and extended their home winning streak to a remarkable 41 games. C.W. Post is one game behind Bridgeport (20-7, 17-2) in the East Coast Conference. Aaron Hall (16.7 ppg) is third in the conference in scoring and 6-7 Serb Nemenja Jokic (7.7 rpg) is second in rebounding. The Pioneers close out the regular season at Queens College on Saturday, Feb. 27. Good news: The Pioneers host the ECC Tournament March 4-7. They’ve already locked up a first round bye. The only way to guarantee an NCAA Tournament bid is to win the ECC Tournament.
Best Case: Cluess-coached teams win the games they are supposed to. Prediction: C.W. Post wins the ECC Tournament and advances a round or two in the NCAA Division II Tournament to close out the season at 26-6.
Adelphi (18-10, 11-10): The Panthers are currently tied for eighth place in the 16-team Northeast-10 Conference. Adelphi opened the season 14-1 and ranked 25th in the Division II poll. And then? Eight losses in 10 games. Adelphi closes out the regular season Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. against New Haven. The Panthers do play great defense for longtime coach James Cosgrove. And Copiague’s do-it-all Richard Byrd has been impressive, leading the team at 19 ppg.
Best Case: Adelphi claims the No. 7 or 8 seed and a home game in the conference tournament, which begins Feb. 27 at the higher seed. The good news is the Panthers have proven they can play with top seeds Bentley and Stonehill, their likely quarterfinal draw. Prediction: 20-11.
USMMA (21-4, 12-2): Kings Point claimed the regular-season title in the Landmark Conference. The Mariners play a conference tournament semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. against No. 4 Susquehanna. Coach John Krikorian’s team has the highest scoring margin in the conference (14.5 points) and is second in rebound margin at 5.7. Former Holy Trinity star Jon Snead is the leading scorer.
Best Case: The Mariners have dominated the Landmark Conference. Two more wins and they earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament (a first for the three-year-old Landmark Conference). Prediction: 23-5.
Old Westbury (19-6, 17-3): Ranked 36th in the latest NCAA Division III poll, the Panthers clinched the Skyline Conference regular season title and are 11-0 at home. Not bad for a 12-15 team a year ago. Veteran coach Bernard Tomlin has a lineup featuring four players in double figures, led by Hakiem George and Mepham’s Lester Prosper (second in the Skyline with 8.7 rpg). Shane DeNully leads the conference in assists (6.09). The Panthers earned a first round bye in the Skyline Conference Tournament, which begins Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Best Case: Old Westbury will host a Skyline semifinal on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m., facing the winner of No. 5 Farmingdale State at No. 4 Maritime. Two wins and the Panthers are in the NCAA D-III Tourney. After that, who knows? Prediction: 21-7
St. Joseph’s (17-8, 16-4): St. Joe’s of Patchogue clinched second place in the Skyline Conference and has won six in a row, including a 49-48 win over Old Westbury. Coach John Mateyko won 24 games a year ago and 21 in 2008, so the Eagles know how to get it done. In fact, the team actually won 20 games this season. But St. Joe’s was forced to forfeit three early-season wins due to an ineligible player. Former St. Anthony’s teammates Chris Jimenez and Shahab Syed lead the way.
Best Case: The Eagles await the winner of Purchase-Yeshiva in the semifinals of the Skyline Conference Tournament on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m. And then, a likely title-game showdown with Old Westbury. The teams are 1-1 this season. Prediction: 18-9.
Farmingdale State (13-12, 13-7): The Rams are treading water in fifth place in the Skyline Conference. Farmingdale State went 110-35 (.759 win percentage) from 2005-09, including a magical 27-4 run a year ago. That pretty much sums up coach Erik Smiles’ wildly successful tenure. But the program’s streak of three trips in four seasons to the NCAA D-III Tournament is in doubt. West Hempstead’s Shehee Martin leads the team.
