The guest speaker for the occasion was long-time NBA player and 1981 10th overall draft choice Albert King.
As far as the hometown teams are concerned, NEC coaches aren’t expecting much from either the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers, or the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds, judging from a preseason poll which placed them seventh and fourth, respectively
Terrier head coach Glenn Braica, who’s now entering his seventh season at the helm, said he doesn’t pay much attention to the rankings, even when the Terriers were picked first just two seasons ago.
He also discussed one of the key topics of conversation surrounding the Terrier program leading into their 2015-16 campaign: They might have the NEC’s best guard play, highlighted by All-NEC third-teamer and lone senior Yunus Hopkinson, and returning red-shirt sophomore Glenn Sanabria.
“They’re very experienced, proven guys in the league, and we have a number of returners in addition to them that we feel can step up and have good years,” Braica said of his Terriers who finished 15-17, 11-7 (NEC) last season. “We think we’re really deep on the perimeter and very talented, and we think have some talent in the front court, but we’re very inexperienced.”
“We’re still in a learning process,” said Hopkinson, who averaged 12.2 points per game after averaging less than three in the prior two seasons. “Guys are still trying to get their feet wet, trying to figure out the defense, the way we play and the style of play.
“Hopefully we pick it up soon, and we could be on the same page to hopefully to be in the running for a title,” he added.
The Blackbirds, who finished 16-15, 9-9 (NEC) were represented at media day by head coach Jack Perri, and senior forward Jerome Frink, who averaged 16.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game last season while earning All-NEC First Team honors.
The Blackbird women were picked fifth in the preseason poll after finishing 9-21, 7-11 (NEC) last year after a rash of injuries hampered their progress.
Second-year head coach Stephanie Oliver and the crew return with a full team, led by Preseason All-NEC First Team player Shanovia Dove.
“It’s really nice to have a full squad able to suit up and play,” Oliver said. “They’ve been progressing every single day. I really have no complaints, I’m really proud of them.”
Right behind the Blackbirds were the rival Terriers, who were picked sixth one season after just missing out on a playoff berth with a 7-22, 4-14 (NEC) record, and over one year removed from their first ever NEC title.
While attempting to overcome the loss of one of the greatest players in program history in Leah Fechko, the Terriers return 10 players from last season. This includes seven of last year’s freshmen and a trio of newcomers led by senior forward Olivia Levey who, along with head coach John Thurston, represented SFC at media day.
“Me and Rachel (Iozzia, the other Terrier senior on the roster) try not to treat our team like our championship team in a sense that we have new chemistry,” said Levey, who averaged 8.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season. “We’re trying to create our own legacy, but also instill some of the values that we had from our championship team into this new team.”
Men’s NEC Preseason Poll
1. Fairleigh Dickinson (6 first place votes)
2. Wagner (4 first place votes)
T-4. Mount St. Mary’s
6. Robert Morris
7. St. Francis Brooklyn
8. Sacred Heart
9. Saint Francis (PA)
10. Central Connecticut State
Women’s NEC Preseason Poll
1. Sacred Heart (6)
2. Robert Morris (3)
3. Saint Francis U (1)
5. LIU Brooklyn
6. St. Francis Brooklyn
7. Central Connecticut
8. Mount St. Mary’s
9. Fairleigh Dickinson