Thursday, March 26, 2009

PC Has 7 Recruits For 2009-2010 Season

The PC Friars will be adding 7 new players for next season. From what I have heard, Council and Lacy are the best of the bunch. Story via ProJo Sports:

Here is a quick breakdown of how the seven recruits fared this season:

•Kyle Wright, 6-foot-6, Monroe (N.Y.) College. An explosive junior college shooter, this Hartford native may fit Davis’ offensive system better than anyone. He averaged 17.8 points, nearly five rebounds and sank 41 percent of the 94 threes he made for a team that finished one game shy of qualifying for the national JUCO tournament. With a 30-3 record, Monroe dominated teams throughout the East.

•Russ Permenter, 6-9, Temple (Texas) College. This versatile big man is expected to sign with the Friars next month. He is a skilled forward who can stretch his game out to 15 feet or so and averaged 17.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in one of the top JUCO leagues in the country. Temple’s season ended with a loss to Midland College, this year’s national runners-up.

•Johnnie Lacy, 5-10, Notre Dame (Mass.) Prep. Lacy was the highest-ranked piece of PC’s early signing class. He turned down offers from Tennessee and Minnesota. Lacy is very small (160 pounds) but extremely fast and a good passer. He’s capable of playing with Sharaud Curry in a small, fast backcourt. The PC staff will monitor Lacy’s grades until June’s graduation.

•Kadeem Batts, 6-7, McEachern (Ga.) High. Batts anchored the front line on one of the top-five prep teams in Georgia. His team finished 24-4 but was upset in the first round of the state playoffs, despite 14 points and 14 rebounds by the senior forward. Batts’ aggressive nature will be a welcome addition for the Friars.

•James Still, 6-9, Detroit (Mich.) Community School. This slender big man excites Davis because he can run the floor and block shots. Still played on a very bad team that was routinely whacked by some of Detroit’s better teams, but the word ‘upside’ should be permanently attached to his name.

•Duke Mondy, 6-2, Grand Rapids (Mich.) Central Catholic. Combo guard whose team finished 17-5. Mondy had several big scoring games, like in a 35-point outburst in a season-ending loss. Considering PC’s returning stable of guards, Mondy may be a candidate to red-shirt.

•Vincent Council, 6-1, Patterson (N.C.) School. Pure point guard with better size than Lacy or Curry who may end up as the steal of the class. Performed well all season for a loaded prep team that finished 34-3 and included at least 10 Division One prospects. He’s expected to sign with Providence next month.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NIT: URI Defeats Niagara, Will Face Penn State Next

The Rhody Rams took care of Niagara, defeating them 68-62, behind the strong play of Kahiem Seawright and Jimmy Baron. Seawright with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Baron scored 20 for the Rams as well. Next up for URI is Penn State, who is out of the Big 10 and has a record of 23-11 after defeating George Mason yesterday.

Here's a look at the Rams matchups with Penn State:

Rhode Island (Ranks)

Overall Efficiency: .805 (71)
Offensive Efficiency: 112.2 (35)
Defensive Efficiency: 99.2 (129)
Off. Effective FG %: 53.3 (36)
Def. Effective FG%: 50.6 (246)
Off. Turnover %: 18.7 (65)
Def. Turnover %: 20.8 (141)
Off. Rebound %: 37.1 (43)
Def. Rebound %: 67.4 (162)
Off. FT Rate: 34.7 (215)
Def. FT Rate: 33.2 (100)

Penn State (Ranks)

Overall Efficiency: .780 (79)
Offensive Efficiency: 110.0 (56)
Defensive Efficiency: 98.7 (124)
Off. Effective FG %: 51.2 (90)
Def. Effective FG%: 49.5 (182)
Off. Turnover %: 17.3 (18)
Def. Turnover %: 18.4 (291)
Off. Rebound %: 32.3 (193)
Def. Rebound %: 71.9 (20)
Off. FT Rate: 32.6 (276)
Def. FT Rate: 24.3 (4)

URI ranks higher than Penn State, but the two teams are still close enough where this game should be a toss up. Penn State is better on offense than Niagara, but their defense is worse. They are pretty easy to score on, but if the Rams aren't hitting their shots then they might not get too many offensive rebounds, because Penn State is the 20th best defensive rebounding team in the country. The Rams should take their time on offense and make sure they get a good quality shot against a poor defending Penn State team. Penn State is also one of the best teams in the country at not fouling their opposition, so the Rams shouldn't expect to go to the line too much. They might want to drive to the basket more in this game because I'm thinking Penn State will shy away from the contact.

Of course the Rams already defeated Penn State earlier this season; beating them 77-72 in Philadelphia. In that game, URI grabbed only 4 offensive rebounds, but did get to the line 22 times. They shot a respectable 48% from the floor and hit 7 of their 15 threes as well. Jamelle Cornley hurt the Rams in that game with 23 points, but two of Penn State's better players, Talor Battle & Stanley Pringle, combined to shoot just 7 of 25 from the field. I would not expect a repeat performance like that from those two guys, so I think URI might need to have their offense clicking on all cylinders if they want to beat Penn State for a second time this season.

More: URI

Monday, March 16, 2009

PC Friars To Face Miami Hurricanes In NIT

The Friars will get to host Miami in the first round of the NIT because Miami did not want to host the game. Doesn't make sense to me since they will have to pay to send their team to Providence and would probably have made at least some money if they played the game at home. I ain't complaining though.

Here's how the matchup breaks down:

Providence (Ranks)

Overall Efficiency: .778 (80)
Offensive Efficiency: 111.2 (45)
Defensive Efficiency: 99.7 (138)
Off. Effective FG %: 50.9 (100)
Def. Effective FG%: 50.5 (240)
Off. Turnover %: 19.6 (129)
Def. Turnover %: 19.9 (194)
Off. Rebound %: 36.5 (56)
Def. Rebound %: 63.6 (297)
Off. FT Rate: 39.3 (95)
Def. FT Rate: 29.0 (23)

Miami (Ranks)

Overall Efficiency: .876 (40)
Offensive Efficiency: 111.3 (43)
Defensive Efficiency: 93.9 (51)
Off. Effective FG %: 49.4 (152)
Def. Effective FG%: 45.9 (43)
Off. Turnover %: 19.2 (97)
Def. Turnover %: 18.3 (297)
Off. Rebound %: 38.5 (24)
Def. Rebound %: 68.5 (121)
Off. FT Rate: 38.9 (108)
Def. FT Rate: 30.2 (44)

This should be a good matchup between these two teams. They played last year at a neutral site with Miami winning by 6. Most of the players who played in that game are still on each team, but PC now has Shaurad Curry to help them out. Both teams are about equal on offense, but Miami has the better defense. The Friars play at a faster pace than Miami, so whoever dictates the pace of this game will probably win it. I think Jack McClinton is going to absolutely torch PC and could easily put up 30 plus points in this game. Miami is actually a lot better than their record shows. I think if this game was on the road, then PC would lose, but since they are at home then I think they will win this game.

URI To Face Niagara In NIT

The Rhode Island Rams will travel to play Niagara in the first round of the NIT Tournament.

Here's how the matchup breaks down:

Rhode Island (Ranks)

Overall Efficiency: .792 (74)
Offensive Efficiency: 112.3 (37)
Defensive Efficiency: 99.9 (144)
Off. Effective FG %: 53.3 (35)
Def. Effective FG%: 50.9 (255)
Off. Turnover %: 18.3 (57)
Def. Turnover %: 20.8 (142)
Off. Rebound %: 36.8 (50)
Def. Rebound %: 67.6 (155)
Off. FT Rate: 34.7 (216)
Def. FT Rate: 33.4 (104)

Niagara (Ranks)

Overall Efficiency: .807 (70)
Offensive Efficiency: 108.3 (71)
Defensive Efficiency: 95.6 (70)
Off. Effective FG %: 47.7 (223)
Def. Effective FG%: 45.5 (38)
Off. Turnover %: 18.3 (54)
Def. Turnover %: 22.9 (44)
Off. Rebound %: 39.1 (19)
Def. Rebound %: 61.6 (329)
Off. FT Rate: 41.6 (46)
Def. FT Rate: 32.8 (90)

As you can see from the ratings, URI is a better offensive team, while Niagara is better on the defensive end. Niagara big man Benson Egemonye gets to the free throw line a ton, shooting over 6 per game, and he almost shot as many free throws as shots from the floor. He could be a problem down low for URI. Niagara is also 300th in the country in 3-Point shooting, which is good news for the Rams. I expect this team to drive to the basket a lot and dump it down to their big man. I think the Rams can pull this one off if they can play some D and stop Niagara from getting to the hoop. Seawright also needs to stay out of foul trouble against Egemonye. Niagara really only beat two good teams the whole season, Illinois State & Siena, so the Rams should have a great chance of winning.

