OBW America East Power Rankings, v1

A few weeks ago, the trees in New England were dancing in the breeze, ablaze in beautiful hues of red, orange, yellow and gold and the America East was coming off a fantastic 4-1 night. The sky seemed to be the limit.

Fast forward to today. The trees are barren and gray; their brown leaves lie strewn and soaked upon the ground. The league is in a much lower place, with only one team, Stony Brook, holding a winning record and only one other, Albany, sitting at .500 against Division I opponents.

The league’s cumulative Division I record sits at 13-36 — it’s probably safe to say that this will not be a banner year for the America East. Only New Hampshire, which went on the road and knocked off Duquesne of the Atlantic-10, has won a game that could be considered a true upset.

There’s also the rapidly unraveling scandal at Stony Brook involving deposed athletic director Jim Fiore, and strong accusations of inappropriate behavior, misappropriation of funds and power and a university dragging its feet while possibly covering it up.

We’re not going to touch that one with a 10-foot clown pole.

But, just like the scents of Thanksgiving – the smells of turkey, stuffing and a smorgasbord of desserts – that warm us against he frigid winter winds, there are reasons to feel good about the America East: Vermont and Albany are showing potential, New Hampshire is looking like a reinvented team, UMBC and Binghamton are suffering through growing pains that should pay big dividends down the road. And UMass Lowell – wow, what heart and hustle those kids have.

While this may be another in a long line “rebuilding years,” much of the league’s struggles can be attributed to poor recruiting classes four years ago. While this year’s class may be lacking the bona fide stars of last season’s stellar group (Jameel Warney, Maurice Watson, Jordan Reed, et. all), it does appear to have a great deal of depth.

Without further ado, here is the first of the 2013-2014 edition of our OBW Power Rankings, followed by our weekly awards for the week of Nov. 19-25:

1. Stony Brook Seawolves (4-2)
Season results: W 71-55 vs Marist; W 73-66 vs Northeastern; L 90-74 at Indiana; L 103-99 vs Toledo (neutral site); W 67-61 vs Florida Atlantic (neutral site); W 104-102 (3OT) at Detroit. Continue reading “OBW America East Power Rankings, v1”

Bryan Harris finally receives NCAA clearance to play for UMBC

UMBC combo-guard Bryan Harris has finally received a waiver from the NCAA, clearing him to play immediately for the Retrievers. After being forced into a spectator’s role at the end of the bench for the first six games of the season, Harris will make his UMBC debut tonight on the road against Towson.

A native of Oxon Hill, Md. Harris was a high school star in the B’more basketball circuit before committing to Wofford. A 6’2” 180-plus pound strong-guard, Harris has a reputation as playing in constant attack mode off the dribble who was nearly impossible to keep out of the paint. As a prep player he averaged 24 points per game at Massanutten Academy, leading his team to the Elite Eight of the national prep tournament.

Harris played four games as a freshman at Wofford last season, but was forced to withdraw from school due to medical reasons and moved home to undergo two heart surgeries.

After being medically cleared to play basketball again, Harris enrolled at UMBC over the summer and applied for a hardship transfer waiver due to his medical history. Initial reports were that the waiver would be quickly granted – as was the case with Hartford center Yasin Kolo, whose medical issues would appear to pale in comparison to Harris’. Continue reading “Bryan Harris finally receives NCAA clearance to play for UMBC”

Heaven is a playground: Reflections eternal — living with the real life Kenny Powers

IMG_14A
The Rum and Cokes were flowing; Vince Vaughn movies were illegally downloading, just another Tuesday night in my mom’s living room. Soon it would be time to saunter over to our favorite bar. Of course by favorite I mean not only could we walk to it, it was replete with loose townie women.

I don’t think either of us was entirely happy with where we were in our lives.

I was a senior in college, on my way to becoming a super-senior and he was a seven-foot one-inch professional basketball player. 2011, what a year – wait, I’m getting ahead of myself; if Peanut Butter Pie is going to tell you a story, he needs to give some context first.

Bare with me, I’ll try to get to the meat and potatoes as fast as I can, but you need to understand this is a story never told before; a story I never really planned on telling.

Well, life is funny I guess.

Now before I start this story, it needs to be noted that I hate pity more then just about anything: more than I hate Tom Brady, more than I hate Red Sox fans, more than Ham and tuna fish. I have led a blessed life, and I could easily title this something along the lines of #WhitePeopleProblems or #MillenialsOnEasyStreet. People face adversity and they deal with it.

