Quinton Chievous rocks rims in Hampton’s NCAA Tournament win

Quinton Chievous had to walk along a long and winding road less traveled before he finally found his way into a Hampton Pirates uniform and made it back to the NCAA Tournament.

He wasted no time in making his presence felt once he stepped out onto the grand stage and under the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament, posting a double-double while throwing down a pair of vicious slam-dunks in 16-seed Hampton’s 74-64 First Round win over fellow No. 16 Manhattan.

The son of former NBA player and Missouri all-time leading scorer Derrick Chievous, Quinton began his career at Tennessee, where he redshirted one season, and could never find his way into the rotation, watching from the end of the bench as the Vols’ advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2013. After graduating in three years, Chievous, a 6’6” wing, transferred to Hampton as a graduate student, and emerged as a key player in the Pirates rotation.

On Tuesday night, Chievous messed around and had a double-double by halftime, posting 11 points and 10 rebounds in the games first 20 minutes, before finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while shooting 7-of-12 from the floor.

Chievous threw down a big one-handed dunk in each half, the more earth-shaking of the two coming in the second half when he caught a feed from outside the right low-block, took one hard power-dribble towards the hoop and took off, posterizing 6’9” Manhattan forward Zane Waterman.

Chievous would leave the game in the final minutes after landing awkwardly, but appeared in high spirits after the games final horn, saying he “had to get healthy,” in time for the Pirates Thursday night showdown against undefeated overall No. 1 Kentucky.

Max Plansky — The heart behind Northeastern

Born with cerebral palsy, Max Plansky (center) has been the heart behind Northeastern's run to the NCAA Tournament. Photo Credit: CAA Athletics
Born with cerebral palsy, Max Plansky (center) has been the heart behind Northeastern’s run to the NCAA Tournament. Photo Credit: CAA Athletics

If anyone had full confidence the Huskies would win the CAA championship, it was Max Plansky.

Plansky, 16, of Danvers Mass., has been a consistent source of inspiration for Northeastern since signing a national letter of intent in 2013 through Team IMPACT, a program aimed at improving the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses.

Plansky has attended every Northeastern practice and home game, even on school days, during his time with the Huskies.

Because his severe cerebral palsy limits his traveling abilities, away games are usually dubious. But Plansky, who long ago predicted Northeastern’s deep run, deserved to be with his teammates when it counted.

“We got to get ready for March,” Plansky told his speech specialist earlier in the season.

Once his father, Michael Plansky, heard the message, he made his son a promise: If Northeastern made the championship round of the CAA tournament, they would find a way to get down to Baltimore.

With the help of the Northeastern coaching staff, Michael would reunite his son with his teammates in the championship, which evidently reunited Northeastern with the NCAA tournament.

The Plan

Even before the early wakeup and the long, uncomfortable drive, Plansky had already provided a spark for Northeastern.

Before the start of the tournament, coach Bill Coen reached out to various alumni of Northeastern basketball requesting they send in a video-recorded bit of advice.

The video included Matt Janning, Chaisson Allen and NBA champion J.J. Barea, all saying what it would take to win a CAA championship. But the message that sent the Huskies’ locker room into a frenzy?

An image of Max Plansky using his computerized speaking device, to say, “Northeastern basketball, I love you guys. I’ll see you at the championship.”

The Huskies were so moved by their teammate’s message, they replied to his recording with their own video.

But getting Plansky to Baltimore is easier said than done.

While the Huskies were resting after a hard-fought win against UNC-Wilmington in the semis, Plansky and his father were waking up at 6 am on Monday morning for a 7-hour trip to Baltimore.

A 7-hour drive isn’t easy for any 16-year-old but not stretching out of his wheelchair for that long would be strenuous for Plansky.

“He just gutted it out,” said Michael. “He was just so excited about it. Every game is like Christmas for him.”

Upon arriving, Michael learned that the family’s parking had already been taken care of at the Royal Farms Arena. In fact, coach Dave McLaughlin was standing in the parking lot waiting for them when they arrived.

The Northeastern assistant coach got credentials for Plansky and his family too – but did it without telling any of the other players.

