No more Mr. Nice Guy: Vermont’s Ethan O’Day is learning to get mean on the court

November 19th, 2014 by Sam Perkins
Vermont junior Ethan O'Day (center, #32), will need to stay mean on the court for the Catamounts to make a run at the title. OBW File Photo / Sam Perkins

Vermont junior Ethan O’Day (center, #32), will need to stay mean on the court for the Catamounts to make a run at the title. OBW File Photo / Sam Perkins

Vermont forward Ethan O’Day is  the nicest kid you’ll ever meet. And for the first two years of the 6-foot-9-inch human-pogo stick’s career, that’s been a problem on the court.

“[O'Day] might be the nicest kid I’ve ever coached. He’s a great kid — you want your daughter to marry this kid,” said Vermont head coach John Becker. “We’ve talked about him having to get nastier; play with a bit more of an edge and not be so accommodating out there.”

Through the first two seasons of his career, O’Day flashed his talent many times — a big dunk here, a nifty jump-hook there, a big rejection sprinkled in — averaging 7.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game over his first two years. But O’Day never truly asserted himself or took over games the way he was capable of doing. And with a veteran front court playing ahead of and beside him, he didn’t have to.

But with the graduation of Brian Voelkel — a point forward/UFC fighter/human hard Foul — Clancy Rugg and Luke Apfeld, the Catamounts lost 27.3 points and 16.5 rebounds per game from the front court and an incalculable amount of defensive intensity and toughness.

That meant that O’Day would have to make a big sophomore to junior leap in his production and tenacity this season.

“I challenged him to be meaner on the court — we need him to be,” said Becker.

Through the Catamounts first two games, O’Day has answered the challenge and picked up the gauntlet that his coach through down.

“He’s got to be nastier, he’s got to be edgier, and he’s starting to understand that,” said Becker.

In a hard fought 64-60 opening loss to Canisius, O’Day scored 12 points, pulled down seven rebounds and swatted three shots, going 3-of-5 from the floor and 6-of-8 from the line. In the Catamounts second outing, a thrilling 84-76 win at Siena that saw the Catamounts come roaring back from a nine-point second half deficit, O’Day was even better, scoring 20 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting from the floor to go with two blocks.

“We were running plays for him, which we haven’t in the past, and running plays for him down the stretch and he delivered every time,” said Becker. (more…)

David Walker dunks all over Florida State as Northeastern downs the Seminoles

November 19th, 2014 by Zolan Kanno-Youngs
Northeastern guard David Walker followed up a career-high 23 points in the season opener with 22 points in the Huskies upset win over Florida State. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Northeastern guard David Walker followed up a career-high 23 points in the season opener with 22 points in the Huskies upset win over Florida State. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

The Huskies thrilling win over FSU may have been just the second game of non-conference play, but the 76-73 win was a blueprint for the things Northeastern has to do to become the CAA champs they’re predicted to be.

New Big-3?

Lets start with the obvious. The resurgence of Quincy Ford and emergence of David Walker combined with big man Scott Eatherton are shaping a clear big-3 for coach Bill Coen. Plenty of other players had a significant impact on the game but this group led the way from tip-off to the buzzer. Eatherton had a nice follow-up to a average offensive performance against BU, scoring 16 points on 7 for 14 shooting and he did it going up against a much larger FSU frontcourt. Despite getting into early foul trouble, the big man was also consistent for NU.

Then there was David Walker, whose high-flying dunks made Zach LaVine look like Luke Walton. More impressive than his 45 points in the first two games of the season has been his confidence.

“My freshman year, I would kind of sit back, play my role and let Jon and Joel lead. Sophomore year, coach wanted me to be more aggressive but that was more of a transition year,” Walker, who had 22-points on 7 for 10 shooting said. “I’ve worked on my game a lot this summer.”