More: URI

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rocco Baldelli Living Up To Expectations

Rocco Baldelli is living up to and exceeding all the expectations coach Terry Francona had for him coming into spring training, via ProJo Sports:

Terry Francona had watched Rocco Baldelli from afar for years, and heard good things. He was excited when he heard Boston had acquired him. After a few weeks of seeing him in person, he's realized the reviews were selling Baldelli short.

"Guys get injured, channelopathy, whatever, Then you get a chance to see them every day, and realize, like some of the things they can do, and it gets you excited," Francona said. "He hit that double the other day, to left center field, and that ball just jumped off his bat," he said. The Cumberland native looked excellent again Saturday, hitting a single and a double and notching two RBI as the designated hitter in Boston's 9-8 exhibition loss to the Orioles.

The Red Sox signed Baldelli as a right-handed bat off the bench, with the understanding that because of his disease, he would not be able to play consecutive days. When Baldelli joined the team, he may have pushed himself a little too hard, to show his new teammates that he wasn't trying to avoid responsibility or shirk his part by not playing, Francona said.

"When he first came into camp, I think he was really worried about the perception. He's a really good kid, he wanted to do everything," Francona said. The veterans quickly took him aside and let him know they were with him. "I know [Jason] Varitek talked to him, said, 'Hey, we understand,' " Francona said.

Baldelli is hitting .294 with 4 RBI in 17 spring training at-bats. "I do think he's doing really well."

It's still too early to know how much Baldelli will be able to play during the season. Francona is hoping to move up soon to a schedule where Baldelli plays one day, and then pinch hits the next. Playing full games two days in a row may not be in the cards yet. Regardless, the team understands. "I'm hoping that we'll have him a bunch. But if not, we told him, hey, we're willing to bite the bullet here a little bit," Francona said.

More: Rocco Baldelli

Classical Wins RI Boys Division II Basketball Championship

The Purple defended their state title yesterday by destroying Narragansett, congratulations fellas, via High School Game Time:

They had both produced nearly perfect seasons, each winning their respective divisions with a 17-1 record. But only one could leave the court Saturday with the added distinction of being named Rhode Island Interscholastic Division II state champion.

Led by a 22-point effort from tournament MVP Michael Palumbo, the II-North champions successfully defended their title, defeating II-South champion Narragansett, 69-49, in the Division II final of the Credit Union Basketball Championships, yesterday at the Ryan Center.

"This is what I’ve looked forward to all my life," said Palumbo, a junior. "And then doing it, it’s just crazy. Unbelievable."

"Winning back to back -- the second year is unbelievable," agreed Purple coach Todd Keefe. "It’s certainly harder the second year, but it never gets tiring, I can tell you that."

Even though Classical was beating teams by 20 points or more on a regular basis, there was a point late in the season, admits Keefe, when he wasn’t quite sure another title was in the cards for his team.

"I felt like the kids started taking things for granted," he said. "Then we walked into Shea and they knocked us off, and I told them, 'If you guys really want to get through, you’re going to have to buckle down.' "

Buckle down they did. That loss to Shea would be Classical's last, and Saturday the Purple put the finishing touches on yet another championship season.

After trading the lead with Narragansett about a half-dozen times over the first several minutes, Classical took the lead for good, thanks to a driving layup by Palumbo with 9:03 remaining in the first half.

Although the Mariners would threaten to overtake the Purple a few times, the junior guard helped make sure they did not succeed, picking up 17 more points in the second half, including a run of eight at the start of the period.

"Coach just told us to keep doing what we were doing in the second half," Palumbo said. "Then I hit a couple three’s, Ashton (Watkins) started getting to the basket, Lavon (Waite started making some baskets). Everyone just started doing everything a little bit better."

"During the course of the playoffs, (Palumbo) started to play better and better, and he shot the ball extremely well in practice," Keefe said. "We knew they were going to double down on Ashton . . . and we needed somebody else to step up. (Palumbo’s) small in stature, but he turns the corner and gets to the basket. He just makes us a much better team."

Even with the added attention from Narragansett’s defense, Watkins had a nice day for himself, as well, as the 6-foot-5 center finished with 13 points and 17 rebounds, surpassing the 1,000 career mark in both categories.

Junior Jordan Jones contributed 15 points for the Purple, and Waite, Classical’s other senior co-captain, chipped in with 11.

Senior forward Nate Patterson – the Credit Union Player of the Game for Narragansett – finished with 12 points and 6 rebounds for the Mariners. Senior guard Jay Jeannotte netted a team-high 17 points and Brendan Kenny had 12.
More: Classical High School

Friday, March 13, 2009

BC's Rakim Sanders Scores 25 In Win Over Virginia

Pawtucket's own, Rakim Sanders, led the BC Eagles over Virginia in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Sanders also added 7 boards, while shooting 7 0f 11 from the field and 11 of 12 from the line. Rakim has put together a nice sophomore season for the Eagles. BC will now face off against Duke, via ESPN:

Rakim Sanders scored 25 points and Boston College closed the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament with a sluggish 76-63 win over Virginia on Thursday night.

The Eagles (22-10) built a 37-25 lead by halftime and coasted the rest of the way against the ACC's lowest-scoring team. Virginia finished the season 10-18, its worst since a 9-17 record in 1966-67.

Mamadi Diane led the Cavaliers with 24 points, hitting 4 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc, but he had little offensive help. Virginia shot just 37.5 percent (21 of 56) from the field and turned it over 20 times.

Boston College advanced to face No. 9 Duke in the quarterfinals Friday night.

PC Loses to Louisville, Headed To NIT

PC lost to Louisville in the Big East Tournament and I would be shocked to see them make the NCAA Tournament. Most likely they will be headed to the NIT. They are probably better off there anyway.

Here are my thoughts about this game and PC's tournament chances:

- Jeff Xavier please stop shooting the ball. If it wasn't for the fact that Marshon Brooks kept turning the ball over, you wouldn't even be on the court. You shot a couple of the biggest bricks from three I've ever seen in my life. You shot 29.7% from three on the season, so why the hell do you keep shooting?

- The Friars were way too sloppy with the ball and there's no reason for it. They just played dumb with the ball and could have won this game because Louisville did not have their best shooting game.

- I am not overly impressed with Louisville on offense. I still think they aren't that good of a shooting team and will not reach the Final 4. With UConn & Pitt both losing though, it looks like they could wind up being a #1 seed.

- We are going to find out just how much the NCAA committee values 10 Big East conference wins. Whether PC gets in or not, expect there to be people outraged on both sides of the issue. I still think they are probably out, but also getting the short end of the stick, because they played so many great teams. It's hard to beat all of them. For instance, PC is something like 6-12 against the top 100, but that includes 2-7 against the Top 50. If the Friars never played anyone from the top 50 and just played teams from 50-100 they would be 4-5 against those teams. So I think that the overall record isn't important against the top 100, people should just look at the total number of wins, which I believe is 6 and then compare that to the other bubble teams. They still might end up looking worse, but I think that would be a better comparison.

Classical Sneaks Past Scituate, Will Face Narragansett In Division II Basketball Finals

Classical High School survived a big scare from Scituate and will now face Narragansett in the RI Division II Basketball finals, via High School Game Time:

Classical, the reigning Division II champs, avoided an embarrassing upset last night in the Division II Boys Basketball Championships semifinal at CCRI by edging Scituate, 53-49, in overtime. The Purple's Ashton Watkins broke a 49-49 tie with a layup with 31.3 seconds to play in the extra period and Michael Palumbo, the game-high scorer with 17, provided insurance with a pair of free throws with just three seconds remaining. Classical now moves on to play Narragansett in the Division II finals at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Ryan Center.