Best Case: This season is a disappointment for the Rams. No. 5 Farmingdale State travels to No. 4 Maritime for a Skyline Conference Tournament quarterfinal on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. Prediction: 14-13.
Molloy (11-15, 9-9): The Lions, in a tight race for fourth place in the East Coast Conference, close the regular season with three straight games at home, culminating Saturday, Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. against Dowling. Coach Charles Marquardt has a weapon in Elmont’s Brian Hutchinson. He’s an inside force, fifth in the ECC in scoring and tops in rebounding.
Best Case: A first round win in the ECC Tournament is realistic. Not much else. Prediction: 15-16.
NYIT (12-14. 9-10): The Bears are currently fifth in the ECC, with a shot at fourth place. They play their final home game Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7:15 p.m. against Dowling. California JUCO transfer Jerrell Walker leads the team in scoring.
Best Case: It’s been an up and down season for coach Sal Lagano. Better luck next year. Prediction: 14-15.
Dowling (8-19, 6-13): Losers of six of its last eight in the ECC, Dowling is fighting just to qualify for the conference tournament. Games against NYIT and Molloy remain. Senior David Seagers has carried the load.
Best Case: Coach Steve Hayn’s team has lost eight games by four points or less. Dowling needs to learn how to close out games, but that’s a lesson for next season. Prediction: 8-22.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
February 15, 2010
Shante Evans may be the most heralded recruit in the history of Hofstra University. And midway through her freshman season, she’s playing like it.
The 6-foot forward from West Chester, Penn., has transformed the Pride women’s basketball team into a must-see attraction and lifted the program into the thick of the Colonial Athletic Association standings.
The high point came Thursday when Hofstra (14-11 overall, 7-6 CAA) downed then-first place Virginia Commonwealth, 74-66. The Pride has won six of its last nine, dating back to an overtime win over UNC-Wilmington on Jan. 17.
Evans is a rare game changer as a freshman, leading the team, averaging 13.4 points and 8.9 rebounds. She’s shooting 50 percent from the field and has collected more rebounds (223) and double-doubles (10) than anyone else in the CAA.
“I keep hearing from folks who have been around here a lot longer than I have –
folks who have been around 30 years – she could be the best player who ever put on a Hofstra uniform,’’ Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said. “That’s really exciting.”
It’s no surprise. Evans, a 2,000-point scorer and shot put champion at Henderson High School, was the 54th rated prospect in the nation by ESPN, and on Kilburn-Steveskey’s radar since her sophomore year. That long courtship paid off when Evans chose the Pride over Seton Hall, West Virginia, Temple, Drexel, UMass and Penn State.
“Hofstra had everything I was looking for in a school. I was close to home, I loved the team and coaching staff and I would get a good education,’’ said Evans, who is majoring in physical therapy.
And she’s just what the fourth-year coach needed to help take the Pride to the next level. Hofstra, two seasons removed from a 20-loss campaign, went 16-14 a year ago and was upset in the first round of the CAA Tournament.
“Her actions speak more than anything I can say about her,’’ Kilburn-Steveskey said. “She’s the most coachable kid I’ve ever coached. Her eagerness to learn is one of her biggest attributes. She’ll review something on film and you’ll see her work on it that next day in practice or in a game. We haven’t even touched what her ability is going to be by the time she gets out of here.”
The Pride reached the WNIT in 2007, its first Division I postseason appearance. And with Evens already owning the low post and getting better by the day, Hofstra has the foundation laid for another postseason run.
“We are playing good basketball,’’ Evans said. “And on defense [we’re] causing problems for our opponents. I can say we are headed in right direction and we’re only going to get better.”
With five games remaining in the regular season, including a home date Thursday, Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. against George Mason, there’s still room for improvement. The Pride has already proven it can run with the pack. How long will it be before Hofstra leads from the front?
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
February 1, 2010
Title: Pride And Passion: Charles Jenkins carries the Hofstra basketball program—and a weighty past—on his shoulders
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: February 2010
Start Page: 48
Word Count: 907
Charles Jenkins literally carries a burden on his back. And it has nothing to do with basketball.