Then there’s Ford, who scared every Northeastern fan – including his family who was in attendance at the FSU game – when he stepped out of the game with what looked like a cramped hamstring. Ford had seven rebounds, four assists and 18 points. The red-shirt junior continues to get more comfortable on the court, scoring in a multitude of ways, whether it be in the post, a transition pull-up, off the dribble or from behind the arc. (more…)

Kyle Castlin confidently leads Columbia in Levien Gymnasium debut

November 18th, 2014 by Ari Kramer
Columbia freshman Kyle Castlin had a huge game in the Lions' win. Courtesy photo / Columbia Athletics

Columbia freshman Kyle Castlin had a huge game in the Lions’ win. Courtesy photo / Columbia Athletics

Kyle Castlin is a freshman, but he doesn’t hide in the corner in big moments.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Castlin was in the corner — the left one — during a critical Columbia possession late in Tuesday night’s 70-56 win over Wagner, but he wasn’t hiding.

Far from it.

He was calling for the ball, reading the defense as he slid towards the baseline as Seahawks flocked to protect against Maodo Lo’s drive down the left side of the lane. Castlin knew Wagner had cut his team’s lead to nine points, and he wanted to hit the dagger three with 1:55 remaining.

So he raised his right hand, calling for the ball, and Lo sent a pass his way. Castlin left his feet and rose straight up, and his shot slipped right through the net.

“He’s confident,” Lo said. “He knows he can contribute and take on a responsibility in clutch moments.”

That’s a boon to a Columbia team that lost its top scorer, Alex Rosenberg, for the season and No. 3 scorer, Grant Mullins, indefinitely.

Castlin, only in the starting lineup because those two can’t be, wasted no time to show the home crowd what he could do — that the 14 scoreless minutes he produced in Columbia’s season-opening loss was a mere aberration.

He drove to the bucket on the game’s first possession and finished off glass. Three minutes later, he buried a trey from the right wing. Two possessions later, he crashed for an offensive rebound and hit both free throws after getting fouled on the putback. (more…)

Breaking down Manhattan’s lob play that forced overtime at UMass

November 18th, 2014 by Ari Kramer

Manhattan didn’t get the win, but it had the play of the game — and possibly the entire ESPN Tipoff Marathon.

Trailing UMass by two with a baseline inbounds play coming, Steve Masiello had time to draw something up as the officials decided to put 0.8 seconds on the clock.

Here’s what happened:

UMass knew Manhattan only had time for, at most, a catch and shoot. With Emmy Andujar inbounding the ball, the sharpshooting Shane Richards and the 6-foot-10 Ashton Pankey were the Minutemen’s biggest threats.

First, notice Tyler Wilson shift to the near corner. For some reason, UMass center Cady Lalanne follows him, leaving one less person to protect the rim. Aside: why was Lalanne guarding Wilson, a point guard who scores all his points at the rim or foul line? They must have been expecting Wilson to screen for Pankey, who was being guarded on the far block by Trey Davis.

Then, Richards, who had already burned UMass with three tightly contested treys, sets a back screen for Rich Williams. He slows down Jabarie Hinds just enough to give Williams a step advantage going down the lane. Richards was the perfect Jasper to set the pick because Derrick Gordon, his man, would never have thought to leave him leaking towards the three-point line.

Gordon also probably thought there was help behind him. No way the lane could be totally devoid of Minutemen.

But Davis followed Pankey, acting as a decoy, just far enough towards the right corner. Sufficient scouting on Manhattan would show Pankey doesn’t really have range beyond 12-15 feet, anyway, and he has a long release. Davis did not recognize that until it was too late. He couldn’t recover, and Williams, with a perfect pass from Andujar, skied for the alley-oop.

Credit UMass for rebounding with an overtime win, but that play was just brilliant.

Jekyll and Hyde: Holy Cross’ Eric Green

November 18th, 2014 by Sam Perkins

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With 12 seconds left, and the Crusaders clinging to a 58-57 lead over 25th ranked Harvard, Eric Green misfired on a 12-foot jumper — a chance to hammer perhaps the final nail in the Crimson’s coffin — putting the ball right into the hands of Wesley Saunders, Harvard’s 6-foot-5 inch, 225 pound dynamo who was the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year who had already lit Holy Cross up for 24 points and 12 rebounds and who, a day later, would be chosen to the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50.