URI Loses To Duquesne, Headed To NIT

So URI took a big L last night and is definitely headed to the NIT after losing to Duquesne. I don't really have much else to say except that I told you so! This is what happens when you can't play any defense and it's why both PC and URI are headed for the NIT.
More: URI

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Curry & Efejuku Lead Friars Over DePaul, 83-74

Sharaud Curry and Weyinmi Efejuku came up big for the Friars combining for 48 points to lead PC over DePaul, via CBS Sports:

Sharaud Curry scored 25 points and Providence held DePaul without a field goal for nearly 8 minutes to beat the surprising Blue Demons 83-74 in the second round of the Big East tournament Wednesday, enhancing its chances for an NCAA bid.

Eighth-seeded Providence (19-12), needing a good showing to help make its case for an at-large bid, got its first victory in the Big East tourney since 2003. The road gets considerably tougher, though, as the Friars face No. 1 seed and fifth-ranked Louisville in the quarterfinals Thursday.

DePaul's Will Walker and Dar Tucker each had 31 points, the first time two teammates scored more than 30 in a Big East tournament game.

Weyinmi Efejuku scored 23 and Geoff McDermott had eight points and nine rebounds to help give coach Keno Davis his first postseason win as Providence's coach.

The Friars took advantage of the Blue Demons' lack of depth, denying DePaul a field goal for more than 8 minutes in the second half to turn a 62-59 deficit into a 70-62 lead with 3:36 to play.

Walker, who played 40 minutes in each game, matched a career high with his 31 points. But he went almost 13 minutes of the second half without a field goal until he made one of his six 3-pointers with less than 2 minutes to play. Tucker also failed to score for nearly 9 minutes.

Mario Stula was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers for DePaul, which shot 13-for-31 from behind the arc. The Blue Demons (9-24) had defeated Cincinnati for their first conference win of the year in the first round of a tournament expanded to include all 16 teams. They lost 24 games for the first time in their 85 years.

Providence shot 50 percent in the first to half to take a 32-31 lead behind 16 from Curry. DePaul grabbed eight offensive boards in the half but Curry made three 3-pointers down the stretch.

The Blue Demons went up 55-51 with 11:15 left in the game behind two acrobatic drives by Tucker. But the second was the last field goal for the Blue Demons until Walker made his 3 with less than 2 minutes to play. In that span, DePaul, the worst free throw shooting team in the conference, made eight of 14 shots from the line, including going 1-for-2 on a technical foul against Davis at 8:32.

When DePaul went cold, Efejuku and Jeff Xavier picked up their play. Xavier made two of his three 3-pointers and Efejuku scored six points to help make it 72-63.
PC now must go up against Big East regular season champ Louisville tomorrow at noon. Obviously it is a must win game for the Friars, but depending on what happens in other tournaments around the country, a win against Louisville still might not be enough. The best case scenerio for PC is that some of the other bubble teams crash and burn in their conference tournaments, PC beats Louisville, and there are no other bubble teams or worse that win their conference tournaments. However, I think that a win alone against Louisville is not an automatic bid at this point,

More: Providence College

Monday, March 9, 2009

Chris Iannetta Comes Up Big For Team USA

North Providence's own, Chris Iannetta, came up big to help the USA beat Venezuela 6-3 last night in the World Baseball Classic, via ProJo Sports:

Rhode Islanders have more players to root for in the World Baseball Classic than just the Red Sox -- or, in some cases, Yankee -- representatives on the various teams.

Former St. Raphael star Chris Iannetta, now a catcher for the Colorado Rockies, is also on the U.S. team. And on Sunday night, he was the epitome of local boy makes good.

With the bases loaded, no one out, and game tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Iannetta ripped a bases-clearing triple up the gap in right-center field at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, giving the United States a 6-3 lead over Venezuela.

The rally, which began with the U.S. trailing 3-2, started when Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox reached first base on a wild-pitch third strike. Curtis Granderson singled, putting runners on first and second, and back-to-back walks to Adam Dunn and Mark DeRosa tied the score.

Iannetta then untied it with his booming triple, which caromed off the wall.

Classical Advances To RI Division II Basketball Semifinals

Classical defeated West Warwick 75-63 and will now face Scituate in the semifinals on Wednesday night, via High School Game Time:

The dream final between once-beaten Classical and once-beaten Narragansett is two victories from occurring Saturday afternoon at the University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Center.

For it to happen, Classical must beat Scituate on Wednesday night at 8 at CCRI in the semifinals of the Credit Union Division II Boys Basketball Tournament. And Narragansett has to eliminate Coventry in the 6:30 semifinal.

Classical (18-1), the defending champion, defeated West Warwick, 75-63, in the first quarterfinal of a long basketball Sunday. Scituate rolled over Portsmouth, 67-42, in the last quarterfinal.

Coventry (13-7) upset Shea (15-4), 73-51, and Narragansett (18-1) shook off a slow first half and beat Westerly (11-9), 72-57.

Classical seniors Ashton Watkins and Lavon Waite, the only regulars back from the 2008 team, paced the Purple yesterday. Watkins, the center, started strong with six points in about five minutes, but picked up his second personal foul and sat for the rest of the half. Waite, a guard, took over and scored 10 points before the break. Watkins, the 2008 player of the year in Rhode Island, returned for the second half and scored 20 points before sitting down with the rest of the starters with about a minute to play. He finished with 26 points, Waite with 12

“For the most part, we get what we want on offense. It’s a matter of knocking down shots. Having Ashton Watkins helps,” Classical coach Todd Keefe said.

West Warwick senior Richard Lizotte scored 19 points in his high-school finale, but only 6 came in the second half. Freshman guard Max Motroni established himself as a player to watch by scoring 18 points, 15 after the break.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

PC Will Play Winner of Cincinnati-DePaul Game in Big East Tournament

The PC Friars have earned the 8th seed in the Big East tournament and a 1st round bye. PC will then play the winner of the Cincinnati-DePaul game, via ProJo Sports:

Thanks to Syracuse's overtime win at Marquette on Saturday, Providence College will be the eighth seed for this week's Big East Tournament.

PC will play at noon on Wednesday against the winner of the first-round Cincinnati-DePaul game. The Bearcats lost to the Friars twice this season and are coming into New York after losing three straight to end the season, at Syracuse, at South Florida and at home in overtime to Seton Hall.

The PC-Cincy/DePaul winner is matched up against the number one seed in the Big East's quarterfinal round on Thursday. Louisville will be the number one seed if it wins at West Virginia Saturday night. If WVU springs the upset, Pittsburgh is the top seed.

The Friars have encountered major problems in the Big East tourney over the last decade, winning only 1 of their last 10 games.
There are a couple things not working in the Friars favor here. The first is that I'm not sure how much a victory over Cincinnati or DePaul would help them with their at-large bid chances. Obviously beating Cincinnati would be a better win then beating DePaul, but they have already beaten Cincinnati twice, so it really wouldn't add much to their resume to beat them a third time. The other problem is that it is tough to beat the same team three times in one season, so they also have that working against them. The only benefit of beating Cincinnati is that they keep their at-large hopes alive and will then get a shot at #1 seeded Louisville. Wins over Cincinnati and Louisville would make them a lock for the tournament in my mind. Beating Louisville would certainly be a tough task though.

More: Providence College

Weyinmi Efejuku Bringing Strong Play Into Big East Tournament

Weyinmi Efejuku has been on fire lately for PC averaging 24 points a game on 56% shooting in his last 6 games. Weyinmi is hoping that strong play can help him win at MSG for the first time ever, via ProJo Sports:

Like any youngster growing up in Queens, N.Y., with basketball dreams close to his heart, Weyinmi Efejuku always craved the chance to play, and star, at Madison Square Garden. Thus far in Efejuku’s hoops career, those Garden dreams have played out like nightmares. But this week, in perhaps his final chance to play on the Garden’s big stage, Efejuku and his Providence College teammates have an opportunity for their biggest wins of all.

When PC begins play in the Big East Tournament on Wednesday against either Cincinnati or DePaul, its whole season will be on the line. The Friars (18-11) need a win for a chance at an NCAA Tournament bid. Two wins this week will ensure the school’s first bid since 2004 and allow Efejuku to leave the Garden with an everlasting warm feeling in his heart.

