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Friday, November 29, 2013

Wraysing Eyebrows @ National Prep Showcase

Mount signee Chris Wray one of the standouts at the first day of National Prep Showcase. He's part of a great class of five that arrives on campus in July.

2013 National Prep Showcase Day 1 Recap - CityLeagueHoops | CityLeagueHoops:

'via Blog this'

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Head Coach Jamion Christian on the Mount's Recruiting Class

All quotes from the official Mt. St. Mary's release on the incoming class.

"This class of Mount freshmen will continue to help us build our program into an annual top four contender in the Northeast Conference," said Head Coach Jamion Christian.  "Through our recruiting, we always want to increase our size, speed and athleticism and we are thrilled to say that we have been able to do so in the early signing period.  All of this year's recruiting class contains the components that will help to take Mayhem and the Mount to the next level."

On Troy Henderson:

"Troy is a scoring wing who is an excellent shooter from beyond the three point line," said Christian.   "His size and reach with the ability to guard bigger scoring wings on the wing are an asset as is his ability to knock down outside shots from the perimeter.  He comes to us from a great program in Charlotte (Gaston Day School) where he plays for a great head coach in Kenny Burr."

On Chris Manning

"We love keeping local talent close to home and we were able to do so with Chris," said Christian.  "He is comes to us from Randallstown high school where he played for Kevin English.  Chris embodies everything that we are looking for in a Mount student.  One of the top student's in his class at Randallstown, he also partakes in several activities off of the floor.  On the floor, his ability to get off of the floor quickly will help him to block shots and finish above the rim in our ball screen sets."


On Mo Sallah:

"Mo is a big man with a great upside and ability to rebound the ball against anyone.  We love bigs that play above the rim and that protect the rim through shot blocking," said Christian.  "Mo gives us a rim protector with size.  He comes to us after a prep year at Fishburne Military Academy where he starts for one of the nation's best prep schools."

On Junior Robinson

"Junior is an explosive, prolific scoring point guard out of the state of North Carolina who possess 4.3 40-yard dash speed, and a 40-plus inch vertical leap," said Christian.  "Junior will join us from Eastern Alamance High School, where he has been their starting point guard for four years.  Junior's ability to create for others and score from beyond the three point line makes him the perfect fit for the Mount." 

On Chris Wray

"Chris brings to us the ability to guard all five positions and he is a winner at every level that he has played," said Christian. "He comes to the Mount from first Shelby high school where he was a three-year starter and after one prep year at Fishburne Military academy for a great Coach in Ed Huckaby.  He is a  tenacious defender, shot blocker, and on-ball defender that we will use in a multitude of ways to continue to improve our defense."

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Night in Provo

If you're a Mountaineer fan, I know what you're thinking. At least, I think I know what you're thinking.

Because this road trip to BYU is sort of a scary predicament for the Mount. Just two nights after allowing Villanova to score 90 points in a dunkfest, the Mounties take on the Cougars who just rolled up 112 on late Monday evening in Northern California versus Stanford.

So the question that is on everyone's mind, is "How is the Mount going to slow down BYU?". Truth is, I'm not sure. And for that matter not sure they can. BYU is a seriously good team that is going to seriously test the Mountaineer defense.

So which defense will we see, the gambling one that was constantly beaten for layups and dunks in Philadelphia or the one that slowed West Virginia a week ago, by keeping the ball in front of them only to see WVU shoot the lights out over top the defense. BYU has the capabilities to do either, so its not an easy choice for Jamion Christian on how he wants to play it.

My guess is the Mountaineers are going to press. Because that's what they do. However, I do think you'll see a little more conservative pressure, especially to start. The game plan against Villanova, to try to turn the Wildcats over again and again, might not have been a bad idea. Villanova struggled early against the pressure, and came in as a team vulnerable to the pressure. But once Villanova added another guard on the floor, and took away the Mount's offense, the defensive gameplan was undone.

