Posts Tagged ‘Hawks’

Evan Cooper officially out at Hartford — at least for now

Monday, September 8th, 2014
 Evan Cooper. OBW photo / Sam Perkins.

Evan Cooper. OBW photo / Sam Perkins.

Upon returning from two weeks leading his team through the land down under, Hartford head coach John Gallagher confirmed what was already well known around the league: point guard Evan Cooper is no longer a member of the Hawks.

“He’s taking a year off. I can’t say anything other than that,” said Gallagher during a recent interview.

However, Gallagher left the door open for Cooper’s return down the road, saying, “I hope he joins us in a year.”

Cooper wasn’t flashy or fancy, but the 6-foot point guard was crafty and rarely made mistakes with the ball in his hands, averaging 7.5 points, 1.7 assists and two rebounds in 60 games over his two seasons in Hartford, making 23 starts. Cooper during his two years in the program, Cooper was the only other primary ball handler in addition to starting point guard Yolonzo Moore III, and gave the Hawks the ability to move Moore off the ball.

A career 38.4 percent 3-point shooter, Cooper was one of the Hawks more accurate long-range gunners. However, with the emergence of Corban Wroe and Taylor Dyson, along with the white-hot shooting of Wes Cole, Cooper saw his offensive touches fluctuate during the second half of his sophomore season.

Beginning in late spring, rumors persisted around America East coaching circles that Cooper was no longer a member of the Hawks, which was apparently confirmed midsummer when his name disappeared from the team’s roster, and was officially confirmed by Gallagher after the Hawks’ foreign tour of Australia – a trip Cooper did not make.

Moore, a senior, has always been penciled in as the Hawks starting point guard, and according to Gallagher, he “was terrific,” running the show against Australian pros. However, Cooper’s departure leaves sophomore Justin Graham, who averaged just 0.8 points, 0.3 assists, one rebound and 8.4 minutes in 30 games last year, as the only other true point guard on the roster.

The fighter: Hartford’s John Carroll

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
John Carroll. Courtesy photo / Hill School

John Carroll. Courtesy photo / Hill School

Coaches look for players who fight with everything they have to get onto the court.

According to Hartford head coach John Gallagher, Hawks freshman forward John Carroll has taken that intensity to another level.

“John Carroll is ready for a fight when he walks on the floor — John Carroll is ready,” said Gallagher.

According to Gallagher, the 6-foot-8-inch, 220-pound native of Dublin, Ireland, by way of the Hill School in Philadelphia, is good; really good.

If John wasn’t athletic, he’d be a really good Atlantic-10 player, but he is athletic,” raved Gallagher on a recent afternoon, adding, “John Carroll is a dynamic player.”

The scouting report on Carroll is that he is a skilled forward who is comfortable playing on the perimeter, can shoot the ball in the mid-range and can score around the hoop. But according to Gallagher, it’s Carroll’s ability to impact the game on the defensive end and on the glass, and above all his toughness and tenacity, that have the coach the most excited.

“He’s a killer, man,” said Gallagher. “It’s all about being physical; it’s all about having a presence and John Gallagher has a presence.

Carroll spent the past three seasons in the states, spending two years at IMG Academy before transferring to Hill School for his senior season. Given that, despite plenty of exposure, Carroll chose Hartford over the likes of Columbia and Binghamton, it would be fair to take Gallagher’s rave reviews with a grain of salt and a healthy portion of skepticism.

But according to Gallagher, Carroll is a late bloomer whose background – coming from a country not known for producing premier basketball players – worked against him. More than that, according to Gallagher, Carroll is the real deal.

“This is a competition and it is a competition for him every time he steps in the gym.”

Despite his expectations, Gallagher’s initial plans were to easy Carroll into the rotation this season, but according to the fifth-year head coach, the freshman forced his hand during the team’s recent trip to Australia. (more…)

Death by 1,000 paper cuts: how the worst of times became the best of times for Stony Brook

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
Steve Pikiell (photo courtesy of the Stony Brook Statesman)

Steve Pikiell (photo courtesy of the Stony Brook Statesman)

It was death by 1,000 paper cuts — agonizingly slow and excruciatingly painful. Sixteen minutes and forty seconds without a field goal. Sixteen minutes and forty seconds of my life that I would never get back.

