Category Archives: Basketball

A Return Home

by Sean Begin

When Obie Nwadike took the phone call that would bring him home, he was still dressed in the green and white of the Wagner Seahawks.

Nwadike was on Grymes Hill in Staten Island, working to get the Wagner men’s basketball team ready for another year, fresh off helping them to a 19-12 finish and second place in the Northeast Conference.

That didn’t change Nwadike’s decision, though, when Central Connecticut’s head coach, Howie Dickenman, called and offered him a spot as an assistant coach.

“It was absolutely a no-brainer,” says the 29-year-old from Jersey City, New Jersey on his decision to return to his college alma mater.

Nwadike sits behind the desk in the office that he seems to still be settling into, dressed in a blue, long-sleeve Blue Devils shirt and workout pants.

“To come back here, I mean, what better place to coach, hopefully have success and teach guys at a place I’m very comfortable with. Probably the best four years of my life happened at Central Connecticut State,” Nwadike said.

Nwadike was a starting forward on the 2006-07 team that stormed through the NEC with a 16-2 record en route to Central’s third March Madness appearance ever.

After he graduated, Nwadike played in Europe for four years before returning to his high school alma mater to serve as an assistant coach there. Last season, his first with Wagner, saw him return to the court at Detrick Gym for the first time since graduation.

“Everyone understood the magnitude of the situation. I was here to coach a game and win a game,” Nwadike said of his return, and of facing his former coach. “But knowing what this place meant to me, it was a little awkward.”

Now Nwadike is working with Dickenman instead of against him, preparing the men’s team for another long season, a men’s team that Dickenman called his most experienced since Nwadike’s took the floor eight years ago.

“This season is going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” Nwadike said. “For me the biggest thing I’ve preached to these guys is camaraderie, togetherness, enjoying the process, understanding the process, believing in what we’re trying to do.”

Part of that message is written in dry-erase marker on a white board across from his desk: “The pressure is not on us to perform, the pressure is on us to prepare.”

“It’s something that I got from a coach I played for in Europe. That one stuck with me,” said Nwadike. “I played for a lot of tough coaches but the one thing I always remember was being prepared.”

For Nwadike, it was preparedness that allowed him and the team’s he played on to find success, from his AAU travel teams in New Jersey to St. Anthony’s (his high school) to here in New Britain.

“Performing should be the easy part,” he said. “It’ll still be a challenge but going into games we should feel comfortable because we’ve prepared. If you go in prepared it makes it easier to perform.”

Nwadike was the first assistant coach hired by Dickenman during the offseason when Dickenman – who, like Nwadike, coaches at his alma mater – replaced his entire staff.

And while Nwadike worked with Malcolm McMillan and the other guards when he first got here in the summer, he takes pride in the work he’s done with the forwards on the team.

“My love is with the bigs because that’s what I was,” Nwadike said. “As important as a point guard is, a shooting guard is, a wing forward is, rebounding that basketball, controlling the paint, wins games, wins championships.”

Nwadike knows that last fact from experience. It was defense and rebounding that Nwadike credits for his team’s run through the NEC in 2007, something he knows Central will need to improve upon as it looks to repeat that feat this season.

Last year, Central was outrebounded in nearly every contest and gave up over 77 points a game, third-worst in the conference behind LIU-Brooklyn and Mount St. Mary’s.

And so it’s defense and rebounding that Nwadike, Dickenman and the rest of the coaching staff have been preaching in every practice all offseason.

“I know with our bigs we’ve got the talent,” Nwadike remarked before acknowledging, “we’re not rebounding as well as I’d like yet but I do see us making strides and getting better.”

It’s something that will come by studying the game film of every opponent and player they’re set to face, part of the preparation he’s been pushing on the players.

“With our guys it’s about understanding the opponent, understanding what you can do and understanding what they’re trying to do defensively and what we can do offensively,” explained Nwadike.

On Friday, Nwadike sat on the Central bench once again, at the CT6 Classic hosted at Quinnipiac University, as the Blue Devils prepared to face Fairfield to open the season. And like he has before every game, as both a player and even more so as a coach, he felt nervous.

“As a player I always felt I could do something about [the game] physically. If I had a bad first half I can do something about it,” he explained. “I can make a play, I can get a rebound, I can defend my man as tough as I could.”

“With coaching,” he adds, “all you can really do is see, visualize, point, tell and help. It’s tough because sometimes you see something but you can’t physically go out there and do it. So you hope the kid is understanding.”

Despite the nervousness he feels before each game and the challenges facing him, Dickenman and the rest of the team heading into the season, Nwadike is just glad to be back where he belongs.

“This is where I learned so much about basketball. I went here a young boy and I left here a man,” Nwadike said. “This place had a great impact on me. Not only on the basketball court. This place really felt like home.”

