When it rains it pours: Albany loses potential POY Gerardo Suero, Binghamton may lose potential star Ben Dickinson and others.

by April 20, 2012

The America East braved the early storm of player departures, as while other conferences lost high-impact big-name stars, the AE sailed through the first few weeks of the off-season virtually unscathed, losing only a few minor role-players.

That all changed on Friday, as it was officially announced that Gerardo Suero, arguably the most physically-gifted raw-talent in the league will forgo his senior season at the University of Albany. In a story that One-Bid Wonders first learned of and hinted at three weeks ago, it was also reported Monday that Binghamton freshmen Ben Dickinson, Omar Richards and Chris Longoria have all been granted releases to pursue transfer options.

In a story first broken by WCDB Sports Director Jay Sanin and also reported by Andrew Santillo of the Troy record, on his 23rd birthday Suero announced that he will leave school early to pursue a professional career.

Suero arrived on campus last summer preceded by perhaps more hype and higher expectations than any recruit in Great Danes history.

A native of the Dominican Republic, he moved to the US at age 17 and enrolled at Our Savior New America School, where he exploded on the court. Suero was Originally recruited by many “Big Time” Schools, among them Pitt, Syracuse, Marquette, UCLA and Memphis, but he failed to get through the NCAA clearinghouse due largely to difficulty with the English language.

Suero made his way to Albany after two-years in the JuCo ranks, due in large part to his UA connections with former ‘Danes Jamar Wilson and Tim Ambrose, both of whom preceded him at Our Savior.

In his first season, Suero struggled mightily at times with his defensive effort and energy level. But as a 6’4” wing with top-end athleticism and the ability to get to the hoop at will, his talent was undeniable: he set a program single-season record by scoring 689 points.

On the same day that Suero’s decision was announced, Lynn Worthy of the Press & Sun Bulletin received confirmation that Dickinson, Richards and Longoria all received releases from the Bearcats program to transfer from the school.

Dickinson, a 6’9” center with a great shooting stroke, terrific post moves and the ability to finish with either hand, and an uncanny passing touch and on court awareness, finished second on the Bearcats in scoring at 13.5 points and first in rebounding at 6.1 boards per contest.

The Bearcats top player, Dickinson opened eyes with talent and ability seldom seen in recent years in the America East in a player his size, but also become known as “the dirtiest player in the league” according to numerous players and coaches, and made significant waves after twice being ejected for Flagrant II fouls (including an intentional forearm shiver to the face of Hartford guard Andres Torres).

Cheap shots or not, Dickinson was not only one of the most talented freshmen in the conference, but one of the top talents regardless of class, and losing him would be disastrous for the Bearcats, who are fresh off a 2-29 season and will likely be without top-scorer Rob Mansell next season due to a torn ACL suffered in late-February.

Richards was a raw but talented 6’8” forward/center with solid athleticism and a decent touch. Longoria showed talent as a shooter and slasher at 6’4”.

If all three talented first-year players do depart Vestal, it pounds home the question: Just what on Earth is going on in Binghamton? The program continues its downward spiral following the 2009 scandal that gutted the program.

Incoming Athletic Director Patrick Elliot has publicly thrown his support behind embattled head coach Mark Macon, but with the worst record in America East history, no track record of recruiting, an the appearance of complete apathy on the sidelines during most Bearcats games, and a potential out-going exodus of young talent, how much longer does Macon have?

One can hardly fault Dickinson, Richards and Longoria for exploring other options: The Bearcats program remains buried with no signs of a turnaround anywhere in the near future. However, if Suero truly did have the option of returning to Albany (it has been reported that he was academically eligible) and instead chose to leave Albany, it is a very poor decision.

It is a common misconception that professional Basketball in Europe is littered with six-figure contracts. In actuality, the Average “Import” player (non-European) makes about 30k for the season. The average first year pro out of the America East does not even make that.

While Suero put up big scoring numbers, they came in a league that is looked upon as being very low-level by the ranks of professional basketball. His one year of Division I ball also exposed weaknesses in his game — namely, his effort and consistent energy (two necessities in the eyes of European coaches) as well as his defense.

For a player without a European Passport (which would change the equation as most European Leagues can only carry between 2 and 4 Imports), the market for a one-year player from the America East in Suero’s position is hardly booming.

The few European teams that have deep pockets (top teams from league’s like the Spanish ACB, LEB Gold, the Euro League, and a few others) generally only look at American veterans with proven track records in the professional ranks. The few first-year American pros who break the six-figure mark almost all come from Power-6 conferences.

Despite his numbers, coming from the America East Suero will likely have to start from lower-mid (or downright low) level Europe and work his way up. The one year salary likely won’t come close to outweighing the value of the free-tuition and college degree he would earn after one more season in Albany.

Furthermore, if Suero were to return to Albany, win another scoring title (let alone the conference Player of the Year award) it would likely significantly increase his starting salary, and raise his overall ceiling in the professional ranks.