The junior guard on the Hofstra University men’s basketball team wears No. 22 in honor of his brother, Kareem Albritton, who in 2001 was shot and killed in Brooklyn at the too-young age of 22.
The violent death of a family member is something you never really get past. Just ask his coach, who understands better than most because he endures the weight of his own loss.
“I’ve talked to him intimately about it,” Hofstra coach Tom Pecora said. “I lost my first wife in a car accident. His brother was killed in a shooting. The point is, it’s how you live your life after that. It’s all about the dash. When somebody dies, the gravestone shows the day they were born and the day they died. It’s all about the dash. What did you do in between that? And I’ve asked Charles, ‘What kind of mark are you going to leave?’”
Jenkins can’t escape his past. He knows this. His coach knows it. All the Hofstra star can do is acknowledge and honor it.
So Jenkins, 20, embraces this fact, melding the tragic with the remarkable. When he became the first sophomore since Chris Mullin of St. John’s University in 1983 to win the Haggerty Award as the New York Metropolitan area’s best basketball player, he used the opportunity to speak about his fallen brother.
“I try to keep it in mind every day I step onto the floor,” Jenkins said. “That’s why I wear the number 22. He died when he was 22. He’s a major influence in my life. I play for him.”
The 6-foot, 3-inch, 220-pound Jenkins plays with a drive that’s transformed him into one of the nation’s top guards and turned Hofstra into a contender. The Pride will challenge for the Colonial Athletic Association title and berth in the NCAA Tournament after going 21-11 a year ago.
It began on the road in November against No. 1 Kansas, the first top-ranked team Hofstra had ever faced. Kansas routed the Pride, 101-65, but the experience proved invaluable.
“There are a lot of tough places to play in the CAA,” Hofstra center Greg Washington said. “But none of them will be like the crowd at Kansas. Drexel and UNC Wilmington—those are hostile environments. But Kansas is a different world. You step on the court and it’s like, ‘This is where Danny Manning played. This where Paul Pierce played.’
[Charles Jenkins] handled it like a man. He kept his head up and was always looking to make a play. 23 points is pretty hard to come by playing the No. 1 team in the country. He earned it.”
Then came a loss to perennial Big East power and 12th-ranked Connecticut, a game that the Pride actually led with 4:15 left.
“I thought that we had them,” said Jenkins, who finished with a game-high 25 points. “I thought we were going to win.”
No one has played a tougher early-season schedule. And facing the likes of Kansas guard Sherron Collins and UConn guard Jerome Dyson, each seasoned seniors with national reputations, Jenkins proved he belonged on the same stage. If Hofstra earns its fifth 20-win season over the last six years, it will be because of lessons learned facing these heavyweights in November.
“We will never play in a tougher environment,” Pecora said. “So for the rest of the year I can use that as a point of reference. ‘We’ve been to Allen Field House. The reason we went there is to be prepared for tonight.’”
Pecora has a disciple in Jenkins. The guard was born in Brooklyn, but grew up in Rosedale near Green Acres mall and starred at Springfield Gardens High School in Queens. St. John’s showed interest, but the Hofstra coaching staff found Jenkins early and developed a relationship that bloomed.
Mining for guards is a Pecora specialty. Coaches fell in love with Jenkins’ physical presence and work ethic. And at a mid-major program like Hofstra, outhustling and outmuscling the big boys is how you win. Jenkins is a hard-driving, physical guard who is a magnet to the basket.
“It makes it easy for you as a coach when your best player is your hardest worker,” Pecora said. “On the court. Off the court as a leader. In the weight room. With everything he does, he’s not only vocal, he leads by example. The guys have no choice but to fall in line.”
Jenkins, an All-CAA player as a sophomore, is the only returning player in the country who averaged at least 19 points, four rebounds and four assists per game last year. And he’s put up similar numbers for the Pride this season.