Basketball Opens Season With Loss to Fairfield

by Sean Begin

Despite coming out on the losing end, the opening game Friday night of the 2-14-15 basketball season was not a disappointment for Howie Dickenman.

“I’m really pleased with our effort. I thought we battled for 40 minutes,” said Dickenman following Central Connecticut’s 71-63 loss to Fairfield University Friday night. “Not the result we wanted but proud of the energy, proud of the enthusiasm.”

Friday’s game was the opening contest of the annual CT6 Classic held every year between Central, Fairfield, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart, Hartford and Yale. Last year Central fell to Yale in the opener.

Dickenman had been stressing rebounding and defense all preseason long and despite being outrebounded 41-35, they allowed fewer points against Fairfield than they were averaging last season.

“I thought we battled. I thought out defense in the second half was a little better in the zone than it was in the man-to-man,” said Dickenman. “We were much more aggressive.”

Part of the aggressive came from sophomore guard Matt Mobley, who spent most of the game driving to the basket and drawing fouls from Fairfield. Mobley visited the free throw line 12 times on Friday, hitting 11 of his attempts.

“That was the plan. I tried to stay aggressive,” Mobley said after the game. “Coach told me to attack the basket, so I did, knocked down some free throws and that helped my game.”

Mobley was 8-for-17 from the floor including 3-for-6 from three-point range, totaling 30 points to lead the Blue Devils. Adding three rebounds and an assist along the way.

“He had a good loosey-goosey practice yesterday and I think it carried over,” said Dickenman of his young player’s performance.

Dickenman stressed driving to the basket for Mobley and fellow sophomore guard Khalen Cumberlander this season to take advantage of their free throw shooting.

The early success bodes well for Mobley’s confidence heading forward.

“Yeah, definitely, it gives me a lot more confidence now,” said Mobley. “Just kind of help me get going into the season, hopefully I can play like this for the rest of the season.”

While Mobley shot well for the night, others struggled to find their rhythm. Senior guard Malcolm McMillan hit just one shot on the night, a three-pointer late in the second half that closed Fairfield’s lead at the time to two-points.

“Malcolm had a tough night. But he handled the ball pretty well,” said Dickenman. “Brandon Peel wasn’t himself. He seemed very tentative. I’m not sure why but we’ll get him going. I’d like to see him get 11-12 shots.”

Peel, a junior forward, looks to be an important key not only defensively and on the boards, but on the offense as well.

He shot just 2-for-6 Friday but brought in nine rebounds, tied for the team high with senior Faronte Drakeford, who was the only Blue Devil besides Mobley to break double digits scoring.

Central had several stretches in the game that kept them close or gave them an edge. They opened with a 8-0 run that forced Fairfield to call a timeout and switch to a full-court press defense in an attempt to break Central’s hot streak. It worked.

Then down by as much as 13 in the second, Central stormed back to pull within two before Fairfield pulled away for the win.

“I think that might be a trademark of our team, never quitting,” said Dickenman. “We came up a little short [tonight] but we didn’t let it get away from us.”

Central lost to Maryland Monday night and next return to the court when they play Towson Friday evening.

Central Narrowly Edges Vermont in Overtime

by Sean Begin

The win last Tuesday night for the women’s basketball team wasn’t as easy to finish as it was to start.

Despite jumping out to an early 14-1 lead over Vermont, the Blue Devils needed overtime and a last-second shot by senior center Amanda Harrington to secure the 77-75 victory, the team’s second overtime win this season.

“I missed the first one but my only thought was get the rebound and get it back in; I have to get it,” said Harrington after the game of what was going through her head.

After Vermont’s Kayla Burchill hit a three-pointer to tie the game 75 with 10 seconds left to play in overtime, Piper called a timeout to set up a play for her team. Harrington was fed the ball on an inbounds pass and swung around for the layup.

The ball bounced off the iron right back at Harrington, who recovered her miss and put it through on her second attempt to give Central (3-2) the win.

“The Vermont kids played so hard and made some really, really big plays when they needed to make big plays and that’s just so tough for them,” said head coach Beryl Piper. “But our kid we’re able to get it done and make the plays that they needed to make.”

Central opened the game with four different players recording a basket before junior forward Nicole Ferguson hit back-to-back threes to push the early Blue Devil lead to 14-1. But the Catamounts (0-4) battled back and scored the final six points to go into the locker room at halftime down only 31-27.

In the second half, Central had as big as a 10-point lead with less than ten minutes to play. But an eight-point run by Vermont pulled them within two with just under seven to go, until they finally took the lead with 2:39 on a free throw, eventually tying the game the same way to send it to overtime.

