Heaven is a Playground: Reflections eternal — Jan Vesely, I miss you already!

July 21st, 2014 by Noah Perkins

Farewell Jan Vesely, we hardly knew you.

That’s right, the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft — 2011, as in only 3 years ago — has washed out of the league.

The 24-year-old who famously sucked face with his smoking hot, basketball-playing future-fiancée upon hearing his name called by David Stern, has signed with a Turkish team for the upcoming season.

The dude who everyone called the second coming of Andrei Kirilenko – except 7-feet tall and much more athletic — lasted a paltry three seasons. Excluding cocaine addicts and victims of motorcycle accidents, only one other top-six pick in the past 34 years fizzled this quickly.

As for his lady-friend, she dumped Air Vessely back in January; it’s been a tough year for all of us!

I care about Jan’s departure for a few reasons.

One: I once lost a game of 2k playing with the 1988 Golden State Warriors to the 2012 Wizards, a game in which Jan scored 50 points including a buzzer beater to ice it. (I hope Greg Oden does something notable, so I can bring up the time I saw him at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles)

Two: He was an integral part of the 2011-12 Wizards, which means he has the rare distinction of having played with Swaggy P, Andray Blatche, and Javale Mcgee… at the same time.

Three: In the past eight weeks, a busted chin a mangled leg and ankle and several weddings have left me relatively material-less. Hopefully I can speedily get back to doing what I do best: nomadically meandering the country, playing basketball and writing about it, while interspersing outdated pop culture references in whenever an opportunity presents itself.

Having now attended a Hindu and a Catholic wedding, I am pretty sure some type of tribal competition is going on between these religions to see which one can torture their guests more. Both of these ceremonies made the directors cut of Water World look short.

As for Jan Vesely, don’t feel too bad for him; he’ll be playing alongside Bogdan Bogdanovic next year. I hope we see him and his epically bad free throw percentage (40-percent) again someday!

Becker: ‘Find something you are passionate about and go for it’

Talking basketball and life with Vermont's head coach

July 17th, 2014 by Sam Perkins
Vermont head coach. Photo by Shane Bufano

Vermont head coach. Photo by Shane Bufano

It wasn’t the most traditional of interviews. In fact, it was anything but, which is why it was so fitting.

Vermont head coach John Becker was jamming out to Bruce Springsteen while bombing down the back roads along the recruiting trail somewhere between inner city Chicago and Indiana heartland.

On the other end of the line, I was in my kitchen, making banana pancakes and doing my best not to burn the house down.

Considering Becker’s long and winding coaching odyssey – which took him from serving simultaneously as the head basketball and tennis coach at Gallaudet, a Division III school for the deaf, to a successful career outside of the sport in IT, only to take the biggest of gambles and head to Vermont on a pittance of a salary of the director of basketball operations, before becoming the program’s head coach and punching his ticket to the NCAA Tournament – it was, perhaps, the perfect setting to reflect on the journey.

With ballads from The Boss still ringing in his ear, rolling farmlands whizzing by his window, and the crackle of butter on the griddle in the background, Becker took time to reflect on the previous season, which saw the Catamounts win 22 games and go 15-1 in conference play, dominating the league, only to be upset by Albany in the America East semifinals. The coach then looked ahead to the future after an off season that saw Vermont graduate six seniors, lose assistant coaches Matt O’Brien (Maine) and Chris Markwood (Northeastern) and welcome in seven new players. Becker talked about what areas he remains confident in with his young Catamounts (hint: putting the ball in the basket), what areas remain question marks, and who he views as the keys to the upcoming season (hint: it’s in the front court). Becker also reflected back on his long and winding journey to Vermont, and explained his philosophy on life, on where his motivation comes from, and the importance of having a dream and chasing after it.

SP: How is the off-season treating you?

JB: Overall, it’s been very, very good. We have seven new players who arrived this summer — six freshman and one transfer — and it’s been exciting to get those guys on campus and start working with them. We lost two assistant coaches — I’m very happy for those guys.

From a stats and numbers perspective, last season was a terrific year for Vermont: you guys won the conference outright, and dominated the league both offensively and defensively in a way that no team has ever has before. But in this league it all comes down to that one weekend in March. Now that you’ve gotten a little distance from it, how do you look back on last season?

