Posts Tagged ‘Albany’

League of Champions

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
A three-time America East champion at Vermont, Taylor Coppenrath is playing for his fourth Spanish title.

A three-time America East champion at Vermont, Taylor Coppenrath is playing for his fourth Spanish title.

It’s been almost two months since America East season came to an end when the Albany Great Danes were bounced from The Big Dance by top-seed Duke and the Stony Brook Seawolves took a tumble in the second round of the NIT at Iowa. But several America East alums are still chasing titles in some of the best leagues in the world.

Former America East Champions Taylor Coppenrath and Rashad Bell will be playing for their league championships this week in Spain and Hungary, respectively, while former two-time America East champ Jason Siggers is in hot pursuit of the chip in France.

From 2001-2005 Coppenrath flat-out owned the America East as the most statistically dominant player in league history. Over his four-year career at Vermont, the 6’9” 250 pound Coppenrath amassed 2,442 career points, good for third in the league’s all-time record book. After winning the 2002 Rookie of the Year award, Coppenrath won three straight Player of the Year awards (joining late, great Reggie Lewis as the only players in league history to win the award three times), leading the Catamounts to the NCAA tournament each time. His 14 Player of the Week awards are tied with former-NBA player Vin Baker for the most in America East history.

Coppenrath scored a combined 80 points in the league title game over his last two seasons at Vermont, earning championship MVP honors both years. His 43 points in the 2004 Championship Game (despite missing the previous three weeks and playing the entire game in a brace because of a broken wrist) remain an America East Championship Game record. Coppenrath, of course, would lead the Catamounts to their historic first-round upset of Syracuse University in the 2005 NCAA Tournament as a senior.

After turning pro, Coppernath went to training camp with the Boston Celtics in 2005 and Indiana Pacers in 2006, coming that close to making the league (according to several NBA insiders, if not for persistent back injuries that have nagged him throughout his career, Coppenrath would have been all but guaranteed at least a cup of coffee in the league).

Even though he came up short of his NBA dreams, Coppenrath has followed up one of the greatest college careers in America East history with one of the most successful professional careers of any AE alumn. In his eight years as a pro, Coppernath has played in the Euroleague (a trans-national league made up of the best teams from across Europe), as well as the top league’s in Greece (A1), Italy (SerieA), Spain (ACB – regarded as the top domestic league in the world outside of the NBA) as well as the second-division in Spain (LEB Oro) – all regarded as top domestic leagues.

After winning three league titles in college, as a professional, all Coppenrath has done is win. The LEB Oro (or LEB Gold) may be the second division in Spain, but it is widely regarded as a top-five league in Europe and Coppernath has entrenched himself as one of the league’s best players, guiding three different teams to the championship and a spot in the ACB the following season (the regular season and post season champions of the second division move up to the first division and the bottom two first division teams drop down to the following year).

Now Coppenrath has a chance to do it a fourth time, leading Lucentum Alicante (a team he has previously guided to a championship) through the playoffs and into a best-of-five championship series. Coppenrath’s eighth season of pro ball may have been his best, as he has averaged a team-best 14 points per game while shooting a robust 58.5 percent from the floor to go along with 5.8 rebounds (good for second on his team).

Coppenrath’s quest for his seventh championship (and fourth as a pro) tips off Friday, May 24, in a best-of-five game series.

Rashad Bell won the 2002 America East Championship at Boston University, now he's playing for the Hungarian title.

Rashad Bell won the 2002 America East Championship at Boston University, now he’s playing for the Hungarian title.

If his career hadn’t coincided with Coppenrath’s, Bell would likely have been regarded as the premier America East power forward of his era. (more…)

Clock Strikes Midnight on Albany’s Cinderella Season

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

(Philadelphia, PA) – At 2:28 pm Eastern Time, the clock hit 0:00 at the Wells Fargo Center and struck midnight on the Albany Great Danes’ Cinderella season.

Albany, a 15th seed in the NCAA Tournament and perhaps the biggest underdog to ever come out of the America East as the fourth seed in their own conference tournament, fell to second-seed Duke 73-61.