So tonight begins a stretch of what I think are three very important games for the Mount. Following the foray west, the Mount plays at UMBC and UMES, that's Maryland-Baltimore County and Maryland Eastern Shore. Those two games seemed very winnable a week ago. And they remain winnable.

UMBC's lone win is of the overtime variety over Eastern University. A game the Division III school's website refers to as an exhibition. Eastern Shore pounded neighboring Division III Salisbury State for it's only win. kenpom.com rates the Hawks 346 out of 350 Nationally.

So those games are certainly potential road wins for the Mount. However, the Mount can't limp into those games. That is why a strong showing at BYU is so important tonight. The defense was atrocious in Philadelphia, but even more concerning was the lack of offense. The Mount managed just .82 points per possession while shooting just 30% from the field.

That has to change and it has to change in a hurry. Seniors Rashad Whack and Sam Prescott have struggled in the first two games. The two have combined to average just 17 points combined through the first two games and both have shooting percentages that look more like batting averages.

We've seen Whack and Prescott produce in the past. We expect them to produce again. There were some glimpses during the second half the other night. But they need to be consistent, and they need to start soon.

Tonight works just fine for me.

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Mount O'Links - Friday

BYU fans to recite Gettysburg Address at halftime tonight

What you Need to Know: The BYU Perspective

Fishburne signees

Cougars Look to Build on Momentum

Redskins Eagles Preview

Rush The Court - ACC

Traveling Ray

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mount Mayhem Grows by Five

Sometime today, if they aren't there already, National Letters of Intent, will make their way into the Mt. St. Mary's athletic office bringing the Mount four big front line players and a guard, who has many adjectives to describe him, but big is not one of them.

Lamont Robinson Jr, who is listed at 5-7, is the only guard in the class - the other four are big players with long wing spans that should excel in the Mayhem defensive style that Jamion Christian utilizes at the Mount. Chris Manning 6-6 from Randallstown, Mo Sallah 6-9 who played his high school ball in Hagerstown and is now prepping at Fishburne Academy, Sallah's Fishburne teammate Chris Wray 6-7 from Shelby North Carolina, and Troy Henderson 6-9 from Charlotte North Carolina all will be signing letters of intent.

Robinson averaged 22 points and 5 assists a game during his junior season at Eastern Alamance High School. He became the talk of the AAU Circuit this summer, routinely beating bigger players and making his team and teammates better. A North Carolina All-State selection as a junior, Robinson helped his team reach the Class 3-A Eastern Regional Semifinals after winning the Mid-State 3-A Conference. Robinson chose the Mount over offers from Middle Tennessee State & Charleston Southern.

Manning is an athletic and rangy 6-6 forward who should excel at both ends of the floor for the Mount. The local product from Randallstown High School is a good rebounder and shot blocker and finishes with authority in the paint. Manning chose the Mount early in the recruiting game, but also had an offer from Radford.

Chris Wray has been committed to the Mount for what seems like an eternity. Wray committed before his senior year at Shelby (NC) High School. The plan was always for him to attend prep school for a year before coming to Emmitsburg. He averaged 11 points and 5 rebounds a game, and was generally known as the best defensive player on the floor for Shelby, averaging better than 2 blocks and 2 steals per night. He has the ability to play on the wing and this level and should be a great addition to the pressure defense.

Sallah starred at Broadfording Christian Academy in Hagerstown. He averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks a night. The defensive ability will be quite handy for the 6-9 Sallah at the back of the Mount pressure.

The 6 foot 9 inch Henderson will come to the Mount with plenty of upside. He is a skilled forward with a lot of bounce to his game and a soft touch. His game still has room for improvement but he became much sought after by mid-majors this summer amassing offers from Mercer, Presbyterian, UNC Asheville, Vermont and Youngstown State, before picking the Mount over Campbell in the end.

The Mount loses four seniors - all starters - off this years team. So they are in need of replenishing with next year's class. This group appears to have done that. Factor into the mix that Marshall transfer guard Chris Martin will become eligible next season and the Mount will have a very strong nucleus to build on.