"I have never won a basketball game at Madison Square Garden," he said. "I’m going to try to make it so it’s not up to chance. You just want to play as hard as you can. For some of us, this could be our last basketball game. When you think about that, it should be more than enough reason to play as hard as you can for 40 minutes."

Efejuku’s Garden nights have been ugly ones thus far. He nearly played a high school game for Rice High in the building but the game was moved to Fordham University. Efejuku has left the Garden as a loser in all three visits as a Friar. Two came in his sophomore year when St. John’s pinned a 13-point loss on PC and West Virginia won a first-round game in the Big East Tournament. Last season, WVU beat the Friars again, 58-53.

The Efejuku who will lead the Friars back to the Garden this week will be a marked man. For the first time in his career, the 6-foot-4 scoring guard has elevated his play to a dominant level. Over his last six games, Efejuku has averaged 24 points and connected on 56 percent of his shots. During stretches of games against Notre Dame and nationally ranked Pittsburgh and Villanova, he seemingly scored every time he touched the ball.

In PC’s 97-80 loss at Villanova last Thursday, Efejuku did his best Dwyane Wade impression. He sank his first five shots, some in spectacular fashion, in scoring 12 points in the first four minutes of the game. In the second half, he scored 12 straight points to keep a flagging upset bid alive and finished with 29 points.

"It was nothing planned," he said. "Last time we played them I had 20-something in the second half, so this time I felt like I could come out and attack them from the beginning and see how they’ll play me. I just really wanted to set the tone early."

That early tone-setting is now vital for the Friars. For three seasons, previous Providence coach Tim Welsh urged Efejuku to play more aggressively. First-year coach Keno Davis has picked up that refrain, frequently yelling “Go Weyinmi,” when the shot clock is ticking down. "I always looked at him and could see his talent level, and you knew we could see big nights from him," said Davis, "but he’s now in a position to attack the basket more consistently. He has that explosive first step, a next-level first step."

Asked to explain the recent spike in his production, Efejuku seems to finally realize that he can carry the Friars’ offense. "I’m being more aggressive, just with the way I catch the ball and call for the ball," he said. "I’m penetrating, I’m shooting outside and pretty much doing everything I know how to do. Once we get going, it’s hard to stop us."

Pressed further on what he’s thinking with the end of his college career potentially only a few games away, Efejuku spoke about the mental tussle that every scorer copes with. "Sometimes (Davis) wants me to be even more aggressive, but I’m a little hesitant because I don’t like feeling like I’m not getting my teammates involved," he said. "I don’t want to take poor shots, even if three out of four go in. On that fourth shot, I’m thinking, 'Maybe I should’ve passed.' " But in the next breath, Efejuku admits, "Time is ticking. If they’re good shots, you pretty much have to take them."

PC’s entire team has battled the should-I-shoot-or-should-I-pass mental burden this season. Davis emphasizes the 3-point shot, but launching open shots and not forcing bad threes has been a team-wide problem and often leads to costly turnovers. "Weyinmi has learned what we want," said Davis. "I tell everyone: I don’t want anyone second-guessing themselves if they’re attacking the basket."

Through Davis’ urging, Efejuku has embraced his ability to draw fouls and score from the foul line. He attempted only seven shots from the floor in a win at Rutgers but made 15-of-17 free throws and finished with 28 points. He made 9-of-13 free throws at Villanova. "Coach has told me that guys like James Harden (the Arizona State star), he gets to the foul line a lot and that’s what the NBA scouts like about him. Now I’m starting to get to the free-throw line a lot," Efejuku said. "I want to make the referees make a call. More times than not they’re going to call it."

Maybe. In a conference like the Big East, foul calls are famously not made. Bumping and grinding is a way of life. "On one 'charge,' I was held from the free-throw line to the basket," Efejuku said after the Villanova game. "During the game, I’ll have cuts and bruises, but my body hasn’t worn down yet." Instead of wearing down, Efejuku looks like he’s gearing up for what he and the Friars hope will be an overdue Garden party. "It’s a very critical point for all of us seniors," said Efejuku. "We’re trying to get to the [NCAA] tournament. This is the time to do it all."
More: Providence College

URI Loss To UMass Means Winning A-10 Tournament A Must

Since URI lost to UMass yesterday, there is no way they can get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament now without winning the A-10 tournament. UMass always seems to give the Rams trouble and they may have to face the Minutemen again in the A-10 tournament. Right now it looks like URI will play the winner of the UMass-Duquesne game and then may have to square off with Temple if they are victorious. I still don't like the Rams chances of winning the tournament though.

More: URI

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Jon Hope S.A.B. Radio Interview

Check out this S.A.B. interview with Providence's Jon Hope.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Providence Woman Cashed Illegal Tax Refund Check

Wow, what a dope this woman is. I mean it's one thing to cheat on your taxes a little, but it's a whole other thing to make up fake returns. Makes you wonder how many other people across the country are doing this. Good job lady....hope you enjoy your time in the slammer. Via ProJo:

A city woman whom federal prosecutors said cashed an $8,885 fraudulent tax refund check pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges today in United States District Court.

Josefina Lorenzi 47, of Indiana Avenue, Providence, pleaded guilty to submitting a fraudulent claim to the United States Treasury, U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente's office announced. Lorenzi admitted that she schemed to use false tax returns filed in other persons' names, but using her home address, to get illegal refunds, Corrente's office said.

At Lorenzi's plea hearing, Asst. U.S. Attorney Andrew Reich said the government could prove that on Dec. 10 Lorenzi presented an $8,885 tax refund check payable to someone else for a tax return that had been filed fraudulently. A subsequent search of her Indiana Avenue home produced eight additional refund checks worth $22,526, payable to individuals other than Lorenzi, Corrente's office said.

Federal agents determined that 27 other false returns had been filed in names other than Lorenzi's, but using her home address. Those returns were due refunds totaling $113,503.

Between the refund checks Lorenzi cashed, the checks found in her home, a stimulus check for $900 that she had cashed, and the additional refund requests, prosecutors said she had fraudulently sought refunds totaling $150,360.

She faces up to five years in prison and a $250,00 fine. She is scheduled to be sentenced July 24.

Classical High School Favorites In RI Division II Basketball Quarterfinals

Classical, my old high school, is the favorite to win their Quarterfinal matchup with West Warwack... eh I mean West Warwick, yay-yay! Via, HighSchoolGameTime:

The preliminaries of the 2009 Credit Union Boys Basketball Tournament settled, the best teams in Rhode Island will battle each other at CCRI in Warwick for the next six days to earn a trip to the Ryan Center at URI and a chance to play for state championships on March 14.

Here’s a look at the quarterfinalists.

Division II

Classical and Narragansett set out for what could be a showdown between once-beaten teams for the Division II title.

West Warwick (11-8) vs. Classical (17-1)

They meet for the first time since their DII championship game last March. The Wizards earned this QF date by beating Tolman by five in the preliminary. Ashton Watkins, the 2008 player of the year, is having another strong season (17.3) for the Purple. Lavon Waite (14.7), Michael Palumbo (14.4) and Jordan Jones (9.7) are the other scorers. Richard Lizotte (15.2) and Reuben Paygai (10.7) lead WW.

Advantage: Classical

Westerly (11-8) vs. Narragansett (17-1)

The Mariners won three close games at the end of the season, one of them a 68-67 squeaker over Westerly. Their only loss was to Coventry. Jay Jeannottee (22.3) is their leader. Joe Sciro (11.7) leads the Bulldogs’ balanced attack.

Advantage: Narragansett

Coventry (12-7) vs. Shea (15-3)

Coventry lost three of its last four in the regular season but blew out Pilgrim in the prelim. Sean Finnegan (7.5) scored 32 in that one. Trevor DiMicco (15.1 in the top scorer. Shea chased Classical all season behind Malcum Moniz (20.8) and Kelvin Walker (15.5).

Advantage: Shea

Scituate (15-4) vs. Portsmouth (13-5)

Scituate is on a nine-game winning streak. Zach Caron (17.1) is the leading scorer. Portsmouth snapped a three-game losing streak at the end of January and won six of its last seven. Andrew Chrabascz (17.8) leads the Patriots.

