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

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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…)

Heaven is a Playground: FIBA 2014 team preview — Lithuania

August 30th, 2014 by Noah Perkins

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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.

What’s the best country in the world at the game of basketball? Easy, right? James Naismith and Julius Irving, Wilt the Stilt to Shaq, and MJ to King James, it’s the good ol’ U-S-A.

But the best country in the world at basketball per capita? The Republic of Lithuania — one of the whitest, blondest and smallest countries in the world.

Sound crazy? Try to follow me here:

Is there anything Rhode Island is better at than the other 49 states? I’d say legalized prostitution, but Nevada obviously has that locked down. When you think Rhode Island what are the first thoughts that pop into your head? For me, it’s happy endings, Family Guy, Pauly D, and a capitol city that would happily reelect a mayor that has repeatedly been forced to resign due to felonies such as assault and racketeering.

But Rhode Island is most known for being the smallest state in the union – a state of just one area code and a population of around 2 million.

What would happen if you build a basketball team out of the player pool of the state of Rhode Island and stacked them up against Team USA? With all due respect to T.J. Sorrentine, but Rhode Island’s finest would get annihilated. Take it a step further, sieve through the available players of any swath of 3 million Americans and put them up against Team USA and it is a 50 point bloodbath.

The United States has a population of more than 313 million people. Spain’s population is roughly 50 million. Lithuania is a country of roughly 2.8 million people — less than 1 percent of that of the United States. Over the past decade, Lithuania has routinely given Team USA everything it can handle. In the 2004 Olympics, Lietuva beat – and beat up — the American. In 2012, Lithuania lost a 99-94 nail biter to the new, Lebron James-Kevin Durant Dream Team – arguably the second greatest basketball team ever assembled.

Basketball is a religion in Lithuania – a religion the population is dominant at. It’s one thing to have your population be rabid fans; it’s another to produce elite talent en masse. Since regaining their independence in 1990, Lithuania has won three Olympic bronze medals, as well as a World Cup bronze.

Think about this, Zydraunas Illgauskas – the “Big Z” — never played on the national team. Imagine what that trophy case would like if he had. Matching him up in the 90’s with NBA Hall of Famers Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis would have been Bea Arthur naked terrifying.

Beyond simply being good at the sport, Lithuania is extremely fun to watch: They move the pass the ball, cut, and play selflessly like a typical European squad, but they run the floor, play well above the rim, and throw down alley-oops and elbows like their American peers. (more…)

Heaven is a Playground: FIBA 2014 team preview — Australia

August 29th, 2014 by Noah Perkins

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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.

Nathan Jawai looks like he eats a lot of vegemite.

I don’t know what it is about overweight basketball players, but something about the coalescing of spherical bellies and spherical balls makes the world seem more hopeful. Who didn’t love Kevin Duckworth back in the day? Or Rodney Rogers, Robert Tractor Traylor, and Oliver Miller? Fat people are the most invisibly maligned group there is, so watching a chubby body like Jawai (who at 6-foot-10 and 300-plus-pounds is affectionately nicknamed the Outback Shaq) dominate athletically feels akin to a victory in equality.

At any rate, I’m tired, my witticisms are waning and ribs are in the oven; lets talk Aussie basketball.

Ranked ninth in the world by FIBA entering the World Cup, the Australian national team is legit. Never having medaled in a major tournament and usually being shown the door by Lithuania, this team seems poised to finally make a serious run at the bronze.

Jawai, the former Timberwolves center, will be part of an outstanding second-unit bench mob, along with center David Anderson, previously of the Atlanta Hawks, recent Utah Jazz first round pick Dante Exum – regarded as a freakish athlete as a 6’6” point guard — and current Jazz power forward Brock Motum, forming a nine man rotation that can out score, defend and rebound the majority of the field.

The starting lineup features current NBAers Aron Baynes, Cameron Bairstow and Matthew Dellavdova, as well as former Rockets draft pick Brad Newley and Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-point specialist Joe Ingles. Ingles was a beast for the Aussies in the 2012 Olympics, leading them in scoring while dropping nearly five assists a game.

Imagine how good these guys would be if Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills weren’t hurt. (more…)

Heaven is a Playground: FIBA 2014 team preview — Greece

August 29th, 2014 by Noah Perkins

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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.

Kosta Koufous, you balding ass.

In his hilarious tell-all of his days as an end of the bench scrub at Ohio State, Don’t Put Me in, Coach, Mark Titus describes Koufous as someone who quickly alienated his teammates and the type of guy who would stand in front of a mirror, flexing his pecs’ while saying to himself, “looking good.”

That’s the type of sociopathic behavior typical of autoerotic asphyxiates.

By several accounts, Koufous quickly reprised his role as clubhouse cancer with the Greek national team. According to some reports, Koufous verbally committed to play for Greece, only to bail at the last minute; according to others, head coach Fotios Katsikaris gave him the boot.

Either way, I think the team is better off without him — maybe not from a talent perspective, but definitely from a “this guy’s a douche and his presence is ruining the team” standpoint.

