UMBC signs high-scoring point guard Joel Wincowski

September 16th, 2014 by Sam Perkins

wincowskiUMBC head coach Aki Thomas has spent the better part of his first two years in Catonsville doing his best to plug the gaping holes left in the in the programs from when the previous head coach ran it aground.

In his first two seasons, Thomas’ primary focus was on repairing the biggest hole, the team’s atrocious defensive. Over that time, he recruited long, energetic athletes who “get after it” on defense, turning a team that couldn’t stop a runny nose to a competent defensive unit that has shown glimpses of great play shutting down opposing scorers.

Now Thomas needs to field a roster that can create shots and put the ball in the basket, especially from behind the arc. The Retrievers landed a game-changing scorer in Thomas’ first true recruiting class last season in dynamic point guard Rodney Elliot. They also appear to have a pair of freshmen with the potential to score in 6-foot-5-inch long-range gunner Malcolm Brent and shifty 6-foot-2-inch combo-guard Jourdan Grant.

With the commitment earlier today of Joel Wincowski, they may have just landed another scorer. A 6-foot-2 inch scoring point guard, Wincowski has a reputation as a physically and mentally tough guard with an extremely high basketball IQ and range out to well beyond the NBA 3-point line.

A native of Lake George in upstate New York, Wincowski averaged 27.3 points per game and was named the New York State Class C Player of the Year as a sophomore and averaged nearly 30 points per game as a junior at Lake George High. Schools like Albany, Siena and Boston University all offered him scholarships early in the recruiting process, and bigger schools like Purdue had expressed interest as of late. (more…)

Heaven is a Playground: FIBA World Cup 2014 — Human nature, Gilas Pilipinas and Andray Blatche’s redemption

September 12th, 2014 by Noah Perkins

blatche3

Human Nature is about as fickle as an 8-year-old boy chasing tumbleweeds through the backwoods of Georgia, or so I’m told.

Why are we so quick to judge and falsely label others, when we all know too well the feeling of having our insides ripped apart by the cattle prod of erroneous expectations?

I vividly remember my charter school basketball team playing a team with an Asian player. All game, on the bench, one of our guys called him “Yao” and “Soy Sauce.”

Given the level of disrespect hoisted upon us by bigger high schools, you would think we’d have developed an intrinsic appreciation for others not fitting the stereotype: They thought we sucked because we didn’t have our own gym; we thought he sucked because of our perception of Asians.

As the old New York City parable goes: The Italians beat up the Irish, so in turn the Irish beat up the Jews.

Remember when Carmelo Anthony, Jeremy Lin’s then teammate, publicly ridiculed Lin’s potential contract extension as “ridiculous”? Or how about when an ESPN anchor referred to him as a “chink”? Or, what about Jason Whitlock playing the all too familiar Asian Men have a small endowment card? Ten years prior to “Linsanity,” Shaq said about a rookie Yao Ming, that he was going to drop step and put an elbow into his face. Around the same time, Chris Tucker went for the easy laugh in Rush Hour, hitting Jason Whitlock’s familiar punch line as an Asian dude’s towel came off.

These are just a few of the more visible examples of the perpetuating emasculation of Asian men. I’m probably guilty of it as well — most of us are.

Lets face it, despite outperforming every ethnic group in this country academically and socio-economically, Asians, especially Asian men, still get no respect in mainstream American society. It’s all mathletics, small dicks and hello kitty backpack jokes.

Which brings me to Gilas Pilipinas. I wonder how many players on the Philippine National Team have, at some point, suffered the same indignation as the kid I played against in High School? (more…)

#TBT — OBW Classic Clip: Albany’s Chris Wyatt dunks all over BU

September 11th, 2014 by Sam Perkins

In honor of “throwback Thursday” AKA TBT, OBW editor-in-chief will be delving into his video archive every Thursday to share classic One-Bid Wonders clips.

Perhaps I should call this “clips that remind me of my father,” because, ultimately, that’s what everything on website circles back to.

From a purely statistical standpoint, Chris Wyatt’s college career was pedestrian – perhaps even completely forgettable – in every category except one: He stayed.