The Great Danes came up short in their upset bid, but walked off the hardwood and out of the bright lights of the game’s biggest stage with their heads held high: For 40 minutes, the bigger, stronger, faster Blue Devils hit Albany with everything it they had – usually in the form of a back-board shaking sledgehammer slam from Mason Plumlee, or a Seth Curry swish – and every time the Great Danes hit Duke right back.

Albany lost the game, but the Great Danes were magnificent in defeat, proving they belonged on the same court as one of the best teams in the country and arguably the most storied program in college basketball history.

“We challenged them. We made Duke work. We made Duke beat us,” said Albany head coach Will Brown.

From the opening tip until the final horn, the Great Danes played the Blue Devils as equals. And this wasn’t a Duke team looking past the Great Danes while playing at walk-through speed: this was a Duke squad still trying to swallow the bitter taste of last season’s upset by 15-seed Lehigh, squarely focused on Albany for revenge.

After spending a year stewing on the Lehigh debacle, Duke came out playing for blood. Albany played even harder.

“We didn’t quit, but we never did all season,” said redshirt freshman guard Peter Hooley. “We were right there with them. I think we are proud of ourselves. We never gave up.”

“We went down fighting against one of the best teams in the country,” said Albany senior shooting guard Jabob Iati.

Iati led the way for the Great Danes, scoring a team-high 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting including 3-of-4 from behind the arc. The smallest player on the floor, Iati was fearless driving the lane and drilling deep three’s with several long arms in his face. Iati, who would be generously listed at 5’9”, added six rebounds and six assists, leaving every last drop he had on the floor in the final game of his career. (more…)

From the End of the Bench to the Center of the Stage

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
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After being relegated to the bench by injuries, Albany junior Luke Devlin took center stage in the Championship Game, scoring 12 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting to help lead Albany to the title and the NCAA Tournament (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Burlington, VT) – Dripping sweat and draped in the Australian national flag, a shy smile spread across Luke Devlin’s face.

Devlin had just played a starring role in Albany’s 53-49 championship game shocker over Vermont, punching the Great Danes’ ticket to the NCAA Tournament by swishing all six of his shots from the floor. Against the Catamounts vaunted front-line, Devlin was unstoppable on offense, leading all post players in scoring with 12 points, while adding five rebounds, two steals and an assist.

Now he was at the center of the media swarm in the post game press conference.

“He was huge today,” said Albany head coach Will Brown after the win, “he’s not bothered by the moment.”

“I just got the opportunity to play a bit more tonight, knocked down some shots and it is what it is,” said Devlin, downplaying his dominant performance.

Two years ago, starring for the conference champion was exactly where the native of Sydney, Australia was supposed to be. Two weeks ago, it seemed all but impossible.

When he arrived on campus in the summer of 2010, Devlin was a star in the making – The Man from The Land Down Under. A 6’8” 230 pound forward with a silky-smooth jumper, nose for the basketball and a knack for pulling down tough rebounds in traffic, Devlin made an impact in the paint and on the perimeter and could take over a game on both ends of the floor. As a freshman, Devlin averaged 7.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 30 minutes per game and was named to the All-Rookie Team.

Two years later, Devlin was a forgotten man: recruited over and buried under a mountain of injuries. (more…)

The Slipper Fits Albany

Monday, March 18th, 2013
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The Great Danes rushed the court in hostile Patrick Gymnasium to celebrate their shocking 53-49 upset of the Vermont Catamounts to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Burlington, VT) – A tidal wave of purple cascaded down over the wooden the bleachers of Patrick Gymnasium, burst through the green and gold floodgates and crashed onto the hardwood floor.

Amidst the sea of purple and gold chaos, first-year Albany assistant coach Jon Iati –who had helped lead the Great Danes to their first two NCAA Tournaments as a player – assistant coach Jeremy Friel – who had first competed against Iati at rival New Hampshire before coaching him as a member of the staff at Albany – and associate head coach Chad O’Donnell bear-hugged at center court; leaping and shouting in celebration – grown men turned kids again by the magic of the moment.

