Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Note On Northeast Pa. Basketball in The Pocono Mountaions

I decided to write this blog entry about 2 months ago but did not do so until now based on waiting for the school year to start.  This piece is about the state of basketball in NE Pa. and the lack of exposure many of the kids receive.

But before I do that I need to speak about Pocono Mountain West High School and its Basketball Program.  As you might have noticed I did say Basketball Program and not team. That was done intentionally and was said based on reflecting on what I said some months back about what I thought I was seeing when watching them play a game against Pocono Mountain East High School.

In that blog post I was totally off base and wrong for ASSUMING!  I really became caught up in the hype of the opposing school based on how they were playing against a true legend in Coach Pensyl and all the accolades always given to him and his very good staff. I saw them play against a team I thought they should have beat and wrongly tore into the program based on my expectations heading into that game. For that I do apologize and this apology is sincere! Anyone who knows me and has followed me on my blog or message board postings over the years know I do not kiss up to anyone except GOD,  or any program. I just call it as I see it based on years of being around the game. In the case of Pocono Mountain West I let one performance influence me enough to say a few things that were uncalled for and definitely wrong with no truth or substance.

So I decided to do a bit of research on my own. I also looked hard at what those coaches and others in the Pocono region have to work with. I have come to the conclusion it is a very difficult job to say the least. And though it is difficult, Pocono Mountain West, a relatively new HS has done more in its short existence than most likely any other HS in North America that does not recruit (Oak Hill, Finley Prep, etc.) or take kids from around the world in an effort to win games. For that they should be proud.

Looking at the program you see a well oiled machine that goes from a youth basketball program all the way up to the high school. You see a well outfitted team with a history and tradition. You really see an outstanding coach who most likely has forgotten more about the game than people such as me will ever know.  From a serious web page complete with bios on players that college recruiters can use, to a super tough schedule that shows they are not running from competition, this is the program of choice in NE Pennsylvania.

Lastly I questioned off season conditioning and more when last writing about this program. Funny how I forgot how you can open the gym and say come work out, yet kids often find other things to do. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but cannot make the horse drink. It is up to the parents to get involved and make the kids commit to what the coaches want. It is also up to the parents to trust the coaches and let them do their job. With that said, if this happens at Pocono Mountain West High School, The Best Program in NE Pa., people in the area will have a lot to cheer about this season.

And to Coach Pensyl and his Staff, without saying more than what is necessary, I apologize for not doing better homework before making foolish statements. You truly are an outstanding Staff and a excellent Basketball Program that provides a great experience for all the kids involved and something to be proud of as area residents.  Now I wait for some hate mail from Pocono Mountain East lol.

In NE Pennsylvania people would be stunned by the quality of players that are under the radar. These kids are well coached and in most cases have very good grades. The programs they play in have wonderful facilities and the gyms are often similar to this at mid major universities. Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, East Stroudsburg South, East Stroudsburg North, and Pleasant Valley all have gyms that could easily be on the campus of MAAC, CAA, or NEC conference schools. Ditto the places like Liberty based on size, and Easton, and Parkland, all in the Lehigh Valley. Watching games played at these places are great experiences as are watching the football games on a Friday Evening. From great concessions with very reasonable priced food (like they are really giving it away lol) to Cheerleaders for each team. This experience is something I rarely saw watching games in  NY, NJ, and Conn.

This year Pocono Mountain West should be a favorite with at least 2 D1 prospects and others I might not know about. Big tests will be the first 3 games of the season and the game away against Linden who I feel they can beat.

Pocono Mountain East lost a very good, yet underrated player in Kyheim (sp) Hall to St. Francis of Pa. of the NE Conference. But they return some serious ballers with at least 1 and maybe 2 being D 1 material. They also have a wonderful program and a terrific coaching staff.

Stroudsburg is another team you always have to watch out for, The coach there, Coach Thornton (Sp) has been around for a long time and can match X and Os with the best of them nationally.

I want to just acknowledge the new coach at East Stroudsburg South, Rich Baker, the former D1 recruit from Stroudsburg HS who had great games back in the day against great players including Mr. Koby Bryant now residing in LA. Rich has his hands full but I am sure he will get it done in time. It does not hurt that he was on the staff at Pocono Mountain West for a few years and played for Coach Thornton at Stroudsburg. Just hope he gets a good staff including Riley Moye, who works in the school doing public safety.

I now appeal to coaches from D1, D2, and D3, schools as well as those from NAIA, and the Junior College ranks to come out and see the players from the Pocono Area. Jay Wright did and signed one recently from Liberty if I remember correctly.  NEC, CAA, and MAAC schools should own winter homes in the area based on talent that could help them. In fact Pocono Mountain West has a 6 ft 11 kid who can run, jump, and catch and when he gets a bit tougher could be the steal of the East Coast!

Well thats it for now. I hope people will get a chance to see what I saw initially, but lost site of last season, and recognize the Pocono area as a place for sports achievement!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tidbits on my mind

Just thinking about College Basketball as well as the HS game.

I love what St. Johns is doing. They really are getting after it and going after elite players.