This is no different; it just so happens that I write about hoops and life, and the adversity I faced centers around basketball, family and loss. Well, before the story ended it was about loss, now that its over its actually about new beginnings, finding love again and getting reacquainted with what you’re passionate about — maybe someday Zac Effron will star in the motion picture.

This story doesn’t start with a first kiss; a first drink; the first time I threw up in my mom’s bathtub over thanksgiving break because I had too many mojitos; or the first time I realized sex and youporn aren’t synonymous. While those moments were awesome (or in some cases, horrifyingly disturbing), they are not germane to this story.

This story starts in fifth grade, at Harvard Basketball Camp, with my first bucket; an offensive rebound-turned put back. Like a first kiss, it was clumsy, awkward and I had no Idea what I was doing, but it felt like Colbie Caillat was serenading me while I rode a Minotaur over a rainbow.

Eighth grade was a big year for me, as a basketball player and as a dude. Firstly, I went to Hooters on the class trip to Washington, DC, which instilled in me among other things a love of wings. All men at one point or another ask themselves “am I straight?” That question was answered by the time Desir’e the waitress brought us our second serving of ranch dressing.

More importantly, I played basketball for my middle school team, and for a team in Bedford, Mass. I played well enough to make two different all-star teams in two different cities. I was 13 and nearly six-feet tall; of course, at the time I didn’t realize this was going to be my peak as a player.

I had a pretty basic childhood; lunchables, Nickelodeon, Internet porn, the WWF, AIM (remember ASL, how many of us talked to 45 year old men pretending to be 13 year old girls? I SHUTTER TO THINK). Basketball was the thing I loved most; what I was passionate about. I’d spend hours working with my dad, running drills on the hoop in the driveway at my grandfather and his Bedford home.

This passion was passed on from father to son: at six foot six, my dad had been a star athlete at Bedford High School and went on to play Division I hoops in college. At 40 he was still throwing it down in games. As a kid, I considered basketball somewhat of a birthright; I imagine Colin Hanks felt the same about acting. I’d think to myself, “of course I just got that board, or scored that basket; my dad is diagramming plays and dunking in practice and yours is having heart palpitations watching the younger moms”.

Fast forward two years: Tryout week. I’m only a sophomore but I go to a small charter school, so I’m pretty confident I’ll make varsity. I get home Tuesday night and in a moment of pure cosmic significance, have what turns out to be the last conversation I will ever have with my father. We talk over the phone about basketball, about tryouts, how the team looks, what I expect the season will be like. In the words of Baz Luhrmann, “the real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.”

The next day my dad was hit by a car, he died a month and a half later in 2004, when I was 15. Continue reading “Heaven is a playground: Reflections eternal — living with the real life Kenny Powers”

Two days later, Warney one-ups Jackson with (new) greatest game in Stony Brook history

Well, that was quick.

No sooner had I broken down where senior Anthony Jackson’s 36 point eruption against Toledo – tying a school Division I record — stood in the all-time great individual games in Seawolves’ history, than sophomore center Jameel Warney made my list obsolete.

Thanks a lot, big guy, now I’m here re-writing it at 2 a.m.

In two games played on back-to-back days, Warney poured in a combined 55 points, ripped down 40 rebounds and, out of 30 total attempts, missed a grand total of eight – count them eight – shots.

Yep, Warney went 22-for-30 from the floor over the course of two days and 30-for-41 over a three games in three-days stretch.

Insane. Unstoppable. Mind-boggling.

Not since Taylor Coppenrath has an America East player so thoroughly dominated the competition. And, while I’m not willing to put Warney in Coppenrath’s class, yet, this kind of a performance made me go back, two days later, and completely re-write my Top-10 (now a Top-12) list of the all-time greatest individual performances in Stony Brook’s Division I history.

Without further ado, I give you Stony Brook’s Top-12 all-time individual Division I performances: Continue reading “Two days later, Warney one-ups Jackson with (new) greatest game in Stony Brook history”

Crimson go silent in second half

Harvard’s offense was humming. Colorado’s back was against the wall. The Crimson was on its way to its first signature non-conference victory.

Then the second half began.

After scoring 42 points in the opening period, the Crimson posted just 10 through the first 16 minutes of the second, and the Buffaloes turned a 12-point halftime deficit into an eight-point lead.

Harvard made a late push to pull within four, but Colorado hung on for a 70-62 victory.