He became just the second player in program history to crack 1,000 career points as a sophomore and is on pace to finish his career as Hofstra’s all-time leading scorer. But the only statistics Jenkins cares about are wins and losses.
“We’re young and athletic and like to get after it,” Jenkins said. “We can have another 20-win season. It just depends on us.”
As the leader of the Pride, it’s a responsibility on Jenkins’ shoulders. When you consider his weighty past, you realize there’s nothing he can’t handle. Jenkins stares down bigger demons each time he slips on his No. 22 jersey, a reminder that every day is precious.
January 26, 2010
The best Division I men’s basketball program in the Metropolitan area? St. John’s used to own that title – easily. In the era of Lou Carnesecca and even Mike Jarvis, everyone else – from Hofstra to Manhattan – played in the shadows.
And then there was Stony Brook. The Seawolves weren’t even an afterthought. They played in total darkness. An exaggeration, yes. But not far from the truth.
Now here’s another truth: Stony Brook may have the surest path to the NCAA Tournament of any team in the area. The Seawolves improved to 14-7 after a 67-61 win over America East rival Albany on Sunday, Jan. 24, their best start since the 1991 season.
Stony Brook’s growing pains are easy to understand. The Seawolves made the quantum leap from Division III to D-I status in 1999. Steve Pikiell earned America East coach of the year honors a year ago after guiding Stony Brook to a 16-14 season, its best yet.
It’s a far cry from where the Seawolves once languished.
“We were on probation my first two years,’’ Pikiell said. “That sums it up. We had scholarship limitations. We had the lowest GPA in the conference. We had the lowest [Academic Progress Rate] in the conference. We had seven scholarship players. Four ineligible guys. Do I need to go on any more? Not good.”
Now in his fifth season, Pikiell and the Seawolves are on pace for a breakthrough run. Not only are his players winning on the court, but the program has recorded its highest GPA ever. And 19 of 20 players have graduated during Pikiell’s tenure.
“It’s been quite a journey,’’ Pikiell said.
Aside from Iona (15-6), no D-I program in the area has more momentum heading into February. Certainly none is more underrated.
Forget for a moment that Stony Brook has actually played – and lost – to St. John’s and Fordham this season. The Seawolves are making it count where it matters most – conference play. Stony Brook already beat first-place Vermont on the road last week and is 8-1 at home.
Stony Brook leads the conference in scoring margin (4.9), is tied for the lead in steals (7.7) and second in turnover margin (2) and rebound margin (2.7). Collectively, the stats show a team that stresses the fundamentals and plays gritty man-to-man defense.
It’s time to stop overlooking the Seawolves. Stony Brook’s next game is Saturday, Jan. 30 at Pritchard Gymnasium. The women play Hartford at 4 p.m. followed by the men’s game against Boston University at 7 p.m. The school is billing the doubleheader as a “Celebration of Basketball.” The teams will welcome back basketball alumni and salute 1,000 point scorers from the past.
Sophomore point guard Bryan Dougher may join that group someday. He has certainly energized the Seawolves the last two seasons. Even during slumps. His three-pointer with 1:08 left against Albany on Sunday broke a tie at 58 and snapped an 0-for-9 start for the guard.
It’s an infusion of young talent driving the Seawolves. Dougher is one of three sophomores in the starting rotation. And two more are the first subs off the bench.
“It’s been a great class,’’ Pikiell said. “I have the leading rebounder in the conference in Tommy Brenton. He’s been the leading rebounder since day one. The first game of his freshman year he had 16 rebounds. Bryan Dougher is one of the top five scorers in the league and he’s the best three-point shooter in the conference. And I have a big guy in the post in Dallis Joyner who is moving up to the league lead in double-doubles.”
Muhammad El-Amin is the lone senior. And Pikiell has more talent stocked on the roster. Freshman Marcus Rouse scored 17 points off the bench against Albany.