Advantage: Scituate

PC's Turnovers, Villanova's Threes Lead To Loss For PC

PC was awful at protecting the ball last night and finished the game with 22 turnovers, which is pretty damn bad. The turnovers along with Villanova making 13 three's are the reason why PC lost the game. I still don't think their offense is an issue, considering that they turned the ball over 22 times and STILL scored 80 points that is pretty damn impressive. Scoring the ball is not the problem for this team, because you should win most of your games when you score 80 points. Obviously they can't turn the ball over like they did in this one and expect to win, but most times they are not that sloppy with the ball. I also thought PC was getting bumped and fouled out on the perimeter a couple times, which caused them to turn the ball over. However, the main problem is still the defense, because they gave up 13 three-pointers and most of them were wide open with nobody around. If they don't start closing out better on the perimeter, then PC could be one and done in the Big East tournament if they draw a good shooting team. They also still give up way to many easy/uncontested buckets down low.

Here's the scoop on the game, via ESPN:

Villanova coach Jay Wright started walkthrough with a pop quiz for senior forward Dwayne Anderson: What made Thursday night unique? "Nothing," Anderson said. "Next game." Nothing unique for these Wildcats? Hardly.

Scottie Reynolds scored 23 points to help Villanova (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP) finish a perfect season at the Pavilion and earn a double-bye in the Big East tournament with a 97-80 victory over Providence.

Anderson's focused, robotic answer was exactly what Wright hoped to hear."We don't think about it, we don't talk about it," Wright said of the milestones. "We really worked hard at not thinking about it and we really count on the seniors for that."

Reynolds hit three clutch 3s for the Wildcats (25-6, 13-5) in the second half that stretched the lead into double digits and pushed back a Providence team that badly needed this win to strengthen its NCAA tournament chances.

The Wildcats will get two extra days' rest, not opening play in the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden until Thursday. "We judge ourselves by where we are in the regular season and in the Big East," Wright said. "What happens in the Big East tournament, what happens in the NCAA tournament, there's so many matchups and things that affect that."

The Wildcats, picked fifth in the Big East coaches' preseason poll, tied a program record with 25 regular-season victories. They didn't lose consecutive games all season and are all but assured of their fifth straight NCAA tournament. "It's not the record, it's how they did it," Wright said. "It's keeping that concentration level."

Weyinmi Efejuku was sensational in stretches for the Friars (18-12, 10-8), finishing with 29 points on 9-for-16 shooting. He scored 12 straight points for them in the second half and kept the upset bid alive. Instead, the Wildcats survived to win their 28th straight game at their on-campus home. "We feel like we have a long way to go to be the best team we can be," Reynolds said.

The loss doesn't necessarily cripple Providence's at-large chances, but it will need to win at least a game or two in New York to feel good about getting picked for the field of 65. "Every time you turn the radio on or turn the TV on, everyone's got their brackets," first-year Providence coach Keno Davis said. "Half the people have us in, half the people have us out. Unless we win the Big East tournament, we'll be sitting there sweating it out."

Anderson scored 19 points, Dante Cunningham shook off a sluggish 4-for-13 start to score 19 and Reggie Redding had a career-high 11 assists for Villanova. The Wildcats had season highs in assists (26) and steals (19) to improve to 13-0 at the Pavilion this season. They had to work to win this one and didn't turn it into a rout until the final minutes. The Wildcats kept up the pressure against the Friars, forced turnovers and converted them into easy baskets.

The turning point came midway through the half when Corey Fisher hit a 3 before scooping the loose ball off a quick turnover and dishing to Reynolds for the easy basket and a 63-51 lead. Reynolds hit his three 3s from there, his final one making it 76-65. They went on a late 13-0 run -- highlighted by a 3 by Stokes -- that had Villanova playing the deep reserves in the final minute. Wright pumped his fist as he sprinted off the court.

Efejuku made his first five shots and scored 12 points in the first four minutes of the game. Then he missed his final four shots of the half. Davis could use three more nights like this one from Efejuku to have any kind of shot at winning the conference tournament. "We're going to the Big East tournament with the idea of winning," Davis said. "If you don't win it, you want to leave your best effort on the court."

After a rare spell of sloppy play late in the first half, Wright was livid and lit into his team during a timeout. Reynolds and Shane Clark hit consecutive 3s coming out of it to make it a 12-point lead, and Stokes hit two 3s in the final minutes to give the Wildcats a 40-34 halftime lead.

More: Providence College

Bubble Watch: Lunardi Says PC In, URI Out...For Now

ESPN Bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, spoke to ProJo about PC's and URI's chance of making the NCAA tournament:

A lot of press people around the country are picking the NCAA field at this point but none is higher profile than ESPN's Joe Lunardi.

ESPN just held a national conference call with Lunardi and was asked by The Journal to give his spin on both PC and URI's chances of getting in the field. His answers won't make many fans around here happy.

Lunardi has the Friars as a 12 seed and one of the final teams in his current bracket. He does not consider URI as all that close to getting in.

"The Pitt win is what is giving (Providence) credibility at the moment," said Lunardi. The unbalanced schedule in the Big East will ultimately keep them out. They played a softer schedule than some other bubble teams and the committee will see that. In my current bracket, Providence and Penn State are the most likely to play their way out."

PC can alter its perception with another major win, such at Villanova Thursday. It's certainly unclear that a 1st round Big East tourney win over Cincinnati or Notre Dame will be enough to not make palms very sweaty for the Friars on Selection Sunday.

Lunardi, who is the radio color man for Saint Joseph's and usually gives serious props to the Atlantic 10, is not hot on the Rams even though Rhody is one of the hottest teams in the country.

"To continue my lack of love for the basketball fans of Rhode Island, I think this talk for URI is a little bit over-blown," he said. "I'm not seeing a team that with their RPI and schedule strength and with best wins being Dayton at home and Penn State on a neutral court. I think they're an NIT team unless they get really, really deep in the A-10 tournament. Rhode Island has done a good job of coming really, really close against tournament teams and I don't think it's a good year for the Atlantic 10 or URI."

Even so, Lunardi is leaving the possibility open for the Rams to win the A-10 tournament and join Xavier and Dayton in the field. "Dayton isn't very good away from home and Xavier is not playing its best basketball so the possibility of Rhode Island, Temple or Saint Joseph's to win is very real," he said.
Comments: Seems like the Rams are not going to get an at-large bid unless they reach the finals of the A-10 tournament. That is not a surprise since I have been saying that for a few weeks now. They just didn't play a good enough schedule and have enough big wins to beat out some other teams. It's not entirely impossible that URI could win the A-10 tournament, but I don't think it will be easy. I could see them losing to a St. Joe's or Temple team before they even get to Dayton & Xavier.

For PC, it seems like they have a better chance to make the tournament, but will have to win at least two games in the Big East tournament at this point, which means most likely they will have to beat one of the top 4 teams in their second game, which won't be an easy task.

Also, check out the updated Bubble Watch, via ESPN, that was updated before PC's loss to Villanova last night:

Providence [18-11 (10-7), RPI: 69, SOS: 56] The Friars haven't played since winning 73-66 at Rutgers on Sunday, but they've still won big this week. With Georgetown, Cincinnati and Notre Dame losing, Providence has the best chance of becoming the Big East's eighth participant in the NCAA tournament. It has won four of its past six games, including a stunning 81-73 upset of then No. 1-ranked Pittsburgh on Feb. 24. The Friars are 3-7 against RPI top-50 opponents, 5-11 against the top 100 and 4-5 in road games. Providence closes the regular season at Villanova on Thursday night, but it already is guaranteed of finishing at least 10-8 in Big East play. An upset of Villanova would go a long way toward locking up an NCAA at-large bid. Even if Providence loses in Philadelphia, it probably could earn an at-large bid by winning one or two games in the upcoming Big East tournament in New York. The Friars swept two games against Cincinnati, plus beat Syracuse and Rhode Island at home.

