When news broke last month that LIU Brooklyn senior forward Julian Boyd re-tore his ACL, the prevailing thought was that Jack Perri’s Blackbirds had enough options remaining in the front court to make a run at their fourth straight trip to the NCAA tournament. The best case scenario for Boyd would be to return to the lineup in January, and at full strength he’s clearly one of the best players in the Northeast Conference (Boyd won NEC Player of the Year honors in 2012).
But with there being no guarantee that Boyd will be ready by then, the last thing the Blackbirds needed was another injury to a member of their front court. Unfortunately that has happened, as it was first reported by Nelson Castillo of Blackbird Hoops Journal that 6-foot-7 freshman forward Nura Zanna is out for the year with a hand injury. According to the report Zanna suffered the injury during a pickup game, hitting his hand awkwardly on the backboard while blocking a shot.
Sophomore E.J. Reed was expected to lead the way for the Blackbirds prior to Zanna’s injury, so that much won’t change. Reed earned NEC All-Rookie Team honors last season, as he posted averages of 7.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in just over 19 minutes of action per game. With the injuries and the graduation of four starters including NEC Player of the Year Jamal Olasewere and All-NEC guard C.J. Garner, Reed will figure prominently in the Blackbirds’ plans in the front court with one of the nation’s best point guards in Jason Brickman running the show.
The question now is who steps up to assist Reed, with relief in the form of Boyd not coming until the start of conference play. In a story by Ryan Peters of Big Apple Buckets, Perri mentioned junior college transfer Landon Atterberry as the player who’s stepped up in practices thus far:
“I would say Landon Atterberry has been clearly my next best front court guy (after Reed),” said Perri. “He’s athletic, he’s got great hands which is important with (Jason) Brickman, because he catches everything and he can finish around the basket. I’m excited about where Landon is right now, and I think he can certainly help us.”
Another junior college transfer, Chris Carter, and freshman Glenn Feidanga are also expected to be heard from as the Blackbirds look to sort things out ahead of their season opener on November 9 against Saint Peter’s. And given the many health issues LIU’s had to deal with thus far, it would be hard to fault any Blackbird fans who will keep their fingers crossed with the hope that no one else goes down during the preseason.