After years of frustration, miscalculation and misfires, Stony Brook men’s basketball matters. We’ll see how much at the America East Tournament from March 4-13 in Hartford. A big finish earns the Seawolves the ultimate reward – a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
January 18, 2010
Some days are about more than the game. When you’ve coached as long as Jack Agostino, past and present can converge in memorable ways. The Amityville High School boys basketball coach enjoyed one of those moments on Friday, Jan. 15.
It started with a tinge of disappointment. The school had hoped to retired the No. 12 jersey of former hoops star A.J. Price. A rookie with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, Price was in the area to play the New Jersey Nets that night.
But for the second time in a month, the ceremony was put on hold because, Agostino said, the Pacers wouldn’t allow Price to miss the shoot around.
“His coach will not allow him to be late to the shoot around,’’ Agostino wrote in an email. “They love taking rookies’ money.”
Turns out the afternoon game at home against rival Westhampton had a storyline all its own. The Warriors rolled to an 86-50 win, earning Agostino his 400th career win and locking up a spot in the Suffolk Class A playoffs.
Agostino is 400-92 in 23 seasons at Amityville and the Warriors clinched a playoff berth for the 23rd straight season, each remarkable feats in their own right. (Hempstead’s Ted Adams became Nassau’s winningest boys basketball coach in December with his 480th win.)
“My players kept hugging me and congratulated me,’’ Agostino said. “That was a special moment.”
But the day was far from over. Price gave Agostino 500 tickets to distribute for the Pacers-Nets game that night.
Price won a pair of state championships at Amityville, and lost in the state title game as a senior in 2004. He was a two-time Newsday Suffolk Player of the Year before going on to a turbulent but fruitful career at the University of Connecticut. Indiana drafted Price with the 52nd pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
So Price is someone the entire Amityville community admires and roots for.
After Amityville’s big win on Friday, it was time to see Price do his best. A large contingent journeyed to the Meadowlands to see the point guard. The rest of the night? Better to let Agostino sum it up.
“The Nets Pacer game was even better because so many of my former players were in attendance,” Agostino said. “Billy Kretz, Richard Payton, Eugene Nottingham and Trevor Mcintosh were all there supporting A.J. We are so proud of him. He still has great relationships with his guys from Amityville. A.J. played real well, exciting the fans with a couple of dazzling plays. He ended up with 8 points, 4 assists and a couple spectacular passes. We all hung out after the game and shared stories with A.J. and his parents. This day was a gift from God. I’m truly a blessed man.”
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
January 12, 2010
This was supposed to be a rebuilding season.
After sprinting to the elite eight of the NCAA Division II Tournament last March before bowing out in OT to the eventual champ, the C.W. Post men’s basketball team wasn’t expected to recover from the loss of six heralded seniors.
Nick Carter, the son of former Knick Reggie Carter, is gone. So too are a pair of point guards – Kevin Spann and Jonathan Schmidt – who first made names for themselves starring in the Catholic league.
This is a much different cast than the one that rolled to a 30-0 start.
And yet C.W. Post is very much alive and kicking after Monday night’s hard-fought 98-85 road win over rival Queens College. After an uneven 3-4 start to the season, the Pioneers (9-4 overall, 5-2 conference) have won six straight and look like contenders again in the East Coast Conference.
Nemanja Jokic, a 6-7 Serbian senior, led C.W. Post with 24 points. Senior guard Roberto Macklin scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half and freshman Jonathan Kohler added 17.
Much to the chagrin of conference and Long Island rivals Molloy, NYIT and Dowling, C.W. Post coach Tim Cluess has this team headed on the right path once again. Post leads the ECC in offense (80.7 points a game), defense (69.5), field goal percentage (.488) and rebound margin (9.4). And Jokic is the conference’s third leading scorer and rebounder.
The Pioneers are 7-0 at home and that edge couldn’t come at a better time. C.W. Post will host first-place Bridgeport (8-5, 7-0) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Pratt Recreation Center.
