Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thanks for the Memories: #23 Julian Norfleet

This tribute to #23 Julian Norfleet is long overdue. I have no excuse other than I didn't want to let go, didn't want to acknowledge that this four-year career was finally over and that we'd never see Julian Norfleet taking control of a game for the Mountaineers again.

The truth is, I would have never expected to feel that way when I first saw Norfleet play back in the early winter of 2009. I never anticipated that Norfleet would walk off of campus as one of the best players in Mount history. Nor did I anticipate that he'd be the guy who grabbed my respect as a complete basketball player more than possibly any other in Mount history.

At that point it was obvious to see that Norfleet could shoot and score the ball. He showed a decent handle and was ok at the defensive end. It was obvious to see he had talent and potential, but never did I expect it to develop the way it did.

What transformed in four years at the Mount is truly remarkable. And Norfleet deserves the credit.

Based on a desire to never lose, Norfleet, by all accounts, is the hardest working guy in Memorial or any gym around. And based on that same desire to win, he's willing to sacrifice his own personal gain for the gain of the team.

I remember Head Coach Jamion Christian telling me how important it was that in early part of the 2012-13 season that Norfleet was willing to sacrifice his own offensive game and scoring opportunities to make sure that others got theirs and the team got better.

Still, I don't think anything changed my appreciation and respect for Norfleet more than the new role he took on after Josh Castellanos rolled an ankle in January of 2013. The Shivaughn Wiggins Point Guard Era lasted about 4 minutes and 10 turnovers versus Monmouth on a cold winter's night at Knott Arena and it looked really bad for the Mount.

Enter Norfleet as the lead guard. The glorious run that Mount basketball went on over the next 14 months really started right there. Norfleet with the ball in his hands became the catalyst.

He still scored, but the others around him did as well. And he became exactly what every coach wants in a player, "the one who makes the other's around him better."

That may have never been more evident when the Mount blitzed Norfolk State in January. Norfleet, playing in his hometown with a contingent of family and friends on hand, turned in a truly remarkable 31 point 10 assist performance, that ranks as one of the greatest individual performances I've ever seen from a Mountaineer.

When Norfleet was only chosen to the second team All-NEC after averaging 17.2 points and 5.5 assists and being the glue that held things together for the Mount during his senior season, I was mad. I'm still mad, but as I mulled over my thoughts to write this piece, I realized that the guys who voted on those awards didn't have what I had. The ability to watch Norfleet play every night and see just how special and how important he was. What a pleasure that was.

Norfleet leaves the Mount with 1605 points, 423 assists, 378 rebounds and 153 steals in a career that saw him start 125 of the 126 games he played in. But what he has left is so much more. He's set the standard high, shown players how to work, and raised the level of excellence expected from the Mount.

Three claps for you Julian Norfleet. You've earned my respect and given my family and I  great Mount memories. All the best in your professional career.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

Marquette Basketball 2014-15 Non-Conference Game #4: Mount St. Mary's - Anonymous Eagle

UPDATE: 6:05PM July 4 - This is an erroneous report from the SB Nation. This game isn't happening. The Wake Forest game is still on for the Mount. Other games include Old Dominion, Arizona & Seton Hall.

Marquette Basketball 2014-15 Non-Conference Game #4: Mount St. Mary's - Anonymous Eagle:



This is a surprise to me. I hadn't heard the Warriors (Now Golden Eagles) were on the schedule. Working on getting confirmation, but it is a holiday. Could this mean that the trip to Wake Forest is off?



'via Blog this'

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Thanks for the Memories: #22 Rashad Whack

This is just a simple recollection of the two years that Rashad Whack spent playing for Mt. St. Mary's, written by a simple fan who enjoys going to the games and particularly enjoyed watching Whack play the last two years.

If it were more than that, say a highlight film set to music of those two years, this blogger would lay the track Happy behind the video. Because #22 always seemed Happy to be on the basketball floor. And let's be honest as Mount fans we were happy that he was there. Somewhere along the way, I'd include that soaring left handed dunk (maybe two or three times). But this is just a simple recollection, So Clap along as I run back through what were two tremendously exciting years from Whack.

There were plenty of great offensive moments from Whack, who led the Mayhem attack in scoring in both years at the Mount. The 35-point performance versus Sacred Heart when he made 7 of 10 3 pointers, including all 5 of his attempts in a 23-point first half. The 26-point performance in 2013's NEC Tournament win at Robert Morris. The 20-point win in the NEC Final the following year in the same building.

All of that allowed Whack to become a 1000 point scorer in essentially just two years of college play. Whack scored just 49 points at George Mason before coming to the Emmitsburg campus. So if all we remembered Rashad Whack for was his unique ability to score the basketball we couldn't really be faulted.