Iati’s younger brother Jacob, a fifth-year senior shooting guard who followed his brother to Albany initially as a walk-on transfer, fought frantically through the fray, searching for his teammate and best friend Mike Black. The diminutive-duo had stood tall as pillars of the program over the grind of the season, and in the biggest game of their lives Saturday, the pint-sized playmakers towered over the court, combining for 22 points.

When Iati finally found his back-court mate, tears were pouring from Black’s eyes and streaming down his face. Now, amidst the uproar, they shared an embrace.

Great Danes head coach Will Brown, wearing a sedated smile, quietly ducked out of the spotlight to find his family: kissing his wife Jamie and embracing his son Jackson.

The final buzzer had sounded. The clock read “0:00,” but it still hadn’t struck midnight on the Great Danes and their fairytale season.

Albany had run the gauntlet through the America East Tournament, exorcising demons and slaying dragons every step of the way. And now, the scoreboard read “Albany 53, Vermont 49” and the Great Danes were the America East Champions. (more…)

Tough Enough: Albany head coach Will Brown and the Great Danes are fighting until the end.

Friday, March 15th, 2013
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Albany head coach Will Brown and the Great Danes left it all on the court Sunday, and lived to fight (and coach) another day (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Albany, New York) – Three minutes into the first half of the second semifinal of the America East Tournament, Stony Brook enforcer Tommy Brenton – the America East Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and all-around baddest-mother-shut-your-mouth – lowered his shoulder into Albany forward Sam Rowley, sending the 6’6” 240 pound Australian sprawling to the hardwood.

“Sam! He’s not Tougher than you! There’s no way he’s tougher than you!” boomed Albany head coach Will Brown, his voice rising over the deafening din of the capacity crowd. “He is not out-toughing you! He is not tougher than you – not tonight!” Brown commanded, his voice raising another decibel level.

10 Months earlier, Brown was a lame duck coach playing out the string on the end of his career – in the eyes of most, at least – after his top two scorers, Gerardo Suero, a slashing wing and once in a decade athletic talent, and Logan Aronhalt, a big time shooter, unexpectedly abandoned the program (losing Aronhalt to Maryland and Suero on an ill-advised attempt to start a pro career). A month earlier, Brown was being torn to shreds, his accomplishments (among them the massive overhaul of the Great Danes during his tenure, capped by back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths) thrown on the scrapheap by the local media. And minutes earlier, before the opening tip, Albany was already all but declared the loser and Stony Brook anointed the league champion.

Two and a half hours later, Brown, the man with a quote – response, retort, witticism, joke, jibe, and hilarious comeback – for any and every scenario, was speechless, struggling to find the words after the Great Danes shocked the mighty Seawolves 61-59, to punch their ticket to the championship game.

The silence spoke volumes.

“That was a gutsy win; I have tough, tough kids,” said Brown, composing himself after coming to the brink of tears following the Great Danes win.

With 7.3 seconds remaining, and the score tied at 59, senior point guard Mike Black had stood at the top of the key, staring down highly-touted Seawolves freshman Carson Puriefoy. It seemed to be the tailor-made situation for a symbolic changing of the guard – from Black to Puriefoy as premier America East point guard and Albany to Stony Brook as the premier SUNY program.

Except it didn’t play out like that.

Just as he had almost exactly four months earlier in the Great Danes upset over Washington – the programs first ever win over a true-BCS school and arguably the biggest regular season win in program history – Black blew by his man off a crossover dribble, drove right through the lane, and finished in traffic at the rim, kissing the final of his 16 points off the glass for the win. (more…)

Stony Brook Was Who We Thought They Were — Until They Weren’t.

Thursday, March 14th, 2013
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Stony Brook senior Tommy Brenton pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, but scored just six points on 2-of-6 shooting while dishing out only one assists, and the top-seeded Seawolves were upset 61-59 by Albany in the semifinals of the America East Tournament (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Albany, New York) – Tommy Brenton said it all – and likely far more than the Stony Brook’s senior forward and the America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year meant to imply.