So when Plansky wheeled into the Northeastern locker room before tip-off of the championship, it gave a tense locker room a pre-game celebration.

“They were doing there pregame stretches and then suddenly it’s ‘Max is here! Max is here,” Michael said.

Plansky stayed in the locker room for pre-game and would return for halftime. Before the game, while Coen went over the game plan with his players, Michael said the coach regular would stop and ask Max if he approved.

“They include him in the true sense of including,” Michael said.

Contagious growth

Plansky has a usual spot during Husky games: at the end of the bench, to the right of personal trainer Art Horne.

It would be no different for the CAA championship. Plansky took ownership of his spot and his role of being positive from start to finish.

“He’s so happy to be there,” said Michael. “It doesn’t matter if things going are good, bad or whatever, he’s got a positive attitude.”

He wasn’t always like that. When Michael, a former player at Fairfield, left a career in coaching, he said Plansky struggled to control his emotions and would have bursts of frustration.

But ever since a Northeastern loss to Harvard earlier this season, he’s noticed a calmer, cooler and collected Plansky.

“That’s 180 degrees from what he used to be,” Michael said.

The growth of his son influenced Michael to found “You’re With Us,” a program aimed at connecting able-bodied college groups with disabled young adults.

If he needs any evidence for how affective the collaboration can be, he only needed turn to the end of Northeastern’s bench during the championship game.

Even when Marcus Thornton and Daniel Dixon led a late rally, cutting the Huskies’ once 20-point lead to single digits, Plansky remained unnerved.

And when the final buzzer sounded and the celebration had begun, Plansky’s teammates made sure he was in the middle of it all.

The 16-year-old was at the center of every victory picture and his team made sure to cut a piece of net just for him.

“He’s been an inspiration to these guys and really a source of compassion,” Coen said in the championship post-game presser. “…I’m so proud of the way our team has accepted him, embraced him and made him feel welcome and special and in return these guys get so much more.”

And Plansky is proud as well. When asked what gives him the most joy about being on the team, he said, “Just being around the guys.”

“It’s just special,” Michael said. “I don’t think I can put a different word on it. That’s become his identity, to remain rock solid. And I can’t see how that doesn’t rub off on other people.”

Seven questions with Max Plansky: Northeastern’s unsung hero

1. Has it hit you yet that your a member of the first championship team for Northeastern since 1991? It hasn’t hit me yet.

2. What does that mean to you?
I am happy for the guys and the coaches and all of their hard work.

3. What was your favorite moment from Monday?
Being part of the post game celebration.

4. In what area have you changed or grown the most since joining Northeastern?
Trying to remain positive no matter what happens.

5. Who would you rather play in the NCAA tournament.. Kentucky, Kansas or Maryland?
Maryland, but don’t let them know.

6. What about attending practices and games gives you the most joy?
Just being around the guys.

7. Any teammates you’re specifically proud of after this season?
All of them.

Cor: An earlier version of this story referred to Michael Plansky’s father as Tim. His name is Michael.

March Madness: The 2014-2015 America East basketball season in dunks

With a the NCAA Tournament dreams dashed for seven of the America East’s nine teams, and a day remaining before the March Madness showdown between bitter rivals Albany and Stony Brook for all the marbles, One-Bid Wonders decided to take a look back at the America East basketball season that was in dunks. Take a look and enjoy — all nine America East teams and quite a few players are represented.

Who was the conference’s best dunker? What was the best dunk of the season? Leave us a comment below.

America East men’s basketball Dunks of 2014-2015 from Samuel Perkins on Vimeo.

March Madness: Sam Perkins and Ryan Restivo break down America East basketball

In anticipation of the America East championship and the start of March Madness, which tips off with top-seed Albany facing three-seed Stony Brook at 11 a.m. Saturday, OBW’s Sam Perkins linked up with Big Apple Buckets’ Ryan Restivo and the America East’s Jared Hager to take a look back a the season that was, before looking ahead to the championship game that will be.