During his playing days at Albany, which spanned from 2001 to 2005 and coincided with Will Brown’s early days at the helm, Wyatt’s was one of the lone constants on a revolving door roster. Suiting up next to at least 31 different teammates during his four years on the Great Danes, Wyatt watched more than a dozen players leave the Great Danes program and was the only incoming freshman in 2001 – and the only four-year recruit of previous head coach Scott Beeten – to survive for four seasons in the program.

Wyatt’s career averages of just 18.6 minutes, 3.7 points and 3.2 points over 104 games were a reflection of the constant pain – due to chronic knee, lower leg and foot injuries – and the program’s constant state of rebuilding that defined his time in the Capital Region.

But there were always flashes of athletic brilliance, like the two dunks posted above from the Great Danes 67-55 loss to regular season champion Boston University in 2004. At 6-foot-5 and a rock-hard 235 pounds of muscle, Wyatt was strong as an ox, nimble on his feet and an explosive athlete and exceptional dunker (one of the reasons he shot 50 percent from the floor for his career).

Wyatt never experienced a winning season in Albany, but he also never gave up and never stopped working during a time when Brown was struggling to simply field a roster, let alone lay the foundation for future success.

During Wyatt’s junior season the Great Danes went 5-23 and had the dubious honor, after starting a game at Hartford with just seven players in uniform, of finishing with just four players on the court.

One week later, Wyatt and the vastly outgunned, undermanned and overmatched Great Danes gave a Terriers squad that played an 11-man rotation, went 17-1 in conference play and won 23 games, with Wyatt providing two highlight-worthy slams, the first of which coming on a beautiful spin-move off a pick-and-roll, splitting Terriers forwards Rashad Bell and Jason Grochowalski (two of the leagues toughest and most athletic big men) for a thunderous slam. The second came when Wyatt followed a Jon Iati miss, soaring above BU’s vaunted front court to corral the rebound with one hand and, in one motion, slam it back through the hoop. (more…)

Coaches Q & A series: Hartford’s John Gallagher — We’ve come a long way, baby

September 8th, 2014 by Sam Perkins
Hartford head coach John Gallagher. OBW file photo / Sam Perkins

Hartford head coach John Gallagher. OBW file photo / Sam Perkins

The summer of 2010 was a crazy time for John Gallagher. In a matter of eye-blinks, the then 32-year old Gallagher went from not having a guaranteed paycheck as the assistant on the staff of good friend and interim head coach Jerome Allen at Penn, to a guaranteed gig when Allen was hired as the head coach, only to turn around be immediately hired as the associate head coach Boston College by close friend and mentor Steve Donahue.

But before Gallagher could even unpack his bags in Chestnut Hill, he was offered his first head coaching position at Hartford – a program he had helped build the foundation for only a few years earlier.

The catch, of course, was that Gallagher would be replacing his best friend, Dan Leibovitz, who had just resigned after two scuffling seasons. Gallagher had been the top assistant and lead recruiter on Leibovitz’ original staff, helping to take the program from the conference play-in game in 2007, to a then program record 18 wins and the America East championship game in 2008 (the program’s only appearance in the America East Championship).

In the two years after Gallagher left for an assistant coaching position at Penn, Hartford crashed and burned, winning a combined 15 games while getting trounced in two-straight conference tournaments – including a 41-point embarrassment on its home court against Boston University in 2010.

Shortly after taking the reigns, and before he had coached a single official practice, Gallagher and his new – and old – team (he had recruited virtually the entire senior class during his first stint in Hartford) boarded 30 hour flight to Australia for a 10-day tour of basketball and team building.

Four years later, the Hawks returned to The Land Down under, but while the destination was the same, everything else regarding the team has changed dramatically.

“Four years ago, I was hearing from two people: Sam Perkins, and my mother,” he laughed. “When I got back this year, I’ve already had calls from at least six different reporters wanting to talk about Australia.”

In his first season in Hartford, the Hawks won 11 wins, finishing sixth, before knocking off third-seed Maine in the conference tournament. That off season, Gallagher landed what has proven to be a game-changing six-man freshman class, among them power forward and future First Team All-Conference selection Mark Nwakamma, and starters Yolonzo Moore III (point guard), Corban Wroe (guard/forward) and Nate Sikma.