Two and a half hours earlier, the Seawolves had already all but been anointed America East Champions — Stony Brook was not simply the number one seed in the conference tournament, but The Number One Seed: the most dominant team to come through the league since the 2005 Cinderella Vermont Catamounts, the Seawolves’ semifinal matchup against the University Albany was a mere formality and an America East Championship and NCAA Tournament berth a foregone conclusion.

Now, Brenton was being asked – more precisely baited – by a Long Island reporter, if Albany’s hosting the tournament – and playing what was in essence a home game against the highest seed – put added pressure on the Seawolves and played a role in the Great Danes’ 61-59 last-second shocker.

“It’s no added pressure for us: we’ve won on the road all year long,” said Brenton, the Seawolves’ senior captain, heart, soul and emotional center, before adding “it was just another game.”

Without intending it, Brenton hit the cause of the Seawolves’ heartbreaking fall right on the head: While Albany amped-up its energy and ratcheted up its intensity to match the magnitude of the moment, Stony Brook played as if it was just another game.

When Stony Brook took the floor 30 minutes prior to tip-off, there wasn’t any of cocky swagger that has been a Stony Brook staple all season long, or the electric our season comes down to this game and we’ll be damned if we’re going home energy that has defined the post season runs of previous America East Tournament Champions (most notably 2005 Vermont, 2002 BU, 2006 Albany and 2008 UMBC).

From the opening tip until just under three minutes remained in the game, the top-seed Seawolves played like they had nothing to lose — in the worst possible way: without passion, purpose, or a sense of urgency. By the time the Seawolves returned to coherence, realizing their NCAA Tournament-or-bust season was on the brink, rattling off a 17-7 run, it was too late.

With 7.3 seconds remaining, Albany point guard Mike Black refused a ball screen at the top of the key, crossed over from his left to his right and beat Stony Brook freshman Carson Puriefoy off the dribble to the hoop, kissing his right hand floater off the glass and in with 2.3 seconds left, for the win. (more…)

Slamming it Home

Thursday, February 21st, 2013
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BU forward Dom Morris threw down a thunderous dunk Wednesday night (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Boston, MA) – Playing host to the final America East contest in its long history, The Roof at Case Gymnasium was rocking Wednesday night.

Not the outdated, glorified high school gym, where empty chair-backs outnumbered occupied seats – boisterous as the listed attendance of 712 may have been.

It was the rims that reached a deafening decibel level in Boston University’s 79-69 win over Albany, with Terrier forwards Dom Morris and Nate Dieudonne throwing down a pair of poster-worthy And-1 dunks over helpless Great Danes defenders.

“It was exciting,” exclaimed Boston University head coach Joe Jones. “Both [Dunks] were pretty impressive.”

Morris, a bruising junior listed at 6’7” 240 (but closer to 6’6” 250), threw down the first, and more powerful, of the two slams, a thunderous, two-hand jam on Albany forward Sam Rowley that nearly snapped off the snap-back rim.

With 16:37 remaining in the second half, Morris freed BU sniper John Papale with a perfect screen near the top of the key and immediately bolted to the right block. Without hesitation, Papale fired to a streaking Morris, who in one motion caught the pass and launched himself at the hoop off of two feet. Rowley rotated over and hammered Morris with a hard foul, but it wasn’t enough to stop the native of Newark, Delaware, from throwing down a two-handed sledgehammer.”

“It was great to dunk on someone and get the ‘And-1,’” said Morris, who let out a bellow and flashed a thousand-watt smile before swishing the ensuing free-throw. (more…)

Personal Vendetta

Thursday, February 21st, 2013
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Boston University point guard Maurice Watson Jr. converts a tough lay-up in traffic in the Terriers 79-69 win. Watson posted his second career, and second straight, double-double with 11 points and 10 assists (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Boston, MA) – With 10:15 remaining in the second half Wednesday night, Boston University freshman point guard Maurice Watson Jr. stood with the ball, motionless, on the right wing. In the blink of an eye, Watson put the ball on the floor and, in one zero-to-sixty step, was at full speed, driving the lane and the Albany Great Danes were backpedaling on their heels.