The trio shared a great deal of laughs, as well as insider insight over the course of the night, with topics ranging from their overall impressions and biggest surprises during the regular season; thoughts on the change in the conference’s post season format, from a single-site tournament to a high-seed host playoff; the best game of the post season; and of course, detailed breakdowns and predictions of the big game itself.

Give it a watch and then flame away at Restivo.

Malcolm Miller needs your vote to be the Dark Horse Dunker

With less than 24 hours left for fans to vote, Holy Cross senior Malcolm Miller is locked in a dead-heat with pint-sized Texas A & M Corpus Christi high-flyer John Jordan in the first round of the Dark Horse Dunker competition.

The competition, sponsored by Intersport, producers of the State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships, pits 16 “under-the-radar” dunking extraordinaires head-to-head in an bracket style, single elimination tournament where fan votes determine the winners of each round. The fan-vote winner of the entire tournament will participate in the College Slam Dunk Contest held during this year’s Final Four.

Miller, a 6-foot-7-inch 200-pound human-pogo stick, has been dropping jaws and rattling the Hart Center rafters with monster slam dunks for the past four years, as seen in the video below, produced by the Holy Cross Athletic Department.

Johnson, Miller’s opponent, may have the highest vertical leap of the entire field. With a 38-inch standing vertical leap and a reported 50-inch running vertical leap, the 5’10” guard (and that listing may be a bit generous) plays at eye-level with the rim.

Voting ends at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and with less than 19 and a half hours remaining, Miller and Johnson remain tied, each holding 50 percent of the vote.

Fans can vote here, and with less than half a day remaining and Miller and Johnson still neck and neck, literally every fan vote counts.

America East men’s basketball roundup 2/14/15

With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, every game is magnified for America East teams jockeying for position in the standings and seedings in the America East Playoffs — seedings that are more important than at any other time in recent history with the new, high-seed host format.

With just a handful of conference games left, Albany has distanced themselves from the pack at 12-0 in league play, and a regular season title and home court advantage throughout the playoffs would appear to be theirs to lose, with an 11-2 Vermont squad as the only other team with a realistic shot.

Here’s a look at sights, sounds and results from a huge Saturday of hoops with the America East men’s basketball roundup.

New Hampshire 66 Binghamton 48
The Wildcats were expected to roll over the Bearcats and they did just that, but make no mistake, this was a huge win for the players, the program, and head coach Bill Herrion. Now standing at 16-10 on the year and 9-4 in America East play, New Hampshire has officially clinched a winning record for the first time in Herrion’s tenure and the first time since the 1994-1995 season (There is no scenario where the Wildcats could lose more than four America East contests without a win, or five total games including a post-season birth without a victory, ensuring a winning season).

Freshman forward Tanner Leissner posted his fourth double-double of the season and third in the past five games he has played, scoring 14 points to go with a career-high 15 rebounds to pace four Wildcats in double-figures.

The undermanned Bearcats got 10 points apiece from sophomore guards Yoseph Yacob and Marlon Beck II and freshman forward Bobby Ahearn, but were held to just 27.8 percent from the floor (15-of-54) by the vaunted Wildcats defense.

UMass Lowell 69 Hartford 63
Valentine’s Day was a huge win for the host River Hawks and an outright bad loss for the visiting Hawks. Despite playing without the team’s offensive and defensive epicenter, freshman forward Jahad Thomas, lost for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, UMass Lowell continued to play with tremendous heart and effort, outworking and out-willing Hartford all night while executing a methodical game plan on both ends of the floor.

Led by senior forward Kerry Weldon’s 15 points – among them an emphatic dunk – eight different River Hawks scored, including 13 points off the bench from sharp-shooting freshman Matt Harris, nine points from reserve junior guard D.J. Mlachnik and eight points apiece from Brad Schaub, Marco Banegas-Flores and Chad Holley. Defensively the Rive Hawks held the bombs-away Hawks to just 24 percent from downtown (6-of-25) and 42.9 percent from the floor (24-of-56), while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 34.8 percent from downtown.