Before they could help the program turn the proverbial corner, that freshman class had to endure one of the harshest trials by fire, losing the first 13 games of their careers to open the 2011-2012 season. But the Hawks survived, finishing 7-9 in conference play, upset third-seed Boston University in the tournament quarterfinals and took Vermont to the limit before losing a double-overtime thriller in the semis.

The Hawks have won 17 games in each of the past two seasons, and continue to knock on the door that separates the true conference powers from the rest of the America East. Injuries, an inconsistent low-post presence, and arguably an over reliance on the three-ball have continued to stand in Hartford’s way from truly contending for a title.

With six seniors, including Nwakamma, who has entrenched himself as THE single most important player on the roster – and perhaps the single-most important Hawk since Vin Baker when considering his importance to Hartford’s title hopes – on the roster, this would seem to be the most important year both in Gallagher’s career and Hartford basketball history. Yet the fifth-year head coach refuses to see it that way.

Upon returning from 14 days in Australia, highlighted by five games against professional teams, and sightseeing trips to Sydney Harbor, Melbourne, and The Great Barrier Reef, among other spots, Gallagher sat down with One-Bid Wonders to talk about the Hawks’ recent trip to the land of Koala’s and Kangaroos. He also looked ahead to the upcoming season, touching upon what he views as needed areas of improvement and the keys – and barometer – of a successful season, as well as why he loves recruiting Aussies.

Gallagher also took a look back at his long, and strange journey to West Hartford and back again, offering insight on what it was like to replace his best friend, and his desire for the program to never forget its humble roots.

Sam Perkins: How was the return trip to Australia?

I went four years ago. And this time around, to have a team that can compete against some of the professional teams makes you feel good from basketball standpoint. But from a life-experience standpoint, our players will never forget what they experienced and I won’t forget it.

In addition to the basketball, what were some of the more memorable experiences from The Land Down Under?

Looking out over Sydney Harbor, touring Melbourne, visiting the Great Barrier Reef. They were incredible.

When we went on the Great Barrier Reef, everybody was snorkeling, and a few of us dived, and a few of us went on this machine called the “Scuba Doo.”

Going to the AFL (the premier) Australian rules football league game and there’s 85,000 people, it was a sport that our players don’t really know, but they really got into it.

(Editor’s Note: The Scuba Doo is a tiny, motorized, personalized submarine of sorts, in which the passenger’s head goes inside an air bubble, allowing them to sightsee underwater for prolonged periods).

So who were the best swimmers on the team?

There’s three great swimmers: The elite swimmers are Corban Wroe, Nate Sikma and Jamie Schneck.

Did anyone box a kangaroo or wrestle a crocodile while you were down there?

Well, I can’t really speak for what Corban does on his own time…

Speaking of Corban, he may have been the most improved player in the entire league last season, going from a defense-only role player during his first two and a half years in the league, to a go to scorer. What can you tell me about him and his transformation?

The funny story about Corban is, when we first tried to recruit him after the first trip (to Australia four years ago), he said “thanks but no thanks” — we were so bad. A few months later, coach G (associate head coach Chris Gerlufsen) told me that Corban actually had some interest in us, and I said, “nah, nah, we have no interest in him.”

Coach G had to put his foot down and tell me to check my ego because he was a program-changing player. Corban Wroe is one guy who is the heart and soul of what we do and what we’re about as a program. Corban coming from that distance and making the commitment is just awesome. (more…)

Evan Cooper officially out at Hartford — at least for now

Head coach John Gallagher left open the possibility for a return in a year.

September 8th, 2014 by Sam Perkins
 Evan Cooper. OBW photo / Sam Perkins.

Evan Cooper. OBW photo / Sam Perkins.

Upon returning from two weeks leading his team through the land down under, Hartford head coach John Gallagher confirmed what was already well known around the league: point guard Evan Cooper is no longer a member of the Hawks.

“He’s taking a year off. I can’t say anything other than that,” said Gallagher during a recent interview.

However, Gallagher left the door open for Cooper’s return down the road, saying, “I hope he joins us in a year.”

Cooper wasn’t flashy or fancy, but the 6-foot point guard was crafty and rarely made mistakes with the ball in his hands, averaging 7.5 points, 1.7 assists and two rebounds in 60 games over his two seasons in Hartford, making 23 starts. Cooper during his two years in the program, Cooper was the only other primary ball handler in addition to starting point guard Yolonzo Moore III, and gave the Hawks the ability to move Moore off the ball.

