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The Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog is back and improved. We'll keep you updated on everything you need to know about Rider and Princeton hoops as well as the college basketball landscape.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Q and A with Tommy Dempsey

With less than three weeks to go until Midnight Madness, The Blog stopped by last week for a chat with Rider coach Tommy Dempsey, whose team returns four starters -- but not Jason Thompson -- from last year's 23-11 team.

Q: Give us one interesting non-basketball thing you did over the summer.

A: My life is pretty boring. As I try to answer this question I’m realizing that. My son played travel baseball with an eight-year old travel team in Langhorne and that was a lot of fun. I followed him around. Sometimes that’s fun to watch from a different perspective. I stay out of it. I never get involved at all with the coaches or anything. I just kind of go there, bring my chair and sit there and watch. I have a lot of fun watching him and then he got right into football in August, so while things were kind of slow here I tried to get to football practice every night. Other than that it was recruiting, our kids are here in the summer, so you never really get far removed from the job here. But I don’t think anything other than that. Just trying to spend as much time with my family as possible in anticipation that once September starts your time becomes less and less at home.

Q. Little Tommy will be on the bench again this year?

A. Absolutely. It’s great for him and the players are great with him. He’s really into it, so he’s probably as excited as I am.

Q. Which summer camp, showcase or tournament is most beneficial from a recruiting standpoint?

A. The tournaments in Las Vegas and Orlando are where you get to see the most kids at once because all the other tournaments have other tournaments going on at the same time, so some of your kids are at one place, some of them are at another, and you have to make a lot of staff decisions about who goes to see which kid where, whereas in Vegas and Orlando, when those tournaments are going on, they’re pretty much the tournaments. Most of your recruits are playing in one of those two tournaments.

Q. Speaking of your staff, you picked up a new assistant who only had to travel the length of his street to get here.

A. I got to know Todd over the last six years that I’ve been here and just through our team camps and being a local high school coach. I had a good relationship with him for the past few years. We’ve actually talked about him joining my staff before when the whole transition happened. I think he really had a desire to get into college coaching. He was looking for an opportunity to do that and when it presented itself this time he decided to make the jump to the college game and to give up his head coaching responsibilities at Notre Dame, which I know was probably tough for him, but ultimately he wants to be a college basketball coach, a head basketball coach, so this was a natural step for him.

Q. Can you tell us what it’s like to have one of your players selected with the No. 12 overall pick in the NBA draft?

A. It was overwhelming, to be honest. It was one of the more special experiences that I’ve had not only in coaching, but in life. To watch a kid that you care that much about and a family that you’re so close to have all of his dreams come true in almost one night. That was something that it’s hard to describe to somebody, the feeling of pride that I felt for him and to watch his hard work rewarded it was a great experience going through the whole draft process; very nerve racking, so there was a lot of stress leading up to the night of June 26, and to hear him picked 12th, it was just the end of a long journey.

Q. How is he doing out in Sacramento?

A. He’s getting adjusted. They start training camp (tomorrow). He’s a little nervous about that and excited about it at the same time and just really believes that he has a chance to make an impact early on.

Q. What are your expectations this year for Ryan Thompson?

A. I think this is going to be a good adjustment for Ryan, but I think he’s one of the best players in the league and I think the other coaches in the league would say the same thing. But it will be a little bit different out there, but he went through the same process in high school, when he was a smaller part of it, especially in high school because Jason was a little bit older, and then when Jason moved on to Rider, he became a much bigger part of it and he handled that very well in high school. He went on and had a couple of big seasons after Jason left, and I expect the same thing here.

Q. Is there one guy on your team who you think is going to make a big jump this year?

A. I think one of the keys to this year’s team will be the play of our point guards. Both Justin and Matt had a lot thrown at them last year to play big minutes as freshmen at the point guard position on a championship caliber team. That’s a rare combination because it’s like having a freshman quarterback in football. Normally those teams aren’t ready to be great if your point guard is really young or your quarterback is really young, and they were the quarterbacks of our team and they had a lot to balance there, knowing that Jason needed his touches and Harris needed his shots and Ryan needed the ball. They sacrificed a lot of themselves for the betterment of the team and now I think as they go to their sophomore year, Justin is going to need to score a little bit more and he’ll have much more of a role this year. I think that’s something he’s looking forward to.

Q. What can you tell us about your freshmen?

A. I love what I’ve seen so far. The keys to these guys will be how ready are they to help us win? How ready are they to defend or to go get a big rebound? Those little intangible things that help you win that the older guys do. But their talent level is great, their work ethic has been very good thus far and their futures are very bright. How ready they are to help us win as freshmen will be a big determining factor to see how ready we are to win as a team.

Q. They’re all between 6-6 and 6-8. It seems, at least at face value, that they’re relatively similar players. Are there a few things that maybe Jermaine does different than Novar or Brandon does different from Jermaine?

A. I think Jermaine is a little more comfortable around the basket right now. He has the ability to step out and shoot but I think early in his career he’ll score most of his baskets inside from 15 feet and in. I think Brandon is more of a jump shooter even though he’s 6-7. He’s really a very good jump shooter and a very good 3-point shooter. Novar is kind of a combination of the two. Novar is a good perimeter jump shooter but he’s also very comfortable attacking the basket and scoring inside and out. He’s probably at this point the most versatile of the three. They all bring something a little bit different, but the one thing that they all bring is energetic, athletic bodies. They all have a great upside and a chance to be really good players.

Q. Last one: you have a couple of weeks until Midnight Madness and then almost a month after that until your opener. Do you have a clock somewhere counting down to when the season finally starts?

