St. Francis College coach and lifelong Brooklynite Glenn Braica is a New York City basketball lifer. So, when the former St. John’s assistant says that the college basketball in the city is worth watching, he means it.
“We’ve had some good mid-major teams here recently,” Braica told amNewYork during the annual Northeast Conference (NEC) Media Day at Barclays Center last month. “We’ve been competitive, and Wagner, LIU, Manhattan, all of these programs have had decent runs. Overall, the basketball is good, very competitive. And I think the more we can get people out to support it, the better it will be.”
St. John’s may be the city’s flagship program, but the Big Apple boasts six other D-I programs — all but one of which begin play this weekend. So how will they fare during the 2017-18 season?
Manhattan, which tips off next week, has been picked by conference coaches to finish fifth in the Metro Atlantic, but the Jaspers, who finished 10th in the 11-team conference last season, return both of their top scorers from a year ago in guard Zavier Turner (14.9 ppg) and forward Zane Waterman (14.5 ppg).
Coach Jim Engles heads into his second season at Columbia with a talented, but young, roster featuring only two seniors. However, the Lions, who finished fifth in the Ivy last season, have a star in sophomore guard Mike Smith (13.6 ppg, 3.5 apg).
Jeff Neubauer, who enters his third year at the helm at Fordham, is still rebuilding the Rams’ roster. Rose Hill is a special setting, but junior guard Joseph Chartouny (12.1 ppg, 5.0 apg, 3.2 spg) will also make Neubauer’s squad, which finished 10th in the 14-team Atlantic-10 in 2016-17, worth watching.
The remaining three NYC college teams play in the 10-team NEC, and all should be in the mix in what will be a wide-open league this season. LIU-Brooklyn welcomes new coach Derek Kellogg, who inherits a veteran-laden roster coming off a 20-win season.
Braica’s St. Francis-Brooklyn squad, meanwhile, returns a couple of New York stars in guards Rasheem Dunn of Brooklyn (13.1 ppg) and Glenn Sanabria of Staten Island (12.4 ppg), which bodes well given that the NEC is backcourt-driven.
On Staten Island, Bashir Mason’s Wagner team has lost 2016-17 top scorers Corey Henson (transfer) and Michael Carey (graduation), but senior JoJo Cooper (8.2 ppg, 3.5 apg last season) may be the best returning point guard in the NEC.