“We needed to make plays in the end and try not to foul because we made some boneheaded fouls in the game,” said Piper. “And we were able to do that. We had a group of kids on the floor in the end that were able to get it done for us.”

Central faced foul trouble early and often, with five players recording two fouls in the first half. Both junior forward Tejahne Malone and junior guard Kayla Miller fouled out in the game. Harrington, who had been forced to the bench after her fourth foul, re-entered soon after, when Malone fouled out.

Harrington played the rest of the second half and all of overtime with four fouls, maintaining steady defense in the paint and not drawing any fouls.

“[I tired] not to let the person get the ball initially so I wouldn’t have to worry about the foul. And then just help over without swinging, staying straight up, just trying not to foul out,” said Harrington.

Central was helped in the game by big performances from Ferguson and redshirt-freshman guard Lauren Wolosik, who led the team with 17 points. Ferguson took only six shots Tuesday night but hit four of them, all from three-point range, including one early in overtime with a Vermont player in her face.

Wolosik, who is coming off of ACL surgery, struggled to find her shot in the first four games of the season, going just 3-for-26 from the floor. But on Tuesday she hit seven of her 14 shots, including a three and two free throws.

“She’s been busting her butt,” said Harrington of Wolosik. “She’s been working as hard as she could every day to make sure she doesn’t fall behind because of the knee, so it’s good for us to have her back.”

“She’s done so many other things well for us except for scoring, so it was just kind of her getting back into rhythm,” added Piper. “It was really great for her to have a great game tonight.”

Central was helped by their depth in the game against Vermont. After losing 47 percent of their offense when their seniors graduated, there’s no clear-cut scorer for the Blue Devils.

“It’s not like we have one or two go-to players, everyones a contributor to the team and that’s what we go off of,” said Harrington. “If we can get everybody to play and play well, we’ll be fine.”

“It’s nice to go to the bench and kids are going to be able to make the plays when we have to. And I think the more minutes those kids can get the better we’re going to be,” said Piper. “So it was really nice to be able to weather the storm with all our kids in foul trouble. But we have to stop fouling. We foul way too much.”

The Blue Devils next take the court in Detrick Gym tonight at 7 p.m when they face the University of Maine.

Oh, Donald Sterling

by Sean Begin and Navindra Persaud

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling cast a dark shadow upon his team with racially charged remarks that he allegedly made, as first reported by TMZ.

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” said the man alleged to be Sterling in the audio clip.

The comments were recorded by Sterling’s then-girlfriend and mistress, V. Stiviano, who is currently being sued for almost $2 million by Sterling’s wife for embezzlement.

Sterling also referred to NBA legend and former Los Angeles guard Magic Johnson in his comments. It was a photo of Johnson and Stiviano on her Instagram that sparked Sterling’s comments.

“Don’t put him [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me.  And don’t bring him to my games.”

In response to these remarks Johnson responded on Twitter saying “I feel sorry for my friends Coach Doc Rivers and Chris Paul that they have to work for a man that feels that way about African-Americans.”

Johnson has said he and his wife will no longer be attending Clippers games in the future while Sterling remains owner.

These comments have naturally caused outrage amongst people involved with the NBA on every level, from owners and executives to players and the media who cover the sport.

The irony in this all is that Sterling is the owner of the Clippers whose entire success has been thanks to the players and coaches on the team, who are predominantly black. The NBA itself is an African-American dominant league, with over 70 percent of its players identifying as black.

If indeed the investigation proves that Sterling did make these comments (his side claims they are not him), he does not deserve to have a place in the league let alone own a team.

LeBron James, who is arguably the face of the NBA the same way Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan before him, spoke on the matter after his teams win over the Bobcats.

“I’ve wavered back and forth if I would actually sit out, if our owner came out and said the things that he said. I would really have to sit down with my teammates, talk to my family, because at the end of the day, our family and our teammates are way more important than that. But there’s no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There’s no room for him.”

It is easy to understand the frustration that Clippers players and others around the league have and the mental battle that they face having to decide whether they should play for an owner who would allegedly make such callous statements.

It was refreshing to hear that the Clippers continued to participate in Sunday’s game despite the remarks allegedly made by Sterling. Their silent protest came during the pregame shoot around, when they left their warm-ups at center court and wore regular red t-shirts. The Clippers fell to the Warriors 118-97, evening the series at two games each.

The entire scenario seemed to weigh heavy on the players during the game. There seemed to be a dark cloud hanging over the team. As the starters sat on the bench for the remainder of the day there was a look of utter despair.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a public statement calling the audio recordings disturbing and stating that the NBA will work to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible.  Silver said that he would not discuss any moves towards punishment because all members of the NBA do in fact have a due process to state their side of the story.

