By Vin Parise
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In the midst of NFL football and Jets Mania, we have already completed two months of the college basketball season and conference play is officially underway. In an off-season we’ll never forget, there were eight head coaching changes in the metropolitan area. Here’s a little Mid-Term Progress Report to catch you up on how the locals with new coaches are doing —
St. John’s – Steve Lavin
Steve Lavin has the buzz back at St. John’s and this will really help NYC basketball in the long run. The Red Storm are 10-4 overall and are 3-1 in Big East conference play. Ever since this team lost to Fordham and St. Bonaventure back to back; they’ve been playing terrific basketball. In Lavin’s first Big East game – the Red Storm won at West Virginia against Bob Huggins. This senior laden team has really responded to Lavin and the coaching staff. This was an off-season concern because the team liked ex-coach Norm Roberts so much. But the staff has really worked out…..Dunlap is a great tactician….Hinds has the NBA respect factor with the players….and Tony Chiles and Mo Hicks really get along with these NY kids…..and does it get any better when Gene Keady is helping out with your program!
Big Win – no question was last week when the Red Storm beat #13 Georgetown at MSG. The Garden has not been that loud for a St. John’s game in a long time.
Local Recruiting Splash – Lavin is going to most likely sign the largest class in the country – and the majority of the class is national and from all over the map–mostly because Lavin is such a big name across the country. But local signee Maurice Harkless from Queens is the cream of the crop. A local Big East coach (not at St. John’s) recently told me that Harkless looks like a pro right now with the way he’s playing.
Seton Hall – Kevin Willard
The Pirates are 7-9 overall and are 1-3 in Big East play. Seton Hall won their first conference game vs South Florida, then lost a road swing at Cincinnati/Louisville and then recently dropped a close one over the weekend to Syracuse at home. A nice bright spot has been Fuquan Edwin who has already been honored as Big East Rookie of the Week.
Overall, it’s been rough for Kevin Willard off the court since taking over last March. Herb Pope, who was the best rebounder in the Big East last year, collapsed and nearly died in a coma over the summer after a routine workout. He is currently playing but is only 65-70% of what he was last season. Then, sharpshooter and all conference guard Jeremy Hazell broke his hand 3 weeks into the season. However, Hazell is seeing the hand specialist today and there is still a possibility he can play Wednesday night at DePaul. The Pirates then travel to Pitt and then come home to play G’Town. How big is that January 22nd game vs Rutgers going to be! Pirate fans just need to be patient and Willard will have this program rolling. Rick Pitino disciples do not fail and Pitino has repeatedly stated Willard is the next Billy Donovan.
Big Win – In November, Seton Hall beat Alabama from the SEC who is now 9-6 overall.
Local Recruiting Splash – Freddie Wilson from New Haven, CT – Wilson can really shoot the basketball and is a great on the ball defender.
Rutgers – Mike Rice
Rutgers is 9-5 overall and 7-1 at the RAC. The Scarlet Knights are coming off their first Big East win under Mike Rice. They played great defense and held Providence to 30% shooting to beat the Friars at home Saturday night. One thing Mike Rice can do is coach defense. Opponents are only shooting 38% for the year against them and they’ve played North Carolina, Villanova and Marquette already.
Big Win – Early in the season they beat Miami from the ACC at home by 16 in a convincing win. That win brought the buzz back to the RAC this year for the fans. Miami has a chance to finish middle of the pack in the ACC this year.
Local Recruiting Splash – Quadruple Order! – Kadeem Jack from NYC, Derrick Randall from Brooklyn, Myles Mack from St. Anthony’s in Jersey and Mike Taylor from Boys and Girls in Brooklyn. Personally, I’m a big fan of Mike Taylor.
Hofstra – Mo Cassara
The Pride are 10-5 overall – 4-0 in CAA – 1st place. They’re playing good basketball right now including a big one over the weekend at Northeastern. Charles Jenkins is 4th in the nation in scoring. He recently had 32 points against George Mason – 20 points in the 2nd half alone. It’s hard to argue that Jenkins is the best all around guard in the metropolitan area.
Big Win – This past weekend’s game at Northeastern.
Local Recruiting Splash – Malik Nichols – Boys and Girls. Transferred to Boys and Girls this year after avg 22ppg at Hillcrest as a junior.
Iona – Tim Cluess
The Gaels are hot at 10-6 overall and 4-1 in MAAC play. Besides Fairfield, Iona is easily playing the best basketball in the MAAC right now. After starting out 0-3, including a loss to Bryant – the Gaels have won 10 out of their last 13. Michael Glover is playing tremendous. Either Glover or Jenkins from Hofstra will be the MET Player of the Year. Glover averages 21 points and 10 rebounds on the regular.
Big Win – They beat Richmond from the A-10 the week before Richmond beat #9 Purdue.
Local Recruiting Splash – Isaiah Williams – 6’7 wing from the Robinson School in New Jersey is a big time get. Williams chose Iona while fielding offers from DePaul and South Florida from the Big East.
Fordham – Tom Pecora
The Rams are 6-7 overall and 0-1 in conference play. The A-10 always starts conference play late. Brenton Butler and Chris Gatson are both playing well, averaging nearly 30 ppg combined. Gatson is shooting 50 percent from the field as a foward.
Big Win – St. John’s at home. Reporters that were there said it was the loudest Rose Hill has been in a long time. Older Fordham alumni had tears in their eyes when the students rushed the court – they’ve been waiting a long time for a night like that.
Local Recruiting Splash – A Double Order! — Jeff Short from John F. Kennedy and Devon McMillan from Lincoln HS.
Wagner – Danny Hurley
The Seahawks are 8-7 overall – 4-0 in conference. They are the hottest team in the NEC right now. Hurley’s crew only lost at St. John’s by 8 early in the season.
Big Win – Recently won at Quinnipiac which is a huge win. And then followed that with a Robert Morris win as well.
Local Recruiting Splash – Signed Mario Moody from East Orange Campus in Jersey. Moody is a long, athletic 6’7 forward.
St. Francis-NY – Glenn Braccia
The Terriers lost at the buzzer this weekend to Bryant to drop to 7-18 and 2-2 in NEC play. Ricky Cadell can really play. He scored 28 points when this scrappy team lost by only 3 at South Florida early in the season.
Big Win – Beat defending champs Robert Morris in December.
Local Recruiting Splash – Signed Travis Nichols from Brooklyn. Played for PSAL’s Food and Finance in Manhattan. Also, got Ben Mockford, a lefty, Canadian shooter to transfer from Iona.