For Hartford, the loss – the team’s sixth in its last seven games – was another painful reminder of the team’s shortcomings in what was supposed to the “their year.” With six seniors on the roster – including star forward Mark Nwakamma, heart and soul guard/forward Corban Wroe, and fiery leader and point guard Yolonzo Moore II – Hartford was supposed to be built to compete for a title this season. But with the daunting task of a complete roster rebuild next year, the Hawks have not only failed to build on their momentum from the past two years – a pair of 17 win seasons in which they won 10 regular season America East games – but have now begun a serious back slide.

Stony Brook 80 Maine 52
Red-shirt freshman forward Roland Nyama exploded for a career-high 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting, to go with five rebounds. Junior forward Rayshaun McGrew added a 15-rebound, 10-point double-double, junior center Jameel Warney posted a double-double of his own with 13 points and 11 rebounds and junior point guard Carson Puriefoy chipped in 12 points.

After disheartening losses to New Hampshire, in a game they never competed, and Vermont in a game they coughed up a massive second half lead on their home court, the Seawolves’ have benefitted from back-to-back basement dwellers, following up a 12-point win over UMBC with a massacre of Maine. The pair of beatings over a pair of massively undermanned and overmatched squads should go a long way in restoring the Seawolves’, but it’s hard to gauge how much of their recent play will translate against the top of the league (Stony Brook’s record currently stands at 1-4 against first place Albany, second place Vermont and third place New Hampshire).

Getting production from players not named “Jameel Warney” is a must if Stony Brook is going to make a run at the NCAAs, and while their supporting cast has proven they can dominate the have-nots of the league, they are going to need to show consistency against the America East “haves.”

For Maine, this was a game where the Black Bears – at the bottom of a ground up program build under first year head coach Bob Walsh — were simply and completely overmatched

Vermont 74 UMBC 51
The Catamounts have now won five straight games, including four emotional wins in honor of recruit Josh Speidel who was severely injured in a Feb. 1 car accident.

Junior forward Ethan O’Day continued his inspired play, matching his career-high with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go with eight rebounds and three blocks in just 25 minutes, and Vermont shot a blistering 51.9 percent from the floor (28-of-54). Nine Catamounts broke into the scorers column and 10 played double-digit minutes as Vermont turned a six-point first half lead into a route.

Dre Wills continued to shine as the Catamounts do-everything star and lynchpin, scoring 10 points to go with four assists, two rebounds, a steal and a block.

For UMBC, the game one again highlighted the Retrievers horrific lack of depth following a litany of injuries and suspensions, but even more amazing their indomitable heart and hustle. Playing just seven players, one of them walk-on Ben Grace, the Retrievers gave Vermont everything the Catamounts could handle for a half, before running out of gas in the second half.

Nightly awards:
OBW America East Player of the Game

Ethan O’Day, Jr., F, Vermont
22 points, 9-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds, three blocks

OBW America East Rookie of the Game
Roland Nyama, F, Stony Brook : 24 points, 9-of-12 shooting, 6-of-8 3pt, five rebounds

Standings
Team – Conference Record (Overall Record)
1. Albany 12-0 (18-7)
2. Vermont 11-2 (16-10)
3. New Hampshire 9-4 (16-10)
4. Stony Brook 8-4 (17-10)
5. Hartford 5-7 (12-13)
6. UMass Lowell 508 (11-15)
7. Binghamton 3-10 (4-24)
8. Maine 2-10 (3-22)
9. UMBC 1-11 (3-22)

NBA All-Star Weekend — Zach LaVine, Steph Curry and one heck of a fun time

From the city streets to the subways, brands like Adidas, Nike, and the NBA itself have New York City plastered in advertisements and other imagery in preparation for Today’s All-Star Game. While the Rising Stars Challenge at Barclays Center got things underway on Friday night, the festivities really kicked off on Saturday evening in Brooklyn with the NBA All-Star Saturday, and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance.

The last time I was at Barclays Center was for a college tripleheader that featured the Patriot League’s Loyola-Maryland facing off against Fairfield. Similar to Ari Kramer’s experience earlier in the year, the arena was nowhere close to buzzing and was a shell of its normal rambunctious night life.

Saturday was a completely different story. Immediately after stepping out of the heavily branded train station at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, fans were greeted by the giant white security tent and immense oculus of the Barclays Center.

