8. Long Island Blackbirds
2005-06 Record: 12-16 (9-9 NEC)
Last season’s final ranking (NY Metro area poll): 10th
Head Coach: Jim Ferry (4th year @ LIU (43-69), 8th overall)
Leading Returnees: Points (James Williams-16.6 ppg); Rebounds (Aubin Scott-6.8 rpg); Assists (Williams-3.3 apg)
Returning Starters: 5 (G James Williams (Sr. 5’10, 185), G Tyrone Mattison (So. 6’0, 195), G/F Aubin Scott (Sr. 6’2, 190), F Esa Maki-Tulokas (Sr. 6’7, 215), F/C Kellen Allen (Jr. 6’7, 225)
Key Loss: G Randy Jones
2006-07 should be the year in which the Long Island Blackbirds make a run for the Northeast Conference title. All five starters from last season return, including leading scorer and assist man James Williams. LIU, even though they list Aubin Scott as a guard/forward, essentially goes with a three-guard lineup. Joining Scott and Williams and Scott as capable ball handlers are fellow starter Tyrone Mattison and reserve Evan Meekins. Donovin McLendon and incoming freshman Jaytorn Wisseh will throw their hats into the ring for minutes on the perimeter as well. What will help out Coach Ferry is that no player averaged fewer than nine minutes per game. Experience should not be an issue with this group.
Esa Maki-Tulokas and Kellen Allen return to their familiar spots on the frontline, but they will have some help. Eugene Kotorobai can play on the perimeter as a swingman (he was the team’s leading shooter from beyond the arc at 43.1%), but he was also the Blackbirds’ second-leading rebounder last season. Senior Paulius Morkeliunas, who saw an increase in playing time as injuries limited Maki-Tulokas’ playing time, should also contribute this year. Aurimas Adornaitis, who hails from the same city (Kaunas, Lithuania) and high school (Roanoke Academy) as Morkeliunas, will add some more size to the frontline with is 6’8”, 215 pound frame.
With the amount of experience and talent returning, LIU should challenge for a spot at or near the top of the NEC. And they should be helped by their offseason trip to Italy, giving the team valuable time practicing and playing against solid competition. But remember, the same thing was said about Wagner heading into 2005-06, and all they did was miss the conference tournament altogether. In order to make good on their promise, the Blackbirds need to improve their field goal percentage defense (46.3%) and rebounding margin (-3.3) numbers.
Schedule at a Glance
The Blackbirds open the season at home, hosting Binghamton November 11th. They then hit the road for two, visiting Minnesota and Columbia. In an interesting scheduling quirk, the Blackbirds have a home-and-home with Binghamton this year, visiting the Bearcats December 15th. While the non-conference schedule has its challenges, with trips to St. John’s and Penn State, LIU should get out of that part of their schedule safely above .500.
Conference play opens with a trip to Monmouth on December 7th. The size of the league dictates that teams play eighteen conference games, meaning that the opener for most teams takes place in the middle of their non-conference schedule. LIU heads into NEC play for good with a three-game homestand to open the new year, which includes a visit by league favorite Robert Morris. Other key games include a two-game road swing to Central Connecticut State and Wagner in the middle of January, and home games against Monmouth and Wagner to open the month of February. The last two games of the season, at St. Francis (PA) and at Robert Morris, will go a long way in deciding seeds for the NEC Tournament. And don’t forget that tournament games take place on the home court of the higher seed.
Interesting Note: LIU will not have a road swing longer than three games, and that trip takes place in December. Games at Penn State and Binghamton are two days apart (December 13th & 15th), followed by a two week break for exams before a trip to St. Peter’s New Year’s Eve.
2005-06 Team Averages
· Points per game: 68.9 - Points per game allowed: 71.5 - Scoring Margin: - 2.6
· Rebounds per game: 33.7 - Opp. Rebounds per game: 37.0 - Rebounding Margin: - 3.3
· Assists per game: 12.9 - Turnovers per game: 14.7 - Assist-to-Turnover Ratio: 0.7:1
· Field Goal Percentage: 41.2% - FG Percentage Defense: 46.3%
· 3-Point Percentage: 36.7% - 3-Point Percentage Def.: 35.3%
· Free Throw Percentage: 68.1%
· Longest winning streak: 2-4 times (@ New Hampshire, Hartford) December 3rd-10th, (Sacred Heart, Wagner) January 26th-28th, (Robert Morris, St. Francis-PA) February 16th-18th, (@ Wagner, St. Francis-NY) February 24th-27th.
· Longest losing streak: 4 (Rider, Longwood, Mount St. Mary’s, Central Connecticut State) December 29th-January 7th.
· LIU nearly alternated wins and losses last season, a sign that this team had serious issues with consistency.