That’s a real good question. I was just sitting with the Davidson coaching staff this weekend, recruiting, and they had a similar season, where they dominated their conference and had a bad match up in the semis and lost in their conference tournament.

Looking back on our season — I do look back on it, watch a lot of the game tape and I look at the stat sheet almost every day – and I don’t know what else we could have done. Going into the season, the previous year we averaged 63 points a game, and I thought it we averaged 67 points a game it would be good enough for us to win a lot of games and we ended up averaging over 70. From that standpoint we achieved everything we wanted to – we were able to incorporate an entirely new offensive philosophy and we took our lumps early on in the year before it took root in the conference [season].

You go up and down the league stats and we were first in almost every statistical category, offense and defense. From that perspective, I don’t know what else we could have done. For league play we were healthy, we had one of the hardest non-conference schedules in the country, we really challenged ourselves, went out and played people on the road. We had some ups and downs early in the year and we were able to battle through that and stick together.

I was really proud of the way we were able to perform and grow. But Albany beat us – it was really a shame that one game can end a season like that. There was a lot of pressure on our kids – we had handled Albany during the year. We certainly did not overlook their program – we really respect them. But there was a lot of pressure, and that Albany game we had a traveling call the first two possessions, a charging call, a bad turnover — when you have a few turnovers early, kids start pressing a little bit, and guys are really trying to win the game and maybe get out of character a little bit, and I didn’t do a great job of coaching the game and Albany and coach Brown did. But that is what makes college basketball beautiful during the month of March.

You hear the term ‘changing of the guard’ and with such a big senior class graduating and such a big freshman class replacing them, this really truly does fit that billing. I know we are still a long ways away from the season, but do you see any areas this year’s team might be different from last year in scheme or philosophy?

Offensively I don’t worry about this team: I think we have a lot of good offensive players who really fit what we did last year as far as ball-screen motion. I think this team will be good offensively. The six freshmen, obviously, are going to be up and down – it’s just the nature of things that it takes freshmen a little while to learn what it takes to be successful at the DI level.

The key to our season this year is really going to be Ethan O’Day and Hector Harold giving us consistent production. Both showed signs last year, but we had other guys who we depended on who could take pressure off of them. This year, those two guys are the key – they are certainly capable of doing it, but how they play and how consistent they are will be a key.

Defensively, that is where I really have to see. We’ve been a really good defensive team my first three years, and that is the area that I have to figure out. We’re going to still play man-to-man defense, but I’m going to have to figure out who our best defensive players are, who can make winning plays on that end, and how to put them in the best position to be successful. Are we going to press more? Are we going to play more zone? I don’t know yet.

What can you tell me about each of the seven new faces on the roster? (more…)

Heaven is a Playground: Rampaging at Hoopfest, round 2

July 14th, 2014 by Noah Perkins
What basketball is all about.

What basketball is all about.

Has anyone seen the movie Falling Down? Before Michael Douglass was the creepy old guy bedding Catherine-Zeta Jones… wait, never mind — when he was 32 he married a 19 year old, so I suppose he’s always been the creepy old guy. But, before he was the really creepy, really old guy, he was in the movie Falling Down, where he played a nebbish divorcee who rampages through L.A. because McDonalds stops serving breakfast at 11:30 a.m.

A few weeks ago at Hoopfest, I had a similarly out of body breakdown. Except instead of yelling at lazy public works employees and blowing up their construction site with a rocket launcher, I went Shaqnosis in the paint.

Last Year, in my first go-round at Hoopfest, I played on two teams that made the 2010 Nick Young-Andray Blatche-Javale Mcgee Wizards look like a really good, fundamentally sound squad. While those teams were comedic gold (anchored by 8-mile and Gangle Arms), they didn’t yield much return on investment.

Losing all but one game and being relegated to the “consolation” (being the polite term for “you suck worse than Carrot Top”) brackets.

This time, E-hop and I were back like Ellen Page — Hard Candy Ellen Page not Juno Ellen Page.

It also didn’t hurt that our teammates weren’t anatomic oddities or rage monsters.