This World Cup is ultimately a two-team competition between the U.S. and Spain, with Greece as the only team who presents even a remote chance of beating either. From a talent standpoint these three teams are an Andre the Giant sized gap removed from the rest of the scrum.

Led by “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece will win the Bronze Medal (though our editor may disagree). Coming off a monster rookie season with the Milwaukee Bucks, there doesn’t seem to be anything the 19-year-old can’t do – he can cover three-quarters of the court in two dribbles!

When the NBA season ended the barely post adolescent stood at 6’9. A few months latter he has grown to 6’11”. Antetokounmpo’s freakish athleticism has caused speculation that the near 7-footer (who may well reach 7’ by the time the summer is over) will be playing point guard this season. Still growing – both physically and as a player — there is no telling how dominant this kid will become.

I was tempted to just put Antetokounmpo highlights and leave the post at that, but scarily, there is more to the Greek team then just The Freak.

Memphis Grizzlies reserve point guard Nick Calathes orchestrates the Greek offense and Real Madrid center Ioannis Bourousis holds down the post. A long-time mainstay of the national team, the 7-foot 270-pound Bourousis is huge and has been compared to Vlade Divac by Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. Shooting guard Nikos Zisis can shoot and power forward Georgios Printezis is a solid fifth option and would make a great villain in the next Expendables movie. (more…)

Heaven is a Playground: FIBA 2014 team preview — Argentina

August 29th, 2014 by Sam Perkins

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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.

If a glossy stock photo of triple-layered chocolate cake drizzled in a ganache glaze is considered food porn, Luis Scola’s post game must be hardcore basketball erotica.

A few years back, when I rocked what has been best described as “Samoan hair,” I was given the best succession of compliments I have ever been given, by a Chinese exchange student on the MIT basketball court.

Exchange student: “You look like Luis Scola!”
Me: “Um, thanks.”
Exchange Student: “You play like Luis Scola!” (Turns around and walks away before I can reply.)

That was like three years ago and I still think back to that when I need a pick me up.

Luis Scola is the ultimate craft player. Around the basket, his range of double moves and moves to counter moves are the most technically proficient basketball in the entire galaxy. WHY THE HELL DID THE PACERS NOT PLAY HIM MORE?

What I love most about Scola is his complete lack of verticality; in 2012, when he was a member of the Suns, I was fortunate enough to sit in the first row at the Staples Center and witness him miss a layup line dunk.

Internationally, Scola has been a savage with an average of nearly 20 points per game over his career.

Remember in 2004 when Argentina beat the U.S. in the Summer Olympics on the way to winning the Gold Medal? That team was stacked: Scola, Manu Ginobili Fabricio Oberto, Pablo Prigioni, Andres Nocioni, Carlos Delfino and Ruben Wolkowyski.

And Argentina hardly got lucky and certainly hasn’t been a one-trick pony in international play; these Argentinians have been a dynasty. In addition to the 2004 Gold, won Silver at the 2002 World Cup and Bronze at the 2008 Olympics. Many of the original gang are still representing their country; Scola, Nocioni, Prigioni, Leo Gutierrez and the lesser known Walter Herrmann, who at 36 hasn’t played on the international team in eight years.

(Editor’s note: The Argentine national team is an international team itself, reflecting the different waves of European immigration to Patagonia, as Ginobili, Delfino, Nocioni, Prigioni and Oberto all hold dual Italian-Argentinean citizenship, Scola has a Spanish passport, Herrmann has German citizenship and Wolkowyski Polish). (more…)

Heaven is a Playground: FIBA 2014 team preview — Croatia

August 29th, 2014 by Noah Perkins

 

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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.

I always thought Gheorghe Muresan was Croatian. I’m not exactly sure why I designated the Romanian as such, but any reason to talk about the star of My Giant is cause for celebration. Poor Gheorghe, back in the 90’s the joke on him was that he was born next to a nuclear reactor, the inference, that his size and physical appearance was due to radiation poisoning. The saddest aspect of that, at seven years old, I believed it true.

Croatia has produced a lot of notable basketball players, Muresan just doesn’t happen to be one of them.

Just as Croatia was breaking away from the former Yugoslavia, guys like Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja and Zan Tabak (who is now an assistant coach for the national team) put the nation on the international basketball map. This core group of guys (minus Drazen after he died in a car accident in 1993) led the national team to Olympic silver in 1992, a World Cup bronze in ‘94 and Eurobasket medals in ‘93 and ‘95.

The current incarnation of Croat basketball might not be the force it was 20 years ago, but it’s still pretty talent heavy. Power forward Dario Saric, 20, was the 12th pick in this years NBA draft and compliments small forward Bojan Bogdanovic incredibly well. Bogdanovic ,whose NBA rights are owned by the Nets, is considered a potential NBA stud. Throw Indiana Pacers small forward Damjan Rudez and 7-foot-1 center Ante Tomic – who currently plays in the Spanish ACB league and remains coveted by several NBA teams — in the mix and you have a tough team to beat. Tomic was an absolute force at Euro basket 2011, going for 16 points and seven rebounds a game. (more…)

Heaven is a Playground: FIBA 2014 team preview — Turkey

August 29th, 2014 by Noah Perkins

turkey

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.