Rhode Island [22-8 (11-4), RPI: 48, SOS: 132] The Rams have won six games in a row and 10 of their past 12 to climb into the bubble discussion. Rhode Island has two home victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Dayton 93-91 in overtime on Feb. 25 and Temple 67-59 on Jan. 28. It also beat Virginia Commonwealth at home and Penn State on a neutral court. The Rams probably need to beat Massachusetts at home Saturday, and maybe win one or two games in the upcoming Atlantic 10 tournament. Rhode Island is 2-5 against RPI top-50 opponents and 6-6 against the top 100. It will get help from its stellar 9-5 record in road games.

More: Providence College & URI

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Roger Williams Middle School Adminstrator Placed On Leave For Stepping On Dominican Flag

Oh boy, here we go. This is going to cause a ruckus in the city for sure, via ProJo:

An administrator at Roger Williams Middle School has been placed on paid leave after he reportedly grabbed a Dominican flag from at least one student and stepped on it. Several students brought flags to school on Friday to celebrate the Caribbean nation’s 165th independence anniversary, school officials said yesterday. During a confrontation with one or more students, the administrator snatched the flag away, threw it to the floor and stepped on it, according to Sen. Juan Pichardo, D-Providence. And state Rep. Grace Díaz, D-Providence, said that the administrator said something like, “We mop the floor with your flag.”

School officials said they don’t know what sparked the incident.As word spread, students became increasingly upset and a large food fight broke out in the cafeteria, school officials said. Several students face disciplinary action and possible suspension for taking part. School spokeswoman Christina O’Reilly refused to release the name of the middle school administrator or the names of the students involved. Principal Rudy Moseley sent out an automated telephone message that Friday to the student’s parents telling them what happened.

Pichardo said that Latino talk radio was inundated with phone calls from members of the Dominican community who were upset over the incident. Latino students comprise 59 percent of the Providence school population.

“As Dominicans, we feel insulted,” said Lorenzo Acevedo, a Dominican man who heard of the incident on the radio. “We feel that we have been stepped on, like our flag.”

“It means they don’t want us here,” said Prisca Hernández.

“For someone to act like that, you don’t need words,” said Mara Pimentel, who is Puerto Rican. “That’s disrespectful to anybody.”

Jerry Hopper expressed similar outrage, adding the administrator should be fired.

“What kind of example are you setting for the kids?” Hopper asked.

Rather than offering guidance to the students, Hopper said, “It’s like you are killing their hopes and dreams.”

“This is the United States of America. It shouldn’t be happening.”

“In any country, if there is something that one respects, it is the flag, regardless of whose flag it is,” added Acevedo.

On Tuesday, Providence School Supt. Tom Brady sent an e-mail statement to Pichardo and members of the Latino news media who had inquired about the incident. Brady wrote that an administrator “displayed a lack of judgment and cultural insensitivity in his actions toward students who were demonstrating pride in their Dominican heritage.

“In video footage from the school’s security cameras, it does appear that the administrator may have engaged in disrespectful treatment of the Dominican flag,” Brady wrote. “The Providence public school district values the rich diversity and variety of cultural identities of its students, faculty and staff and such blatant disregard for the culture of another by any member of the Providence School Department community is never to be tolerated.”

The administrator, he said, has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation. “We apologize to the students and their families for the apparent actions of this administrator,” Brady concluded, “and I pledge that appropriate personnel action will be taken.”

Yesterday, Pichardo said that he was pleased with Brady’s prompt response, but he asked Brady to hold a public meeting with Roger Williams students and parents to discuss racial sensitivity and asked the School Department to develop a policy regarding the observance of ethnic holidays. “At this point, I’m happy with their response,” Pichardo said. “But we will not tolerate this type of action toward anyone’s flag. It’s unacceptable.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Healthy Shaurad Curry Excels In Big East Play

Via ProJo Sports:

Curry’s stats didn’t begin to pick up until PC’s final nonconference game, against Bryant University on Dec. 22. He hit three 3-pointers and scored a then-season-high 16 points against the Bulldogs. The difference in Curry’s play before and after conference play opened is great. Curry averaged 8.3 points on 35 percent shooting (30 percent on threes) in 12 nonleague games. Against Big East foes, Curry has boosted his production to 13.9 points a game on 44 percent shooting. His season high came in a 94-91 home loss to Villanova, during which he sank six 3-pointers and finished with 25 points and five assists.

"Of course, I knew in the back of my head that I wasn’t 100 percent," he said, "but I kept working to get stronger. My legs were weak and I felt like I was rusty. I just never said that. As the season went on, I could see it coming around."

While Curry and the Friars still have their postseason fate in their own hands, the Big East is in the process of making sure the NCAA’s selection committee understands the impact of Curry’s injury on PC's season. The committee does take in-season injuries into account when picking teams. But while Curry wasn’t injured, he clearly was not himself for the first month of the season.

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese and associate commissioner Dan Gavitt say that they have told committee members about Curry’s injury. George Mason athletic director Tom O’Connor is the committee’s point man for the Big East. "Providence played the first month of the season with a player who was coming off a major injury, and he’s turned into their best player," said Tranghese, a former chair of the selection committee. "Tom O'Connor will know that, and he could raise that if Providence is discussed. In a real tight call, that may get considered."
I didn't realize that Curry played so poorly in the non-conference, but he has really stepped it up in Big East play. You have to wonder if PC might have been able to knock off Northeastern, Baylor, BC, or St. Mary's had Curry been 100% healthy. If they had split those 4 games, they probably would be in the tournament right now without question.

More: Providence College

URI's Kahiem Seawright & Jimmy Baron Learned To Build Mutual Trust

Via ProJo Sports:

It was last Friday morning and Kahiem Seawright was scheduled to speak at San Miguel School, a little gem of a place off Elmwood Avenue for middle-school boys.The talk was billed as Seawright telling kids the importance of staying in school, a great message for inner-city kids to hear, especially coming from someone with a similar background, someone who is scheduled to graduate in May from the University of Rhode Island.But when Seawright walked into San Miguel in his dark blue URI warmup suit, he had teammate Jimmy Baron with him.

Somehow, it was only fitting. Seawright and Baron came to URI together, back there in September of 2005. In May, they will leave together. In between, they have had a journey — on the court and off it, too — the black kid from Long Island who used basketball as a passport to a better life, and the white kid from East Greenwich, the son of the coach. Two kids who have forged a deep friendship, one that transcends the fact that they are teammates.

“We grew up in completely different lifestyles,” Baron said, “and we had to learn to trust each other.” The different lifestyles came out as they answered questions from the kids. “How did you start to play basketball?” one of the kids asked Seawright. “From my brothers and cousins,” he said. “I was always tailing after them. They didn’t want to take me, because I wasn’t that good, always kicking the ball out of bounds, and I was always trying to measure up.” A few minutes later, Baron was asked the same question. “Why basketball?” he said with a smile. “I really had no other choice.” The son of a coach.

That was not always the easiest thing to be when he was just another recruit and about to meet one of his new teammates. The first step for Baron and Seawright learning to trust each other took place in the summer of 2005, when Jimmy Baron went to Long Island to meet Seawright. Seawright was working at a basketball camp, and Baron had driven down with his father. And from the beginning, he knew he had to convince Seawright that he was more of a player than he was the son of the coach. That he had the same dreams and aspirations any new player had, independent of who the coach was.

“I remember telling him that I was just another guy, just like him,” Baron said. He still didn’t know what to expect, though. Even without the baggage of being the coach’s son, Baron and Seawright seemed so different. Baron essentially has grown up in Olean, N.Y., in a small upstate town where the only black people were the ones playing for his father. An overstatement, certainly, but not much of one.

Seawright, on the other hand, had to find out if he could trust Baron. “I had to find out if he was going to be the snake in the locker room,” he said with a smile. For all locker rooms have their own realities, just as all teams do. Teams are fragile ecosystems, almost by definition, an assemblage of egos and dreams and ambitions, all played out within a framework of too few minutes and too few shots to go around. Teams being betrayed by players who don’t get along behind closed doors is probably as old as sport itself.

And could there be anything more potentially damaging as having the coach’s son on the team? Much has been made of both how difficult it is for fathers to coach their sons, and for sons to play for their fathers. It’s always a loaded situation, even when the son can play, as was clearly evident from the beginning with Jimmy Baron. But what about the other players? How do they deal with the coach’s son? Can they be comfortable complaining about the coach –– a practice as old as the game itself –– in front of the coach’s son? Was the son going to be the snake in the locker room? That, too, was part of the equation, something that had to be resolved.