A. I think about it every day. I thought about the Saint Joe’s game for months now. I think part of you is anxious to get to that point. The other part of you is smart enough to know how much work lies between today and Nov. 14. You can’t wait to get to the season as a player or a coach. You can’t wait to get to the games. That’s really what drives you and that’s the most fun. The game day preparation, the pregame preparation, the game, that’s what we’re all in this for. But the amount of work that goes into being able to put a successful team on the court between now and then is the part that’s even more important. The game day is when it gets fun.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rider's MAAC schedule

I haven't yet gotten a copy of the complete MAAC schedule. I'll post that as soon as I do. But I do have Rider's conference slate, so here it is:

Sun, Dec. 7: Manhattan
Fri, Jan 2: at Iona
Sun, Jan. 4: Marist
Fri., Jan. 9: at Siena
Sun, Jan. 11: Iona
Thurs, Jan. 15: at Canisius
Sat., Jan. 17: at Niagara
Fri., Jan. 23: at Fairfield
Sun., Jan. 25: at Saint Peter's
Fri., Jan. 30: Loyola
Sun., Feb. 1: Canisius
Sat., Feb. 7: Siena
Mon., Feb. 9: at Marist
Fri., Feb. 13: Saint Peter's
Sun., Feb. 15: at Manhattan
Wed., Feb. 18: Niagara
Fri., Feb. 27: at Loyola
Sun., March 1: Fairfield

MAAC Madness in Baltimore


It's 58 degrees out here in Central New Jersey, baseball season is wrapping up, the annual basketball preview magazines are out, Midnight Madness is less than a month away, and it's about time we wrapped up the MAAC Madness series, which started in late July and kept The Blog running through the dog days of summer. 

To kick off the series,  The Blog e-mailed a few questions to MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor, who promptly gave us some interesting answers about the future of the conference tournament. Before that Q&A, I hadn't considered the possibility of the tournament being in Baltimore, but the commish mentioned that the Inner Harbor and 1st Mariner Arena  would be on a list of possible "destination" venues, along with Mohegan Sun and Atlantic City. 

Here's the rundown: 
Arena: 1st Mariner Arena
Attendance in past tournaments: NA
"Host" school: Loyola 
"Host" school's 2007-08 men's home attendance: 1,479 (eighth in the MAAC)
Local newspaper (circulation): Baltimore Sun (232,360 daily, 372,970 Sunday)
Driving distance from league schools: 
423 miles (seven hours, 30 minutes) from Niagara 
404 miles (seven hours, nine minutes) from Canisius
340 miles (five hours, 38 minutes) from Siena
271 miles (four hours, 45 minutes) from Marist
248 miles (four hours, 19 minutes) from Fairfield
214 miles (three hours, 42 minutes) from Iona
204 miles (three hours, 29 minutes) from Manhattan
186 miles (three hours, 12 minutes) from Saint Peter's 
145 miles (two hours, 28 minutes) from Rider
Average driving distance: 271 miles (four hours, 39 minutes) 

The Skinny: There's no question it's a long shot, and there are a number of reasons that it'd be a bad idea, starting with the distance and the lack of a large Loyola fan base.  I'd be very, very surprised if it pans out. 

But here are a few reasons not to rule it out: First, it's not THAT far away (much closer to most MAAC schools than Buffalo), and it's easy to get to, since it's a straight shot down 95 from New York without any detours through one-lane roads. And my $0.02 is that the Inner Harbor, which has an abundance of lodging options and is minutes away from Ist Mariner, is a major attraction.

I'll admit that my obsession with Camden Yards had something to do with it (I stopped by the Orioles souvenire store, which is open year-around, and bought a hoodie), but when I drove down to Baltimore last year to cover the Rider-Loyola game, I went four hours early and walked around the Inner Harbor before making the 20-minute drive to Loyola. 

 Is the area a big enough drawing card to hold the tournament there? Probably not, but I wouldn't rule it out completely, especially if, in spite of the Hounds likely being in for a rebuilding year, Jimmy Patsos can get more folks down there interested. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

MAAC Madness in Atlantic City


Don't look now, but Midnight Madness is only a month away, with the start of the regular season just a moth after that. The Blog will get busier in October and, though the last month of regular-season college football won't make it the easiest thing in the world, we'll try to give you something good to read every day in November. 

The penultimate leg of our MAAC Madness virtual journey brings us to Atlantic City, with Baltimore on tap to wrap it up. Here's the rundown: 

Arena: Boardwalk Hall
Attendance in past tournaments: NA
"Host" school: NA
Local newspaper (circulation): The Press (66,822 daily, 71, 708 Sunday)
Driving distance from league schools: 
482 miles (seven hours, 55 minutes) from Niagara 
463 miles (seven hours, 34 minutes) from Canisius
273 miles (four hours, 34 minutes) from Siena
205 miles (three hours, 41 minutes) from Marist 
183 miles (three hours, 20 minutes) from Fairfield
149 miles (two hours, 42 minutes) from Iona
140 miles (two hours, 30 minutes) from Manhattan
122 miles (two hours, 12 minutes) from Saint Peter's 
98 miles (one hour, 43 minutes) from Rider
155 miles (two hours, 48 minutes) from Loyola
Average distance: 227 miles (three hours, 34 minutes) 

The Skinny: Same issues with Mohegan Sun. Geographically, it isn't on anyone's way anywhere, and at least for me, the appeal of Atlantic City isn't enough to increase my desire to go to the tournament. The A-10 has its tournament there, but I don't know if that makes a whole lot of sense either.