At least, that’s what it felt like at the time. Seven years later, I am thankful for the experience and for the perspective it provides me.

It was Friday night, March 2, 2007; the opening night of the America East Tournament – the “pillow-fight play-in game” — and the brand new Agganis Arena was a morgue. The announced attendance of a little more than 1,000, was, in reality, only a few hundred unenthusiastic fans filling the 6,000 seat arena with silence.

Taking the hardwood under second-year head coach Steve Pikiell, last-place Stony Brook had danced and dunked up a storm an hour before tipoff, before hitting eight-seed Hartford like a runaway freight train out of the opening tap.

Bionic-legged Seawolf senior Andre Vanterpool — wearing bright red, knee-high socks and cumbersome knee braces — hung elbows above the rim to corral a late, errant lob, before cocking it back behind his head and slamming down a monster two-handed alley-oop in traffic. Senior forward Mike Popoko, 6-feet-4-inches of effort and energy, fought his way to the rim for second chance points, and gunners Ricky Lucas and Tre Cunningham dissected the Hawks defense off the dribble. Stony Brook led by 20 at the half, 19 with 15:10 left and 17, 44-27, with just 12:38 remaining.

The game was well in hand; break out the champagne bottles and cigars.

And then the horror began. Stony Brook scored just three points the rest of the way, all at the free-throw line, as the Hawks rattled off a 22-3 run to close out the game.

The Seawolves final 16:40 of that fateful eve still stands as the absolute worst stretch of basketball I have ever seen in my entire life. (Keep in mind that I was a first-hand witness to BU’s 73-22 curb-stomping of Hartford, and no where during that monstrosity was there a stretch as bad as Stony Brook’s final 16:40). Every pass into the stands, every back court and shot clock violation, every air ball and drive to no where, was like 1,000 rusty knives stabbing me in my retinas.

With the game clock in single digits, Hartford senior Bo Taylor drove baseline, left-to-right, before hoisting up a contested 12-footer. As the final buzzer rang, Taylor’s jumper settled into the bottom of the net, completing Stony Brook’s epic collapse.

In addition to Vanterpool, the game marked the end of the careers of Seawolves’ seniors Popoko and Solomon Bamiro, who, along with red-shirt junior Mitchell Beauford and assistant coach Dan Rickard, were the lone holdovers and final connections to the Nick Macarchuk era and the 2004 quarterfinal upset of top-ranked Boston University (a team that had won 23 of its last 24 and gone 17-1 in league play), which still stands as the greatest single victory in school history.

Several hours after the game, a post game meal at the Sunset Cantina, and a slow drive back over the BU Bridge into Cambridge, my Grand Prix rattled over pothole strewn Edwin H Land Boulevard in the no man’s land that resembles a post-apocalyptic dystopia near the mouth of the Charles River. There were the Seawolves, still wearing their red and white warmups in the shadows cast by the lonely parking lot lights outside of the Royal Sonesta hotel, waiting to board their bus, as if trying to blow out of Dodge under the cover of darkness.

At the time, I thought Pikiell wasn’t long for the league. How little I knew back then. (more…)

Wes Cole goes ballistic from behind the arc, breaks program record while leading Hartford to 69-51 win over UMass Lowell

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
Hartford guard Wes Cole (Right) . OBW file photo / Sam Perkins

Hartford guard Wes Cole (Right) . OBW file photo / Sam Perkins

After Vermont and Stony Brook – the usual suspects in the battle for America East supremacy and two teams that have put considerable distance between themselves and the rest of the pack – no team in the “AE” entered Monday hotter than the UMass Lowell River Hawks.

Ineligible for post season play for four years as part of their NCAA-sanctioned “transitional” period, the River Hawks were all but unanimously relegated to the bottom of the America East barrel by fans and prognosticators alike before the opening tip-off of their inaugural Division I season. But after losing their first 11 Division I games of the season, Lowell caught fire. Powered by heart, hustle, effort and energy, the River Hawks rattled off three straight conference wins, downing UMBC, Binghamton and defending tournament champion Albany and nearly knocking off Stony Brook at Pritchard Gymnasium – the most hostile of road environments – before falling by five.