Admittedly I’ve never liked Dwight Howard. I didn’t like the rumor that he fathered eight kids with eight women (dude use a fucking condom). I didn’t like that he requested the Lakers (Kobe’s Lakers) move on from Kobe. I didn’t like how he posted the lowest assist rate of his career yet had the gumption to say he wasn’t getting the ball enough. I didn’t like how he took a stance on Israel and Palestine and then within minutes back tracked on it (if you have an opinion to vocalize stand by it).

But what I dislike the most about Dwight Howard is how he marginalized former Rockets now Pelicans center Omer Asik.

This may come as a shock, but Omer Asik is a damn good NBA center. He defends the hell out of the post, is one of the best rebounders in the league and has a nice little touch around the cup. The year before Howard relegated him to the bench, he looked pretty real deal, averaging a double-double over the course of an 82 game season.

C’est la vie; Houston’s trash is New Orleans treasure

Side Note: I one hundred percent believe Donatas Motiejunas when he says Dwight Howard eats separately from his teammates – Dwight’s a big stinky douche.

Side Note Two: The Rockets would have been better off with Asik and Chandler Parsons than Howard.

As for Asik, he looks to anchor a stacked Turkish team. With Asik as their lone NBA player, the Turks don’t have many recognizable faces to an American audience, but their team has elite Euro Talent.

At 19-years-old, guard Cedi Osman looks to be the youngest player starting in the entire tournament. Dude is an absolute phenomenon; shoots, distributes, and doesn’t pee on the seat. (more…)

Stony Brook adds big recruit in the 25th hour

August 28th, 2014 by Sam Perkins

Stony Brook basketball just got a lot bigger, and we’re not talking about the brand new, $21.1 million, 4,000 seat, state of the art Stony Brook Arena set to unveil this fall.

On Thursday morning, Jakub Petras, a 6-foot-11, 250-pound center from Slovakia, was officially added to the Seawolves roster for the 2014-2015 season, completing the

“Jakub is a very talented big man who will fit in well with what we are trying to do as a team,” said head coach Steve Pikiell in a release. “He is skilled both offensively and defensively, and what I really like about him is that he is a good and likable young man who will thrive at Stony Brook. He will be a valuable addition to our team both on and off the court.”

A native of Rajec, Slovakia, Petras previously played one year of basketball at the Canarias Basketball Academy, a highly regarded European basketball academy on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain.

“Jakub is a terrific young man who will be a great addition to Stony Brook,” said Rob Orellana, the director of the Canarias Basketball Academy, in a release provided by Stony Brook. “He is very skilled and, here at Canarias, he has had the opportunity to play against high-level basketball players, who have gone on to play NCAA Div. I basketball. He should do very well at Stony Brook and in the America East.”

Prior to joining Canarias, Petras played club basketball back in Slovakia with IMC Povazska Bystrica, helping the team to two runner-up finishes in the Slovakian National Championship. He was named Player of the Future for his efforts. Petras also has international experience as a member of the Slovakian U16 and U18 national teams (although, it is perhaps worth noting that Slovakia is not a traditional European basketball power). (more…)

Heaven is a Playground: FIBA 2014 team preview — New Zealand

Crikey-dick Tom Abercrombie can jump

August 28th, 2014 by Noah Perkins

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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.

Remember when Wesley Snipes was all like “Look Billy, White men can’t Jump”?

Snipes clearly never saw New Zealander Thomas Abercrombie, who is bar-none the best dunker in the World Cup – and that includes everyone from Team USA. That dude has “>bunnies — he’s literally dunked his own missed free-throw.

Abercrombie is more than just a leaper, however; he participated in the NBA summer league last year, and spent this past season in France’s premier league, one of the best leagues in the world. During the 2010 World Cup, Abercrombie was a vital part of the New Zealander offense accounting for 13 points and 7 boards a game.

While Abercrombie provides the hustle and highlight reel plays, legendary guard Kirk Penney remains New Zealand’s star. Penney, 34, has played a whopping total of six lifetime NBA games, yet seemingly gets better with age. A member of the national team since the 2000 Olympics, Penney boasts an impressive career international average of 17 points per game. With the talent around him at an all time low in 2010, Penney was a monster, dropping 25 a game. A University of Wisconsin alum and First Team All-Big Ten player back in the 90’s, you really have to wonder why Penney was never given a legitimate NBA opportunity.

In every tournament the success of the Tall Blacks inevitably comes down to who is capable of supplementing Abercrombie and Penney.

With the retirement of Pero Cameron, 32-year-old team captain Mika Vukona will shoulder the load as the team’s leader. At 6’6”, 226 pounds without a true position, Vukona is tough and crafty.

The Tall Blacks is will also feature 6’11” center Rob Loe, who just wrapped up a four-year college career at Saint Louis, starting all 34 games as a senior for the Billikens, before suiting up for the Golden State Warriors in the 2014 NBA summer league. (more…)