Green didn’t hesitate, didn’t pound the floorboards or sulk, even for a second. Before his errant jumper had finished plummeting back to the hardwood, the Holy Cross’ junior had already forgotten about it.

He had Harvard — and Saunders — right where he wanted them, and was still in prime position to give the Crusaders their first win over a ranked opponent since 1977a.

“On offense, if I’m not scoring, I really don’t let that get to me, because I know I can still have a big impact on the game with my defense,” he explained, almost prophetically, two days before Holy Cross tipped off its season under the bright lights of the TD Garden for the nightcap of the Coaches vs. Cancer Tiple Header against the Crimson. “I can’t let my offense carry over to my defense.”

Green pounced on the far burlier Saunders at three quarters court, and stayed glued to his hip, step for step, as the potential NBA draft pick turned on the jets and tried to blow by him. Saunders stopped on a dime on the right wing, and Green was still there with him. Unable to blow by him, Saunders sized up his smaller opponent, dribbling between his legs, left to right, before attacking the hoop.

Green was still right there, his eyes burning with intensity as he stared down one of the best players in the country.

His path to the rim impeded, Saunders drove right, before hitting Green with a spin move — the kind that comes out of nowhere and has left many a defender on the ground, searching for his sneakers.

Green was unfazed.

Unable to juke around or blow by Green, Saunders tried to use brute force, planting his right shoulder squarely in the middle of the skinny wing’s chest.

Green was unmoved.

Saunders still had one final trick up his sleeve — the tried and true pump fake — the one that had helped him get to the free-throw line 445 times up until that point in his career.

Green didn’t bite, and stood straight up, hands in Saunders face, before contesting Saunders off-balance shot, that clanged off the front of the rim. The buzzer sounded. The Crusaders’ rushed the floor, embracing at center court.

“Eric Green is a monster. If there’s a better perimeter defender, I haven’t seen him,” said head coach Milan Brown following the game.

Green finished the game with 12 points and two steals, shooting 6-of-11 from the floor including a high-flying two handed slam in the second half in which he hit the rim like a heat seeking missile. But as his teammates whooped it up on the Celtics’ half court logo, Green stepped back and smiled as other’s took the spotlight.

“Once he steps on the floor he’s a completely different person than he is off the court. It’s crazy, as a player he is very athletic, very dynamic, he makes some crazy plays – he’ll go up there, he’ll finish, he’s a high-flyer, he’ll dunk, he’ll rebound, block shots,” marveled senior captain Justin Burrell. “But off the court, he’s the complete opposite: He’s a very, very laid back guy, you’ll barely hear him talk. He’s always around us, but he’ll just slip in a couple words sometimes.”

Just call the junior from Mountain House, California — a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it exburb off of I-205 a few miles outside of San Francisco — basketball’s Jekyll and Hyde: On the court, he’s a high-flying, slam dunking, pick-pocketing, shot-swatting ball of energy capable of taking over games on the defensive end. Off it, he’s so soft-spoken that getting him to give himself even a mild complement (he gave himself a “B-minus” as a grade for his first season of college basketball, more on that later) is akin to pulling teeth.

He’s also one of the game’s great untold stories, even if he needs a great deal of coaxing, cajoling, and help from teammates and coaches to finally tell it. (more…)

Heaven is a Playground — Saying goodbye to a good friend: The Downtown YMCA, San Diego

November 17th, 2014 by Noah Perkins
The final pilgrimage of the lunchtime ballers.

The final pilgrimage of the lunchtime ballers.

I imagine that when the lights went off, the Ghost of Pete Maravich came out to run ball-handling drills across the battered floorboards.

On Friday, Oct. 31, the Downtown YMCA of San Diego closed its doors for the final time. Where do all the old ballers go now? The guys with the pointed elbows, who represent the promise of full frontal locker room nudity after the game; what becomes of the aged, shirtless lawyer in the bandana who used his low center of gravity to throw hip-shot-box-outs, or the dude with the off-balance set shot always guzzling down Starbucks before playing? Do the hairy backed rage monsters and past their prime arguers find a new basketball playing community to call their own?

