Long Island’s Jamal Olasewere, front left, is fouled by Robert Morris’ Velton Jones, right, during the first half of a Northeast Conference Championship NCAA college basketball game in New York.
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Last year the Long Island University-Brooklyn basketball team under the coaching of Jim Ferry captured 13 consecutive games, including the Northeast College Conference post-season tournament, defeating Robert Morris in the title game.

Jamal Olasewere captured the Most Valuable Player award of the conference tournament. He scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Central Connecticut State, tallied 18 points and grabbed the same number of rebounds against St. Francis of Pennsylvania.

Olasewere exploded for 31 markers and grabbed 11 caroms against Robert Morris in the contest that decided their automatic bid into the NCAA tournament where they lost to North Carolina University in the opening round. He is a tough rebounder, can really go in there and even put the ball into the hoop.

Teammate Jason Brickman, who turned in an excellent freshman year at the guard position, returned to the team as did Olasewere, Julian Boyd, C.J. Garner, and Michael Culpo. These players can give any of their rivals ‘fits’ better known as trouble in winning.

They all prepared very well for the current season. With many of the returnees and not such a deep squad they felt confident coming into the season that they would go deep into the NCAA tournament. But first, they must make it.

Ferry thus began his 10th season as head coach of the Blackbirds, located in downtown Brooklyn.

They started the season rather slow and lost at Hofstra, Old Dominican and Penn State, all on the road. After losing to Iona College to drop their record to 2-4 , and with the same starters-Brickman, a tremendous back court player, and a candidate for an all-league spot at the season’s end, Culpo, Olasewere and pre-season North East Conference player of the year Boyd, Ferry’s team went on a tremendous role winning nine straight games at one stage of the season.

After losing to Robert Morris, and then taking five in a row including two over neighborhood rival St. Francis College, including one at Madison Square Garden, their first place record read 19-7 and only one league setback.

And most important of all, they clinched a spot in the Northeast Conference tournament. The other teams standing hasn’t been determined at press time as the schedule is still going on.

Credit must go to the whole team, especially to Olasewere, who puts on quite a show both on offense and defense from the forward position until he fouled out with 30 seconds left against St. Francis College of Brooklyn in the Battle of Brooklyn.

Teammate Boyd connected on a jump shot with about 20 seconds left in the second half to put the Blackbirds ahead 79-78. Garnes’ two free throws put the icing on the cake or for LIU in a game that went right down to the end and thrilled the near capacity crowd. Despite the setback in the Battle of Brooklyn, the Terriers still remains in contention for a playoff spot, with the home court advantage going to the top four colleges.

Olasewere put on some show to be named Most Valuable Player of the Battle of Brooklyn schools to climax rivalry week in college basketball.

“I don’t think it’s pressure to repeat,” Ferry said. “The top four teams get the home court advantage.”

And credit must go to Brickman, who makes those passes, plays a tremendous game in the backcourt, has great court vision, and assisted 12 times in the Battle of Brooklyn at the LIU Wellness Center.

“Brickman had a special season as a freshman and has gotten quicker than (last year), added Ferry. “He’s taken on the role as a leader. And he has done a fantastic job for us.”

Coupled with Culpo, the only senior starter, they are two unselfish players, and they team very well together in the backcourt. Culpo is a very good ball handler. And there’s also a key reserve in freshman Brandon Thompson, who has been averaging in double figures as far as minutes are concerned. Coach Ferry is very high on him.

“He can handle the ball and has a great feel for the game,” added Ferry.

While the Blackbirds have to focus on one game at a time during the regular season in preparation for the league’s post-season tournament, the St. Francis College Terriers, trying to have a turn around season, are also doing very well in their drive to pull an upset or two in the stretch run. They are also in the running for a playoff spot which at press time is not clinched as yet.

St. Francis’ head coach Glenn Braica, whose team has been doing just great, said that the Battle of Brooklyn has always been interesting. The season has been going to form-the way it should be.

“We still have to improve on our defense,” said Coach Braica, who is in his second season as head coach of the Terriers. “I’m proud of my team. It’s been a good season and a fun year. We have a good group of guys. (Against Long Island University) we gave a decent account of ourselves and we’re proud of our players.”

Home court is an advantage and makes a big difference to a team during any game; with a tournament no exception.

More from Around NYC