Game 1: The Nannemachers

Papa Nannemacher

Papa Nannemacher

The night before our first game, hanging out on the balcony of our indiscriminate Cigarette stained motel on the outskirts of Spokane, with a nervousness permeating amongst us, a teammate (who will go unnamed), registration packet in hand, began scouring the web for information about our opponents. I wonder how many of the 300,000 who journeyed here for this event were doing the same?

“Hoops I did it again” was made up of a father and his sons, the Nannemachers. They were Spokane locals, who had played in Hoopfest for the past 13 years. One of the sons had run track, the other owned ducks and roses, played the piano and was recently married – yes, this sounds psycho, but who amongst us hasn’t Facebook stalked a stranger before (or worse if you use OK Cupid)?

Judging by the piano player’s picture (he looked like the sweetest guy) I assumed we’d dominate.

Hubris has always been my downfall.

Of course, a family who has been balling up together since Jake and The Fatman was a thing has a distinct advantage over four dudes who had never met. Especially on a makeshift, lopsided, concrete street-turned-basketball court, where chemistry and spacing is everything.

All game, the old man was setting screens and his piano-playing son rained jumpers coming off them.

Life has certain predictability: tied at point, you knew the dude who looked like John Lithgow and had yet to score was going to be the hero. Doing his best Lew Alcindor impression, Papa Nannemacher iced it with a sky-hook in my face. A moment I will probably never live down.

Game 2: The Scrubs

We avoided the consolation bracket by blowing out a bad team, building chemistry and attempting to regain some of the dignity lost in the previous game.

Game 3: Win or Go Home

I am not a great man, nor a great basketball player, but for the 20 minutes it took to win game 3, I was both. (more…)

“Goal is to get to the NCAA tournament,” says Northeastern new coach Chris Markwood

July 10th, 2014 by Zolan Kanno-Youngs
New Northeastern assistant coach Chris Markwood.

New Northeastern assistant coach Chris Markwood.

When Northeastern’s newest assistant coach says a team has what it takes to get to the NCAA tournament, one can trust he knows what he’s talking about.

During his three-year span as an assistant coach at University of Vermont, Chris Markwood helped to lead the Catamounts to 20-plus wins and the post-season every year as well as an NCAA tournament berth in 2011-12. After less than a week as an official member of coach Bill Coen’s staff, Markwood is reassured the Huskies have what it takes to make it to college basketball’s biggest stage.

“Everybody in here, their whole goal is to get to the NCAA tournament,” Markwood said. “You talk to any college coach, head coach or assistant, once your season actually ends and you start preparing for the next season, that’s the goal.

“I’ve been fortunate enough at Vermont to be able to experience that and we’ve had some very successful years up there and I foresee that happening here as well.”

Markwood gives Coen an experienced leader capable of relating to players, specifically guards. Coming off a season in which the Northeastern backcourt was at times passive, the former two-year starter is focused on developing the talent behind dominant forward Scott Eatherton.

“There’s a lot of talent within that perimeter, I’m just trying to hone in on those guys and tighten up their games and make them the best players they can be and if we can do that, we’re in real good shape,” Markwood said.

In fact, it was forward Quincy Ford, who often played at the perimeter before sitting out of most of last season with a back injury, who was one of the biggest factors in Markwood’s decision to come to the CAA.

“Just his skill-set and his size, for me, was intriguing and something I was anxious to see first hand,” Markwood said. “A guy who’s 6’7″-6’8″ who shoots the way he does and handles the ball the way he does, it seems like he’s really put in the time this summer.”

The America East veteran said another factor in the change was the chance to work under Coen, who has been letting him stay at his home while he searches for a new house.

“He’s a very highly respected coach,” Markwood said. “Within this region, I had heard a lot of really good things about him from people I know and I’ve crossed paths with him on the recruiting trail so it kind of started with that.

“He’s built a very strong program here. He won the league a couple years ago. Last year a major injury to a guy like [Quincy Ford] really hurt them but they’ve got all the pieces again and we’re really looking forward to a very strong year again.”
Coen expressed his enthusiasm for Markwood’s recruiting skill in a statement. (more…)

Catching up with former Catamount Rahim Huland El

Momma Gooch's best dish, life lessons from TB and the late, great Kevin Roberson

July 7th, 2014 by Jon Hart
After his own career came to an end, Catamount legend Rahim Huland El (left) helped to mold his daughter, Aliyah (center) into one of the top high school players in the country.

