VIDEO: Vermont’s Josh Speidel honored at Purdue

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When Josh Speidel made his commitment to play for John Becker at Vermont, he was expected to be a significant contributor upon his arrival. However tragedy struck in February, as Speidel suffered a major head injury in a car accident. While the rehabilitation process has been a difficult one for Speidel, he has remained a part of the program he committed to joining while in high school.

And that commitment goes both ways with Vermont doing everything they can to make sure Josh is part of the program, from weekly phone calls to even sending him film to study. And thanks to a waiver granted by the NCAA, Vermont was allowed to have Speidel on the bench with them as they took on No. 23 Purdue at Mackey Arena.

Speidel, who played at Columbus North (Indiana) HS and was an AAU teammate of Purdue’s Ryan Cline and Grant Weatherford, was honored prior to the game by Purdue. Per a source, Vermont did not know of Purdue’s plans to honor Speidel before the game until about an hour before tip when Purdue coach Matt Painter informed the team.

Cline and Weatherford led their teammates over to greet Speidel on the court, and the student section chanted Josh’s name.

Vermont’s Ernie Duncan discussed the opportunity to have Speidel on the bench, as well as his emotions as Purdue’s players greeted Speidel before the game, with Nathan Baird of the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Ernie Duncan, who scored 18 points in the 107-79 Purdue victory. “To have him around the guys and feel like he’s a part of our team is a great thing. When I saw what Purdue did to come over and hug him — it brought tears to my eyes.”

Vermont has and will continue to honor Josh’s scholarship. With Speidel continuing to make progress in his recovery, hopefully it won’t be long before he’s able to make the trip to Burlington to watch his teammates play a home game.

Video credit: RTV6 The Indy Channel

Vermont loses freshman guard for the season

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Vermont brought in a freshman class of six players who were expected to contribute nearly immediately, but the Catamounts lost a key member of that class to injury this week as the school announced that guard Ernie Duncan would be out for the rest of the season.

The 6-foot-3 Duncan only played 56 minutes this season and hasn’t played since Nov. 26.

According to a story from Alex Abrami of the Free Press, Vermont’s athletic medicine services director, Allison Shepard, spoke on Duncan’s injury.

“Ernie Duncan will not return to the basketball court this season due to a complex back issue,” Shepard said.

“After several consults with the specialists and extensive diagnostic imagery, we feel it best to take this step in order to give Ernie the best chance for a complete recovery.”

Vermont head coach John Becker also commented on Duncan being lost for the year. The guard will also likely redshirt and have four years left.

“The best thing for Ernie is that we shut him down for the season and get him fully healthy,” Becker said. “I think he was relieved quite frankly. It’s been a lot on him and really been a roller-coaster since he got here in June with the back issue.

“Although he is disappointed he’s not out there helping his teammates, I think he’s excited to be able to get healthy and have a full four years of basketball here at Vermont.”

Vermont is 4-4 on the season and 1-0 in the America East. Duncan was averaging 3.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game this season. He was viewed as an impact recruit in the league and will hopefully be healthy for next season for Vermont.

Stony Brook hangs on against Vermont, moves to 6-0 in America East

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With the top two teams in the America East doing battle, it should come as no surprise that this one came down to the final possessions.

What may have been a surprise, however, is Stony Brook relinquishing a 17 point lead with 16 minutes remaining, and nearly giving the game away at the end with missed free throws. Vermont had three three-point opportunities in the final 16 seconds, but none would fall; the final effort by Ethan O’Day clanked off the rim.

Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell will be happy with this win, but probably not satisfied. He will have left the floor tonight breathing a sigh of relief, not pounding his chest. When he watches the game tape from the second half, he will find the staunch defense that Stony Brook threw at Vermont in the first half suddenly evaporated.

All that said, he just beat Vermont — the only other undefeated team in the league. As such, is there such thing as an ugly or bad win?

The Catamounts trailed 50-33 when the under 16 media timeout hit, but went on a quick 13-0 run over roughly a five minute stretch to close the gap. Ethan O’Day caught fire, scoring on four consecutive possessions to bring the deficit within single-digits.

Give the Seawolves credit, however; they didn’t flinch. A Jameel Warney layup and consecutive three-pointers by Anthony Jackson pushed the lead up to nine. While Vermont would continue to make runs, they never got over the hump and took the lead — Stony Brook never folded.

Pikiell and Vermont head coach John Becker wouldn’t tell you this, but their teams are — far and away — the two best teams in the league. Albany and Hartford are both solid and will challenge, but are a notch below.

These two America East juggernauts won’t meet again until late February in Burlington. The Seawolves held serve at home, but heading north is never easy, where they haven’t come away with a win since the 2009-10 season.