Hartford, on the other hand, began Monday as one of the bigger disappointments in the conference. It wasn’t that the Hawks were playing poorly, but rather, they were the same ball-reversal, ball-reversal, ball-reversal, contested-3 at the end of the shot clock, team they were last year. Solidly upper-middle of the America East pack (aided by perhaps the worst collective crop of teams in league history), Hartford hadn’t taken the step up to true contender that many had predicted.

40 minutes of game time later, and it was the original America East Hawks who were flying high and the new birds on the block whose wings were clipped, as Hartford downed UMass Lowell in a 69-51 wire-to-wire win.

The story of the day was Hartford junior Wes Cole, who exploded for a career-high 30 points by drilling a 10-of-20 3-pointers to set a new program record. Cole’s 10 3-pointers broke former Hawk Joe Zeglinski’s previous record of nine set against New Hampshire in February of 2008. Cole’s eruption trails only Gary Bossert, who drilled 12 for Niagra in 1987, and T.J. Sorrentine, who buried 11 for Vermont in 2002, for the most in a single game in conference history.

“Joe Zeglinski’s one of the best players to ever play here and to break one of his records, it’s pretty cool,” said Cole after the game.

Cole’s 20 attempts trails only former Northeastern Husky Marcus Barnes, who bombed away 21 times against Vermont in 2004, for the most in America East history.

Hartford out-rebounded the River Hawks 38-30, out-shot Lowell 41.9 percent from the floor to 36.7 percent, and drilled 14 3-pointers to Lowell’s six. Hartford registered the resounding win despite playing without two starters in junior forward Nate Sikma and sophomore guard Evan Cooper, who were each dealing with leg injuries. In their absence, junior guard Corban Wroe stepped up. Known as a defensive stopper, Wroe scored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds. Reserve senior forward Oren Faulk added eight rebounds off the bench. (more…)

Same as it ever was: Hartford isn’t bad; it just isn’t any better than last year

Monday, January 13th, 2014
Hartford forward Mark Nwakamma looks for room against Stony Brook. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Hartford forward Mark Nwakamma looks for room against Stony Brook. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

(West Hartford, Conn.) — Hartford forward Mark Nwakamma sat quietly in his chair, a glazed-over look in his eyes as he stared downwards towards his shoe tops.

10 minutes earlier, the final buzzer had cut through the hollow air hanging over a glum Chase Arena. Hours earlier, the Hartford Hawks, playing on their home court, had raced out to a 20-10 lead over America East power Stony Brook. Hartford was running and gunning, hitting on all cylinders with a partisan behind it and a chance to make a statement entering league play.

Instead, the Hawks came unglued and the visiting Seawolves landed one haymaker after the next, KO-ing the hosts 63-30 the rest of the way, to register a 73-50 win.

One of the smartest and most eloquent players in the league – always meeting tough questions head on, with deep and thoughtful responses – Nwakamma was uncharacteristically quiet, sticking to short answers and avoiding eye-contact, before being excused by his head coach two questions into the press conference.

“You just saw Mark; they’re in shock,” said Hartford head coach John Gallagher after the game. “That’s a team that thought they should win that game up 10 and we did not handle the lead well.”

The always quotable Gallagher – a constant tornado of confidence, excitement and outspoken energy during his tenure in Hartford – was unusually soft spoken following the loss, but remained steadfast in his faith in his team.

“I think great things can still happen, I really do, what you have to do is just keep working at it.”

From the outside looking in, it’s hard to share the head coach’s enthusiasm. (more…)

Weathering the storm: Stony Brook survives opening onslaught, trounces Hartford 73-50

Monday, January 13th, 2014
Stony Brook center Jameel Warney goes to work on Hartford power forward Mark Nwakamma in the first half of the Seawolves' 73-50 win over the host Hawks. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Stony Brook center Jameel Warney goes to work on Hartford power forward Mark Nwakamma in the first half of the Seawolves’ 73-50 win over the host Hawks. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

(West Hartford, Conn) — The last time the Stony Brook Seawolves traveled to West Hartford, it turned into a polar trek through a blinding blizzard worthy of the likes of Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

By the time the weather-worn and road weary Seawolves arrived in Chase Family Arena last Feb. after being stranded along a back road thanks to a broken down bus in the middle of whiteout conditions, they barely had the legs to stand for 40 minutes, let alone play a basketball game, and fell 60-55 to the host Hawks.