After his own career came to an end, Catamount legend Rahim Huland El (left) helped to mold his daughter, Aliyah (center) into one of the top high school players in the country.

Only 11 Vermont Catamount have surpassed the 1,000 point and 500 (532) rebound barriers during their careers. Rahim Huland El is one of those 11.

As one of Coach Tom Brennan’s first recruits, Huland El was instrumental in turning the Catamount program around, scoring 1,287 points and ripping down 532 rebounds during his career in Burlington. Huland El played a pivotal role in the upset of heavily-favored Northeastern during the 1990 conference tournament – one of the most memorable victories of the pre-Sorrentine/Coppenrath/Cinderella Catamount era.

The first member of his extended family to graduate from a four year university, Huland El passed on an opportunity to play professional basketball after graduating from Vermont, opting instead to attend law school. Now a coach and the father to Aliyah — a consensus five-star recruit who signed with Virginia and is regarded one of the top women’s basketball recruits in the freshman class of 2014 — Huland El sat down with OBW to discuss his time in Burlington; the great upset of Syracuse; the late, great Kevin Roberson; life lessons learned from Tom Brennan; and his daughters success, among other things.

OBW: Describe your experiences and emotions on the night the Cats shocked the world and upset Syracuse. Where were you? Who were you with? Who called?

RH: Obviously, I can vividly recall that day. When the brackets were announced, I felt that we had a decent chance to beat Syracuse. On the day of the game, I was at a restaurant in West Orange, New Jersey. I was supposed to meet my buddy there, but he was unable to make it. So, I sat there alone at the restaurant cheering every UVM basket and every ‘Cuse miss.

Right away, I thought back to the 1989-1990 season. I think we won 15 games that year. It was our first legitimate team. This was also the year that Roberson emerged as one of the best defensive players in the country – he averaged about 4 blocks (and 6-8 “alters”) per game. I have always seen the 89-90 season as the start of the run that UVM has been on for the past 24 years. So, as I sat watching the Syracuse game, my primary emotion was extreme pride – pride that classy guys like Taylor Coppenrath and Sorrentine and Mopa Njila were creating the culmination of something that us “old guys” started many years before.

Let’s back track. How did you get involved in basketball? Who were your earliest mentors? Where did you learn to shoot?

I originally became interested in basketball as a sixth grader living in Irvington, New Jersey. I was a tall kid so I figured I would tryout for the local traveling basketball team. Well, I was tall but I could not play a lick! So, I did not make the team. At that time, I decided that I would not be cut from another team…ever.

So I started practicing 2-3 hours per day on the playground. I was like the mailman, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow would stop me from practicing. I would play and get beat on by older players and grown men. Within a year, I was the best player in my age group. I did not get cut from the seventh grade team!

My earliest role models as players were guys like Julius Erving, Bernard King, Michael Ray Richardson and Magic Johnson. The common thread among these players was that they played with passion. I always liked to play with extreme passion as well.

Let’s talk about the recruiting process. Who was looking at you? Did Coach Brennan visit you personally? Describe his charm: Did he woo you with poetry? (Editor’s note: During the recruitment of TJ Sorrentine, TB wrote a poem for him.)

Ahh, recruiting… In addition to UVM, I was recruited by Fordham, Cornell, Rutgers, Columbia and several other mid-major schools. I was part of TB’s first recruiting class at UVM. The other members of that class were TJ Whitaker, Mark Madden, Matt Johnson and Bill Bright.

Coach Brennan came to visit my home and commenced to charming the heck out of my mother. He also mentioned that he preferred an up-tempo style of play and that I would have a chance to play as a freshman. TB got my attention with each of these statements. I was a pretty athletic player, so running was right up my alley. Unfortunately, no poetry.

Prior to TB’s home visit, UVM was my third or fourth choice. After his home visit, UVM was right at the top of my list!