So Seawright and Baron began their journey together, first as young players, and now as leaders. Seawright quickly learned to deal with Baron as just another teammate. But it was Baron’s work ethic that won him over. He saw him in the gym when no one else was there. He saw how hard he worked to make his body better. He saw how he wanted to win as much as he did. And Baron? He says Seawright taught him not to take anything for granted, to be thankful for the advantages he grew up with, not to be self-conscious about them. He also came to see that Seawright is the backbone of the team, and that Seawright “has been a blessing for me.”

They are seniors now, of course, and are the leaders of this URI team, along with Jason Francis, the other senior. And their roles are defined. Seawright and Francis are the enforcers. Baron is what Seawright calls “the consoler,” for the simple reason that he has the same name as the coach, and thus must have a different voice.

And maybe most of all, Seawright and Baron came to know that, in the end, their similarities were more important than their differences. Came to know, as Baron says, “Whatever we did here at URI, we were going to do together.” They have done a lot. To their everlasting credit.
More: URI

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bubble Watch: Providence (PC) & Rhode Island (URI)

Here are the latest Bubble Watch comments for PC & URI, via ESPN:

Providence [18-11 (10-7), RPI: 68, SOS: 51] Even after upsetting No. 1 Pittsburgh 81-73 at home Monday and then beating Rutgers 73-66 on the road Sunday, the Friars are probably still on the wrong side of the bubble. Providence might need to beat Villanova on the road Thursday to have a legitimate chance for an at-large bid. The Friars have only two RPI top-50 victories: the aforementioned upset of Pittsburgh and a 100-94 win over Syracuse at home on Jan. 28. The Friars swept two games against fellow Big East bubble team Cincinnati and also have a home victory over surging Rhode Island. But Providence is only 2-7 against RPI top-50 foes and 5-11 against the top 100.

Comments: They say that PC is on the wrong side of the bubble, but the latest version of Bracketology has them as a 12 seed going against LSU in the first round. I think the Big East "people" would be up in arms if PC does not get in the tournament with 10 Big East wins. However, that still looks like it is a strong possibility. Of course, PC can end all of this talk by beating Villanova on Thursday and then winning their first Big East tourney game.

Rhode Island [22-8 (11-4), RPI: 54, SOS: 132] After beating Dayton 93-91 on a buzzer beater in overtime Wednesday, the Rams won at Duquesne 73-71 on Sunday. They trail Xavier by one game in the loss column of the Atlantic 10 standings with an 11-4 record. Rhode Island closes the regular season at home against Massachusetts on Saturday. Rhode Island has two victories over RPI top-50 opponents, beating Dayton and Temple. The Rams also beat Penn State 77-72 on a neutral court on Nov. 28 and beat Virginia Commonwealth 92-86 at home on Nov. 22. The Rams are 2-5 against RPI top-50 opponents and 5-6 against the top 100.

Comments: The Bubble Watch really doesn't say too much about URI's chances to get in the tournament, so I can only assume they aren't all that great unless they go deep into the A-10 tournament. It's still a long shot for URI to win the A-10, which would have almost assured an automatic bid. URI is going to want to win the A-10 tournament though, because all it will take is a few upsets in some other conference tournaments for them to be eliminated from the auto-bid conversation completely.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Weyinmi Efejuku's 28 Points & Jeff Xavier's Big 3 Lead PC Past Rutgers

Weyinmi Efejuku was an outright monster in this game dropping 28 points, while hitting 6 of 7 shots from the field and an outstanding 15 of 17 from the free throw line. Jeff Xavier also came up with a big 3 down the stretch to help clinch the victory for the Friars. PC had to win this game to avoid a disastrous lost, but they also locked up a bye in the Big East tournament, which they should get credit for when it comes down to evaluating their NCAA credentials. Beating Villanova in their last game would definitely be a major plus though. I think that would be the clincher for PC's tournament hopes.

Here's the scoop on the game, via ProJo Sports:

With the season, and his teammates’ NCAA Tournament dreams, sitting on his shoulders yesterday, Jeff Xavier didn’t hesitate. The senior from Pawtucket who loves to take the big shot fired his biggest one in two years, drilling a deep wing 3-pointer to help the Providence Friars stem a Rutgers’ rally and secure a critical 73-66 win at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Xavier’s three was PC’s only field goal in the final 8:35 but it jump-started an offense that had suddenly grown cold as a 19-point lead melted down to 3. His shot also sparked a critical 9-2 run that countered the Scarlet Knights’ rally. “I know I love bigtime, crunch-time moments, just like everyone else in the locker room,” Xavier said. “I got the ball, looked at the basket and was kind of open, so I shot it.”

Xavier’s teammates, and the PC fans who were heard all game long amid a quiet RU crowd, breathed a sigh of relief when his shot settled into the net. “I passed it to him on the wing, but he was out there pretty good,” said Weyinmi Efejuku, who dominated the Rutgers’ defense all day long on his way to 28 points. “When he shot it, I just looked up and prayed.” While far from a prayer, the shot certainly helped answer PC’s serious need for another road victory. The Friars improved to 18-11 overall and their 10-7 record clinches a top-eight finish and a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament.

That achievement has been atop coach Keno Davis’ list of goals since the Friars dropped a few costly games in the non-league portion of their schedule. As fans and the media debate PC’s improving NCAA chances, Davis feels the upper-division finish will prove vital. “I felt like what was important is that we finished in the top half of the Big East,” said Davis. “If you finish in the top half of the best conference in the country, I can live with that, whether the (NCAA) puts us in or not. I feel like we’re deserving, but there are a lot of other coaches who feel the same way as well.”

The Friars can take another giant step toward their first NCAA bid in five seasons if they can upset Villanova on the road in the regular-season finale on Thursday. “We have an opportunity to go to Villanova and see if we can play at a high level there,” said Davis, “but it’s also going to be nice to go to the Big East Tournament having one day to watch the team we’re going to play. After Villanova, we’ll focus on the Big East and see if we can stick around down there as long as we can.”

As usual, the Friars made things very, very interesting. PC led by seven points at the half and built a 19-point second-half lead before Rutgers stormed back. The Friars hoped for a blazing start to the game and while they maintained control through the opening 20 minutes, they never found a strong offensive rhythm. PC jumped out to a 14-8 lead as Rutgers was awful out of the gate but the home team eventually settled down and made a few shots. A 6-0 run with about six minutes left actually gave RU a 20-18 lead but an Efejuku jam began an 11-2 run that included a deep Sharaud Curry 3-pointer, a driving layup by Geoff McDermott and a nice, coast-to-coast driving scoop by Curry. PC led at the break, 33-26, with Rutgers shooting just 34 percent from the floor.

That rate only got worse through the first 10 minutes of the second half and that helped the Friars race to what appeared to be a commanding 19-point lead (62-43). PC not only stopped the Scarlet Knights on defense but got out and ran the floor on offense and that led to numerous easy chances. Efejuku was the game’s dominant player as he continually got to the rim with power drives and he also hit a 3-pointer.

A 9-0 Friar run pushed the lead to 62-43 with 8:35 left as Brian McKenzie caught a Curry pass and dunked. But, from seemingly out of nowhere, Rutgers awoke. The Scarlet Knights began digging in on defense and PC turned the ball over every which way to help fuel a 16-0 run that sliced the Friars’ lead to 62-59 with three minutes to play.

Needing a big shot, Xavier provided one as he nailed a deep wing 3-pointer to push the lead back up to 65-59. Rutgers proceeded to turn the ball over on three of its next four possessions. “For moments we had a chance to extend the lead there, but a team like Rutgers at home, they’re not going away. They made a big run, but X made a really big shot,” said Efejuku.

