Tom Moore

Tom Moore Quinnipiac

Eligibility of Quinnipiac junior guard in question after junior college academic scandal (UPDATED)

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Quinnipiac is awaiting word on the eligibility of junior guard Giovanni McLean in-light of the recent academic scandal at Westchester Community College.

According to a report from Jon Alba of Q30 Televisionthe university is reviewing McLean’s academic eligibility in the wake of basketball players from Florida A&M and St. John’s being declared ineligible after the transcript scandal at Westchester.

“We are reviewing the matter and because of privacy concerns for the student, we will not make additional comments at this time,” university Vice President for Public Affairs Lynn Bushnell said in a public statement.

While the school currently won’t comment on the matter directly, it doesn’t look good that McLean will be ruled eligible after Jamell Walker and Damian Davis were ruled ineligible at Florida A&M and Keith Thomas wasn’t cleared at St. John’s. Westchester Community College is dealing with the fallout of fraudulent transcripts.

The 6-foot-1 McLean averaged 16.8 points and 7.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Westchester. The Bobcats were expected to be in the middle of the pack in the MAAC this season, but if McLean is ruled ineligible, their guard depth will take a serious hit.

UPDATE (11/3, 7:22 p.m.): According to Lee Higgins of The Journal News,  the NCAA is reviewing McLean’s transcript and an additional statement was released by the school:

“The NCAA has issued a temporary waiver allowing Giovanni McLean to continue his studies at the university for the remainder of the fall semester,” said Lynn Bushnell, vice president for public affairs. “He is, however, prohibited from playing and practicing with the basketball team until the NCAA issues a final decision.”

Siena throws wrench into MAAC race

Steve Masiello
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With just a handful of MAAC regular season games remaining in 2014, it appeared the conference’s top three teams were Iona, Manhattan, and Quinnipiac. However, Siena upset what seemed to be the league’s natural order by defeating the Jaspers, 67-63, dropping Manhattan (13-4 MAAC) to third place and giving Jimmy Patsos his first premier win at the Loudonville-based school.

Steve Masiello’s team should have won this contest; any team that goes to the free throw line for 42 attempts likely should win, but the squad shot a woeful 45.2 percent from the stripe. Combined with a failure to defend the three-point line — the Saints made nearly 40 percent from deep, and Ryan Oliver, a 6-foot-3 guard whose only made 33 percent of his threes this year, converted two crucial bombs in the final minutes — and the Jaspers dropped a game it needed to win if only to keep pace with the Gaels. Manhattan’s final two tilts are against Iona and Canisius, and while both are at home, it isn’t as if the Jaspers can easily close out the rest of MAAC play.

As for the other top two, Iona was leading Rider by double-digits but a veil of disinterest covered the team, and turnovers and lackadaisical defense helped Rider cut the lead to just three before the Gaels pulled out the win. Now 14-2 in MAAC play, Iona hasn’t lost in more than a month, and are the clear favorite for the league tournament’s top seed. The league’s dark horse, though, is Quinnipiac (13-4 MAAC). Arguably the biggest surprise in their first MAAC season, the Bobcats aren’t a great defensive team, but what Tom Moore’s club does well, they really do it well — specifically, grab a ton of their own misses and limit opponents’ additional possessions. St. Francis PA transfer Umar Shannon recently rejoined the lineup, and he could be the difference when the conference converges in Springfield for the city’s final MAAC tourney. Shannon isn’t a threat within the arc but he has the automatic green light from the perimeter: in his first game back, a win against Canisius, Shannon made four of six threes.

UConn hosting “Heart Of A Champion: A Tribute To Jim Calhoun” Sunday evening

Jim Calhoun, Opie Otterstad
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Jim Calhoun, the coach who transformed Connecticut basketball from a decent program in New England to a true national power from 1986 – 2012, will be honored this evening.

Prior to Calhoun’s coming to Connecticut, the school had reached just two NCAA Tournaments since 1967, and were hardly contenders from a national perspective. In his 26 seasons at the helm, however, Calhoun led the Huskies to 18 NCAA Tournaments and three National Championships.