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Mount O'Links - Wednesday

Top Stories of the Day Surrounding the Mount

Jimmy Oates commits to LAX team

Henderson's 22 Just Not Enough

Villanova's 3 Keys
Let's hope their scouting report is this thin

Philly.com Preview

After Nova, looms BYU

24 Hours of Hoops

Champions Classic Draft

Terps Recruiting Class

Morehead signs with baseball team

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Friday Night: What I saw

Lots of folks have been asking me what I saw when I ventured to Morgantown on Friday Night. I could tell them about the Texas football fans in their burnt orange at the restaurant before the game. But that isn't really what they want to know about. Folks want to know about the Mount, and should we be concerned? Concerned that the Mount didn't shoot well, and confused that the turnovers they got in bunches a year ago were limited to just 8 on Friday night.

Well, I'm not worried about this team offensively. I actually think that despite the fact that Rashad Whack and Sam Prescott combined for only 11 points, the offensive performance was more efficient than it was against BCS schools last year. And in fact, the kenpom offensive efficiency rating for 2013-2014 exceeds what it was for 2012-2013. That is a good sign. Coupled with the fact that it came when Whack and Prescott had rough nights and it really looks better.

Because I'm really not concerned if Whack and Prescott can score. If the open shots that they had on Friday night will go in. Those questions are already answered. Whack and Prescott are going to make their shots and get their points. It just didn't happen Friday.

The positives were this. Julian Norfleet is ready to have his best season as a Mountaineer. He had 19 points and 7 assists. He is in total control and command of the offense. He is going to have a huge year.

Greg Graves got 9 rebounds in his first collegiate start. The added muscle is apparent but it hasn't taken away any of the athleticism. He's going to be a real factor.

Will Miller rotated with Graves and proved that he can flat out shoot the ball. He made 3 trifectas on his debut. He's got a lot to get better at, but he's going to be an important part of this team because of the his shot making ability, and the fact that other teams are going to have to concern themselves with the other other offensive threats. Plus the cheering section from Texas adds something.

Kristijan Krajina also had 9, used his size well inside and again proved that if you get the ball to him on the low block good things are going to happen.

Taylor Danaher had a dunk and a three-pointer and didn't seem to get pushed around as much underneath.
He's put on some weight, and is very nimble at his size.

The fact that the Mount only forced 8 turnovers could be a bit concerning. However, I don't think it had much to do with the new defensive rules or any change. I think there were 2 factors.

1) West Virginia had all preseason to get ready for the traps. And even if they didn't start specifically on handling the pressure until after their last preseason game, they still had extended time.
2) The Mountaineers had multiple ballhandlers. It seems like the presses don't get as many turnovers when teams have a sort of rotation at the lead guard slot. I thought there were times last year, when teams like Wagner, weren't bothered as much. Thought that was the case on Friday.

West Virginia isn't a great team. The Mount will play 2 better teams the next two times out. But it seemed like what needed to go well for WVU on Friday night did. I think they made some shots they might not normally make, and I already mentioned the fact that there were open shots for the Mount that are going to go in more often than not that didn't on Friday.

So it was a little of a disappointment. But upon reflection, I think it bodes well for the season. This team is going to do a lot of real good things.


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Friday, November 08, 2013

And so it Begins

241 days separate the last time the Mount hit the floor for a basketball game - with tonight. In that time since, there have been a lot of happenings around the Mount basketball program. But none of it has taken the glow off the end of last season and what it meant for this program.

The players that remain are more than capable of carrying forth all the momentum that was gained during that month and a half stretch. In fact, they've been chomping at the bit to get back out there and compete.

Julian Norfleet will lead this group into action this season. He took over the point guard slot for Josh Castellanos, when Castellanos was sidelined with an ankle injury mid-January of last season. That move corresponded with the Mount winning 11 of its last 13 contests.

Transfers Sam Prescott and Rashad Whack were also vital in that stretch run. Both saw their playing time increase as the conference season wore on. Prescott scored 44 in a home beatdown of Bryant. Whack led the team in scoring last season, averaging just a tick under 14 per game. He knocked down 83 trifectas on the season to lead a Mount aerial attack.

