by Dan Gardella
Brooklyn, NY – The Northeast Conference hosted its annual media day at Barclays Center Wednesday afternoon. In addition to the media getting a chance to talk to the coaches and players from each team, the preseason poll was released as well as All-NEC teams. Here are some things to know entering the NEC season.
The Preseason Team:
Keith Braxton, St. Francis (PA), Jr, G
Raiquan Clark, LIU Brooklyn, Sr, G/F
Mike Holloway Jr., Fairleigh Dickinson, Sr, F
Jamaal King, St. Francis (PA), Sr, G
Tyler Kohl, Central Connecticut, Sr, G
The Poll: (First place votes in parentheses)
- St. Francis (PA) (8)
- Fairleigh Dickinson (1)
- LIU Brooklyn (1)
- Robert Morris
- Central Connecticut State
- St. Francis Brooklyn
- Sacred Heart
- Mount St. Mary’s
After finishing the 2017-18 season third in the NEC, the St. Francis (PA) Red Flash had a rather premature ending to their season with two straight losses, one in the NEC Tournament Quarterfinals, and the other in the first round of the CIT.
As the page turns to 2018-19, head coach Rob Krimmel returns all five starters, led by reigning All-NEC first team Jamaal King. In a league where transfers tear apart programs, that has not been the issue for Krimmel’s crew.
“You have to get old in this league” Krimmel said. “If you are constantly replacing, that experience factor is so critical.”
The defending NEC Tournament champions, the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds receive one first place and sit third in the preseason rankings. After coming off of the high that was winning the NEC Tournament, head coach Derek Kellogg’s attention turns to the next goal. Winning the NEC again and making an impact in the NCAA Tournament.
“Guys like Raiquan (Clark) and Jashaun (Agosto) and the guys that have come back to be that stable force. You have to win three games in the tournament which could go either way. We just have to ourselves in the position to be there. We are just going to stay the course.” Kellogg said.
“By losing in the tournament, we want to get back” Clark said. “We know we can probably win the NEC again. We don’t want to just get there, we want to win games.”
Wagner, the regular season champions of the conference last season and ultimately falling short in the NEC Tournament Championship game sit fourth after losing two stars in Staten Island in JoJo Cooper and Blake Francis.
Robert Morris, who was bit with the transfer bug the most out of the NEC teams sits fifth. The Colonials lose Dachon Burke, their leading scoring last year at 17.6 points per contest and Leond Washington, the team’s fourth leading scorer from last season due to transferring.
The New Era:
This season, there are two new coaches who will begin their head coaching careers in the NEC, Bryant’s Jared Grasso and Mount St. Mary’s Dan Engelstand.
Engelstand returns to the Mount after being a former assistant coach and recently finished a five year coaching stint at Southern Vermont College. Grosso previously coached at Fordham and was recently a member of Tim Cluess’s Iona team which has seen plenty of success over recent years. The years as an assistant coach at Iona has taught him valuable lessons that will come over to Bryant along with Grasso.
“The biggest thing I learned from Iona is how hard you have to work every single day in everything you do to give yourself a chance to be good.” said Grasso.
With the season tipping off in less than two weeks, it is clear that the conference, poll aside, is wide open. Will LIU Brooklyn repeat? Will Wagner redeem themselves? Or will it be an underdog who will take the NEC by storm. While the answers to those questions are months away, the first steps to answering them are arriving very shortly.