Silver is just three months on the job, after taking over for David Stern, who served as commissioner for 30 years before retiring in January. This incident is an immediate test of his ability to exert control over the 30 owners who voted him in as commissioner.

What needs to be answered his why the league failed to acknowledge or sanction Sterling for his prior racist and actions and comments. The uproar now is justified but could have easily been avoided had owners made a stand previously. But since the Clippers for years were the laughing stock of the NBA, his actions were pushed aside and ignored.

Well, that cannot and will not be ignored any longer.

Even Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and notorious fence rider, condemned the comments Sterling made. The owners will have no choice but to try and force Sterling from his ownership. His comments are, after all, bad for business. And, for better or worse, money does talk. As of Monday evening, more than half a dozen companies had withdrawn their corporate sponsorship with the Clippers.

Its clear Sterling has no place in the league anymore. What’s clearer is Sterling shouldn’t have had a place in the league for years though. But when you consider the people who also own NBA teams – guys like Cavalier’s owner Dan Gilbert who made millions in mortgages while the economy collapsed or Magic owner Richard DeVos who has dumped millions of dollars into anti-gay marriage initiatives – you see a fraternity that has hidden on of their members.

While the words and attitudes expressed by Sterling are horrible and contemptible, it is not the first time his racism has surfaced nor is this nearly the most racist thing Sterling has done.

Sterling was sued by the federal government for housing discrimination back in 2003 with documents of his testimony surfacing in 2006. In those documents, Sterling said black people attract vermin and had no place living in his housing. He settled out of court, reportedly in the largest settlement in history over discrimination.

So while what Sterling said is reprehensible, this outrage should have surfaced over a decade ago. Housing discrimination can lead to incredible levels of violence: see Chicago in 2014, where people die every day over land and territory with little education or opportunity.

It’s time for Sterling to go, but its time for everyone to look at the larger problems, for once, and try and solve them, rather than lose their cool over some unsurprising comments made by an 81-year-old man.

Charlotte Shows Fight Against Defending Champs

By Navindra Persaud

The Miami Heat managed to hold off a fighting Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the NBA Playoffs Sunday, defeating them 99-88. The Bobcats, however, showed clear signs that the have the ability to take control in opening minutes, which could be threatening to the reigning NBA Champions.

Not only were the Miami Heat outrebounded but they also may have gotten a little help on the officiating end as the Bobcats had 12 free throw attempts while the Heat had 26, most of which came from, you guessed it, Heat guard Lebron James.

Charlotte, who have now fallen to the Heat a total of 17 times in a row, managed to out rebound the heat 44-38 in the game despite an injury sustained by their center Al Jefferson. Most of Miami’s rebounds came from center Chris Anderson and James who combined for 19 of Miami’s 38 boards.

Jefferson did return to the game and put together some quality minutes. He is quite capable of generating points in the paint and being a he defensive presence as well. He averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds this season and managed to score 18 points and grab 10 rebounds through 35 minutes, the majority of which were played with a plantar fasciitis injury.

The Bobcats also got help on the offensive end from guard Kemba Walker who provided 20 points, dished six assists and grabbed five rebounds. Walker provided not only offense but also a spark on the Bobcats that they seemed to ride as the game went on. Guard Gary Neal also provided 17 points and forward Josh McRoberts added 15 points and seven rebounds.

“We did some really good things today,” Walker said in an Associated Press interview. “We just have to keep executing throughout the game. We can’t get rattled.”

Clearly the Bobcats offense was clicking. However, the fact that the Heat got to the free throw line much more often is the major factor in their win over Charlotte. They were allotted more trips to the line providing an advantage to earn easy points. Perhaps this could be prevented if the Bobcats didn’t turn the ball over 13 times versus the Heats seven total.

The numbers are simple and the Bobcats should know exactly what adjustments they need to make. Jefferson told the Associated Press he does not plan on sitting out and should hopefully be able to fight through his injury to help the Bobcats win.

They will also need to find a way to neutralize Miami guard Dwayne Wade who, despite only playing 28 games out of precaution by the Heat, came back absolutely strong, finishing with 23 points and going 10-of-16 from the field and adding five assists.

Wades ability to penetrate the defense and get inside the paint for high percentage shots has always been key to the Miami Heat’s success prior to the arrival of James but when they both take the court the Bobcats need to figure out how to stop both from scoring rather than just concentrating on one of them.

Jefferson took care of Miami center Chris Bosh in the paint, holding Bosh to just four rebounds in the entire game. Bosh’s offense was also limited but he managed to score 13 points.

The pieces are there for the Bobcats and after a few minor adjustments fans should be prepared for a fight from Charlotte, who are making the playoffs for just the second time of the 10 years the franchise has been in the league.