Before choosing Vermont, did it bother you in the least that Vermont was one of the lowest ranked teams in Division I?

UVM’s ranking did not bother me. In fact, I knew that this would increase my chances of playing right away.

First impressions…When you first meet your teammates: Kevin Roberson, Kenny White, TJ, Bill Bright, Matt Johnson, Mike Lubas…what are your thoughts? Was there instant chemistry – on and off the court? Do you think ‘we are going to turn this thing around?’

First of all, I was one of five freshman players during the 87-88 season. We were a very young team. But, we had good chemistry. The upperclassmen – Joe Calavita, Mike Lubas, Rob Hamlin, Bart Donovan, Chris Kappas, Francis John and Brad Chandler – all looked out for us young guys.

And, since we were 3-24, we had to get along. All we had was each other. The first season was about survival. Aside from a big home win against Northeastern, we did not have much success on the court. However, the seniors, Rob Hamlin and Francis John, set the tone of working hard everyday in practice. The younger guys watched and tried to follow suit.

The next year, Roberson (“Hutch” as we all called him), Kenny White, Mike Malachuk and Rich Tarrant joined the team. So over a 2 year period, we added nine players to the team. This signified the changing of the guard.

Hutch’s rebounding record was broken this past year, which was a little sad. However, it got a lot of people talking about Kevin. What was Kevin Roberson like off the court?

Kevin was one of the finest human beings I have ever met. He was smart, humble, kind and considerate. But his quiet nature sometimes masked his fierce competitive fire. I looked at him very much as my little brother. I and several of my former teammates still struggle with Hutch’s untimely and unfortunate passing. He was destined to achieve some spectacular things with in his life. In fact, I named my son “Ahsan” because it’s meaning “gentle, kind, charitable and handsome” is very close to the meaning to “Kevin.” Both names also describe Kevin Andre Roberson to a T!

What are your memories of Kevin Andre Roberson? (more…)

Man versus Ball: How to fake being a soccer fan

June 30th, 2014 by Jon Hart

About two weeks ago, soccer was an orphan sport compared to basketball, hockey and baseball – even college baseball. Now, everyone’s watching. If you want to join the World Cup party, here are some tips on becoming a fake soccer fan.

1. Whenever someone comments on the game and you have no clue what they’re talking about, just pivot and comment: “Ronaldo’s artistry is magical!”

2. Save your baseball cap for baseball and bad hangover days. If you need to wear something on your head, go with something kooky. If you got a sombrero or a jester hat, go for it and then paint your face. Soccer loves kooky! And even though it’s blistering, wear a stupid scarf. A jersey would complete the ensemble but don’t put your name on the back. You’re not playing!

3. If you feel the need to initiate a conversation, ask anyone who’ll listen if Landon Donovan’s exclusion from the U.S. side – yes, say side instead of team – made any difference besides getting everyone’s attention and making soccer relevent before the World Cup.

4. Go to a beer hall and sit at a long table with people that you won’t see again because you’re a fake soccer fan. Drink lots of beer, exotic stuff, in humongous mugs and sing stupid songs. If you don’t know any, just make one up. No one will know the difference. Everyone will probably be too wasted.

5. Let the facial hair grow and show those tattoos. Soccer is big with the hipsters! Mention to anyone that you’re considering a move to the Pacific northwest in part because you heard that the MLS is just awesome there.

6. If anyone asks you what you do for your soccer fix when the World Cup is not in session, just say that you fixate on The Premier League.

7. Lastly, watch the game or pretend to watch. React emphatically preferably with loud moans and groans when anything remotely interesting happens. When someone gets bitten, act outraged.

8. After the game, fantasize about creating a soccer fantasy league.

Jon Hart is the author of Man versus Ball: One Ordinary Guy and His Extraordinary Sports Adventures, www.manversusball.com.

Report: Vermont assistant Chris Markwood to Northeastern

June 27th, 2014 by Sam Perkins

In a story first reported by Hoopdirt.com, assistant coach Chris Markwood will leave the University of Vermont to join Bill Coen’s staff at Northeastern University. Hoopdirt cited a “great source” and OBW has since confirmed the hiring with multiple sources.