No, don’t dance on the grave of last season’s historic run. The Pioneers may not win 30 games again, but they are good enough to repeat at ECC champs. Believe it.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com
January 4, 2010
With the first decade of the 21st century in the books, Long Island Pulse magazine decided to look back at the most significant figures on the Long Island sports scene. There were high profile athletes such as Kings Park and Houston Astros baseball star Craig Biggio and Hofstra and New York Jets wideout Wayne Chrebet. Prime-time events such as golf’s US Open at Bethpage (2002 and ‘09) and Shinnecock Hills (2004) put the region in the spotlight. Great teams abounded, from Speedy Claxton-led Hofstra in men’s basketball (2000) to the Bratton brothers-fuelled Huntington boys lacrosse run (2005-07).
But the people who made the greatest contributions to Long Island sports in the last decade were often coaches and administrators, people on the bench or away from the public view. Others championed causes, opened the way for new sports to flourish or built the foundation for great teams. Here is our Top 10:
10. Louis Acompora: The Northport High School freshman died on March 25, 2000 after being struck in the chest by a ball during a freshman lacrosse game. Acompora, 14, suffered commotio cordis, a rare form of cardiac arrest. He could have been revived had there been an automated external defibrillator. His parents made it their mission to raise awareness and their son lived on through the Louis Acompora Foundation. The Long Island sports community reacted almost immediately, putting defibrillators at high school sports events. On June 27, 2002, with father and driving force John Acompora on hand, Gov. George Pataki signed into law a bill requiring one portable defibrillator in each high school. Louis’ Law was the nation’s first.
9. Sarah Hughes: The figure skating prodigy from Great Neck burst onto the world consciousness with a remarkable gold-medal performance at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Then 17, Hughes jumped from fourth to first with a flawless long program and joined the ranks of local Olympic immortals Derrick Adkins and Al Oerter. Hughes has served as a spokesperson for breast cancer awareness and supported the outreach program Figure Skating Harlem. Younger sister Emily Hughes also developed into a figure skating star in her own right. Emily Hughes competed at the 2006 Olympics. Sarah Hughes graduated from Yale in 2009.
8. Russ Cellan: The Freeport High School football coach turned a downtrodden program into one of Long Island’s best, developing talent and innovating along the way. The result was a feared program that played in six Nassau Conference I championship games this decade and won four. He popularized the spread offense on Long Island, coached NFL standouts D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Morlon Greenwood and led one of the great teams in state history, the 2003 Red Devils. Cellan closed the decade in November the way he began it in 2000, winning a Long Island Class I championship.
7. Tim Cluess: The C.W. Post men’s basketball coach is a fierce competitor, a master tactician and a great teacher. He was a legendary high school coach, dominating the Catholic league at St. Mary’s. He went 262-87 in 14 seasons with the Gaels, winning a pair of state Class B Federation championships before tensions between he and the administration led him to leave in 2005. He coached current NBA player Danny Green. Cluess jumped to Suffolk CC-Brentwood and led it to the NJCAA Division III quarterfinals in 2006. Division II C.W. Post hired him weeks later. Last year, Cluess guided a Long Island-heavy roster to a 30-1 season and the elite eight of the NCAA Division II tournament. He is very likely Long Island’s next big D-I prospect, a la Billy Donovan at Florida.
6. Jim McGowan: The longtime Bay Shore High School softball coach has dominated the game like no coach in any other sport. He is the winningest softball coach in state history and a pitching guru who has developed dominant windmillers throughout Long Island. This decade alone, Bay Shore won state Class A titles in 2000 and 2005 and five Suffolk titles from 2000-07. And the Marauders are in the hunt each season. They lost in the county championship series last spring. Beyond his work as a coach and an instructor, he’s been instrumental in building up the coaches association and championing the game. With former players now becoming coaches themselves, his influence will live on.