On their return to Chase on Sunday, the Seawolves had to survive a storm of a different kind: the swirling defense and opening avalanche of shots that Harford nearly buried them with out of the opening tip. Stony Brook fell behind 7-0 to start the game, 12-3 with 13:19 left in the first half and 20-10 with just over eight-minutes remaining in the opening period.

But the Seawolves weathered the storm and outscored Hartford 63-30 the rest of the way en route to a 73-50 romp to move to 2-0 in conference play.

“I thought we played well tonight – great energy,” said Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell.

“For this game, in general, you just gotta’ tip your hat to Stony Brook in the second half,” said Hartford head coach John Gallgher. “That was as good a second half as I’ve seen them play, so you just have to tip your hat to them.”

After a sluggish start, Stony Brook shot 69.2 percent in the second half (18-of-26) to finish at 57.1 percent on the night (28-of-49) and 41.7 percent from behind the arc (5-of-12). The Seawolves dominated the post, out-rebounding Hartford 33-18 and outscoring the Hawks 40-16 in the paint.

“I was us, really. Once we settled down and got a shot up we were fine,” said Pikiell. “I liked our energy, I liked our depth, we got the ball inside to Jameel when we wanted to, Dave [Coley] was great on both ends of the floor.”

The Seawolves seemingly accomplished the impossible, doubling Hartford power forward and leading scorer Mark Nwakamma on every touch, while also contesting virtually every Hawks’ perimeter shot. Nwakamma, who entered the averaging nearly 17 points per contest and shooting 54 percent from the floor, was held to just 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting and the Hawks shot just 29.6 percent from behind the arc (8-of-27).

Senior guard Dave Coley led the way for Stony Brook, scoring 15 of his game-high 20 points in the second half en route to an 8-of-13 night from the floor. With starting point guard Anthony Jackson suspended for the game for what was deemed a “violation of team rules,” Coley picked up the slack running the offense, dishing out a career-high seven assists, while also pulling down six rebounds and swiping two steals. (more…)

Hawks’ present, future, takes hits with the loss of two players

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Hartford’s four-man 2013 recruiting class has shrunk to two, as center Yasin Kolo, a sophomore transfer, and freshman wing Preston Anderson have both been removed from the Hawk’s roster and have left the team.

Kolo, a 6’10” 245-pounder transferred in to Hartford from Eastern Carolina this summer and received an NCAA waiver to play immediately. After seeing limited minutes in the Hawks first two games of the season, he enjoyed a breakout performance in the Hawk’s 63-53 win over Fairfield on Nov. 13, exploding for a career-high 20 points in 31 minutes, hitting 6-of-8 shots and 3-of-4 from behind the arc.

A native of Germany, Kolo cracked double-figures in scoring and played double-digit minutes in each of the next two games and seemed to be the perfect compliment to play besides bruising and bouncy star power forward Mark Nwakamma. However, Kolo’s playing time tailed off, as he was relegated to five and nine minutes in losses to Hofstra and Holy Cross, respectively, before being suspended indefinitely for what head coach John Gallagher described as “a pattern of behavior,” and not an isolated incident. (more…)

Hartford frosh Dougal Weir’s redshirt plans scrapped

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

When Hartford freshman center Dougal Weir set foot on campus in West Hartford this summer, the ground may well have literally shook.

To say the native of Sydney, Australia, is a mountain of a man is a massive understatement: Standing close to six foot ten and tipping the scales north of 260-pounds, with broad shoulders, a barrel chest and a massive neck, Weir is his own pick on the basketball court.

But the former Rugby player-turned hooper was raw and rough around the edges and was headed down the road of a red-shirt freshman while he learned the finer nuances of the game.

But Weir’s path took an abrupt left turn on Saturday, as he threw bows for 16 minutes of game action battling against the towering frontcourt of Yale in the Hawks’ 54-49 home loss.

Weir’s sudden activation coincided with the indefinite suspension for 6’10” transfer center Yasin Kolo and many who follow the Hartford program have looked to make the connection between the two. Certainly, facing off against the Bulldogs’ vaunted frontcourt without the services of Kolo, Hartford could use all the help they could get.