Markwood spent the past three seasons on head coach John Becker’s staff in Vermont, where he built a reputation as a players coach, a strong recruiter with a terrific basketball IQ, extremely hard working and seemingly universally well-liked member of the staff.

In his first season on the staff, Markwood helped Becker lead the Catamounts to the NCAA Tournament, and played a large role in recruiting and developing a core of players that would help the Catamounts return to the conference championship game a year later and win a regular season title the following season.

Prior to his time at Vermont, Markwood spent five seasons on the staff at his alma mater, the University of Maine. While on the Black Bear staff, Markwood worked with perimeter players, and played a large role in developing four America East All-Conference selections and two All-Rookie picks.

Perhaps not coincidentally, almost immediately after Markwood departed following the 2010-2011 season, the Black Bears program went completely off the tracks in a complete train wreck.

Prior to coach, Markwood spent his first two seasons of college basketball playing at Big East member Notre Dame, before transferring back to his home state for his final two years of eligibility. In two years at Maine, Markwood averaged 6.7 points and three assists per game in 45 contests, while providing lock-down defense and a strong locker room presence. As a senior captain, Markwood swished a heavily contested 3-pointer just before the buzzer of the 2005 America East quarterfinals, to lead sixth-seeded Maine a 47-45 win over third-seeded Boston University. It would prove to be the only America East Tournament win of then head coach Ted Woodward’s 10-year tenure.

Earlier this spring Markwood, a Portland native and the 2000 Maine Gatorade Player of the Year, interviewed for the vacated head coaching position at Maine, but did not make the list of finalists. At Northeastern, he will replace Antonio Reynolds-Dean who earlier this spring accepted a position at the College of Charleston.

Heaven is a Playground — the late Prince Oberyn, the Freemont Troll and the Seattle Freeze

June 23rd, 2014 by Noah Perkins
Balling up in Seattle.

Balling up in Seattle.

To paraphrase Prince Oberyn (pour out a cold one for the departed), one day, that pretty ass of mine will sag, my belly will grow soft, my back will ache in the night, grey hairs will sprout from my ears and no one will want me anymore.

When that day comes — I imagine sometime around my 30th birthday — I can see myself in Seattle. Perhaps, even with child. Yack!

This is probably the psychological consequence of Shawn Kemp’s mass insemination of the Pacific Northwest; maybe, subconsciously, I just view Seattle as being extremely fertile.

I’ve always had a certain affinity for the Emerald City. Growing up the Supersonics were my team (I also liked the Hornets, but what 4 year old didn’t idolize Grandmamma. On the hoop in our backyard, my best friend and I would pretend to be Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf; my blinding complexion usually pigeonholed me into playing the role of ‘White Guy’ — it’s all fun and games until your forced to play Luc Longley when your buddy gets to be MJ. It was an easy choice to root for them; Sam Perkins (my brothers namesake) was their starting center.

How can you dislike a city whose minimum wage is rising to $15 an hour? Yes conservative reader and potential Facebook troll, I am aware that a wage raise of this magnitude could result in the disappearance of many low paying jobs. No liberal reader and potential Facebook troll, I don’t disagree that income inequality is a symptom of a greater problem.

Everything is green in Seattle, Mount Rainier looks dope in the skyline, and Lever Burton-Michael Dorn enthusiasts finally have a safe place to call home at the EMP pop culture-Sci-Fi museum.

The Perrier that runs through the faucets is the best tap water I have ever had. Anyone who has ever tasted the horse urine that comes out of the pipes in L.A. or the C.H.U.D. bath water of New York City understands the importance of quality tap.

As far as the people go…well, they are not necessarily what I find so alluring about Seattle. Don’t get me wrong the locals are friendly enough, but they are strange, like Bison Dele strange. Seattle is a place of oddities; quirky things like the gum wall and the Freemont Troll are spread throughout. The people are the centerpiece of this oddness. (more…)

Ahmad Walker to Transfer from Stony Brook

June 20th, 2014 by Doric Sam

Ahmad Walker will be transferring from Stony Brook, head coach Steve Pikiell announced on Friday. The swingman started 31 games for the Seawolves last year as a redshirt freshman and will have three years of eligibility remaining.