I LOVE GARY CHARLES!  However, I doubt Gary Charles would ever say Norm did not go after the right players. That has to be a misinterpretation of something he said. If Gary did say this, and kick a guy when he is down, it would be totally out of his character, and in my eyes Gary always has been a person of high character. And if he did say this, I strongly disagree because who in their right mind at St. Johns or any other Big East program would not go after "The Best."  That is such a crazy thing to imagine or say. You could say Norm did not get the top guys, but you cannot ever say he did not go after them.

I also know Nate Blue and consider him a friend in basketball. He too would never intentionally put Norm down, In fact he even questioned some of my comments on past blogs he thought was negative towards Norm and SJU.

For the record anyone who really understands college basketball knows that Norm did not cheat! If he did, or had influential alumni he could sic on recruits and advisors, he would have gotten a lot more great recruits. Even without cheating, he did a great job of bringing in talent that Steve Lavin just might lead to the NCAA or at the least the NIT.

Love what is happening at Rutgers as well. Mike Rice is proving to everyone what happens when a person gets an opportunity. That includes ME! He is doing a FANTASTIC job that started with the Assistants he hired. SMART MAN.

I honestly think Rutgers games will be exciting again. Place will have big crowds and the future looks very bright as it does for St. Johns.

Seton Hall is doing well also. Not doing it on the recruiting circuit YET! But I think they will step it up. I also knew the staff they have in place would have difficulty going against other BE, SEC, ACC, staffs based on the barracuda policy. We all know every staff needs one, even if he is disguised as a very laid back gentlemen. Still not sold on SHU having one.

Despite this SHU still has time to get additional very good players. And they will once they win a lot of games at home in front of large crowds going crazy.

I love how folks look the other way when things are going great for the school they are cheering for. Many elite kids really are taken care of when they choose a school. Has happened for many years and will always happen as long as it is not widespread.  Many who read this blog know the real deal. You see the kids being recruited by many programs. You know the Advisors disguised as coaches etc. You know a lot of stuff happens. Maybe I need to re-post my stuff on recruiting and what happens in places like Chicago, the deep south, and even up east.

One day a lot of stuff will come out about a lot of  programs people consider squeaky clean.

If people think players, and often advisors discussed as coaches, are not getting great benefits you are wrong. Could be use of a campus facility, buying expensive tickets to events sponsored by organizations, having many kids attend a camp free despite the players paying for the camp through the advisor discussed as a coach, and much more.

How about the old exhibition season rules that allowed AAU programs to use ex college players for games against college programs and get paid.

When we talk bending rules, many know what is really happening!

It seems very quiet on the Fordham front. What is going on over in the Bronx? I still say they need a new GYM/Small Arena badly. I really cannot see any very good high level A10 recruit jumping to there with the facilities as they are. They will get a low end 4 star guy every so often based on conniptions. But watch the 3 star guys role in. Hard to compete with then upper A10 schools that way.

No reflection on the Head Coach! Even if John Wooden himself was the Coach they would have difficulty.

Looking to buy all the basketball magazines as they come out. This is great reading, especially if done before the season starts.

On the HS level looking forward to seeing St. Benedict's and how Tyler Harris does.

St. Patricks will be interesting as well and I know they are loaded. Maybe I will finally get to watch the Great Mike Gilchrist lol. Sorry, still wonder if he is the legit number 1 player in the USA. I even wonder if he is top 10. He might be top 25, and there is nothing wrong with that! Top 25 in the ENTIRE USA! That is a great thing.

Interesting how reputation allows you to gain a certain status. One scouting service says you are great. They all will say you are very good at the least.

Jerome Smart takes over at Teaneck, and what a SMART MOVE that was! I am looking for great things out of Teaneck with Coach Smart at the Helm. He will continue what Curtis March started and keep Teaneck as a household name in New Jersey.

Back to College Basketball.

Looking for the Garden to rock at St. Johns Games

Looking for The RAC to be ALIVE again!

Looking for The Prudential Center to be filled with fans and exciting.

What a great time for College Basketball! Good times have returned. And if we think this year will be good. Wait until next year

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Basketball Thoughts on Local Teams

What a New Year in the Tri State Area of New York City

It is a very exciting time for New York City area college basketball programs. New Coaches at Seton Hall, St. Johns, Rutgers, Fordham, Iona, Hofstra, and St. Francis of Brooklyn. Well the honeymoon is over as of right now. Some of these new guys might not last more than 2 seasons. Unless the place they work really could care less about winning and establishing a good program.

A prime example of this is St. Francis of Brooklyn. Does anyone at that school really care? Who goes there out of HS? Who turns down Stony Brook and similar schools to attend a school in a building in downtown Brooklyn, even though it is fashionable Brooklyn Heights.

St. Francis hired one of the nicest people ever associated with college athletics. He is a nice coach but an even better person. But from watching this school and program in the past, I can tell he will get very little support. I wonder if the College President even knows they have a team or a gym? Still remember how they treated the old coach who was a very good coach. No cell phone, no auto, and most likely no expense account.

