Tonight at 7:30 the St. John's Red Storm welcome inter-city rival LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds, who have missed the past two Northeast Conference tournaments. Similar to the Red Storm, the Blackbirds feature a guard heavy lineup and lack size up front.
Third year Blackbirds coach Jack Perri has re-shuffled the deck and gone to far reaches to bring in quality players to fill his roster.
Gone is point guard Jason Brickman who led the team in minutes and averaged ten assists per game. Also gone is do-it-all former Northeast Conference player of the year, Julian Boyd - and much of the rest of the rotation. The Blackbirds feature a mostly new lineup, which includes two members of the Iceland Senior Men's National team, as in Iceland, the country.
One of the few returning starters and leading returning scorer is 6'3'' senior Gerrell Martin (12.2ppg). Martin is the leader of this team and their main three-point threat. He attempted 134 three pointers last season for the LIU, hitting 44% of the time.
Also returning is senior forward Landon Atterberry, who spent most of last season playing center at an undersized 6'6''. Scoring 10.8 ppg and grabbing just over four rebounds, Atterberry did his best and put up respectable numbers.
This season Landon will likely start at the power forward position now that 6'7'' redshirt freshman Nura Zanna (brother of former Pitt player Talib Zanna) is healthy. Many predicted Zanna would be the Northeast Conference rookie of the year last season. After breaking his wrist and missing the entire season, expectations are tempered but he is the likely choice to start at center for the Blackbirds.
In Jason Brickman's place at lead guard, LIU features two freshman point guards who both have strong pedigree.
Elvar Fririksson is a 6'0'' twenty year old freshman from Reykjavik, Iceland. Fririksson averaged 20.8 points, 7.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 steals playing for Njardvik in Iceland's top basketball league. Elvar Fririksson is the projected starter in what will be LIU's first game of the season.
Also sure to be in the mix will be freshman Jamal Hood from Albany, New York. Jamal led his high school to the New York AA state championship while winning tournament MVP honors.
The other half of the LIU Iceland connection is 6'3'' combo guard Martin Hermannsson who is also from Reykjavik, Iceland. Martin led his hometown team Reykjavik to the league championship while scoring 18.4 points, 4.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals. En route to the title, his team lost only one game.
Against Great Britain, Hermannsson scored 22 points and helped Iceland earn their first ever qualification to the FIBA European Championships next Summer.
Adding to the influx of freshman are Trevin and Trevon Woods, 6'6'' twins from Houston who can both play the two, three, or four.
Trevon is the more likely of the two to earn minutes on the floor as he started every game for his high school team last season.
Also looking for to be a part of the rotation is Glenn Feindanga. Feindanga played in all 29 games for the Blackbirds last season while battling repeated injuries.
Juco transfer Jonathan Tshibuy from Missouri State-West Plains will also be looking to be in the mix.
After finishing last season with a record of 9 wins and 20 losses and winning only 4 of 12 in conference, the Blackbirds are picked to miss the Northeast Conference tournament for the third straight year.
With a re-worked line up featuring and international cast of players, LIU Brooklyn will be looking to start the season off on the right foot and prove the critics wrong.
Tune in tonight and find out which St. John's team shows up to greet them. Will it be the slow start and lackadaisical effort we saw in the first half against Franklin Pierce or the stifling defensive juggernaut that went on a 21-1 run to start the second half?