Inside the arena, fans from all over the world gathered to watch some of the NBA’s best go head to head in a wide range of skills competitions. The two most talked about events of the evening: the 3-point competition and slam-dunk competition.

The first two events, which consist of the Degree Shooting Stars and Taco Bell Skills Challenge competitions, little more than a light appetizer. Fans were still filing in during the former, and during the latter, it was obvious the players themselves weren’t taking it seriously.

But everything changed the second Stephen Curry started burying 3-pointers during the shooting competition, culminating in an electrifying final round, turning an otherwise lulled crowd at the Barclays Center into actual participants. Curry has entrenched himself as one – if not the — best in-game shooters on the planet, as evidenced by his 51 point explosion against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month.

But even in light of Curry’s sterling reputation as one of the game’s premier snipers, entrenched two years ago when he set the NBA record with 272 3-pointers in a season, performance on Saturday was something else, as the lanky gunner drilled 13 straight 3-pointers in the final round to seal his championship.

Curry’s effort on Saturday was a statement that he is one of the purest shooters of our time. His ability to effortlessly sink the 3-pointer was on display, and he made it look easy, while his splash bros. partner Klay Thompson looked like your average-Joe.

After being infused with new life from the 3-point competition, the crowd was primed and ready to go for the slam-dunk competition. And while Sam Perkins may be skeptical about Zach LaVine’s performance, it was one for the ages.

Battle of the Bronx in Brooklyn does not feel right

After so many years of the competition, most dunks have been done to death, leaving many fans thinking they won’t ever see an original slam again, which has led to an emphasis on showmanship among presentations. “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo did a great job in terms of his presentation, having several models enter the arena with him, carrying the Greek flag and fans. Unfortunately, his execution was seriously lacking, which surprised many, considering his hype and general athleticism.

The runner-up Victor Oladipo started off red-hot, singing Frank Sinatra’s classic “New York, New York,” with his 360-degree (maybe 540-degree) reverse jam, but did not have enough left in the tank for the finals.

But LaVine was nearly perfect on every slam, combining the showmanship of both Oladipo and Antetokounmpo, the skill of legends like Dr. J and Michael Jordan, and the nostalgia that the common fan loves. To top it off, LaVine’s love for the 1990s classic, Space Jam was on full display as the rookie rocked a Tune Squad jersey on his first dunk. LaVine set the tone early, throwing down a between the legs jam off a self alley-oop to record a perfect 50 on his first dunk of the night.

LaVine’s impressive night continued to drop jaws around the arena, threw down several other high-flying between the leg dunks sending the fans into a frenzy every time.

By the end of it, the All-Star Saturday experience is a worthwhile one. Fans get to see some of the NBA’s best players at the moment, and some of their rising stars doing what they do best. And while the branding aspect of it has a large role, the show put on by the players and the league is one unmatched by other professional leagues.

OBW video — there’s nothing small about the game of Maine freshman Kevin Little

Black Bears fans haven’t had much to cheer about this season in Orono, with a battered, bruised and beaten University of Maine men’s basketball team currently sitting at 3-22 on the season. One of the few bright spots for first year head coach Bob Walsh and his complete rebuild of the Black Bears’ program has been diminutive freshman Kevin Little, who despite his small size at a listed 5’11” packs a knockout punch as an explosive scoring two-guard.

OBW’s Joe Neveux recently sat down with Little for a profile on the Wyandanch, New York, native who currently leads the Black Bears in scoring at 11.8 points per game. Little, who has scored in double-digits in six of Maine’s last seven games, including three games of 20 or more points, talked about a range of topics, including how basketball kept him out of trouble as a kid growing up in a rough neighborhood, and his on the court idol, Allen Iverson. Take a look:

Elon’s “Air Canada” Kevin Blake a dark horse for College Slam Dunk competition

Kevin Blake has spent the past four years rising up towards the rafters and reaching a cruising altitude high above the rims at Alumni Gym. But the next runway the 6-foot-3-inch Elon senior guard nicknamed “Air Canada” takes off from may be on a national stage, as he was announced as one of 16 players chosen as finalists for one “Dark Horse” spot in the 2015 College Slam Dunk Contest.