The new Coach, who came over from St. Johns when the entire staff was dismissed, has his hands full and I can only wish him well in what could be the worst job in America! Now I do have one bit of advice for the current coach at St. Francis and any other place that wants a winning program. DO NOT BE SCARED OF HIRING OLDER COMPETENT COACHES WHO CAN HELP YOU! The St. Francis Coach did just this by not putting together a strong staff. He even turned down Ray Haskins for a volunteer position. Ray could have helped them as he did LIU years back when he led them to back to back NCAA and NIT tournament births. This new coach did what I thought he would never do, he went and hired guys he can control. Guys with no juice. Guys who cannot get it done at a place like St. Francis.

Oh well it will be another one of those seasons in Brooklyn Heights. 200 people in attendance maybe. And a ton of loses with no one even caring.

The New Coach at Seton Hall will be a very good coach. In fact that is not a problem at most campuses. The problem and challenge for him now and in the future is getting the stud players to attend as PJ and a super staff did years ago. Ditto Tommy Ameker, and even Bobby Gonzalez to a point.

He has very good talent this season. Talent that could lead SHU to an NCAA birth. But after this season he will be on his own and have to get it done with players recruited by his staff.

Now I feel SHU will be in the NCAAs this season based on talent and a very good Head Coach. The problem I see is Seton Hall has a staff that is not ready for prime time recruiting at this time. In fact who are the Assistants besides Shaheen Holloway? And oddly even he has not been around long enough to establish contacts that will get him and SHU players .  I still remain stunned that SHU would not hire a better staff to recruit players. I am stunned they did not get guys with super connections to join Coach Willard and Holloway. What were they thinking?

As I mentioned last week, recruiting starts very early with establishing relationships. And in all honesty it involves for some schools in the mid-west and points south a lot of cash being spent. Not just a courtship of a player! It might be a courtship with presents, but not just talking someone into attending Big University of America. Assistant Coaches that are hired at schools in major conferences need to come with a book of national connections. The days of guys like Dick Vitale going into a home a selling a kid on playing time is over.

Unfortunately many kids and parents have a hand out for extra benefits to attend certain colleges. Think most schools do not have a department set up just for this? Of course they do. It is called the non affiliated "Friends of The Program."  In fact, some of the huge basketball factories have boosters who handle these requests without the Head Coach even knowing about it. Or at least they are smart enough to stay out of the picture and never even discuss stuff with Assistant Coaches. You would be surprised at the schools I have heard pay, and pay well.

So to not have that big donor booster, you need a barracuda as an assistant with lots of contacts from the East Coast to The West Coast.  Tough guys ready to walk down streets in South Jamaica and the South Bronx late at night hoping to accidentally bump into kids as some ex SHU coaches were known to do years ago. Or coaches willing to walk into parts of Baltimore far from the Harber and be comfortable recruiting.

Again Seton Hall will win this season. But getting recruits for the future will be a challenge based on the mentality of kids and advisors as well as a lack of connection to power brokers along the eastern seaboard.

Lets look at St. Johns. If nothing else they will play hard for the new coach because they know he does not have to play them. In an effort to impress, they will work harder than they have ever worked in the past.

Now SJU did not get the dream staff Lavin spoke about. But in my opinion that was a dream team  of recruiters. SJU might just have the best overall coaching staff. In fact I know they have the best staff, especially when it comes to X and Os.

Add very good talent to very good coaching with a proven X and O expert on the staff and that will equal success. In fact I feel Madison Square Garden and the on campus arena will be jumping this season.

Rutgers has done a better job than anyone else locally on the recruitment trail. And I am not stunned by this. Rutgers has a big time on campus atmosphere despite playing in a 9000 seat sorta dumpy and old fashioned arena.

The new kids signed bring great energy to the program despite having to wait a year to play. Is it me or has Mike Rice become a real NJ Hero thus far. He hired a great staff for recruitment purposes. They have the east coast covered. And from watching him for many years, I know he understands the game and is a very good Coach.

I am going out on the limb here and predicting Rutgers will finish with a winning record this season.

Now again get that gym,,,,I mean Arena fixed up. Think Rutgers did well so far? Watch what happens if the crowds increase and they win. They could become a dominant area program.

Fordham has a pretty good staff. Not sure what they are doing and if they will win. Now Rutgers Arena is like the Prudential Center compared to the HS type gym Fordham plays in.

But Tom Picora will get it done. He has won everywhere. Fordham will be no different.

New Coach at Hofstra.  Glad he was smart enough to get Steve DeMeo (Shocked none of the BE schools went after him) and Wayne Morgan, a super addition. Stunned that Wayne is even at a CAA school as opposed to a place like Ohio State,  Seton Hall, etc. They Might be better in the long run than any team in the last 15 years at Hofstra.


It's a shame how some schools get away with cheating all the time and everyone knows.

What BE school got rid of some Assistant coaches and had a tremendous player drop out and disappear back to his country because the coaches did not want the NCAA to talk with him.

Anyone besides me miss having ABCD camp at FDU? How about The Boost Mobile moving to California? Next thing you we might see is The NYC Rucker League and IS8 moving to Upper saddle River!