A career 38.4 percent 3-point shooter, Cooper was one of the Hawks more accurate long-range gunners. However, with the emergence of Corban Wroe and Taylor Dyson, along with the white-hot shooting of Wes Cole, Cooper saw his offensive touches fluctuate during the second half of his sophomore season.

Beginning in late spring, rumors persisted around America East coaching circles that Cooper was no longer a member of the Hawks, which was apparently confirmed midsummer when his name disappeared from the team’s roster, and was officially confirmed by Gallagher after the Hawks’ foreign tour of Australia – a trip Cooper did not make.

Moore, a senior, has always been penciled in as the Hawks starting point guard, and according to Gallagher, he “was terrific,” running the show against Australian pros. However, Cooper’s departure leaves sophomore Justin Graham, who averaged just 0.8 points, 0.3 assists, one rebound and 8.4 minutes in 30 games last year, as the only other true point guard on the roster.

Heaven is a Playground: I’m sorry, Senegal, I screwed up

September 5th, 2014 by Noah Perkins

senegal

The passion Senegal plays with is why I love the game of basketball. What they have done thus far in the FIBA World Cup has been humanity reaffirming, touching and, above all, a tribute to everyone who has ever been marginalized or made to feel as less.

On some level, I understand why so many baseball players were taking (and continue to take) steroids: Every other player was doing it; not doing it meant getting squeezed out of the league, at least for the average player (for the Brian Roberts’s of the baseball world, juicing is human nature — it is not an ethical dilemma).

What I found unimaginably grating about the whole ordeal was the complete lack of accountability players were willing to take after they got caught. Instead of saying “everyone is doing it, If I didn’t I would lose my job,” all we got was a bunch of “I was young and stupid,” “I didn’t take steroids period… knowingly,” “I had a thyroid condition,” “It helps with my ADHD,” “I didn’t know what I was taking,” “I don’t know why I tested positive,” and a bunch of other bullshit (I’m looking at you, David Ortiz).

It was all meaningless white noise.

Power exists in a simple, “I screwed up; I wish I didn’t, but I did.”

So, with that sentiment, I would like to acknowledge my own mistake:

Senegal, I screwed up. I overlooked you as a team. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I am truly sorry. Watching you play has been a privilege and a pleasure.

In my preview, I wrote: If it weren’t for Senegal, Andray Blatche and his Filipino comrades would go winless.

While the statement turned out factually accurate, it doesn’t reflect the talent and heart both of these teams showed over the past week.

I then went on to say: This year the team’s sole NBA player is seven-footer Hamady N’Diaye of the Sacramento Kings. That is a completely false statement made in a moment of work-week induced laziness and lack of due diligence.

Minnesota Timberwolves Forward Gorgui Dieng has put the Senegalese team on his back, averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds a game. How did I manage to overlook him? For my money, he’s the tournament MVP.

Then there’s former D-league player Mohammed Faye, who has been a crunch time monster. What about the aforementioned N’Diaye? On a bad back the dude has dominated the paint defensively and put points on the board when he’s needed to.

Coming into this tournament, Senegal had not won an international game since 1998, before that you had to go back another 20 years for its only other win. By beating Puerto Rico, a country with a basketball pedigree and Croatia, one of the better teams competing in the World Cup, the country doubled it’s win total of the past near 40 years in two days.

Look at how improbable this run really is: (more…)

The fighter: Hartford’s John Carroll

September 3rd, 2014 by Sam Perkins
John Carroll. Courtesy photo / Hill School

John Carroll. Courtesy photo / Hill School

Coaches look for players who fight with everything they have to get onto the court.

According to Hartford head coach John Gallagher, Hawks freshman forward John Carroll has taken that intensity to another level.

“John Carroll is ready for a fight when he walks on the floor — John Carroll is ready,” said Gallagher.

According to Gallagher, the 6-foot-8-inch, 220-pound native of Dublin, Ireland, by way of the Hill School in Philadelphia, is good; really good.