Many former players and coaches will be in attendance, along with avid Husky alumni and fans. During his tenure as coach, Calhoun sent nearly 30 players to the NBA.

Stanley Robinson spoke with Dave Borges of the New Haven Register, and called Calhoun a “father figure” for him.

It isn’t just players that excelled under Calhoun. Many coaches had their careers elevated as a result of assisting Calhoun. Names such as the aforementioned LaFleur (associate head coach at Providence), Moore (head coach at Quinnipiac), Steve Pikiell (head coach at Stony Brook), Kevin Ollie (current coach at Connecticut), Howie Dickenman (head coach at Central Connecticut State), and many others studied under Calhoun.

To give you an idea of just how big a ceremony this will be, Gavin Keefe tweeted out a picture of what Gampel Pavilion, the site of so many memorable moments for Husky basketball under Calhoun’s watch, looks like:

Former St. Francis (PA) guard Umar Shannon picks Quinnipiac
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St. Francis’ (PA) leading scorer last season, Umar Shannon, will use his fifth year of eligibility at Quinnipiac University playing for Tom Moore. Shannon averaged 11.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists under first year head coach Rob Krimmel in a grueling 5-24 season.

Hailing from Atlantic City, NJ, Shannon also considered Fairfield, Canisius, Hofstra and Albany, according to William Paxton. Ultimately, Shannon chose to be a Bobcat over fellow in-state school Fairfield since Quinnipiac affords him the opportunity to complete his master’s degree in one year; Fairfield does not offer any one year programs.

As is becoming customary in the age of social media, Shannon announced his decision to transfer to Quinnipiac in a short and direct tweet:



As a junior at St. Francis (PA), Shannon was poised to have a big season after averaging 15.8 points as a sophomore. He netted 26 points in the Red Flash’s opening game against Virginia Commonwealth, but tore his ACL prior to their second game of the season against Lafayette.

Shannon graduated from St. Francis (PA), and will be able to play immediately for Tom Moore. With Quinnipiac graduating their starting point guard and perhaps best player, Dave Johnson, Shannon will help fill the void in the backcourt.

As Quinnipiac makes the transition from the NEC to the MAAC—a definite step-up in terms of competition—having a veteran presence in their lineup will certainly help.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

One to watch: Ike Azotam

photo: Quinnipiac Athletics
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It’s a tough year for hoops in the Nutmeg State. The Connecticut Huskies, just two years out from a stunning national title run, have been gutted by APR problems, banned from postseason play and losing top players as a result.

That doesn’t mean the state has nothing to look forward to, however. Quinnipiac made a strong move toward local and national relevance in 2007, when they hired a rising UConn assistant by the name of Tom Moore. Moore’s progress at the small school in Hamden is a study in institutional patience. The school provided Moore with a cozy new facility — the 3,000-ish capacity TD Banknorth Sports Center — and he did the rest, recruiting well and turning the Bobcats into annual NEC contenders. Moore recently signed a contract extension that will allow the noble experiment to continue.

One of Moore’s greatest weapons is Ike Azotam, a 230-lb. junior from Boston who has blossomed into a legitimate double-double threat early in his career. Azotam has attracted some attention this summer, being named a starter at power forward for the Connecticut Hoops Dream Team alongside three Huskies, and tabbed as one of the best players in the NEC by league aficionados.

Azotam’s biggest question mark is maturity. He was arrested along with teammate James Johnson following a September 2011 fight on the Quinnipiac campus, but was allowed to play the entire basketball season, posting averages of 15.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and one block per game. For the Bobcats to take the next big step — a first-ever NCAA tournament berth — Azotam must not only play up to his potential on the court, but begin to show signs of upperclassman leadership off the court.

Moore and Qunnipiac will need Azotam in top form if they’re to unseat Long Island as the reigning NEC champs, and hold off the rising Wagner Seahawks. That makes Azotam (@NoMikeJustIke on twitter) one to watch.