Posts Tagged ‘John Gallagher’

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…)

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

Overview:
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…)

Goodbye and Good Luck, Glowiak

Monday, August 12th, 2013

“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone.

I guess I just miss my friend.” – ‘Red’ Redding, The Shawshank Redemption

Glowiak-Blue

After nearly a decade at Hartford, Brian Glowiak (left) is moving on. Photo by Sam Perkins

Some players leave a lasting impression on the America East – the rims remain swaying and floorboards quaking long after they have stepped off the hardwood, peeled off their jersey and hung up their sneakers for the last time.

Some people leave a lasting impact, imprinting themselves on your soul. When they move on to bigger and better things, they leave behind a void in your life, and the league, that can never fully be filled again; the dimly lit arenas are that much emptier, and the back roads that connect them that much more desolate, in their absence.

From purely a basketball standpoint, Brian Glowiak is one of the most forgettable players I have ever watched in the America East.

In his four-year career, which spanned from 2004 through 2008, Glowiak appeared in 118 games but started just 13. His career averages of 3.7 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.8 assists don’t even merit a footnote in the America East record books. He never cracked 20 points in a game, topping out at 15 a handful of times.

When ranking America East basketball players in terms of athleticism and physical skill, Brian Glowiak ranks somewhere near the bottom. At a listed 6’3”, Glowiak might not have been able to jump over a phone book or outrun a city bus driving in reverse. He was the stereotypical, forgettable, tough-as-nails, cerebral coach’s son and perennial gym rat that litter the ends of rotations in small conference hoops. But there have only been a handful of players to come through the America East who were as fierce a competitor, loved the game as much, or left as much of themselves on the court.

There have been fewer still who had his character off the court. (more…)

Some America East musings on a rain-soaked day

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

It’s been raining dogs and cats (and black bears and Great White Sharks and just about an other manner of animal and fish you can think of) over Massachusetts for what seems like a month (pretty sure I saw an arc getting swept down my street by a tidal wave the other day).

But while the roiling black skies have been raging along the northeast, the America East (and the college basketball world as a whole) is relaxing in the eye of the storm. Other than a late-straggler signing or speculation about the future (of players, programs and conferences), the league is in a down period, with players putting in grueling work far from the spotlight in the work in empty, sweaty, echo-filled gyms.

So you’ll excuse me if I stare out my rain-battered window and daydream — muse, rant and ramble — about the America East: (more…)

Refuse to Lose

Sunday, March 10th, 2013
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UMBC head coach and the Retrievers bench exploded when senior guard Brian Neller drilled a dagger-three with 1:16 remaining to seal sixth-seeded UMBC’s upset win over three-seed Hartford (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Albany, New York) – With 1:13 remaining, UMBC head coach Aki Thomas knelt on the edge of the court, pumped both his fists and let out a mighty roar that rose above the din of the crowd and ricocheted off the far walls of SEFCU Arena.

For the better part of a decade, emotional outbursts – tantrums, tirades and all manner of explosions – emanating from the Retrievers head coach have been common place on the UMBC sidelines.

But nothing like this.

Two days earlier, Thomas had been signed to a one-year contract and named the Retriever’s head coach, after spending the previous season – his first at the helm in Catonsville – wearing the “interim” tag. Now, he watched from the sidelines as senior sniper Brian Neller’s sixth three pointer of the night, a back-breaker from the right corner, found nothing but the bottom of the net, sealing the sixth-seeded Retrievers 69-62 upset of third-seed Hartford in the America East Tournament Quarterfinals.

What followed was a moment of pure euphoria and unadulterated joy. The Retrievers bench – downtrodden and defeated for the previous three seasons – followed their coach’s lead, leaping in excitement, embracing one another and bellowing towards the rafters.

“It’s never really been too much about me, it’s always been about the players and I always knew I was going to be okay. It’s always been for them – they’re the one that have been doing three tough seasons,” said Thomas after the game.

UMBC senior guards Ryan Cook and Brian Neller flat-out refused to watch their careers end on Saturday afternoon, willing the Retrievers to their first America East Tournament victory in four years. Playing in what could have been the final game of their careers, the duo put their team on their backs and combined for 44 points on 15-of-26 shooting.

Cook, who began his college career as a Division II walk-on before walking-on to his home-town team as a junior, was everywhere, pouring in a game-high 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting while playing frenetic defense. The 6’2” senior scored from everywhere on the court – step back jumpers, dizzying drives to the bucket, post-up hoops in the paint, while making one hustle play after the next. Cook single-handedly rattled off a 12-0 second half run, turning an eight-point deficit into a four-point lead. (more…)

Post Season Awards: OBW Coach of the Year

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Several America East coaches carried themselves with character, class and grace while doing terrific jobs steering their programs this season. It’s hard not to go with the head coach of the most dominant regular-season team of the past several years. It’s hard not to go with a coach whose team arguably played as hard as any team we’ve seen in America East ever. It’s hard not to go with coaches who we think are making strong early steps to turning struggling programs around, or a coach that overcame a significant offseason talent drain to put together a team that was arguably better than the year before.

But in the end, every America East coach had the benefit of greeting their teams each day with a reminder of the same goal being contested by every other team. Every coach had that same mountaintop to point towards – except for one who did not. (more…)

Numbers lie, Effort Doesn’t

Monday, March 4th, 2013
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Nate Sikma watches, along with the capacity crowd at Patrick Gymnasium, as his three-pointer at the buzzer hangs in the air. Sikma’s shot found the bottom of the net, giving the Hawks a 61-58 win (Photo by Sam Perkins).

