2008-09 LIU Basketball Preview
Blackbirds return four starters this season
To some, head coach Jim Ferry's team exceeded expectations in finishing seventh in the NEC last season. This season could be a year in which the Blackbirds build upon that progress and continue to grow towards contending for a championship. They're led by a guard that should be up for NEC honors at the end of the season in Jaytornah Wisseh, and there are other pieces to the puzzle ready to step up for the Blackbirds. Is it too much to expect LIU to finish in the top half of the NEC? Given the small margin between teams in the midsection of the conference, they've got as good a chance as anyone at breaking even (9-9) in conference play.
2007-08 Record: 15-15 (7-11 NEC, 7th)
Head coach: Jim Ferry (68-103 in six seasons at LIU; 172-122 overall)
Assistant coaches: Jack Perri, Lenny Pitt, Rich Glesmann
Home court: Athletic, Recreation & Wellness Center
PPG: Jaytornah Wisseh (15.8)
RPG: Ronald Manigault (5.6)
APG: Wisseh (5.1)
FG%: Aurimas Adomaitis (44.1%)
FT%: Kyle Johnson (88.0%)
3PT%: Johnson (38.5%)
Assist/TO ratio: Wisseh (1.58)
Wisseh is the man that most folks familiar with this team know, but the question that needs answering is who steps in to provide the scoring lost with the graduation of Kellen Allen (13.4 ppg). One answer could be sophomore Kyle Johnson, who averaged ten points per game while playing just twenty-four minutes per contest. Johnson can shoot the basketball and should be an improved defender this season. Classmate David Hicks, like Johnson, was named to the NEC's All-Freshman Team for his efforts last season. Hicks started all thirty gamed for Coach Ferry and averaged eight points per game. Senior Tyrone Mattison saw time at the point last season, and Iona transfer John Scott (Albany, NY) will look to earn time on the wing.
As for the newcomers, they have a chance to earn playing time in their first season on campus. Point guard Lucas Faggiano (Bahia Blanca, Argentina) is a guy that should earn minutes at the point when he becomes available. Michael Culpo (Pittsfield, MA) will also look to grab minutes and his accuracy as a perimeter shooter could make teams pay for paying too much attention to Wisseh on offense. Booker Hucks (Bay Shore, NY) is a versatile perimeter player who may struggle to get extended playing time due to the number of options already available to Coach Ferry and his staff.
This is the area of concern for the Blackbirds, who have to replace the departed Eugene Kotorobai with a group including just one senior. That senior, Ronald Manigault, is the team's leading returning rebounder and started all thirty games last season. After Manigault is a pair of forwards who need to step up their production if the Blackbirds are to be competitive in the NEC. Junior Aurimas Adomaitis and sophomore Ike Udanoh will need to contribute defensively and on the glass this season, and they combined for just under nineteen minutes per game last season. After these three, Coach Ferry will have to look to freshmen for contributions. But with LIU going with a three-guard lineup, the freshmen should be afforded time to get acclimated to college basketball.
Julian Boyd (San Antonio, TX) averaged a double-double in his final season of high school basketball, and Arnold Mayorga (London, Ontario) will also be needed to hit the glass when called upon. Swingman Miguel Bocachica (Philadelphia, PA) will also look to crack the rotation, but he finds himself in the same situation as Hucks in regards to that quest. If the Blackbirds are to improve on the defensive end of the court (8th in points per game allowed), the forwards will have to increase their production.
A preseason pick to finish sixth in the NEC, LIU could very well exceed those expectations if the inexperienced frontcourt can step up. The backcourt should be fine, led by Wisseh and a host of others, so Coach Ferry's team could earn themselves a home game in the first round of the NEC Tournament should things break their way. LIU was a solid team last season in most statistical categories, but ranked just ninth in assist-to-turnover margin and tenth in field goal percentage, stats that can make all the difference in finishing sixth or eighth this year.
Team Stats (conference ranking in parentheses)
PPG: 72.4 (3rd)
PPG allowed: 71.7 (8th)
FG%: 40.4% (10th)
FG% defense: 44.6% (6th)
3PT%: 32.3 (8th)
3PT% defense: 31.5% (2nd)
FT%: 68.1 (9th)
Rebound margin: +2.4 (3rd)
Assist/TO ratio: 0.81 (9th)