How could they? Many of them had been playing on this court since Hanson was a chart topper. Their eccentricities already accepted, perhaps even admired — If Jon the Weeble had slapped cross-eyed T in the face over a loose ball in any other basketball enclave he would have assuredly become the victim of an assault so vicious, only Jim Ross could narrate it. But at the Downtown Y, it was all part of the game.

Sure, there were better players — younger, and quicker — elsewhere, but why would I have ever wanted to play with them when I had the Downtown Y?

Opened in 1882, the gym, which shared the building with a café and hostel, had no frills, no new equipment, and at times no electricity. Smaller than a regulation court, and with a running track in the rafters taking away the possibility of corner threes, ambitious newbs often jacked shots up from Ray Allen territory, the ball ricocheting off of the track, followed by chants of “rookie” from court veterans.

At one time, there was a scoreboard, then a clock, and then in the end, games were timed by cell phone. Populated by a lot of lawyers, an ABA player, young transplants, and the unemployed, lunch-time games ignored the standard meritocracy, opting instead for a form of basketball socialism where winners couldn’t play more than two games in a row if guys were waiting — every game guaranteed an argument over what the score actually was.

The characters made this place special. There was Black Mo (presumably for Maurice), Indian Mo (presumably for Mohammed,) and Old Mo (Presumably for… Morris?). There was Jim the hack, with the surprisingly young wife, whose big Halloween joke was coming dressed as a referee; Cha, who reeked of menthol and was missing most of his front teeth. You liked everybody, but also kind of hated everyone simultaneously. Guys brought out the best of athletic competition in each other. (more…)

Holy Cross’ Malcolm Miller Lifts his game and helps carry Crusaders past #25 Harvard

November 17th, 2014 by Chris Dela Rosa
Malcom Miller throws down an emphatic two-handed slam in Holy Cross' 58-57 upset of 25th ranked Harvard. OBW Photo / Chris Dela Rosa

Malcom Miller throws down an emphatic two-handed slam in Holy Cross’ 58-57 upset of 25th ranked Harvard. OBW Photo / Chris Dela Rosa

After a solid season in which they came on strong down the stretch, culminating in a CIT birth, it was unclear who would take the role of offensive centerpiece for the College of Holy Cross men’s basketball team. During the 2013-14 campaign, that title belonged to center Dave Dudzinski, who led the team across the board last season, earning himself a spot on the All-Patriot League First Team.

As the start of the season approached, it seemed as if senior forward Malcolm Miller was going to be the one to make the big leap from 2013. Last season, the 6-foot-7 forward had a solid junior campaign, averaging 11.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.9 blocks, but was not much of an impact player.

On Sunday evening, Holy Cross’ game against Harvard at TD Garden, Miller’s presence on the court could be felt all around — like a coming of age party for the Laytonsville, Maryland native who was being supported by a strong contingency of Holy Cross fans who took over the Garden.

“We talked in the summer about we thought he’d have the chance to be a preseason first team guy,” said Holy Cross head coach Milan Brown. “So our talk with him was, do you wanna be a third-team guy again, or are you gonna try and be a first team guy or player of the year type guy. And he said he wanted to work and be Player of the Year, so he’s putting that type of effort in.” (more…)

David Walker showcases growth by drilling six three’s and scoring career-high 23

November 17th, 2014 by Zolan Kanno-Youngs
David Walker watches one of his six three's find the bottom of the net en route to a career-high 23 points in Northeastern's 71-65 win over BU. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

David Walker watches one of his six three’s find the bottom of the net en route to a career-high 23 points in Northeastern’s 71-65 win over BU. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Quincy Ford made his return to the hardwood yesterday to find one of his teammates wasn’t the same shy sophomore he once knew.

In the Ford’s first game back after medically red-shirting last season, point guard David Walker scored a career-high 23-points and rallied the Huskies to a 71-65 win over crosstown rival BU.

“I like the new Dave,” said Ford, who had 11 points and 4 boards. “The aggressiveness, the shots he takes, this is the stuff he’s done all summer: working on his game, his one-on-one moves so I’m truly proud of him.”

Walker was practically the only thing aggressive about the Huskies in the first half.

