2013-2014 America East Preview: Stony Brook breaks through

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Dave Coley (AP photo)

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click hereTo see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Dating back to 2003, Albany and Vermont have owned the America East — Albany has won the league championship three times and Vermont five times. The Catamounts’ momentum was built by Tom Brennan and continued by Mike Lonergan and now John Becker. Will Brown has championed the effort at Albany taking them from obscurity to respectability at the mid-major level.

For the past few seasons though, Stony Brook has been on the verge of bucking the trend. Steve Pikiell has been tantalizingly close two of the last three seasons losing in the league championship game, but the Seawolves finally get over the hurdle in 2014. Featuring the league’s top player and last year’s Rookie of the Year Jameel Warner in the frontcourt and the veteran presence of Dave Coley and Anthony Jackson in the backcourt, Pikiell has a solid core. Finding a way to replace Tommy Brenton, however, will be an early season challenge.

Vermont is nearly on par with Stony Brook as they have the top senior class in the league consisting of Clancy Rugg, Brian Voelkel, and Sandro Carissimo. The Catamounts Achilles heel will be at point guard, once again, and whether Carissimo is able to effectively run it. While a solid and tough player, he isn’t a true PG, and often times Voelkel becomes the de facto point guard.

One of the youngest teams in the country a season ago, Hartford emerged as an elite team in the America East, and will only be stronger this season as they return virtually everyone from a team that finished 17-14 and 10-6 in the league. The inside – outside play of Mark Nwakamma on the interior and Wes Cole, Nate Sikma, and Yolonzo Moore on the perimeter is deadly.

Relegated to the basement in recent years, Binghamton will be vastly improved in 2013-14. They bring back Robert Mansell (14.0 ppg in 2011-12) who sat out last season injured, Fordham transfer Rayner Moquette is at full-go after missing the second half of last season, and return last year’s Rookie of the Year Jordan Reed. Expect the Bearcats to make a big jump in year two of the Tommy Dempsey era.

REALIGNMENT MOVES

In: Massachusetts Lowell (Northeast-10, DII)
Out: Boston University (Patriot League)

PRESEASON AMERICA EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jameel Warney, Stony Brook

Warney (12.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg), only a sophomore, feasted on America East competition last year, and figures to do the same this season. At 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds, he has the size of a defensive end, but skills of a smooth forward. With Tommy Brenton having graduated, Warney will own the paint this season for the Seawolves.

FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • Jordan Reed, Binghamton: Rising sophomore guard Jordan Reed is a bright spot for a Binghamton program that has had plenty of blemishes lately. As a freshman, Reed averaged 16.6 ppg and 9.5 rpg.
  • Mark Nwakamma, Hartford: Under-recruited coming out of high school, Nwakamma has developed into Hartford’s top player and was a unanimous selection for First Team All-League as a sophomore last season.
  • Brian Voelkel, Vermont: The term “glue guy” is one that is thrown around far too often, but Voelkel fits this description aptly — 6.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.4 spg. He fills up a box score better than anyone.
  • Dave Coley, Stony Brook: One of the toughest on-ball defenders in the league and veteran presence for a young Stony Brook team.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @onebidwonders

PREDICTED FINISH

1) Stony Brook
2) Vermont
3) Hartford
4) Albany
5) Binghamton
6) New Hampshire
7) UMBC
8) Maine
9) UMass Lowell

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.