After being held to seven points on three shots in the first half, Buffaloes star Spencer Dinwiddie keyed the Colorado comeback. With 5;45 to go, the 6’6” guard lofted a floater from a foot outside the paint that hit nothing but net and pulled the Buffaloes within two, 52-50.

After Zena Edosomwan’s shot was blocked, Xavier Johnson stuck a three-pointer on the other end to give the Buffaloes their first lead since 34 seconds into the game.

Coming out of a Harvard timeout, Laurent Rivard missed a triple, and Colorado secured the rebound.

Johnson—who scored just three points in the first 35 minutes—struck again from deep, this time off a pass from Dinwiddie.

Following a Kyle Casey miss, Dinwiddie took it himself, drilling a triple from the left wing make it a four-point game.

The 11-0 swing made it 59-52 with 3:54 to go.

Harvard pulled within four twice—first on a Moundou-Missi bucket with 1:39 left, then on a Rivard triple with 29 ticks remaining—but it was too little too late. Continue reading “Crimson go silent in second half”

America East Recap, 11/23/13

Remember back on Nov. 13 when the America East went 4-1 and looked like a collection of world-beaters, highlighted by New Hampshire knocking off Duquesne?

Welp, in the span of 10 days that seems like but a distant memory, as the entire conference (outside of Stony Brook and the surprising UNH Wildcats) has come plummeting back down to earth. While it is largely excusable with teams like UMBC and Binghamton experiencing growing pains while they try assimilate extremely talented but extremely inexperienced rosters into Division I ball, while perennial power Vermont has been decimated by injuries.

But understandable or not, as of now, the league looks like it isn’t going to be particularly powerful this year.

Here’s a look at last night’s action, in which Stony Brook was once again the only America East squad to notch at W.

Stony Brook 67, Florida Atlantic 61
One-win Florida Atlantic isn’t exactly good – in fact, they’re pretty bad – but the Seawolves were coming off less than 24 hours rest and their legs were beyond exhausted after a 103-99 loss to Toledo the day before, so this was a solid win.

Sophomore center Jameel Warney wasn’t solid: He was spectacular, pouring in 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting while ripping down 19 rebounds – 14 on the defensive end – to go with two steals and a block.

Fifth-year senior Eric McAlister continued his surprising play, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two blocks. Senior shooting Dave Coley added 10 points and seven rebounds. A day after tying a Stony Brook Division I record with 36 points, senior point guard Anthony Jackson came back down to earth, shooting just 1-of-7 from the floor.

The Seawolves certainly weren’t pretty, shooting just 39.3 percent from the floor, but they held FAU to an even lower 30.2 percent to come out with the win. Continue reading “America East Recap, 11/23/13”

Anthony Jackson played the game of his life, here’s how it stacked up against Stony Brook’s all-time best

To say that Stony Brook senior Anthony Jackson went off last night in the Seawolves’ 103-99 loss to a very, very good Toledo team is an extreme understatement; Six-foot guard was unconscious.

Jackson tied a Stony Brook Division I single-game record pouring in 36 points and he did so in an incredibly efficient manner, hitting 12-of-16 shots from the floor, 7-of-9 from behind the arc and a perfect 5-of-5 from the charity stripe while adding three assists and committing just one turnover in 39 minutes of action.

Beyond the raw numbers, Jackson only got stronger as the game wore on and was at his best in the game’s biggest moments, drilling four of his seven three-pointers in the games closing minutes.

This got me thinking, just where does this performance stack up against Stony Brook’s all-time best individual performances of the program’s Division I era?

While it’s a highly subjective debate, here are my top-10 individual performances by Seawolves players in the Division I era: Continue reading “Anthony Jackson played the game of his life, here’s how it stacked up against Stony Brook’s all-time best”

Marathon Man: Harvard’s Wesley Saunders is dominating the game, deflecting praise, at both ends of the floor

IMG_4872
Harvard junior Wesley Saunders held Bryant guard Dyami Starks to more than 23 points below his season average on Wednesday. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

(Cambridge, MA) — Harvard wing Wesley Saunders is quick to downplay his exploits on the defensive end of the court, doing his best to dodge praise and deflect credit towards his teammates

“I get a lot of help from my teammates; it’s not just me,” he said after an 86-68 win over Bryant on Wednesday night.

But at this point, the 6’5” junior can no longer avoid the label of elite, lock-down defender – no matter how hard he may try to.

