LIU Brooklyn Athletics

Nura Zanna injury makes LIU Brooklyn’s front court rotation even thinner

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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.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.