The LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds did what no other team in the Northeast Conference’s history did last season when they won their third consecutive conference championship. Now heading into this season they are ranked fourth in the conference. An insult? Not to head coach Jack Perri who told the Brooklyn Eagle’s own John Torenli that the team is fortunate to even be ranked that high.
Here’s more from J.T.:
“We were picked [as high as] fourth based on what we’ve done the past few years,” Perri humbly noted after learning during Tuesday’s NEC media day at the Barclays Center that Wagner, Robert Morris and Bryant were all picked to finish in front of his reigning champions…
“…Patience is going to be one of the biggest differences with this year’s group,” admitted Perri, who led LIU to a 20-14 mark last season, including a 12-6 record in league play.
“We’re just learning what abilities these [new] guys have,” he added. “They have to learn our philosophy, but I like our young group.”
The differences between last year’s squad and this one are enormous. Last year’s NEC Player of the Year Jamal Olasewere has graduated, as has last year’s NEC Tournament MVP C.J. Garner.
Julian Boyd, the 2011-12 NEC Player of the Year who missed most of last season with a knee injury, was expected back, but he suffered a setback to the knee in July and is not expected back until January at the earliest. To make things even worse, one of the players expected to replace him, Nura Zanna, is out for the season with a hand injury.
So the Blackbirds, while their feat was amazing, absolutely have a lot to prove this season. They have to find, among the new players, somebody to step up and replace Boyd’s minutes. They also need a couple of guys to step up and fill in for Olasewere and Garner. Luckily for them they at least still have Jason Brickman, but he won’t be able to do it alone.
While they do have a lot to prove, it won’t be impossible for them to have success this year. If Boyd can return, and most importantly, on time and at full strength, then he’ll be a huge lift to this team. That’s a big if though, big enough that even the Blackbirds’ head coach realizes that they’re fortunate to be ranked as high as No. 4 right now.