But Whack - and his contribution to Mayhem was so much more than that. He made us as fans, believe, that Mayhem could and would be a successful way to win basketball games. During the first 7 games of his Mount career he averaged 3 steals a game as the Mount won 4 of the first 7 games in the Mayhem Era. And during that 7 game stretch he matched the 3 steals per outing with 3 3's per night to firmly put a stamp on what the Mount was now about.

And it was that style and his play that had a lot to do with 2 straight trips to the NEC Championship game that culminated in an NEC Championship and the ensuing NCAA tournament appearance.

Whack didn't make all his threes. In fact, there were nights where he missed more than he made. But from wherever I was, in the blue seats, in the bleachers, at Bryce Jordan Center, in front of the TV, or watching on this same laptop that I now type, I always felt when Rashad rose and fired, the ball was going in.

Nothing could prove that point more than the Quarterfinal win at Knott Arena this past year. Whack's three-pointer was the game-winner and what had been a tough shooting night turned joyous. Because on that night Whack did whatever was necessary to win. When the outside shots weren't falling he drove hard to the basket, earning free throw after free throw. He made 10-of-12, including the 'and one' of a three-point play that fueled a ridiculous rally for the Mount.

And still none of that was what Whack did best. Rashad Whack was absolutely the best defender in the Northeast Conference the past two years. That Kenneth Ortiz won the NEC Defensive player of the Year is a joke. As far as postseason awards go, it's a crime of the highest degree.

You want proof of Whack's performance. All you need to do is look at his effort against League MVP Karvel Anderson. Nobody in the NEC could stop Anderson. He averaged 23.4 points per conference game when Whack wasn't guarding him. In three games against the Mount, Anderson scored just 41 points, many coming when the Mount was forced to foul late in the 2 regular season losses, others coming after the champion had been determined. Anderson scored 38 in the first round of the NIT against the Big East's St. John's.

And those efforts by Whack against Anderson were nothing more than Whack deciding that he wasn't going to let Anderson score. He blanketed him, and the top scorers for many other teams. Ultimately, it was that defense that had been so maligned for so much of the season, that led the Mount to the championship and Whack was the heart of it.

I wish we'd have gotten to spend more time with Rashad Whack, wish we'd have seen more of him and his abilities. But I'll never forget the effort he gave every single night and the smile that came with it.

Three claps for Rashad Whack on a job well done. All the best in wherever you land next. We'll be rooting for you.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Thanks for the Memories: #3 Sam Prescott

I will never forget Valentine's Day night of 2013.

I got in a lot of trouble that night. I chose the Mount game over dinner with my wife.

Sam Prescott made sure that was a wise decision.

At the time a junior, and having broken into the starting lineup only a few weeks prior, he singed the Bryant defense for 44 points knocking down 10 three-pointers on the evening. As far as individual performances at Knott Arena there are few, if any, better. Certainly much better than the steak or crab cake that the other option provided.

But that wasn't the only lasting image I'll have of Prescott. Etched in my mind, and the nightmares of Robert Morris fans everywhere, will be Prescott sitting comfortably in the middle of the Colonial zone, just past the foul line making the proper decision each and every time, either knocking down the 16-foot jumper if nobody stepped forward, or kicking to the wing, the corner or to the baseline depending upon where the help defense came from.

Maybe it was the 2 final second jumpers during his senior season that you'll recall when you think of Prescott's time at the Mount. They were both incredibly memorable shots. The three against Long Island with .3 second left capped about as frantic a final minute (sans SFNY quarterfinal win) of basketball you can have. Or maybe his three to force an extra session of basketball against Fairleigh Dickinson just two nights before was what stands out.

And don't forget the double-double against St. Francis U on Senior Day. He lit up the scoreboard in the second half and then got his 10th rebound just seconds before leaving to a strong ovation.

Or perhaps, you go the whole way back. Back to your first look of Prescott. Mine was the Blue-White game in 2011, during the year he had to sit out because of NCAA transfer rules. He electrified that day. Passed the look test in every way, and as a great basketball mind told me that day, "He excites you".

The fact is Sam Prescott could of scored a lot more points than the 11.1 he averaged with the Mount these past two seasons. Or he could have had a lot more than the 1000+ he totaled in his collegiate career which began with 2 seasons at Marist.

But that wasn't Prescott's role within this team and this system. And he bought into it. Bought in hard and did the things that were necessary to make this team everything it has been the last two seasons. Whether that was matching up against much bigger players on the defensive end and trying (successfully on many occasions) to keep them off the offensive boards, or going out front and guarding the lead guard. Or running through the offense and setting the screens and taking the defense away from the point attack. Prescott did it, and all along with a smile on his face.

There were plenty of individual moments and achievement in Prescott's career and those images will stick. But it was his unselfishness that I'll remember best.

This Mt. St. Mary's program is about to get good. Real good. Sam Prescott's days on the floor are over, but his days as a pillar of this program will never end.

Three claps for you, Sam, on a job well done. Thanks for the memories, and the dedication, they will not be forgotten.

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