Road Show: One night in Brooklyn

John Jay/Medgar Evers tipoffWhy did I end up at Medgar Evers? I got that question a few times on Monday night. Never doubted the choice, though.

I’ve mentioned a couple times that I have a list of programs I’ve seen play and gyms I’ve seen games in. There were a couple of CUNYAC teams on the list that I’ve seen, but I’d never been in a CUNYAC gym, and this was an opportunity to change that.

Medgar Evers College itself consists of four buildings in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn — in fact, my friend Ray Martel drove me past the Ebbets Field apartments on the way out after the game. Everyone complains about their budget, but Medgar Evers spends significantly less on athletics than anyone else in the conference. Chris Pursoo, the men’s basketball coach, also has his younger brother and his dad on his staff, which is good because the school has zero full-time coaches and family tends to work for the right price. We’ll talk more with him on a future Hoopsville.

And it shows. The gym is one of the smallest in Division III, and shared with a high school. The fire marshal posts a maximum capacity of 272. The gym is comparable to the one that Hood had before it went co-ed, and according to your responses on Twitter, it is comparable to small gyms at Rosemont, Manhattanville, Emerson and Suffolk.

If not for a recently redone floor, it would truly be a dump. Instead, at least it’s bright and clean, and it was packed for the men’s game as well.

Now, the reason I chose this game is two-fold. First of all, I wasn’t going to go to a school that doesn’t post scores in the PrestoSports system. But more importantly, I wanted to see what the Medgar Evers women’s basketball team was all about. Earlier in the year, they were losing games 85-7, 74-5 and 82-6. Lately, they’ve gotten a little bit better, but they are still getting their doors blown off. But, they still have a positive attitude and they still play hard. I talked with Eric James, the Medgar Evers women’s basketball coach, about that after the game.

Road Show: A Sunday in the UAA

Thank goodness for the University Athletic Association, where there are always great games to pay attention to on a Sunday afternoon. But usually, the atmosphere on a Sunday in the UAA isn’t nearly as raucous as it was inside Red Auerbach Arena this afternoon for the men’s game between top-ranked Rochester and No. 25 Brandeis.

The Judges had a significant number of fans there for their home game, but Rochester had a sizable Boston-area alumni gathering at the game as well. And Rochester pulled out to a 14-point lead early in the second half before Brandeis rallied to cut it to one, twice. You’ll see how John DiBartolomeo and the Yellowjackets responded in the video piece below.

In the second game, the first-place and last-place teams in the UAA looked like they did a role reversal, where last-place Brandeis took it to Rochester in a 62-49 win. I talked with Carol Simon after the game as well.

I also ran into MIT men’s coach Larry Anderson, who introduced me to women’s coach Sonia Raman. Lots of coaches seeing games this weeekend

Road Show: Packed LeFrak

Part of the reason I devote so much time to Division III sports in general is for the adventure of it all. I could have chosen to stay around Boston and see WPI throttle Coast Guard but not if there were a Top Five matchup a couple of hours away.

So I hopped in the car and drove a hundred or so miles west to Amherst. These games didn’t get me anywhere on my master list — I had seen all four teams play before and I had been in LeFrak Gymnasium as well — but it was a great experience.

I like to take the less obvious routes when possible. It helps me understand the geography of a state if I drive through more of it, so I took Mass. Rte. 2 instead of the Mass Pike. And on the way back, I dropped off my rental car and took the T to my hotel instead of a cab.

In between, we saw two great games. Paul Carr, a broadcaster at Wheaton (Ill.) about a decade ago, called the first game with former Lord Jeff Spencer Noon, then he and I called the women’s game together.

The men’s game was a fantastic back-and-forth affair if you like offense, and the women’s game was a fantastic game if you like defense. You can watch the archived broadcast as well, with the women’s game starting at about the 3-hour mark of the archive.

After the game I spoke with Bridget Crowley and Bre Dufault, who played on opposite sides but have been best friends since third grade. That interview is below, but I also asked Crowley off camera about a little girl she was talking to after the game. She said coach G.P. Gromacki had passed along a letter from a 7-year-old girl that had been addressed to Bridget Crowley, LeFrak Gymnasium:

“I really loved your game. I look up to you, you’re the best player. It was just a total confidence booster and it made my day. She drew a picture on it, she put a bunch of stickers on it. I was thinking, ‘I have to get back to this girl and make sure this mail gets to her quickly,’ and she lives right down the road. So I went to the store and got all these arts and crafts — glitter and stickers.

“We change practice jerseys every year, so I gave her my purple practice jersey and put it in with a note as well and stuffed it in her mailbox. She told me she’d be at this game and I was hoping she’d wear the jersey so she’d be easy to pick out. And she was very easy to pick out. It was so cute.”

Crowley spent some time with her pen pal, also named Bridget, after the game, on a day in which Crowley got pushed around quite a bit by stronger Tufts defenders. She talks more about it, with her best friend, below:

Road show: A Bowdoin-Middlebury split

BRUNSWICK, Maine — One closely contested game turned into a blowout and the other was put away nice and neatly at the end as the No. 6 Middlebury men pulled away from Bowdoin and the Bowdoin women went on a huge second-half run to the return the favor to the Panthers.

For the Middlebury men, it took a little bit of time to get adjusted when Bowdoin went to a zone defense, while for the Bowdoin women, sorely in need of a NESCAC win, it might have been a key second-half rebound that sparked it.

This is as far into Maine as I’ll get on this trip. I stopped at University of New England on the way up, bypassed Southern Maine (sorry!) and Colby and Bates are further up the coast, but I knew I was pretty far East when the sun went down before 5 p.m. in February. A friend reminds me that, of course, the sun rises awful early, but I won’t be around for that.

I could say more, but instead, I’ll let Middlebury senior guard Nolan Thompson and Bowdoin women’s coach Adrienne Shibles talk instead. They’re my interview subjects from tonight.

Road Show: Hoops in Worcester

Clark's Kneller Gym.

Clark’s Kneller Gym.

WORCESTER, Mass. — The last time I was in Worcester was a long, long time ago. It was November 2006, to be precise, when I saw Nichols and WPI play in Becker’s tiny little gym. That night, Ryan Cain was just starting his senior season, and he didn’t have the best of nights, going 5-for-14 from the floor and 0-for-6 from downtown.

These days, Cain is an assistant coach at WPI, and he and head coach Chris Bartley and fellow assistant Billy Gibbons are here to scout Clark (and perhaps Rhode Island College as well). When I reminded him that that was the last time I was here, he remembered right away: “That wasn’t my best night.”

Not that it mattered — his team won handily that night and Cain went on to win the Jostens Trophy. But while Cain is an assistant coach at his alma mater, he is definitely putting his degree to good use, working at an environmental engineering firm.

The Engineers, who I will also not see on this trip, have beaten Clark already and have to play the crosstown Cougars again to end the NEWMAC schedule. They’ve also beaten Rhode Island College already this season, and tonight RIC defeated Clark 74-63. Clark was within 3-5 points most of the game, trailing by three as late as 5:40 left before the Anchormen put the clamps down.

I talked with Bob Walsh after the game: