Jordan Reed transfers to Tennessee State

Former Binghamton star Jordan Reed has decided to transfer to Tennessee State, according to a tweet by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

There was speculation that the 6-foot-4-inch junior guard/forward would transfer closer to his home in Philadelphia. At this time, it’s not clear if he received serious interest from any of the local high-profile schools, such as Villanova, Temple, Saint Joseph’s or La Salle.

Reed declined comment.

A source said Reed cared more about finding the right fit than playing on a big stage. Reed basked in the spotlight at Binghamton, where he was the undisputed star his first two years. Tennessee State, which is 3-17 out of the Ohio Valley Conference and ranks just six spots higher than No. 339 Binghamton in KenPom’s ratings, offers him an opportunity to star once again.

Without a waiver, Reed will have a year-and-a-half of eligibility at Tennessee State beginning in the 2016 spring semester.

The Tigers are young and rank 321st in experience, according to KenPom. Keron DeShields, who transferred to Tennessee State after three years at Montana, will be eligible at the beginning of next season. He and Reed will each likely start immediately for the Tigers.

According to a source, Dempsey met with the Bearcats after Reed requested and was granted his release in early December.

“He did say that he’s going to miss him and it really did hurt him because he put a lot of time and effort into him,” the source said.

Without Reed, a young Binghamton team has struggled immensely. The Bearcats are 2-19 with just one win over a Division I team.

A source said the Bearcats were distracted by the loss of their star player and that some members of the team have still not fully moved on.

Binghamton expected Reed to lead the program’s continued climb out of obscurity, considering he averaged 15.4 points and 8.9 rebounds in 33.1 minutes per game as a sophomore. He was, essentially, supposed to be a senior on a team that featured four sophomores and five freshmen vying for roles, and Dempsey had hoped Reed would guide the group with his experience and the indomitable will to win he displayed down the stretch last year.

That seven-game spurt in which Reed averaged 21 points and 12.7 rebounds as Binghamton went 3-4 to close out the regular season followed another spat in Reed and Dempsey’s relationship, which was characterized by love but also dissent. Dempsey had questioned Reed’s energy and effort and left him behind for a trip to Albany in late January. That fueled Reed, and he produced at an America East Player of the Year level down the stretch.

Dempsey questioned Reed’s energy and effort again early this year, but Reed couldn’t climb out of the doghouse. He logged 19 minutes in the Bearcats’ opener at Notre Dame and then nine, 14, four and seven in the next four contests before sending a statement by skipping shootaround at Army on Nov. 25 and announcing his leave of absence on Nov. 26.

Binghamton granted him his release from scholarship on Dec. 5.

Albany helps raise $12,000 to fight cancer, downs Binghamton for 4-0 Conference Start

Wednesday night was a big night for Peter Hooley, both on and off the court. Since 2011, Hooley’s mother has been battling colon cancer, and Wednesday night, Albany did their part in helping the fight, selling blue wristbands to raise $6,000 to benefit the Cancer Council of South Australia. A sum that was matched by an anonymous donor.

“There’s not much to say when a ‘thank you’ doesn’t come close to saying how appreciative you really are. To all the community, the school and this team, thank you so much for not only what you did tonight but for how you’ve supported and helped throughout the last four years! $12,000 raised for the Cancer Council SA is just amazing and to the person who anonymously donated $6,000, I wish i could find a way to say thank you, but I know that, that wouldn’t even suffice. It’s hard to be able to put this into words when you are so overwhelmed. Life is so precious, and you all prove how beautiful the world can be. So thank you! To all those who continue to fight and battle, you are never alone. Love you all!” wrote Hooley shortly after the game.

As for Albany’s game with Binghamton, the junior guard, who entered the contest 20 points away from 1,000 for his career, fell four points short of the scoring mark, but did his part in leading a balanced Great Danes attack en route to a 73-58 victory over Binghamton, giving Coach Will Brown his 200th victory at Albany.

Hooley led the Danes with 16 points, while the Rowleys, Sam and Mike, added 14 and 13, respectively. Ray Sanders pitched in 11 as well.

Albany (9-7, 4-0) opened the game on a 10-3 run and led by as many as 12 points midway through the first half. The Bearcats trimmed the lead to four at the 5:44 mark, but the Danes responded again with a 17-5 run to close the half, and took a 34-18 lead to the locker room.

Marlon Beck II started the second half with back to back three-pointers for Binghamton (2-17, 1-3) to cut the deficit to 10. From there, the Albany lead fluctuated between 10 and 14 points until a 5-0 run by the Bearcats cut it to 48-39 with 11:15 to go. That was as close as it would get the rest of the way as Albany stretched its lead out to as many as 19 with less than three minutes to go.

Both teams shot comparably from the floor, percentage-wise, but Albany utilized a +7 rebounding margin to earn multiple second chances and free throw opportunities. The Danes finished with an eight point advantage from the foul line.

Binghamton, the youngest team in the nation, continued to show signs of future success, but was unable to match Albany’s balance and depth, dressing only nine players for the game. Beck II led the Bearcats charge with 20 points, including a 6-for-8 performance beyond the arc, while Bobby Ahearn added 12 points and seven rebounds.

Albany will travel to Stony Brook for the 1st time since the 2014 America East Championship Game on Monday for a showdown with the Seawolves, something Coach Brown was well-aware of:

“We had that cushion at the half and relaxed a little bit, really just exchanged baskets with them in the 2nd half. I got a feeling a few guys were looking ahead to the match-up on Monday.”

Binghamton will be back in action on Saturday at home against New Hampshire.

More to follow.

OBW America East Power Rankings v7

Dre Wills has been a beast for Vermont. Courtesy photo / Vermont Athletics
Dre Wills has been a beast for Vermont. Courtesy photo / Vermont Athletics

Just week after Stony Brook scored the biggest America East win of the season, the Seawolves fell to Vermont in the biggest America East game of the season (at least to date).

Looks like it’s going to be that kind of a year in the ol’ “AE,” which means we’re all in store for one wild ride.

Last week Stony Brook was riding high fresh off the biggest win in program history, an upset over then 13th ranked Washington, while Vermont was fighting the good fight but struggling to get over the hump against tough foes and Albany was struggling to find consistency. A lot can change in a week, and while the trio of true contenders (at least in our eyes) remains the same – the usual suspects of top America East dogs and cats – they’ve once again bunched back up, with very little separating them in our eyes. With that said, here’s a look at the latest OBW America East Power Rankings.

1. Vermont (7-8, 3-0 AE)
Results: W 68-54 at Maine; W 71-57 vs Stony Brook.
This week: Wednesday vs Dartmouth; Saturday at UMBC (AE)
The young, bloodied, bruised and banged up Catamounts took out what had been the America East’s top dog in Stony Brook and they did so in absolutely terrific fashion, executing a very bold game plan from head coach John Becker to perfection. Up until Saturday, virtually every team that had faced Stony Brook had thrown a “stop Jameel Warney at all costs” defense at the Seawolves, focusing on doubling and tripling the walking, talking double-double and nations leading rebounder. Becker, instead, opted to single cover Warney all night, and allow the unstoppable Juggernaut to get his while focusing on stopping every other player in a Stony Brook uniform. The end result: Warney finished with 26 and 10 on 10-of-14 shooting, but the Catamounts came away with a 14-point win. Certainly the game was closer than the final score, and a flurry of free-throws in the game’s final 90 seconds opened up the final margin, but Vermont won this game from start to finish and the Catamounts crazy athletic and relentless back court defense and transition offense is no bleeping joke.

As an aside, what in the world does Becker have to do to earn a contract extension at this point? Yes, the Catamounts head coach still has three more years remaining on his contract, but when you take a step back and look around the league, only Albany’s Will Brown has a more impressive resume at his current post. And, when you look around the league and see other coaches landing contract extension after contract extension for seemingly getting out of bed, brushing their teeth, and not mucking things up, you have to wonder if Vermont’s head coach is going to start to feel a bit slighted – and perhaps at least entertain the calls that are going to start coming in to bolt for greener pastures.

2. Stony Brook (10-7, 1-1 in AE)
Results: W 70-61 at Columbia; L 71-57 at Vermont
This Week: Wednesday vs UMBC; Saturday at Maine.
We all knew Stony Brook wasn’t going to go undefeated during the America East slate, and if you’re going to lose a game, losing a thriller on the road in the hostile environment of Patrick Gymnasium is as good as a loss can be. Jameel Warney is a monster and the most unstoppable player in the league, and not many teams can duplicate the kind of back court pressure the Catamounts threw at Stony Brook. Jameel Warney alone is going to make Stony Brook one of the favorites to win the America East, and the Seawolves have shown that when the supporting cast is carrying its weight, they are as good – and arguably better – than anyone else in the league. However, the blue print is now out to try to take down the Seawolves: Let Jameel Warney get his 20-25 points and shut down everyone else. Point guard Carson Puriefoy is in a funk and as long as he is sputtering, the Seawolves are definitely vulnerable.

3. Albany (8-7, 3-0 in AE)
Results: W 80-56 vs Maine; W 64-62 at New Hampshire; W 64-51 at UMass Lowell
This Week: Wednesday vs Binghamton; Monday at Stony Brook.
The Great Danes are on the mend after apparently going 12 rounds with the bubonic plague, and they are once again looking like a team to be reckoned with. The Great Danes are getting terrific play from the one-through-four positions, with power forward Sam Rowley and shooting guard Peter Hooley giving their usual, blue-hat and lunch pail performances. Small forward Ray Sanders is also making a growing impact defending the ball and knocking down open shots. But the difference maker, and quite possibly the team’s most talented and best player (quite the statement considering how good Rowley and Hooley are) might be point guard Evan Singletary, who has been taking over games with increasing regularity. Albany’s bigs clog the lane and put a body on opponents, and if head coach Will Brown can get even a little bit more out of them, Albany might find itself in the America East’s driver’s seat. Monday’s match-up at Stony Brook will be incredibly telling.

4. New Hampshire (8-8, 1-2 in AE)
Results: W 68-61 vs Brown; W 63-60 at UMBC.
This Week: Wednesday vs Hartford; Saturday at Binghamton.
This is definitely looking like Bill Herrion’s best team since the Wildcats were less than two-minutes away from hosting the title game. In true Bill Herrion style New Hampshire is defending like crazy, but in previous years that was only enough to make them a pesky nuisance to the top two-thirds of the league. The difference this year is that they can score – often in ugly fashion, but they are putting up points. Sophomore point guard Daniel Dion is creating and burying daggers from anywhere inside the building, and freshman forward Tanner Leissner as some of the craftiest and gutsiest moves in the league. But the big difference makers as of late have been senior shooting guard Matt Miller, who despite playing the first Division I hoops of his career has given UNH a long-range threat to stretch the floor, and bruising and athletic sophomore power forward Jacoby Armstrong, who is beginning to look like the All-Conference talent he was supposed to be.

5. Hartford (8-7, 1-1 AE)
Results: W 69-59 vs Binghamton
This week: Wednesday at New Hampshire; Saturday at UMass Lowell.
The Hawks won their only contest of the week, downing a hard-fighting but massively undermanned Binghamton squad. It isn’t that we’re down on Hartford as much as it is that we’ve seen a lot more from the four teams above them. Corban Wroe is beginning to score the ball again in the same manner as down the stretch last season, when he single-handedly gave the Hawks a new dimension. As always, when Hartford hits their three’s and senior Mark Nwakamma stays on the floor they can beat anyone, but can they do that consistently or devise a Plan B for emergencies?

6. UMass Lowell (8-8, 2-1 in AE)
Results: W 73-61 (OT) at UMBC; L 64-51 vs Albany.
This Week: Tuesday at Maine; Saturday at Hartford.
The River Hawks stand at 2-1 in league play, with seven Division I wins on the season – just two DI wins away from last season’s total, one amazing accomplishment for second year head coach Pat Duquette. The truth of it is, the River Hawks are incredibly limited overall, with red-shirt freshman Jahad Thomas – an undersized man-among-boys – as virtually the entire UMass Lowell offense. Team’s are beginning to throw the typical Jameel Warney defense at Thomas, AKA swarm, mug and stop him at all costs, and UMass Lowell has struggled to find consistent second and third scoring options. They may finally have found one, however, as freshman shooting guard Matt Harris has scored 29 points in the past two games and 39 over the past three, after scoring just 45 in the River Hawks first 12 contests.

7. UMBC (2-13)
Results: L 73-61 (OT) vs UMass Lowell; L 63-60 vs UNH.
This week: Wednesday at Stony Brook; Saturday vs Vermont.
The good news: UMBC is really, really defending the ball extremely well, junior forward Cody Joyce is beginning to come into his own as an automatic low-post scorer, and graduate transfer Wayne Sparrow has given UMBC a go-to scorer. The better news: Despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, head coach Aki Thomas has the Retrievers playing harder and longer than they have at any point since Darryl Proctor and Jay Greene graduated back in 2009, and freshman Jourdan Grant is blossoming as a playmaking point guard. The bad news: UMBC is dressing just eight players for games, only six of them on scholarship, and one of them a recent addition to the team as a walk on, and playing just seven in their rotation. As long as UMBC keeps fighting, they are going to stay in games and will squeak out a few wins, but they really do not have the horses.

8. Binghamton (2-16, 1-2 in AE)
Results: L 69-59 at Hartford; W 65-46 vs Maine.
This Week: Wednesday at Albany; Saturday vs New Hampshire.
Binghamton is officially on the board in the Division I wins category, soundly steamrolling Maine in the second half for a 65-45 victory. Much like with UMBC, head coach Tommy Dempsey deserves kudos for keeping his very young, very impressionable squad fighting hard despite player defections and injuries. High-flying freshman wing Romello Walker has taken a step from impact defender to offensive threat, and forward Willie Rodriguez also appears to have found his second win. A season-ending knee injury to forward Dusan Perovic and a leg injury that has kept forward Nick Madray on the bench present large obstacles in the Bearcats’ short term prospects.

9. Maine (1-14, 0-3 in AE)
Results: L 68-54 vs Vermont; L 65-46 at Binghamton.
This Week: Tuesday vs UMass Lowell; Saturday vs Stony Brook.
It’s going to take time for head coach Bob Walsh to be able to recruit his own players and implement his demanding and complex system, so fans should not fret. To be blunt, this is the least talented team to suit up in Orono in a very, very, very long time – quite possibly ever – thanks to the revolving door of disenfranchised and disgusted players who jumped ship during previous years under the former regime. However, this Maine squad – despite it’s struggles to defend in the second half – is playing SIGNIFICANTLY harder than any Black Bears squad in recent years, which is a very positive sign in the long term.

OBW America East Player of the Week
Dre Wills, Soph., G, Vermont

The favorite for America East Defensive Player of the Year honors continued to make a far larger impact than his raw numbers, propelling the Catamounts to a pair of wins. That’s saying something considering his numbers for the week: 26 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, eight steals and three blocks. In a huge grudge-match win over bitter conference rival Stony Brook, Wills completely locked down Seawolves point guard Carson Puriefoy, holding the dynamic playmaker to six points on 2-of-12 shooting, while forcing him into four turnovers.

OBW America East Rookie of the Week
Romello Walker, G/F, Binghamton

Walker is coming into his own, making a big impact as an extremely energetic and athletic disruptor on defense, while turning into a human-highlight reel on offense. In arguably the Bearcats best two games of the season – a hard-fought loss at Hartford and Binghamton’s first Division I win of the season in a dismantling of Maine – Walker combined for 35 points, 13 rebounds, and three steals.

OBW America East Fab Five
Peter Hooley, R-Jr., G, Albany
Sam Rowley, Sr., F, Albany
Jahad Thomas, R-Fr., F, UMass Lowell
Jameel Warney, Jr., C, Stony Brook
Dre Wills, Soph., G, Vermont

OBW America East Frosh Five
Jourdan Grant, G, UMBC
Trae Bell-Haynes, G, Vermont
Tanner Leissner, F, New Hampshire
Jahad Thomas, F, UMass Lowell
Romello Walker, G/F, Binghamton

Binghamton loses Dusan Perovic to season-ending injury

Binghamton freshman center Dusan Perovic. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Binghamton freshman center Dusan Perovic. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

It’s been one of those years for head coach Tommy Dempsey and his Bearcats, where the only breaks – and sprains, and dislocations and tears – Binghamton has gotten have been bad ones.

After losing junior star Jordan Reed to desertion, sophomore forward Magnus Richards to a dislocated shoulder, and sophomore forward Nick Madray to what has been termed a very bad high-ankle sprain, the 1-15 Bearcats suffered another crippling blow on Monday when freshman center Dusan Perovic suffered a torn ACL in practice and will miss the rest of the season.

Dempsey first confirmed Perovic’s season-ending injury an interview with Lynn Worthy of the Press & Sun-Bulletin, saying, “”We lost Dusan yesterday to an ACL, and he’ll miss the remainder of the season.

“That was a tough blow, and Nick (Madray) just got his cast off on Monday so he’ll still be out for the foreseeable future. We’re just trying to reorganize and get the guys ready for a tough road trip to Hartford.”

Perovic had been the Bearcats leading scorer and best shooter, averaging 11.5 points per game while shooting 44.2 percent from the floor and 45.2 percent from downtown. Perovic’s 24 three-pointers were also tops on the team. In a Dec. 3 game at Boston College, Perovic, a native of Montenegro, set Binghamton’s Division I scoring record, going off for 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting, including 6-of-8 from three.

With Reed long gone, no timetable on Madray’s return and Perovic lost for the season, the odds stacked against the Bearcats, who remain winless against Division I opponents, are only growing more daunting as Dempsey tries to rebuild the program from the rubble that continues to remain following the 2009 scandal that gutted the program.

According to Dempsey, there was no contact prior to the injury and Perovic, who missed a game earlier this season with a concussion, hurt his knee during a full-court, one-on-one defensive drill.

OBW America East Power Rankings v6

Stony Brook stands in the way of any America East team entertaining dreams of March Madness. OBW Photo / Chris Dela Rosa
Stony Brook stands in the way of any America East team entertaining dreams of March Madness. OBW Photo / Chris Dela Rosa

Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell led the Seawolves to that ever-elusive signature win, helping the America East knock off its first ranked opponent since 2006. Jameel Warney is the unstoppable Juggernaut, and after years and years of stubbornly refusing to helieve the hype, Sam Perkins is finally buying into the Seawolves. All that and much, much more on this week’s edition of the OBW America East Power Rankings.

1. Stony Brook (9-6, 1-0 in AE)
Results: W 59-47 vs American; W 62-57 at #13 Washington; W 71-61 vs UNH (AE).
This Week: Tuesday at Columbia; Saturday at Vermont.
Remember all those years that I didn’t buy into the Seawolves ability to win the big one and I got absolutely raked across the coals by Stony Brook’s fan base only to come up smelling like roses in March? Welp, I’m officially buying in. I won’t quite say Stony Brook is going to The Big Dance yet, but I definitely think they are the favorite to finally win it all. Why? Two words: Jameel Warney. Plus two more: Supporting cast.

Simply put, this is Jameel Warney’s world and we are all just living in it. The 6’8” 260 pound bruiser continues to lead the nation in rebounds at 12.3 caroms per contest, leads the America East in scoring (15.4 ppg) and blocks (2.5 bpg). But what has truly taken Warney’s game to the next level is his uncanny passing ability. Since his freshman season, Warney has drawn double – and now triple, and occasionally quadruple – teams on the blocks, but his ability to consistently find the open man for easy buckets has made the Seawolves so much more dangerous. Junior forward Rayshawn McGrew is quietly having a terrific season playing beside Warney, and is cleaning up around the glass and scoring at a solid clip, Carson Puriefoy has been very solid creating off the dribble, and the Seawolves are getting timely contributions from across their roster.

Did we mention they knocked off 13th ranked Washington on the Huskies home court? Yep, these guys are the front-runners right now.

2. Vermont (5-8, 1-0 AE)
Results: L 64-56 at USC; L 64-57 at UC Santa Barbara
This week: Wednesday at Maine; Saturday vs Stony Brook.
If only the Catamounts were at full strength, who knows how good this team would be right now. How good is this team going to be in another year or two? Scary. But in the here and now, even with the majority of their talent still cutting their teeth at the Division I level, this team is really fun to watch and could definitely make some serious noise come conference tournament, err playoff time in March. Yes, it definitely needs to be said that Vermont has now lost four in a row, but they were against four very quality opponents and all games the Catamounts could have won had a few things gone differently. Vermont likes, no loves, to play in transition, with point guard Trae Bell-Haynes pushing the tempo, but the Catamounts’ true strength is their ability to pressure opponents back courts and run opponents off of the perimeter, with Bell-Haynes, Defensive Player of the Year favorite Dre Wills and Kurt Steidl harassing the bejesus out of opposing guards.

3. Albany (6-7)
Results: W 77-66 vs Fairfield; L 65-47 at Niagara; W 80-56 vs Maine
This Week: Tuesday at UNH; Saturday at UMass Lowell.
Make. Up. Your. **** Minds, Great Danes. C’mon now! Albany has certainly been a Jekyll and Hyde squad up until now, alternating runs of terrific basketball with bouts of absolutely brutal hoops. Albany beat a bad Fairfield squad by double-digits and killed Maine in its conference opener, both expected results, but they were sandwiched around an absolutely embarrassing 65-47 loss to a really bad Niagara squad. Yes star shooting guard Peter Hooley didn’t play due to the flu and low post stalwart Sam Rowley gave it a go but was also violently ill, but this is a team that still should have been good enough to mop the floor with the Purple Eagles in their absence. With Hooley, Rowley and JuCo Evan Singletary, along with a talented supporting cast, this remains a team with the talent to win it all, but they need to start putting it together night in and night out.

4. Hartford (7-7, 0-1 AE)
Results: L 87-60 at #14 Notre Dame; L 58-49 at Texas A & M
This Week: Wednesday vs Binghamton.
The Hawks have been solid as of late, but they still haven’t “wowed us” to date (in fact, what looked like their best win in a Dec. 9 shellacking of Holy Cross is now looking fairly ho-hum as the Crusaders have been tanking ever since). As we continue to say, when the Hawks are hitting their threes and Mark Nwakamma is on the court and getting consistent touches, Hartford can beat anyone. However, in the confines of an America East playoff, where teams have to win three straight games to go to The Big Dance, inevitably something is going to go wrong and they are going to need to find a way to win outside of playing their A Game — especially when said A Game relies so heavily on voluminous outside shooting. We’ll get excited when Hartford beats an America East contender when their shots aren’t falling. As for the Hawks, one big point of concern is their bench production, or lack thereof.

Still, there’s no denying that when they get hot, Hartford can – and most likely will – beat anyone in the league.

5. New Hampshire (6-7, 0-1 in AE)
Results: L 73-72 (OT) at LIU Brooklyn; L 70-56 at William & Mary; L 71-61 at Stony Brook (AE)
This Week: Tuesday vs Albany; Thursday vs Brown; Sunday at UMBC.
After the best start the program has seen since the 1990s, the Wildcats have hit a four game skid. Their offense likely won’t ever be pretty, and they are still struggling to find consistency scoring the ball, but after giving Stony Brook everything the Seawolves could handle, it is also apparent that this UNH team is going to be a thorn in the side of just about everyone in the league. New Hampshire is back to playing Bill Herrion basketball: rebounding, defending, scrapping and clawing for the entire length of the floor and turning the game into trench warfare on defense. But with sophomore point guard Daniel Dion making it rain from downtown and freshman forward Tanner Leissner scoring from all over, the Wildcats might not be pretty on offense, but they can score.

6. UMass Lowell (7-7, 1-0 in AE)
Results: L 70-47 at Boston College; W 50-40 vs Binghamton; L 58-49 at Brown.
This Week: Wednesday at UMBC; Saturday vs Albany.
UMass Lowell’s roster is incredibly limited, and the fact that they have not only been competitive all season long, but already have six wins over Division I foes under their belt this year (two-thirds of the way to last season’s total) is a tremendous testament to the job that Pat Duquette has done and the fact that he’s got his entire team buying in. It’s also a tremendous testament to just how damn good redshirt freshman Jahad Thomas is. The pint-sized power forward is an absolute beast who has been facing constant double and triple-teams all year long, yet ranks second in the conference in scoring (14.8 ppg), second in field goal percentage (.568) and fifth in rebounds (5.6 per game). Whether the fact that team’s are running every junk defense in the book at him is a product of their respect for his talent, or disrespect for his supporting cast is completely irrelevant at this point, because whatever the reasons, he’s demanding attention and still dominating.

7. UMBC (2-11)
Results: L 58-55 vs Lehigh; L 70-55 vs NJIT
This Week: Wednesday vs UMass Lowell; Saturday vs UNH.
You’ve got to feel for head coach Aki Thomas, who is one of the true good guys in the game and who is pouring his heart and soul into trying to rebuild the program from the rubble, yet continues to have every bad bounce and bad break go against him. After losing star guard Rodney Elliot for the season to a torn labrum in their first game, and subsequently suspending three players for violations of team rules, the Retrievers fought with everything they had and started finding ways to win behind relentless defense and transition offense. Then sophomore forward Will Darley went down with a knee injury, dropping UMBC to just six scholarship players in uniform. Somehow, they are still fighting – a testament to their coaches and their character – and they are going to win a few games in league play, but every night is going to be an uphill battle against exhaustion.

8. Maine (1-12, 0-1 in AE)
Results: L 72-43 at Seton Hall; L 81-64 at Quinnipiac; L 80-56 at Albany.
This Week: Wednesday vs Vermont; Saturday at Binghamton.
First year head coach Bob Walsh inherited a skeleton crew from the Titanic so expecting him to turn them around this season is like expecting a miracle. Yet the coach refuses to look for silver linings or moral victories. Maine doesn’t have the depth or the talent to compete at the top of the conference this year, but I still believe the Black Bears will surprise some people in the conference. The team is playing harder than at any point during the previous five-plus years, and is showing a commitment to defense absent in Orono since Dr. John Giannini moved on to greener pastures.

9. Binghamton (1-15, 0-1 in AE)
Results: L 69-68 at Mount Saint Mary’s; L 76-50 vs Buffalo; L 50-40 at UMass Lowell (AE)
This Week: Wednesday at Hartford; Saturday vs Maine.
The roof, the four walls, the side-by-side washer-dryer, the sofa, the kitchen sink, all gone from when the Bearcats blew up their own program. Now head coach Tommy Dempsey is building the program from scratch. That means an entirely new foundation. The rebuild took a big hit when Jordan Reed, the team’s main load-bearing beam (yeah, I went overboard with that cliché) decided to take his talents elsewhere halfway through the season, but there is some really legit young talent on this roster, and more overall this year than in either of Dempsey’s first two years. It’s still a long road to redemption, but fans should have a bit more patience and enjoy the abilities of freshmen like high-flying wing Romello Walker, hard-working forward Willie Rodriguez and high-scoring center Dusan Perovic, all true freshmen.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, and better days ahead… or, at least it can’t get any worse.

OBW America East Player of the Week:
Jameel Warney, Jr. C, Stony Brook.

Seriously, Warney could do nothing more than do the laundry, make his bed and eat a beef-brisket sandwich and he’d still find a way to grab Player of the Week honors. The dude is unstoppable! In three wins Warney was good for 47 points, 30 rebounds, 13 assists and six blocks. ‘Nuff said.

OBW America East Rookie of the Week:
Jahad Thomas, F, UMass Lowell

Thomas scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go with five rebounds against Boston College, and followed it up with 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting and eight rebounds, while making one huge play after another when it mattered most, in a 50-40 win over Binghamton.

OBW America East Fab Five
Peter Hooley, R-Jr., G, Albany
Sam Rowley, Sr., F, Albany
Jahad Thomas, R-Fr., F, UMass Lowell
Jameel Warney, Jr., C, Stony Brook
Dre Wills, Soph., G, Vermont

OBW America East Frosh Five
Aaron Calixte, G, Maine
Jourdan Grant, G, UMBC
Trae Bell-Haynes, G, Vermont
Tanner Leissner, F, New Hampshire
Jahad Thomas, F, UMass Lowell

Binghamton coach Tommy Dempsey still believes in the process

Binghamton sophomore forward Magnus Richards throws down a windmill before the Bearcats tipped off against UMass Lowell on Friday night. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Binghamton sophomore forward Magnus Richards throws down a windmill before the Bearcats tipped off against UMass Lowell on Friday night. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey stood in drab grey the visiting locker room, one floor below ground level. Minutes earlier, the final buzzer had sounded and his Bearcats had fallen 50-40 against UMass Lowell, dropping to 1-15 on the season, 0-14 against Division I opponents, and 1-1 against Sub-Division I schools, losers of their last 13 in a row.

For 40 minutes, the Bearcats offense had been a mess, shooting just 14-of-42 from the floor (33.3 percent) and 2-of-17 from behind the arc (11.8 percent), while committing 23 turnovers, seemingly all of them on traveling violations.

It was a pug-ugly performance.

But he couldn’t be mad at his guys

“It’s terrible for me to stand in front of them after another loss, because I know they were ready to go tonight, and I know that they competed hard, and I know that they don’t want to be making the mistakes that they’re making, and I know that they want to make more shots,” said Dempsey after the game.

Three seasons into his tenure at the helm of Binghamton basketball, and still at the ground floor of a complete program rebuild after the previous regimes had strapped sticks of dynamite to its foundation and pushed the detonator, on paper in the wins and losses column, Binghamton looks no better than the day Dempsey first set foot on campus. But he sees changes.

“We’re starting to do things that, when you are trying to build a program, we’re doing some things that are essential. We’re defending and we’re playing hard and we’re together. We’re just sloppy and not shooting the ball right now so the product doesn’t look good and we’re having a hard time finding ourselves in the winning column,” he said. “But I say to these guys all the time, I know what winning looks like, and we’re not there yet, but we’re starting to form into a group that’s building for future success.”

On Friday, the Bearcats started four freshmen and played five, along with four sophomores in their nine-man rotation, along with sharp-shooting sophomore forward Nick Madray, who spent the game watching from the sidelines in a large cast, the result of a bad high ankle sprain. Those 10 freshmen and sophomore are all players that Dempsey recruited, and feels strongly can be the foundation of a winning program in the not too distant future.

But it will take time to build it, according to Dempsey.

“The first thing I had to do was I had to get my people in here. And now that I do, now I have to grow my people.”

“This is a group that I believe in, but now I have to go through the struggle with them till we get to the other side. I think the biggest element is that you have to go through it together, and you have to stay positive and you have to keep the room united. If you do that good things are going happen and we’ve been able to do that,” he explained.

And Dempsey still feels confident in the process and the program, and believes that the teams current struggles can still lead to later success.

“That’s why I still feel good: Because the foundation has been built. And I know the losing is hard — it’s hard on young kids, it’s hard on veteran coaches. I’ve been coaching a long time and I haven’t gone through this either. I can take it because I’ve won before and I know that we’ll win here, my job is to make these guys understand that we’re going to win here as long as we do things the right way.”

And according to Dempsey, the team has already won the biggest battle: staying together, despite mounting losses.

“These guys are in it together.”

PHOTOS: The many game faces of Binghamton freshman Romello Walker

Binghamton forward Romello Walker soared for 14 points Friday night. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Binghamton forward Romello Walker soared for 14 points Friday night. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Binghamton came up short at UMass Lowell, dropping its America East opener 50-40 to the host River Hawks in a sloppy affair on both sides and falling to 0-15 against Division I opponents on the season.

But while the game proved to be an ugly affair overall, Bearcats freshman wing Romello Walker provided several moments of pure beauty, soaring for a team-high 14 points on the offensive end, including a pair of rim-rocking slam dunks, while swiping four steals and creating utter havoc on the defensive end.

Coming in to the season, Binghamton head coach Tommy Dempsey rained profuse praise on Walker’s athleticism and ability, especially on D, saying that the 6-foot-6, 190-pounder was raw around the edges but “going to be an elite-level defender,” who would bring the house down highlight reel plays on the offensive end. On Friday night, the 19-year-old from Ft. Lauderdale lived up to the billing.

“He’s made a great impact. He’s growing – he’s growing through the struggles with us,” said Dempsey after the game. “He’s had some great games, he’s had some rough nights, like all young kids have, but he’s in it with us and that’s what means the most to me.”

When asked about the team’s struggles to get over the hump and simply register a Division I win – something no high school freshman expects in their first season of college ball – Walker chose to look at the positives after the game.

“Challenging but I accept it and I’m embracing it,” he said. “I’m loving it so far, they’re giving me opportunities and I’m trying to take advantage of them to help my team.”

From the pregame lay-up lines where he threw down several slam dunk championship worthy dunks, to starting lineup introductions where he put on his dancing shoes, to his in-game performance, where he played with frenetic energy on defense and reckless abandon on offense, Walker was as entertaining as it gets. Here’s a look at the rookie’s many game faces from one of the season’s more entertaining all-around performances. Scroll down to view the photographs.

Game Face 1: The Sky Walker. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker "cuffs" the ball before throwing down a tomahawk slam before tip-off against UMass Lowell. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 1: The Sky Walker. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker “cuffs” the ball before throwing down a tomahawk slam before tip-off against UMass Lowell. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 2: The pre-game throw down. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker looks down at the rim before hammering home a two-handed dunk off of a tomahawk feed before tip-off. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 2: The pre-game throw down. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker looks down at the rim before hammering home a two-handed dunk off of a tomahawk feed before tip-off. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 3: The talk to the hand. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker and senior Jabrille Williams exchange an elaborate handshake after Walker was introduce in the starting lineup. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 3: The talk to the hand. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker and senior Jabrille Williams exchange an elaborate handshake after Walker was introduce in the starting lineup. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 4: The Stanky Leg. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker dances up a storm at the center of the Bearcats huddle just before tip-off against UMass Lowell on Friday night. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 4: The Stanky Leg. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker dances up a storm at the center of the Bearcats huddle just before tip-off against UMass Lowell on Friday night. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 5: The Moonwalk. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker had a definite defensive presence on Friday night, picking the River Hawks' pockets four times for steals while also bringing some colorful body language to the defensive end. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 5: The Moonwalk. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker had a definite defensive presence on Friday night, picking the River Hawks’ pockets four times for steals while also bringing some colorful body language to the defensive end. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 6: The Nothing But Net. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker scored a team-high 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 6: The Nothing But Net. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker scored a team-high 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 7: The Spiderman. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker wreaked havoc on the defensive end, especially at the top of the Bearcats' zone. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 7: The Spiderman. Binghamton freshman Romello Walker wreaked havoc on the defensive end, especially at the top of the Bearcats’ zone. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 8: The Poster.  Binghamton freshman Romello Walker threw down two big dunks against UMass Lowell on Friday night, including this one on a fast break when he had to duck to avoid hitting his head on the rim. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Game Face 8: The Poster.
Binghamton freshman Romello Walker threw down two big dunks against UMass Lowell on Friday night, including this one on a fast break when he had to duck to avoid hitting his head on the rim. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

After Walker was done answering questions, Dempsey excused him from the press conference, but the 19-year-old chose instead to sit by his coach for the remainder of the presser, perhaps the top highlight from his night of noteworthy plays.

Later on during the six-plus hour bus ride through the frigid night along the back roads back to Binghamton, Walker added his final highlight, tweeting, “I love my team! i can feel the growth and i believe in our ability to reach our potential .”

America East 2015 New Year’s Resolutions  

Albany head coach Will Brown. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins
Albany head coach Will Brown. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

A new year brings a new conference tournament format that raises the stakes on what awaits the nine America East teams over the next nine weeks. Whoever keeps true to these resolutions the longest could very well be the last team standing come March 14.

America East 2015 New Year’s Resolutions

Albany: Better balance inside

Albany’s post game right now is the Sam Rowley show. He’s the only Great Dane in the top 20 in rebounding among conference players, and no other post player has more than four points or rebounds per game. John Puk was a great compliment to Rowley the last two years, both conference tournament championships for Albany. Now, UAlbany needs to find John Puk 2.0 or they will be muscled out of a three-peat.

Binghamton: Lay the groundwork for the future

Binghamton’s resolution won’t fully come to fruition for another year or two, but when it does, it could be something really special. This year’s team was supposed to be carried by Jordan Reed with the hope they might sneak into the top four of the conference and earn a 1st round tournament home game. When Reed left the team earlier this month, the already-young Bearcats got even younger. With just one senior and one junior left on the roster, neither of whom average more than eight minutes a game this season, the pressure falls on the 12 freshmen and sophomores to prove this team will be a legitimate contender down the road.

Hartford: Consistent shooting

It’s been said multiple times that Hartford’s A-game, with a heavy dose of ball movement and outside shooting, is better than anyone else’s A-game in the conference. The issue for them will be making sure that A-game shows up night in and night out. Poor shooting, especially from 3-point range, led to losses at the hands of Sacred Heart, Central Connecticut State, and Rider. Hartford’s A-game is why they were picked 2nd in the pre-season poll, and if they can get hot at the right time, could be what takes them to the top of the conference for the first time ever.

Maine: Better team defense

First year coach Bob Walsh has talent on the offensive side of the ball, as Shaun Lawton, Zarko Valjarevic, and Till Gloger are all top 20 scorers amongst America East teams in non-conference play. Where the Black Bears have been exposed repeatedly this season is the defensive side of the ball. Maine is last amongst AE teams in field goal percentage defense, 3-point percentage defense, and points per game allowed, which at more than 81 a game, is among the worst in all of Division 1. The Black Bears currently force more than seven steals a game, 2nd among conference teams; there just needs to be better execution when those steals don’t happen.

UMass Lowell: Continue ignoring the skeptics

Few expected anything from UMass Lowell when they moved to the Division I level prior to last season; the River Hawks were a unanimous last place pick in the pre-season poll. All they did in response was finish 5th in the conference with an 8-8 record (NCAA transition rules held them out of the conference tournament.) Pat Duquette’s group was once again picked to finish last in the conference this season, but Jahad Thomas and Marco Banegas-Flores have both averaged double figures in scoring in non-conference play, as the team won six of its first eight games, including road wins over Fordham and former America East member Boston University. The will to win can take teams a long way, and this team’s will to win might give a lot of AE teams headaches come 2015.

New Hampshire: Maintain early season balance

On paper, New Hampshire has done nothing mind-blowing this year, but they’re 1st among conference teams in points per game and points allowed. Tanner Leissner, Daniel Dion and Jaleen Smith are all averaging double figures in scoring, leading a balanced attack where each of the 11 Wildcats averaging 10 or more minutes a game has contributed nicely. The Wildcats will have pre-season favorite Stony Brook on the road, followed by two-time defending champion UAlbany at home to open conference play. Both games will have a lot to say about whether the Wildcats’ early success was a fluke, or a potential sign of something special come March.

Stony Brook: (tie) Keep Carson Puriefoy and Jameel Warney healthy/ Get support from players not named Carson Puriefoy and Jameel Warney

The two preseason All-Conference selections, combined, have accounted for a sizeable percentage of the team’s statistics, top to bottom, in non-conference play. The rest of the Seawolves will have to provide their stars with consistent support if the pre-season number one pick is finally going to break through with a conference tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament berth. Kameron Mitchell and Rayshaun McGrew filled those support roles nicely with 22 combined points in the Seawolves’ upset of previously 13th ranked Washington.

UMBC: Offensive execution

Replacing Rodney Elliott, who was declared out for the season with a shoulder injury earlier this month after playing in just one game, has not come easy for UMBC.  The Retrievers are last among America East teams in points per game, free throw percentage, and turnovers per game, as well as eighth in 3-point percentage. Elliott carried much of the load as a freshman last year, which brought even larger expectations for this season. Like Binghamton, Aki Thomas may want to start looking ahead to the future, prepping his young unit for a conference tournament title run a few years down the road.

Vermont:  Stay healthy

A healthy Vermont team is a scary thought for the rest of the conference. The scary thing for Vermont is that they’ve been unable to stay healthy early in the year. Ernie Duncan played in only four games before red-shirting due to a back injury, Zach McRoberts missed the first seven games due to injury, and Hector Harold missed games vs. Yale and St. Louis with foot problems. Vermont has finished either 1st or 2nd in the conference every year since 2008-2009, and will need a clean bill of health the rest of the season if they want a shot at doing that again this year.