If John wasn’t athletic, he’d be a really good Atlantic-10 player, but he is athletic,” raved Gallagher on a recent afternoon, adding, “John Carroll is a dynamic player.”

The scouting report on Carroll is that he is a skilled forward who is comfortable playing on the perimeter, can shoot the ball in the mid-range and can score around the hoop. But according to Gallagher, it’s Carroll’s ability to impact the game on the defensive end and on the glass, and above all his toughness and tenacity, that have the coach the most excited.

“He’s a killer, man,” said Gallagher. “It’s all about being physical; it’s all about having a presence and John Gallagher has a presence.

Carroll spent the past three seasons in the states, spending two years at IMG Academy before transferring to Hill School for his senior season. Given that, despite plenty of exposure, Carroll chose Hartford over the likes of Columbia and Binghamton, it would be fair to take Gallagher’s rave reviews with a grain of salt and a healthy portion of skepticism.

But according to Gallagher, Carroll is a late bloomer whose background – coming from a country not known for producing premier basketball players – worked against him. More than that, according to Gallagher, Carroll is the real deal.

“This is a competition and it is a competition for him every time he steps in the gym.”

Despite his expectations, Gallagher’s initial plans were to easy Carroll into the rotation this season, but according to the fifth-year head coach, the freshman forced his hand during the team’s recent trip to Australia. (more…)

Joe Neveux joins the OBW staff, will cover Maine men’s hoops

September 3rd, 2014 by Sam Perkins

 

OBW is happy to announce the addition of Joe Neveux, aka Super Man, to its staff.

OBW is happy to announce the addition of Joe Neveux, aka Super Man, to its staff.

One-Bid Wonders is excited to announce the addition of Joe Neveux to its staff, giving OBW an extremely enthusiastic and talented reporter in the northern-most region of its coverage.

An incoming freshman majoring in broadcast journalism at the University of Maine, Neveux is an aspiring news anchor and comedian and a native of Bedford, Massachusetts.

“I am extremely pumped to have Joe come on board to join the OBW family,” said Sam Perkins, the publication’s editor-in-chief. “I have gotten to know Joe over the past year and his energy, professionalism, poise, humor and camera-presence, along with his phenomenal work ethic will be a huge asset to the website. Additionally, he will give us a presence covering the University of Maine and the America East in northern New England that we have been sorely lacking.”

Despite his young age, Neveux already has an impressive background in the newsroom and extensive experience covering the news and working on camera. For the past year, Neveux served as the co-anchor on the Monday night news program of Bedford TV, a nationally acclaimed, award-winning local access Television station in his hometown. For the past three years, Neveux also served as the lead anchor on his high school’s morning news show, BHS Live.

In addition to his work in the newsroom, Neveux starred in three Bedford High School musicals, including a phenomenal performance this spring as Billy Crocker, the protagonist in “Anything Goes.” Neveux was twice named Best Supporting Actor during Massachusetts’ Tournament of Plays. Neveux was crowned “Mr. BHS” as a senior last spring and also received the superlative “Class Clown.”

Readers and fans who would like to help OBW expand its coverage north and help Neveux in his inaugural season covering the University of Maine this season can make a donation to OBW and specify the proceeds be used solely to cover the Black Bears.

OBW is also open to individual or business sponsorship to help facilitate Neveux’s coverage of the Black Bears during the season and any interested parties are encouraged to email the site at oneb...@gmail.com.

Under the Cuban sun: former Northeastern pg Marco Banegas-Flores transfers to UMass Lowell

August 31st, 2014 by Zolan Kanno-Youngs
Former Northeastern point guard Marco Banegas-Flores has transferred to UMass Lowell. OBW photo / Sam Perkins

Former Northeastern point guard Marco Banegas-Flores has transferred to UMass Lowell. OBW photo / Sam Perkins

The early summer heat rays of the Havana sun swelter Marco Banegas-Flores as he contemplates what the next step of his athletic — and overall professional — path will be.

Many people in Banegas-Flores’ position would be partying the Cuban nights away; the dream of walking the stage and grasping an undergraduate degree from Northeastern has just become a reality for the Dorchester-native.

But instead of sporting a Cubano and trumpeting his achievements, the point guard has come to a decision that has been more than a year in the making: After graduating from Northeastern in just three years, Banegas-Flores will return to the basketball court to play out his final year of NCAA eligibility, and in doing so he will pursue a master’s degree.