Intersport, producers of the State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships have announced first round voting for the 2015 State Farm Dark Horse Dunker competition is now open through Feb. 18. Blake was among the 16-player field comprised of “under-the-radar players who possess the power, creativity and hops to compete against college basketball’s stars in the College Slam Dunk Championship,” the company announced.

Fans will ultimately determine the winner of the contest by voting daily at DarkHorseDunker.com throughout the four-week competition, which pits the 16 high-fliers head-to-head in a bracket-style elimination competition.

“Over its 26 editions, the State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships have become the benchmark for skills events,” said Drew Russell, vice president of Owned Properties at Intersport. “Through the first four years of the program, the State Farm Dark Horse Dunker winner has gone on to win the College Slam Dunk Championship three times. This fan element has really added electricity to the whole event.”

Blake, who is averaging 7.9 points and 3.3 assists while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor through 26 games for the Phoenix, will have his hands full in the tournament’s first round against Radford’s Javonte Green. Here’s a look at Green’s highlights:

Round One Winners will be announced Feb. 18 when Round Two opens. Voting for Round Two, the semi-finals and the finals also will be open one week each. The champion will be announced March 11 at DarkHorseDunker.com and will travel to Indianapolis to compete in the State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships, which airs April 2 live on ESPN. To vote, visit www.darkhorsedunker.com.

The Round One matchups are:
• LeShaun Murphy (Auburn University at Montgomery) vs. Jevoni Robinson (Barry University)

• James Sinclair (Western Carolina University) vs. Chrishawn Hopkins (Wright State University)

• Brandon Peters (Talladega College) vs. Deshawn Delaney (University of New Mexico)

• Antjuan Ball (West Texas A&M University) vs. Evan Pannell (College of Wooster)

• John Jordan (Texas A&M – Corpus Christi) vs. Malcolm Miller (College of the Holy Cross)

• Kendall Hargrove (University of Mount Olive) vs. Andrew Smith (Liberty University)

• Javonte Green (Radford University) vs. Kevin Blake (Elon University)

• Davene Carter (Tarleton State University) vs. Jaylon Moore (University of Evansville)
Previous State Farm Dark Horse Dunker winners include Marcus Lewis (Eastern Kentucky University) in 2014, Corey Law (High Point University) in 2013, James Justice (Martin Methodist College) in 2012, and Jacob Tucker (Illinois College) in 2011. Lewis, Justice and Tucker all went on to win the College Slam Dunk Championship.

Dunk of the day: Boston University center Blaise Mbargorba slams over Lafayette

Boston University registered a resounding 74-60 road win at Lafayette on Monday night — arguably the Terriers’ biggest of the season when considering the margin of victory, lateness in the season and magnitude in the standings by keeping the Terriers in a three-way tie for fourth place.

The game was a total team effort from the Terriers, who played nine players, eight of whom scored. BU thoroughly outplayed the host Leopards in every facet of the game, shooting 51.8 percent from the floor and 34.5 percent from downtown, while holding Lafayette to 39.6 and 32.1 percent, respectively. The Terriers won the battle of the boards 36-25, and overcame the loss of freshman point guard Eric Johnson to injury. Junior shooting guard John Papale led four Terriers in double-figures with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, while sophomore guard Eric Fanning and freshman guard Cheddi Mosely each added 13 and junior forward Nate Diedonne chipped in 10.

But the loudest points of the night came from 6-foot-11-inch red-shirt sophomore center Blaise Mbargorba, who threw down an absolute thunder dunk with 10:28 remaining in the second half to push the Terriers’ lead to 61-49. Mbargorba set the stage for the dunk by setting a perfect screen for Papale, before rolling to the hoop. Papale returned the favor by hitting his big man in stride with a bounce pass. Mbargorba gathered the pass, took two hard steps and took off, leaping off of his right foot from well outside the paint and throwing down a vicious one-handed slam over Lafayette guard Joey Ptasinski, who made the unfortunate mistake of trying to take a charge on the play.

Boom-shakalaka.