Just as quickly, Watson stopped on a dime and fired the ball to freshman gunner John Papale on the right wing, sending Albany scrambling in an air raid drill. In one swift motion, Papale caught Watson’s dish and swung it – like a hot potato – to junior point guard D.J. Irving, the second half of the Terriers lightening-fast dynamic ball handling duo, in the right corner.

Albany forward Jayson Gurrier, in an all out dive, managed to take out Irving’s legs, sending him sprawling to the hardwood, just as the junior let fly. It was no use: with the referee’s whistle echoing off the rear-wall of Case Gymnasium, Irving’s three settled, soft as silk, through the bottom of the cylinder, pushing the Terriers lead to 53-49.

On the ensuing possession, the Great Danes worked the ball to their own star point guard, Mike Black, who sprung loose on the left wing. Black let fly, but his shot fell flat, clanging off the back iron and caroming over the top of the backboard and out of bounds.

It was the night in the nutshell, as Boston University continued its personal vendetta against the America East; punishing every conference foe that gets in their way on their way out the door. On Wednesday night, it was Albany’s turn, with BU stepping on the gas to dust the Great Danes, 79-69, in a run-and-gun romp.

“You’re either going to give up lay-ups off to those two guys,” said Brown off the Terriers dual-point guards, “or they’re going to find [Papale] and he’s going to hit jumper after jumper.”

In their best offensive outing of the season, the Terriers shot 51.9 percent from the floor (28-of-54), 40 percent from downtown (10-of-25) and moved the ball magnificently, dishing out 17 assists to just four turnovers. Four players broke double-figures for BU, which has now won a season-best five straight games and ten of their last twelve. (more…)

Reactively Proactive: UMass Lowell to join the America East

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

(Lowell, Massachusetts) – Sometime soon – maybe in as little as a few hours, maybe as long as a couple of days – it will be officially announced that the University of Massachusetts Lowell is making the jump from Division II to Division I Athletics and will be joining the America East as a full conference member.

You hear that? It’s the sound of the deafening silence that has enveloped the America East ever since Northeastern ditched the league for the Colonial Athletic Association in 2005 being shattered by a solitary golf-clap.

In all seriousness, I’m happy to hear the news – dare I say, downright excited. (more…)

“I should have known better”

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Special to One-Bid Wonders
By Zach Bye

When it comes to the America East matchup between UAlbany and Boston University, it seems the improbable becomes probable and the unlikely becomes certain.

With roughly 12 seconds remaining in the contest Wednesday night, hometown fans began to put on their jackets and prepare themselves for the sub-zero temperatures that awaited them outside the SEFCU arena in Albany. I remember the phrase I used on the air during my radio broadcast of the game after Mike Black’s two free throws gave Albany a seemingly comfortable six point cushion: “All signs here point toward a Great Danes victory that would give the club a 17-4 overall record and remain atop of the America East standings.”

I should have known better.

Boston’s junior guard DJ Irving would somehow jam six points into ten seconds to force overtime and eventually knock off a Danes team that had come into the contest a league best 7-1 at home.

Think about that for a brief second: Six points, ten seconds.

I found out after the fact that Boston’s play by play man and I both made the on-air analogy comparing Irving’s last second heroics to that of Reggie Miller against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. It was the same scenario with the same result, except no Spike Lee on the sidelines, and Irving didn’t put his hands over his throat symbolizing ‘the choke’. My expression of disbelief must have matched that of the season high crowd of 3,685 judging by their gasp I could hear through my headset.

If this was the first time that UAlbany was on the wrong end of an absurd finish against Boston University I’m pretty sure Danes fans would tell you this single instance would fill their quota, but that’s not the case. Albany has now lost to Boston eight consecutive times dating back to 2009, and more specifically, four straight at home. Between then and now the matchup between the two has been nothing short of storybook. (more…)