As for what the 3-ball did for his team’s NCAA chances, Xavier says the Friars want to keep winning and take any guesswork out of the committee’s hands. “For the seniors and everyone in the locker room, we’ve never made it so this would be the best year of my life,” he said. “It’s every kid’s dream in college to play in the NCAA Tournament. This could be it.”
More: Providence College

URI Defeats Duquesne, 73-71

The Rhody Rams are on fire now having won 6 games in a row and 10 of their last 11. They still have a very small chance of winning the A-10, but they would need Xavier to lose twice, which doesn't look very likely. I have to give the Rams credit though because they have done everything they need to do down the stretch to give themselves a chance at an at-large bid. If they fall short of winning the A-10 tournament, then it will probably come down to whether the committee is going to accept the Rams who do not have a great resume but definitely a winning one, or a team like Notre Dame who doesn't have the best record but beat better teams than URI. Should be interesting.

Here's the scoop on the game, via ProJo Sports:

The University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team continues to do things the hard way. Aaron Jackson missed a 3-pointer as time expired yesterday afternoon, and the Rams held on for a 73-71 victory over Duquesne in front of 3,567 fans at the A.J. Palumbo Center.

Kahiem Seawright scored 21 points and Keith Cothran added 20 points off the bench for Rhode Island (22-8, 11-4 Atlantic 10), which has won six consecutive games and 10 of 11. Jackson had 24 points to lead Duquesne (17-10, 8-6). The Rams moved into second place in the A-10, trailing only Xavier (11-3), and clinched a first-round bye in the conference tournament with the victory. “It’s unbelievable,” Rhode Island coach Jim Baron said. “Our kids have done a great job of continuing to come together. This was a very good victory for us. Duquesne is much improved, and they’re a good basketball team.”

Rhode Island, which rallied from a six-point halftime deficit, led by 70-66 and had possession of the ball with one minute remaining. That’s when Jackson, a senior guard playing in his final home game, single-handedly tried to rally Duquesne. A steal and a layup by Jackson made it 70-68. Seawright scored and Cothran made one of two free throws to put Rhode Island ahead by five points before Jackson’s 3-pointer cut URI’s lead to 73-71 with six seconds left. Seawright then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to give the Dukes a chance for a final shot. Rhode Island, which had two fouls to give, used them both before Duquesne inbounded the ball for the final time with 1.4 seconds left. Jackson, who was guarded by Rhode Island’s Lamonte Ulmer, took the pass and launched a 3-pointer, which bounced off the front rim.

“We expected (Jackson) to get the ball,” Baron said. “We thought he was going to use a ball screen, but he really didn’t have that much time. “We put a bigger guard on him, just thinking it would be a little tougher for him getting the shot off. He didn’t get a great look at the shot.” Jackson scored 16 of Duquesne’s final 20 points. “He’s going to get his points,” Baron said. “We knew it would be a hard-fought battle with him. He’s a tremendous player.”

It was the second consecutive game for Rhode Island decided on the final play. The Rams beat Dayton, 93-91 in overtime, last Wednesday on Marquis Jones’ layup at the buzzer. “It shows we’re resilient,” said senior point guard Jimmy Baron, who had 14 points yesterday. “People counted us out at the beginning of the year when we started 1-3 in conference play. We were losing those games by two, three points. We knew we could move forward and turn those kinds of games around in our favor.”

Added Cothran: “We’ve been buckling down at the end of game now. But we still need to make free throws in the final minutes. If we would have made our free throws, it wouldn’t have come down to that last shot.”

Seawright had six points during a 15-3 run that put the Rams ahead 60-54 with 11:33 left in the game. The Rams never trailed after their run, but Duquesne pulled within two points on three occasions before tying the game, 66-66, on Jackson’s basket with two minutes remaining.

A back-and-forth first half yesterday featured eight ties and three lead changes. Rhode Island’s biggest advantage came early, when it went ahead 10-4 behind a pair of 3-pointers from Baron and baskets from Will Martell and Seawright. After a 3-pointer and dunk from Cothran, who had 13 points in the first half, the Rams led by 32-27 with 4:04 left. But Duquesne finished the half with a 13-2 run, capped by a jumper from B.J. Monteiro with two seconds left, to go up 40-34 at the intermission.
More: URI

Too Young/Boat Shoe Mania - Theo

Two new joints from Providence's own, Theo.

Too Young - Theo

Boat Shoe Mania - Theo

More: New Joints

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Woonsocket's Tyrone Nared Gets A Second Chance

Sounds like Woonsocket's Tyrone Nared started a little late, but could be a Division I prospect next season,via ProJo's High School Game Time:

I first saw him four years ago. He was playing for Woonsocket then, the opponent was Hendricken, and the game was never close. Hendricken too good. He was just a gangly kid that night, all arms and legs, as young as springtime. But you could see he had potential, could see that if he stayed with it, and maybe caught a break or two, that maybe one day basketball could take this kid far away from the gym inside Woonsocket High School. He was almost 6-foot-5 then, and it didn’t take much vision to one day see him in a college basketball game.

Two years later, it was though he had dropped off the planet, just another city kid whose little window of opportunity had come and gone. Rhode Island high school basketball is full of kids like that, kids with potential who seem to come and go in the blink of an eye, betrayed by poor grades, no money, limited opportunities, or all of the above. Tyrone Nared was just another one.

He had been on the All-State team, and had had his name in the paper, and played in All-Star games, and had had his little sliver of high school fame, and now it was over. Just like that. Or so I thought. But there he was one day in November, in the box score for CCRI, and there he was the other afternoon in the gym after a practice, right there in the middle of his new life. For this is about a second chance. The kind that too many inner-city kids never get. It’s about a second chance, and the story really begins two years ago, when he was a high school senior and couldn’t play basketball because his eligibility was done.

"Basketball was what had gotten me through school, and it had kept me out of trouble," he said. "And now I didn’t have it anymore. I thought it was over." He used to hang around Dunn Park in Woonsocket that year, playing in pickup games, not really motivated, feeling lost. There had been some talk of going to prep school, but that hadn’t worked out, and now he was just another kid whose career already seemed in the past tense, like some comet that flashes briefly across the nighttime sky only to disappear just as quickly. The courts were full of guys older than he was, guys in their 20s, some doing drugs, some selling drugs, too many guys whose futures had seemed to have just stopped, any dreams they once might have had reduced to just getting by, an inner-city freeze-frame. "I felt like I had no control over anything," he said. "It was like everything just stopped. I felt like a nobody."

Last year, he came here to CCRI, essentially lured by coach Rick Harris, who had coached against him in high school, back when Harris was the coach at Cranston East. Why not, Nared figured. He had nothing else, and he could already sense that if he kept hanging around the playgrounds in Woonsocket, he was eventually going to end up just like the older guys he saw all around him, all the guys who ran out of futures. So began his second chance. But it came with an asterisk. The plan was for Nared to redshirt last year, to use it as a year to get acclimated academically, for if he didn’t do that, the basketball was going to be irrelevant, anyway.

This was the year he got basketball back. He is close to 6-foot-8 now, and still has the skills and shooting range of a wing player. He’s averaging 12 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game for CCRI, in the first organized basketball he’s played in three years. Harris says he’s already received Division II interest, but feels that next year Nared will be getting Division I interest. "He needs to toughen up and he needs to get stronger," Harris said, "but at times he can be a highlight film."

That’s the basketball part, the hits, runs, and errors of the game. More important, Nared has gotten his future back, the one he felt he had lost two years ago, when he used to hang out in the park feeling like a nobody, back when he couldn’t see too many roads leading out of Woonsocket, back when he felt his future had stopped at 18 years old.

If nothing else, he’s made his parents proud. He is the youngest of seven kids, with a father who drives a bus for RIPTA and is a pastor at a senior center on Sundays, and a mother who works with disabled children, and he’s the first child to go to college. He’s also come to learn that this is the start of real life. "I didn’t take anything seriously when I was in high school," he said, "but I’m not a kid anymore."

He also knows that this is his second chance, something that many kids don’t get. Not Rhode Island high school basketball players, anyway. Too many of them get phased out early, their futures betrayed by poor grades and too few opportunities. It’s not always about talent. In fact, sometimes talent is not even the most important part. Nared is Exhibit A. He had the benefit of playing for Preston Murphy, the former URI star, when he was at Woonsocket. So he had a role model. He had the support of his family. But back then, even that wasn’t enough. It takes a village? Sometimes it takes even more than that.

"So I can’t take this for granted," Tyrone Nared said. "This means everything." He paused a beat, and when he spoke again, his voice seemed full of resolve. "There is no third chance."