Rider wastes no time, promotes Kevin Baggett to head coach

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The news that Tommy Dempsey was leaving Rider to take over at Binghamton, who went 2-29 last season, surprised many who follow college basketball in the northeast.

But that surprise didn’t prohibit Rider from acting quickly in finding a replacement for Dempsey. In fact, athletic director Don Harnum didn’t even have to leave campus to find his man.

Thursday morning the school announced that associate head coach Kevin Baggett would be promoted to head coach with a press conference coming next Wednesday.

It’s the culmination of a 16-year journey for Baggett, who played at Saint Joseph’s and held positions on staffs at five schools prior to arriving in Lawrenceville in 2006.

“I will be forever grateful to President Rozanski, Associate Vice President Debbie Stasolla and our Athletic Director Don Harnum for giving me the opportunity to become Rider’s next head men’s basketball coach,” said Baggett in a statement released by the school.

“I am looking forward to building on the tradition and success that has been established here at Rider and I am eager and excited to get started.”

Hiring a familiar face could benefit Rider on the court, as the Broncs will need their returnees to step up with the likes of Novar Gadson and Jeff Jones moving on.

There’s also St. John’s transfer Nurideen Lindsey, who will be eligible at the end of the fall semester.

Baggett’s promotion prove most beneficial for forward Daniel Stewart, who averaged 11.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season after winning MAAC Rookie of the Year in 2011.

Baggett has worked with the likes of Jason Thompson and Mike Ringgold while at Rider, and Stewart has a chance to be one of the best players in the MAAC next season.

The one question that remains answering for the Rider program: can they get over the hump and into the NCAA tournament?

While last year’s team was a disappointment the Broncs do own the third-best winning percentage in MAAC play since joining the conference in 1998.

Only Iona and Siena have been better, but those two (along with others such as Loyola (MD), Niagara and Saint Peter’s) have been able to reach the Big Dance. Is Baggett the guy who can get that done? Only time will tell.

Photo credit: Peter G. Borg/Rider University

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two¬†appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?