But that basketball court will not be century-old Matthew’s Arena, whose ancient steel beams and iron girders Banegas-Flores has called home for his entire college career. Instead, he will bring his skills to tiny Costello Gymnasium and state of the art Tsongas Arena of UMass Lowell, where he will play for former Northeastern assistant coach Pat Duquette.

On Aug. 29, Duquette announced Banegas-Flores would be the River Hawks newest player, joining the team as a graduate-transfer.

The addition of Banegas-Flores gives a Lowell team with only one other true point guard on the roster – incoming freshman Lance Crawford — an experienced upper-classman who can provide guidance to the River Hawks six incoming freshman guards, and experienced, heady play at the point.

“It’s a good situation for us. We’re in a much different situation than Northeastern right now,” the second-year head coach said. “We’re building this thing from scratch; we’ve got a lot of young players.

“I need somebody with experience. I need somebody with toughness. Those are the things that stand out the most to me. His potential leadership ability as well.”

The situation seemed just as good for the former Husky. Marco knew his long-term goal was to play professional ball somewhere in the world. It was in the second of his three-year career at Northeastern, a year in which he went from filling in at starting point guard to fighting for minutes off the bench, that he realized staying with Northeastern may not allow him to reach that goal.

“I just realized with what I want to do going further after college, which is professional basketball, I needed to make a move,” Banegas-Flores said. “For me, it wasn’t going to happen at Northeastern. For a number of reasons, I just felt in my heart it wouldn’t happen at Northeastern.”

When he first started meeting with Banegas-Flores in early August, Duquette expected that additional playing time was one of those reasons. He will likely get that too. While Duquette said it was too early to determine his upcoming rotation, he did say that Banegas-Flores’ improved skills will open up on-court opportunities.

“He’s been coached by Bill and his staff for more than three years and I know the great job they do identifying and developing players,” Duquette said. “I knew Marco, but I feel after his experience at Northeastern, he’s going to be even better than when I coached him.”

Having a previous relationship with Duquette, whom he said he felt closer to than any of his other coaches at Northeastern, also reaffirmed Banegas-Flores decision.

“We kind of forged a relationship,” Banegas-Flores said. “I felt more comfortable with him than any of the other coaches on [Northeastern’s] staff. To be able to do that in a limited amount of time meant a lot to me and spoke to his character.”

But it was Banegas-Flores’ academic reason for transferring which impressed Duquette above all others. (more…)

Heaven is a Playground: FIBA 2014 team preview — Spain vs Team USA

August 30th, 2014 by Noah Perkins

spain us

Columnist Noah Perkins will be covering the 2014 FIBA World Cup for One-Bid Wonders. Leading up to the Aug. 30 tip-off, he will be previewing all 24 qualified teams.

As much as I’d like to predict another team besides the U.S. winning the World Cup, I just cant. For me to do so would be completely disingenuous internet prostituted trolling, done so for the sake of presenting myself as a genius on the infinitesimal chance another team pulls of a Buster Douglass-Mike Tyson upset, Ditto for Spain coming in second.

Really, the only team who could beat the U.S. is Spain, but they won’t.

Eight years ago, everyone knew the 2006 tournament would come down to these two nations; same at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. They’re just that much deeper than the field.

I don’t even enjoy watching or writing about these two teams because a sure thing is boring. I find myself far more interested in the competition for the Bronze Medal (though, in my opinion, the Greeks are a lock to win that, if you want that expanded upon by all means read posts 1-23).

Gone are the days of the Americans trotting out a 40-year-old Reggie Miller and Lamar Odom and expecting to cruise past other countries (wait, they actually tried that in 2004 and got their asses kicked).

We here in the US-of-A are still the best basketball-playing nation in the galaxy, but the gap has shrunken…considerably. Winning these tournaments now requires a full effort.

Without top-level NBA talent on the roster an American team is not good enough to beat many competing teams.

We all know whose not playing for this team: Lamarcus Aldrige, Blake Griffin, Paul George, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love. If Australia, France, Lithuania and Argentina were all at full strength it might matter, but they’re not, so it doesn’t. (more…)