We Here Now
L.I.U. is finally making its presence known.
by Donnell Suggs
Located directly across the street from Junior’s restaurant—home of the world’s most famous cheesecake in downtown Brooklyn—is the not-yet-so-famous basketball program of Long Island University. L.I.U. is making only its third NCAA appearance since 1984, having last made a cameo as a 13 seed in 1997, when it lost 101-91 to four seed Villanova in the first round. That team was virtually a one-man gang led by Bishop Ford and Rutgers transfer Charles Jones.
This year’s Northeast Conference regular season and tournament champs are more of a team, as shown during their thrilling 85-82 victory over Robert Morris in the championship game last week. Four players were in double figures, all underclassman. With a 27-5 overall record on the season, the Blackbirds journey to a NCAA tournament birth was definitely no fluke, they had the nation’s longest win streak at 13 and won more road games than any other D-1 program—also 13.
Led by eighth-year head coach Jim Ferry, associate head coach Jack Perri and assistants Rich Glesmann and Jason Harris, L.I.U. has been patiently waiting for its moment in the spotlight to return, and Friday’s game against ACC tournament runner-up North Carolina is the perfectly opportunity. Coach Perri agrees. “We had dealt with so much adversity the year before and still finished in the top four in our league and made it to the semifinals of the league tournament,” he said. “We were due for a breakout season.”
There will be three seniors leaving after this season and the extra media coverage (there have been articles written in all of the New York papers and subsequent websites) can only boost recruiting for the upcoming seasons according to the coaching staff. “This will definitely help recruiting,” Coach Perri said. “Being in New York City helps exposure and we are out there on a national stage Friday Night. We will continue to try and recruit good players and hopefully we can get some locals to fit our program.”
The lack of locals on the Blackbird roster is clear. There are more Canadians on the team than New Yorkers. Freshman point guard Jason Brickman, a Texas native, leads the team in assists (he had 8 in the championship game) and has been instrumental in the squad’s success. Sophomore forward Kenny Onyechi is also from Texas. Fellow sophomore forward Jamal Olasewere (who scored 31 points in the championship game) and juco transfer guard C.J. Garner (who scored 15 points against Robert Morris) both hail from Maryland. Silver Spring to be exact. If all of these guys can find their way to Brooklyn, imagine what could be accomplished if they can pull off a victory against UNC this Friday night.