However, according to Hartford head coach John Gallagher, the reason that Weir was activated and plans for a red-shirt season were shelved were because of, well, Weir. More specifically, the impact the freshman has been making in practice. (more…)

Hartford’s Kolo, Maine’s Pollard, serve suspensions

Monday, December 2nd, 2013
Maine junior point guard Xavier Pollard scored a career-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting and a perfect 5-of-5 from the line. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Maine junior point guard Xavier Pollard scored a career-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting and a perfect 5-of-5 from the line. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Over the weekend, both Hartford sophomore center Yasin Kolo and Maine junior point guard Xavier Pollard sat out, serving team mandated suspensions for what, in both cases, was termed a “violation of team rules.”

Pollard should be back in uniform when the Black Bears take the floor Wednesday at NJIT; Kolo will not be on the sidelines when Hartford visits La Salle on Wednesday or when the Hawks host Holy Cross on Saturday.

It could be a while before he returns to the court.

The term “violation of team rules,” is used as a blanket term to cover a cornucopia of transgressions from the miniscule, like skipping a study session, to things like cheating on a test, skipping practice, mouthing off to coaches, mailing it in during games, disrupting the locker room, the major (we’ll leave that to your imagination).

Pollard has played in only two Division I games thus far, missing two contests due to a lower back/hip injury suffered after playing nine minutes against Division III Fischer. In his limited time on the court, he has been a marvel, averaging 15 points and 3.3 assists while shooting 58 percent from the floor.

Maine hasn’t issued an official release on Pollard, other than to say it was a one-game team-mandated suspension and that he will be back. Sources close to the situation have indicated that Pollard remains in great standing both with his teammates, as a student and as a member of the University of Maine community, which, reading between the lines would indicate that whatever his transgression may have been, it was pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. (more…)

OBW America East preseason predictions: #4 Hartford

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Projected starting lineup:

Hartford forward Mark Nwakamma. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Hartford forward Mark Nwakamma. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

G – Yolonzo Moore II, Jr., 6’2” 175
G – Evan Cooper, Soph, 6’ 180
G – Corban Wroe, Jr., 6’2” 195
F – Nate Sikma, Jr., 6’7” 235
F – Mark Nwakamma, Jr. 6’6” 235

Head coach John Gallagher’s brash and exuberant demeanor on the sidelines and in press conferences might not make him friends among basketball traditionalists or rival coaches. But it has motivated his players to give more of themselves – in effort, energy and intensity – in practices and in games, and fostered more camaraderie and loyalty than perhaps any other team in the league.

Two years ago, in Gallagher’s second season at Hartford’s helm, the incredibly young and inexperienced Hawks opened the season losing their first 13 games. Most teams would have checked out and quit, but Gallagher kept fighting for his team and in return they kept fighting for him. It paid off, as the Hawks caught fire down the stretch, advancing all the way to the America East semifinals – a double-overtime thriller in which they came up just short against eventual tournament champion Vermont.

That 2011-2012 season was a trial by fire for the freshman class, which included Mark Nwakamma, Nate Sikma, Yolonzo Moore II, Corban Wroe and Jamie Schneck. The trio suffered losses and faced adversity in a way they never had before. But they grew from it, forming the foundation to build a program on.

Last year, the Hawks made the jump from upset-minded underdog towards the top of the conference. They still played incredibly hard, but now they had a burgeoning star and the ability to ignite from behind the arc.

Now, they’re looking to make the leap to the top of the conference.

In theory, Gallagher’s scheme of relying on ball movement and pounding the ball in to Mark Nwakamma on the blocks to open up “naked three’s” on the perimeter to account for the team’s offensive output is sound. The Hawks sacrifice offensive rebounds and second chance points to be able to get back on defense and not get beat in transition.

But, in reality, the Hawks roster has yet to prove it has the shooters needed to sustain an offense that revolves almost solely around volume shooting from behind the arc. Furthermore, they have yet to show any “break glass in case of emergency” plan for when the three’s aren’t falling and/or Nwakamma isn’t on the floor due to fouls. Both of these issues proved to be their undoing in the post season last season, with heavy underdog UMBC taking it to the Hawks around the hoop while Hartford was unable to find water despite falling out of a boat from behind the arc.

Hartford is either going to need their shooters to take the leap from catching lightening in a bottle to consistent (Gallagher’s hope), or adjust to a system that uses their tremendous ball movement to generate offense going towards the basket instead of on the perimeter.

Either way, they need Nwakamma to stay on the floor. (more…)