Last season, Saunders emerged as a game-changer on offense and a bona fide star for one of the best mid-majors in the country. Saunders led the Ivy League in scoring at 16.2 points per game while shooting an absurd 52.4 percent from the floor and 50 percent from behind the arc, all while also dishing out 3.5 assists and pulling down 4.2 rebounds per game. For his exploits, he was tabbed to the All-Ivy First Team and NABC All-District First Team.

What flew somewhat under the radar last season was Saunders’ dynamic play on the defensive end of the floor. This year, the junior appears to only be getting better.

In the Crimson’s back-to-back wins over visiting Howard and Bryant, Saunders was once again in the thick of things on offense, averaging 18.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and four assists. Yet his play on offense paled in comparison to his efforts on the other end of the floor. Continue reading “Marathon Man: Harvard’s Wesley Saunders is dominating the game, deflecting praise, at both ends of the floor”

Senior McGonagill lighting it up for Brown, with big assist from freshman Blackmon

Brown freshman point guard Tavon Blackmon makes a no-look pass in the second half of the Bears' 87-76 win at UMass Lowell on Wednesday, Nov. 19. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Brown freshman point guard Tavon Blackmon makes a no-look pass in the second half of the Bears’ 87-76 win at UMass Lowell on Wednesday, Nov. 19. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Brown guard Sean McGonagill has started off his senior season the way every player can only dream of: Playing the best ball of his life.

Through the first four games of his final year of eligibility, McGonagill has been flat out on fire. The 6’1” 180 pound gunner has torched opponents for an average of 20 points per game while shooting 49.1 percent from the floor and 43.8 percent from behind the arc – the highest numbers of his career.

While its still very early in the season to start to look at his numbers as a trend, it is worth noting that McGonagill has never started off a season as hot as he has been this year from the floor. Through four contests, he was averaging roughly seven points more per game and shooting nearly 10 percent higher from the floor and behind the arc.

Certainly there is something to be said for a senior stepping into the center stage spotlight during the final act of his career. There is also something to be said for the Bears’ formidable quartet of front court players in Rafael Maia, Cedric Kuakumensah, Dockery Walker and Leland King drawing double teams in the post and freeing up the perimeter.

But a big assist – both figuratively and literally – for McGonagill’s start should go to freshman point guard Tavon Blackmon.

“His [McGonagill’s] efficiency, I think, in the first [Four] games in large part, is due to Tavon,” said Brown head coach Mike Martin following the Bears’ 87-76 win at UMass Lowell on Tuesday night. Continue reading “Senior McGonagill lighting it up for Brown, with big assist from freshman Blackmon”

Kyle Casey and Steve Moundou-Missi are the Crimson’s dynamic-duo

Harvard forward Kyle Casey finishes off an alley-oop slam over Bryant Wednesday night. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Harvard forward Kyle Casey finishes off an alley-oop slam over Bryant Wednesday night. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

(Cambridge, MA) — Steve Moundou-Missi and Kyle Casey are both 6’7” and both start at forward for the Harvard men’s basketball team.

That’s where the similarities end.

Moundou-Missi likes to toil on the block. Casey likes to work from the perimeter. Moundou-Missi is a man of few words. Casey isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Moundou-Missi lives off offensive rebounds and feeds from his teammates. Casey is a playmaker.

Put them together and you get a Harvard frontcourt that was integral to the Crimson’s 3-0 start.

On Wednesday night against Bryant, the story was no different.

Taking on the Bulldogs at Lavietes Pavilion, Harvard had a 33-24 edge on the glass and outscored the visitors, 50-34, in the paint.

“When we get that play from our bigs it is hard to beat us,” junior Wesley Saunders said after the Crimson’s 86-68 victory.

Casey scored in double-figures for his third straight game, posting 14 points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.

But Moundou-Missi stole the show. The junior finished with a career-high 23 points on 10 of 15 shooting. He added 9 rebounds and 4 blocks.

“Steve was great on both ends,” Saunders said. “He was a monster, and he was everywhere.”

It was a breakout game of sorts for Moundou-Missi, who scored four, four, and 10 in the Crimson’s first three games.

But, as Moundou-Missi will be the first to say, much of the credit for Moundou-Missi deserves to go to his teammates—Casey in particular. Of Moundou-Missi’s 10 field goals, six were assisted, and three came from Casey. Continue reading “Kyle Casey and Steve Moundou-Missi are the Crimson’s dynamic-duo”