Of course, there is the defense style as well. The full court pressing style of play that Mount Alum Jamion Christian calls Mayhem and brought with him from VCU when he arrived on campus a year ago April. A defense that forced opponents into turnovers on 24 percent of their possessions last season. Freshman Khalid Nwandu should help that defensive effort and is reportedly set to be a part of the starting lineup from the get go.

The media and the conference coaches have soured on the Mount a little since last season. The league preseason poll has them tabbed sixth. One spot higher than they finished last year.

This program doesn't feel like one in reverse. In fact, one college basketball coach told me recently, "They are going to finish a lot higher than sixth. I guarantee you that."

The non-conference slate starts tonight as it so often does on the road, in a facility of a big-time college athletic program. West Virginia is undoubtedly the favorite tonight. Kenpom.com gives West Virginia a 84% chance of winning and says the most likely result is a WVU 9-point win. Teamrankings.com says West Virginia would win 70% of the time, and says the most likely result is a West Virginia 72.3-66.7 win.

So the odds aren't in the Mount's favor. But does it matter?

This is Mayhem.

Year two begins tonight.



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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Coach

I lost a great friend when Jim Dooley passed away late last Thursday night.

Coach, as he was known by many, was my high school basketball coach, starting way back in 1989 when he came to Gettysburg High School to restore a proud program.

In the 24+ years since then he's been so much more.

There isn't just one thing that I can point to and say "Coach did this for me." But during those 24 years there were so many things, that I'm eternally grateful.

He was full of energy, passion, forever optimistic and as loyal as an individual can be. Characteristics that rubbed off on the people around him. I'm hoping they rubbed off of me.

He was always the guy that you could lean on. The guy who knew what to say - when it seemed like there wasn't anything to say that could make it better. But Coach always did.

In High School when we lost (and man did we lose), he found a way to tell us how we were going to get up in the morning, go to class and come to practice and get better. And that it would be better.

But more importantly when things went bad in the time since then, he reached out, made sure I knew that I had him and Mary to rely on if I needed it. Made sure I knew that the bad times would pass and the sun would rise again.

I know he's done the same for many of my teammates, many of the other kids he coached, many of the students he's taught, or anyone he's come in contact with who needed an extra lift. He genuinely cared for every person he came in contact with. He's helped make this great community stronger.

Coach was a great storyteller. He had a story about just about everything. I'll remember some of them forever. And I'm fortunate that I have so many great memories of Coach. Memories from the golf course, where we played and talked about just about everything.

But our matches were competitive. Because anything with Coach was. And the truth be told, I was a better golfer than he was. But he was bound and determined to beat me. And I'll never forget the first time he did.

It was the day after Christmas. My clubs were away for the season. But it was unseasonably warm, you know like up in the forties, and Coach thought it was a good day to play golf. Or maybe he thought it was as good a day as any to finally beat me. So he called and asked if I wanted to go play. I looked out the window and wasn't real sure it was a good idea. But I went. And headed to the 18th tee I clutched, with frozen fingers, to a one-stroke lead. He made par, I made bogey. The perfect way to end. Let's head inside for a drink to warm us up, I thought. He had other ideas. "Can't end tied," he said. "Let's play another hole."

And so we did. He won of course.

I've got lots of memories similar to that. Lots of happy times with Coach through the year. We've laughed and cried together. Argued about presidential elections and BCS bids - all the important things.

Earlier, I said we lost a lot in high school. We only won 12 games in the two years I played on his team at Gettysburg. Only three in that first season at Gettysburg. A season where he promised us we were building the foundation for a program that would have success in the future. And it did. League championships were in the program's future. But I never realized how important those three wins were. Jim Dooley's career, unbeknownst to everyone, came to a close last March in the PIAA Tournament. The final tally: 702 wins in that great coaching career.

However, that number should never define who he was or what he accomplished.

There are no numbers for that.



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