5. Boomer Esiason: You know him today as a TV commentator and radio host. But the former East Islip standout and NFL quarterback is an iconic Long Island sports figure. Sure, he played in a Super Bowl and starred for the New York Jets. But he’s emerged as an even more influential force off the field. The Manhasset resident started the Boomer Esiason Foundation after his son, Gunnar, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 1993. BEF generated $6.4 million in 2008. Meanwhile, Esiason turned his twin passions – football and fundraising to fight CF – to promote Long Island football. There’s no event quite like the Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge, an all-star football game played each June at Hofstra before big crowds and regional TV. The Empire Challenge only strengthened the sport, giving Long Island coaches an opportunity to grow while helping the development of youth and high school programs in need. For example, austerity-plagued Roosevelt High School received game helmets and uniforms. By the way, graduating seniors got a first-class showcase event.
4. Don Buckley: The longtime athletic director at St. Anthony’s High School helped build the Catholic power into one of the nation’s premier sports programs. Sports Illustrated recognized the school as the best in the state from 2005-09. The football program won eight CHSFL titles in the decade and boys basketball captured a state Federation crown. Girls soccer has been a powerhouse and boys soccer finished ranked second in the nation in 2008. But the former track coach’s true love is running and the Friars have a boys and girls program with several hundred participants. Yet Buckley’s influence goes well beyond Huntington Station. Buckley has served as president of the CHSAA and the state Federation, forging a reputation as a key figure in New York high school sports.
3. Cathy Gallagher: The long-time executive director of Section XI was a pioneer in women’s sports and a strong voice in New York state high school athletics. She retired from Section XI, Suffolk County’s governing body for high school sports, in 2003 after 21 years at the helm. Gallagher first taught at Smithtown and Cold Spring Harbor. She officiated girls basketball, volleyball, softball and field hockey. Her career path became clear in 1972, thanks to the landmark legislation known as Title IX, which leveled the playing field for women and promoted a nationwide explosion in sports participation. At Section XI, she implemented scheduling of games, brought content online, oversaw the addition of numerous sports from girls lacrosse to girls golf, helped streamline procedure and educated schools on safety issues. Gallagher helped usher in the Long Island football championships and transform high school sports in the process. Ed Cinelli succeeded Gallagher and deserves mention. So does Todd Heimer in Nassau. But Gallagher was a ground-breaking administrator for three decades.
2. Jim Fiore: He’s presided over the rapid rise of Stony Brook University athletics. The Long Beach native took over as Stony Brook’s athletic director in August 2003. In the years since, Fiore has overhauled staff, upgraded facilities and set the Seawolves on a path toward Division I competitiveness. Football was non-scholarship when he arrived. Now it’s the only Division I program on Long Island. Under his watch, men’s and women’s lacrosse, baseball, softball and men’s soccer each qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Fiore also inked the first TV contact in school history, with MSG, in 2005. He helped secure $30 million in state funds for school facilities and opened the Goldstein Student-Athlete Development Center in 2006. With lacrosse primed for another NCAA run this spring, the Seawolves roar into the new decade as a force on the Long Island sports scene.
1. Charles Wang: From merely big-named Long Island businessman as co-founder of Computer Associates to iconic figure in the community, Charles Wang is Long Island Pulse magazine’s sports figure of the decade. As owner of the New York Islanders, Wang is unquestionably the biggest backer of Long Island sports. He became part-owner of the struggling NHL franchise in 2000 and added immediate stability, ending speculation of a move and opening his check book to bring in fresh talent. Wang assumed full ownership 2004. The Islanders reached the playoffs four times in the decade, beginning in 2002 after a seven-year drought. In 2001, Wang relocated an Arena Football League franchise to the Nassau Coliseum. The New York Dragons won three division titles and made the playoffs six times before the league folded in 2009. He’s been in contentious negotiations with Nassau County to build a new arena and redevelop the area around the Coliseum. If the Lighthouse project ever does move forward, Wang might go down as Long Island’s most influential power broker since Robert Moses.
Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com