“Ahmad and I determined that it is both in his best interest and in the best interest of the program that we part ways,” Pikiell said in a press release. “I wish Ahmad all the best in his future endeavors.”

With Anthony Mayo graduating as a fourth-year junior, the Seawolves are losing their second player who had eligibility remaining from the roster.

Earlier published reports that this is only the second transfer during Pikiell’s tenure were erroneous as there were a lot of transfers during his earlier years when the team mostly consisted of walk-ons. Among others, Tre Cunningham (Clemson), Stephan Bakinde (Newberry College), Kyle Wright (Colorado then Providence), Rio Pitt (South Carolina State), Marcus Robinson (Clarion University then Point Park University) and Nick Carter (LIU Post) all transferred out of the program. But since 2008-09, the year the Seawolves turned the corner, the number of transfers has shrunk dramatically as Jermol Paul (Stetson University), Jonathan Moore (who left the program after beginning 2008-09 as a starter), Preye Preboye (Lynn University) and now Walker have left.

The news is a bit of a surprise since Pikiell put two years into developing Walker and he was one of Stony Brook’s most promising young players last season. While he still needed refinement on the offensive side of the ball, Walker was an excellent defender, ranking third on the team with 31 steals, and rebounded very well for his position averaging seven boards per game during conference play, which led the team. He won the America East Rookie of the Week award twice and was named to the conference’s All-Rookie team.

The loss of Walker, along with the graduations of Dave Coley, Anthony Jackson and Eric McAlister, means Stony Brook will now have to replace four of its regular starters. Of the seven returning players, America East Player of the Year Jameel Warney and all-conference guard Carson Puriefoy III are the only ones who started more than 10 games and averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season.

The Seawolves will look to Roland Nyama, who redshirted last year, to replace Walker’s production. Though he has yet to see any action on the court, Pikiell is very high on Nyama and expects him to be a key contributor next season. The Seawolves’ incoming class is also headlined by point guard Deshaun Thrower, who was named Michigan’s Mr. Basketball and will likely see significant time in his first year.

Heaven is a Playground: Reflections eternal — LeBron and the hate

June 10th, 2014 by Noah Perkins
Hating on LeBron is tired, boring, and nonsensical.

Hating on LeBron is tired, boring, and nonsensical.

I’ve been out of commission for a while, the result of playing pickup basketball against a guy who plays for the San Diego Surf of the ABA. His vastly superior athleticism enabled him to propel his shoulder into my chin while we both went up for a rebound — parting my lower jaw like the red sea.

I suppose it was an accident, although I will admit, a smug sense of satisfaction came over me when I heard he had his eye busted open a few days later.

The gash had to be sutured, so at the moment, my face is itchy and dry, I can’t shave or shower, my hygiene is falling apart (although some would debate how great it was to begin with) and because it is nearly impossible to keep a bandage in place on a hairy chin, I am relatively confined to my apartment.

Mostly, I have been watching the Real Housewives of New York City and Orange County.

In between handfuls of Queso Salsa and middle-aged millionaire heiress’s throwing wine glasses at each other, I have managed to squeeze in a little playoff basketball. Though my interest has waned after the Warriors elimination.

Can someone please explain why everyone hates LeBron James so much? Even Gatorade was trolling the dude on Twitter after he left game 1 with the cramps. I’ve grown tired of the unofficial slogan of LBJ haters: “Jordan wouldn’t do that.”

Guess what, Jordan did do that, in game 4 of the ‘97 finals MJ took himself out because of… leg cramps.

I suppose to be fair I should say why do White People hate LeBron so much?

I don’t even have much of an opinion on the man; it’s just odd that he generates so much loathing. He is the best player in the NBA, and is really entertaining to watch.

Sure, he seems ego-maniacal, narcissistic and delusional, but what athlete isn’t? Scratch that, what 25-year-old isn’t?

Yes the ‘decision’ was a brutal, look-at-me, attention-grabbing spectacle, but so is your Facebook page. And in fairness, your social media doesn’t bring in $7 million worth of charitable donations; LeBron’s decision did.

People dislike Tim Duncan because he is too boring, they don’t like James because he is too self-absorbed. (more…)