Mens Basketball Preview: Good mix of old and new

The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team is looking to improve on their 6-21 record of last year.
Under the tutelage of 6th year head coach Joe DeSantis, the team will rely heavily on the expertise and experience of co-captains Jared Grasso and Bill Romano. “I think with Jared and Billy being captains, it’s very easy for me to say, ‘Hey (Kason) Mimms, I want you to go get 20 points, but you know what, Jared is our main outside threat, Billy’s going to be the inside threat,” said DeSantis. Guard, Kareem Lee, who has suffered from back injury, will all look to help lead the Braves in the Northeast Conference. Romano and Grasso are one of the top returning scoring duos in the NEC at a combined 21.7 points per game.
In addition to Grasso and Romano, the Braves will rely heavily on the scoring abilities of sophomores Mimms and Rashaun Banjo. Junior Vernon Thompson and sophomore John Bajda will be buying for time at the guard/forward positions. The Braves will be using an up tempo style on defense and offense. “I like to play good solid man to man defense and throw in zone and see,” said DeSantis, “I run a match up zone, based on scouting, so I think you will see 60%-70% man, 40%-30% zone.” DeSantis, who was a NBA scout for the Detroit Pistons, will concentrate on scouting.
Quinnipiac will miss the likes of Bob McNeish, Jamar Fields, Jason Rosato, Aki Allahgholi, Alpha East, and team Most Valuable Player, Collin Charles; all of who completed their collegiate eligibility in the 2000-2001 season? Charles led the team in scoring with 17.5 points per game, and East was the team’s leading rebounder at 6.4 rebounds per game. He led the team and the NEC in field goal percentages (.681).
The Braves have four recruits that they hope will help to improve the team.
Rob Monroe is a 5-10 guard out of Maryland. At the Berkshire School (Mass.), Monroe led his team to a 21-4 record and earned the MVP honors for the team. He averaged 22.4 points, 7.2 assists, and 3.1 steals per contest. Jeremy Bishop is a 6-6 forward from Champlain Junior College in Burlington, Vermont. He led Champlain in scoring at 16.5 points per game and in rebounds, 15.3 per game. Kris Ibezim is a 6-8 forward out of Sullivan Community College. At Sullivan, Ibezim averaged 13.9 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game, and led his team to the NCAA Division III Championship game. C.J. Vick is from Virginia, and played ball at the Notre Dame Academy in Fitchburg, Mass. In addition, forward Macklin Thornton from Landover, MD. Also walk-ons, Jon Pierce (Trumbull, Conn.) and Damien Speranza will look to add depth and stability to the roster.
The Braves will be entering their 51st season, and their fourth season in Division I Northeast Conference play. The NEC will have a tough crop of teams for the Braves to compete with. The Monmouth University Hawks, who won the NEC tournament last season and earned the right to take on Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, will be tough again. The Hawks will be led by their senior guard, Rahsaan Johnson, the 2000-01 NEC player of the year. Quinnipiac will take on Monmouth at Burt Kahn court on February 7, at 7 p.m. The Hawks knocked off Saint Francis of New York in the NEC championship game. They were the regular season champions. They are also looking to be atop the NEC. The Terriers will look to senior leadership from Clifford Strong, who averaged 14.5 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game.
The Braves will take on the reigning regular season NEC champions at home on Dec. 1, at 2 p.m. That contest will also be broadcast on WCTX-TV.
Quinnipiac will not only have a tough time competing in the NEC, they will also have some challenges in their non-conference games. To open the season, the Braves will go to Worcester, Mass. on Nov.16, to take on the 2000-01 Patriot League Champions, Holy Cross. The Crusaders, who lost to Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, will be led this year by Patriot League Preseason player of the year, Tim Szatko. The Braves will then have two tough non-conference games in a row. They will take on the University of Connecticut, Huskies, at the Hartford Civic Center on Dec. 21 at 7 p.m.
Eight days later, the Braves will travel to Jamaica, New York to take on the Red Storm of Saint John’s University. The game is at 2 p.m. and will be shown on WCTX-TV.
The 2002 NEC Men’s Basketball Tournament will hold its quarterfinal, semifinal, and championship games at Wagner University. The 2,200 seat Spiro Sports Center will play host to the games. Wed., Mar. 6, the championship game will be played and aired on ESPN 2 at 7:30 p.m.
(Quotes courtesy of Eric Yutzy, TV interview with Coach DeSantis)