The Terriers zone defense and double-team of Scott Eatherton forced Northeastern to be hesitant and sloppy.

The Huskies shot just 3 of 12 from behind the arc and 34 percent from the field and had six turnovers in the first half compared to BU’s two. The Terriers capitalized from Northeastern’s sloppy play with seven points off turnovers and second chance opportunities. Coach Joe Jones said it was all part of the game plan.

“We felt they were a team that was going to throw the ball in, they were going to drive it and they were going to offensive rebound so we wanted to control the paint by doing a great job in those areas,” Jones said. “And we were going to contest late on Walker and those guys.”

It’s that last part that allowed Northeastern to stay in the game. While his teammates struggled, Walker made BU pay for leaving him open, shooting 3 for 5 3-pointers and scoring 12 points in the half. He was the reason Northeastern only went in to halftime down nine points. Eatherton only had 2 points and Ford hadn’t hit one shot.

“I’m going to be honest I had a little bit of nerves going,” Ford said. “I didn’t want to do too much, do too little.”

Coen said his team was tentative while trying to feel out the game. That would change after the halftime break. (more…)

Making a statement: Northeastern freshman Devon Begley shines in first game

November 17th, 2014 by Sam Perkins
Northeastern freshman Devon Begley scored seven points and added instant energy in his first college game, a 71-65 win over Boston University. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Northeastern freshman Devon Begley scored seven points and added instant energy in his first college game, a 71-65 win over Boston University. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

You’d be hard pressed to make a more attention-grabbing statement than the red-tipped mohawk that stands roughly five inches in the air and runs directly down the middle of Devon Begley’s head.

But as loud as his well coifed mane was, the 6-foot-4-inch Pearland, Texas, native’s brightly colored locks were drastically overshadowed by his play on the court in his first college game.

Stepping onto the college hardwood for the first time, Begley showed no signs of freshmen nerves, scoring seven points on 3-of-6 shooting, to go with two assists, a steal and a rebound in 16 minutes of action.

“He’s a very confident young player. He’s a gym rat. He really wants to be good,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen following the Huskies 71-65 win over arch-rival Boston University in the opener of the Coaches vs. Cancer triple header at the TD Garden.

Begley checked into the game for the first time with 15:34 remaining in the first half. Thirty seconds later he got his first college touch, and immediately attacked the hoop, scoring on a left-handed lay-up.

“All his teammates really enjoy playing with him, because he always has his head up, he gets into the lane, and he creates easy baskets for people.” (more…)

Terriers’ inexperience and inconsistency apparent in opening loss

November 17th, 2014 by Chris Dela Rosa
BU freshman Eric Johnson pushes the ball past Northeastern guard David Walker in the Terriers 71-65 loss to Northeastern in the Coaches versus Cancer tip-off at the Boston Garden. OBW Photo / Chris Dela Rosa

BU freshman Eric Johnson pushes the ball past Northeastern guard David Walker in the Terriers 71-65 loss to Northeastern in the Coaches versus Cancer tip-off at the Boston Garden. OBW Photo / Chris Dela Rosa

“We have to get some questions answered,” said Boston University men’s basketball head coach Joe Jones following his team’s 71-65 loss against crosstown rival Northeastern University.

The main issues Jones and his staff will be concerned with as the team continues to make its way through the schedule is fighting off the inexperience that many mentioned during the offseason. Most of it should go away with time, but on Sunday afternoon, it was a major factor in the Terriers failure to defeat the Huskies.

With 12 minutes to go, Jones put out a lineup of John Papale, Nathan Dieudonne, Eric Fanning, Cedric Hankerson and Blaise Mbargorba. For over three minutes, the Terriers just could not produce any form offense, and before the half was even nearing the midpoint, the Terriers found their 11-point lead cut all the way down to one.

Midway through the drought, Jones substituted freshman point guard Eric Johnson in for Hankerson. With 10:48 on the clock and his team clinging to a 1-point lead, Johnson was controlling the ball and made a freshman mistake: a careless pass into the paint, which was immediately swiped by Northeastern’s Zach Stahl. (more…)