(Burlington, VT) – The saying goes that numbers don’t lie, but on a cold Sunday in The Green Mountain State, they did just that.

In nearly every statistical category, host Vermont pasted visiting Hartford: The Catamounts out-rebounded the Hawks by a staggering 20 boards, 34-14, while outscoring Hartford 28-10 in the paint and 27-18 off the bench. Vermont outshot Hartford from the floor (50 percent to 43.9 percent), outscored them in second-chance and fast-break points while taking seven more free throws than the Hawks, who were whistled for 10 more fouls.

But when sophomore forward Nate Sikma’s pick-and-pop three from the left corner found the bottom of the net as the final buzzer echoed off of the back wall of Patrick Gymnasium – a shot that survived the ensuing official review – it was Hartford who walked off the court the 61-58 winner.

Toughness, effort and energy – along with dead-eye sharpshooting from behind the arc – proved to be the great equalizer for the Hawks, who snapped a 15 game losing streak against the Catamounts with their first victory over Vermont since 2006.

“They flat out beat us tonight,” said Vermont forward Luke Apfeld, “They just came out and kind of took it to us on our home court.”

“If you have toughness and energy, if you have those two you can win a lot of games,” said third-year Hartford head coach John Gallagher, whose team improved to 17-10 on the season and 10-6 in conference play.

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Hawks simply played harder for longer than the comatose Catamounts, out-hustling Vermont to loose-balls, getting under the Catamounts’ skin in scrums and flustering and frustrating Vermont’s offense with frenetic D: The Catamounts committed 20 turnovers to just seven assists.

“They were tougher than us across the board today and the turnovers were a clear indicator of that,” said Apfeld.

Playing the majority of the game without star forward and go-to scorer Mark Nwakamma, the Hawks buried 12 three’s while shooting a blistering 48 percent from behind the arc (12-of-25).

“We have toughness; we find ways to win,” said Gallagher. “We’re a program now – we’re much more than just one player.” (more…)

Lucky and Good

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Sponsored by John Templeton and Big Apple Buckets: Big Apple Buckets covers mid-major basketball in and around New York City with an analytical slant. You can also check out their Mid-Major Podcast on iTunes.

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Hartford sophomore forward Mark Nwakamma poured in 23 points in the Hawks 60-55 win over first place Stony Brook on Sunday. It was Nwakamma’s third straight game of 20 or more points (Photo by Sam Perkins)

(West Hartford, CT) – The saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good. On Sunday, the University of Hartford Hawks were both.

The Hawks executed their game plan to perfection down the stretch, sophomore forward Mark Nwakamma played a near perfect game and Hartford got an assist from the perfect storm to knock off the first place Stony Brook 60-55. The Hawks rode blistering shooting, relentless effort, stifling defense, and their horse in Nwakamma, to erase a nine-point second half deficit and end a nine game losing streak against the Seawolves.

“It’s just a great quality win and speaks to the strides these players have been committed to since they’ve gotten here,” said Hartford head coach John Gallagher.

“Give credit to Hartford; they played well for 40 minutes tonight. They made shots, and we didn’t play enough defense or make our free throws tonight,” said Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell. “They played better for 40 minutes, and they deserved to win.”

Nwakamma poured in a game-high 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting, his third straight game of 22 or more points, to go with six rebounds and two assists. The 6’6” sophomore put the Hawks on his back, blowing past double teams while carrying his team in the clutch. After a 5-0 Stony Brook run put the Seawolves up 45-44 with just under eight minutes remaining, Nwakamma responded seven straight points, staking Hartford to a 51-46 lead they would not relinquish.

Hartford shot 51.1 percent from the floor (23-of-45) and 43.5 percent from downtown (10-of-23), while holding Stony Brook to 44 percent from the floor (22-of-50) and just 18.2 percent from three (2-of-11). Hartford weathered the Seawolves storm in the first half, with Stony Brook shooting a blistering 53.8 percent (14-of-26) to go into the locker room leading 33-27. Hartford regrouped and held Stony Brook to just 33.3-percent from the floor (8-of-24) after the intermission, while shooting an unconscious 60 percent from the field (12-of-20) including a ridiculous 63.6 percent from downtown (7-of-11).

The Hawks were out-rebounded 32-25, and beaten badly on second chance points (16-4) and points in the paint (40-16). But the Hawks turned the tide on the defensive end, turning15 Seawolves turnovers into 18 points. Hartford also outscored Stony Brook 22-8 in bench points.

Freshman point guard Evan Cooper came off the bench to score 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-6 from downtown, for Hartford, to go along with two assists and two steals. Sophomore forward Nate Sikma added nine points, hitting 3-of-6 treys. Sophomore guard Yolonzo Moore II and graduate-transfer forward John Peterson added six points apiece.

Stony Brook was led by sensational freshman center Jameel Warney, who continues to look the part of not simply the Rookie of the Year, but quite possibly the conference Player of the Year. Warney shrugged off constant double-teams to pour in 21 points while ripping down a game-high nine rebounds. The 6’8” 250 pound center has emerged as the best America East freshman big since the legendary Taylor Coppenrath and on Sunday was completely unstoppable whenever he got the ball in his hands, hitting 9-of-11 shots while committing a lone turnover. (more…)