By John Torenli
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Julian Boyd, one of the most decorated players in LIU-Brooklyn basketball history, isn’t just a Downtown phenomenon anymore.
The San Antonio native earned a coveted spot on the Associated Press’ 2012 All-America teams this week, garnering honorable mention after spearheading the Blackbirds to their second straight NCAA Tournament berth.
The reigning Northeast Conference Player of the Year, two-time First Team All-NEC selection and former NEC Rookie of the Year continues to pile up the accolades as LIU has brought big-time college basketball back to our fair borough.
Boyd, a third-year forward who sat out a season with a heart ailment that threatened to cut short his collegiate career, has been the lynchpin of the Blackbirds’ resurgence on the national scene.
Just take it from Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who watched Boyd put up 15 points against his top-seeded Spartans during the second round of the NCAA Tournament two weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio.
“Boyd can do a lot of things,” Izzo noted. “I don’t know if he can pass and do those kinds of things like [Big Ten Player of the Year and First Team All-America] Draymond [Green]. I don’t know where he is defensively, that’s hard to tell on film. As far as a rebounder, as a shooter, as a guy who can run the court, he does a lot of things. He played well against (North) Carolina [in the 2011 NCAA Tournament] and he’s played well against other big guys.”
At 6-foot-7, Boyd had his hands full with Green during the Blackbirds’ season-ending 89-67 loss to the Spartans. But even MSU’s best player had kind words for his adversary.
“He’s very athletic, runs the floor very well,” Green said of Boyd, who averaged team highs of 17.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season. “He’s very crafty with the ball and he can also shoot. One thing I really noticed about him was how he gets out on their break, sometimes he leaks out.”
The news of Boyd’s playing prowess has certainly “leaked” to the rest of the nation as the 22-year-old also received a spot on the Lou Henson All-America Team earlier this year, as well as his second consecutive selection to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District 18 First Team.
Individual honors aside, Boyd is looking forward to next season, in the hopes of guiding LIU to its first-ever win in the NCAA Tournament – something that has thus far been out of reach during his first four years in Brooklyn.
The journey toward Boyd fulfilling his ultimate goal as a Blackbird began the moment the buzzer sounded at Nationwide Arena two weeks ago.
“We have proven a lot over the last two years,” Boyd said. “But with the team we have here I feel we can go out and beat any team no matter who it is.”
Unlike Boyd, who will be back for his senior season during the 2012-13 campaign, LIU-Brooklyn’s Ashley Palmer is done with her collegiate eligibility.
But the Blackbirds’ all-time leading scorer in women’s hoops with 2,044 points may have a shot to go pro.
Palmer has been invited to Denver, Colo., this weekend for the 2012 ProHoops Free Agent Camp, where she will display her vast talents in front of scouts, coaches and general managers from the WNBA.
A three-time All-NEC First Team selection, Palmer also led the Blackbirds in rebounding in each of her four years, pulling down 1,003 boards to rank third all-time in school history. Palmer is only the second player in NEC history to register 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career, joining former Saint Francis (Pa.) standout Jess Zinoble.
After nine years of trying to build a winner on Remsen Street, Brenda Milano stepped down as coach of the women’s basketball team at St. Francis College earlier this month.
On Monday, the Brooklyn Heights school’s athletic director, Irma Garcia, introduced her replacement, former Terriers associate coach John Thurston, who accepted the post following two seasons on Milano’s staff.
“I would like to thank President Dugan, the members of the Board of Trustees and most especially AD Irma Garcia for the opportunity they have given me to lead this program,” Thurston said at the introductory press conference.
“I want to personally thank Brenda Milano for her support, without which this opportunity would not have occurred. Brenda is an outstanding young coach, the nicest person I have ever worked with and someone the coaching profession needs,” added Thurston, who brings a wealth of experience to the sidelines.
Thurston, who is one of only a few coaches who has been a head coach at the NCAA Division I, II, III and NAIA levels in men’s college basketball from 1971-1997, now turns his attention to helping St. Francis become a consistent contender in the Northeast Conference.
“After the first year, we actually moved John from assistant up to her associate,” said Garcia, who played for the Terriers in the 1970s and coached them from 1988-1999. “That’s a credit to his ability working with student-athletes here. He put in a state-of-the-art defense. We’re really excited because we’re going in the right direction. He worked extremely well with Brenda.”
To her credit, Milano did leave Thurston with a young, improving unit, which went just 4-25 last season, including 3-15 against NEC opponents.
She did manage to lead the Terriers to back to back NEC tournaments during the previous decade, including the 2006-07 campaign when St. Francis recorded a stunning upset of top-seeded LIU-Brooklyn in the opening round, marking the first, and thus far only, time a No. 8 seed has emerged victorious.
“I would like to thank St. Francis College, the athletic administration, Ed Aquilone, Irma Garcia, Dr. Macchiarola and President Dugan for the opportunity to be the women’s basketball coach at St. Francis College,” Milano said upon her departure. “I have had an unbelievable experience and will miss working with my players and colleagues. Although leaving is bittersweet, I couldn’t be more proud to have John take over the program. It has been a pleasure working with him for the past two years, and I have no doubt that the team will have a promising future for years to come.”
“St. Francis will miss Brenda and she will always be a part of our family,” added Garcia. “We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors and thank her for the many contributions that she has made here. Brenda set a great example of leadership for all of her players during her tenure.”
Junior outfielder Albert Faz went 3-for-5 with two doubles with an RBI and three runs scored Wednesday afternoon, but it wasn’t enough as LIU-Brooklyn suffered its fourth consecutive loss, 9-7, to Fordham at Houlihan Park in the Bronx.
The Blackbirds (9-15), who will play their first game of the season at the newly refurbished LIU Field on Friday against Bryant, have dropped eight of their last nine contests overall.
Freshman outfielder Nicole Archer belted a two-run homer and delivered the game-winning walk-off single in Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Saint Francis (Pa.) at LIU Field on Sunday afternoon, earning a doubleheader split for the Blackbirds and giving long-time coach Roy Kortmann his 500th victory at the Downtown school.
Kortmann, now in his 18th season with the Blackbirds, watched the Blackbirds improve to 9-27 overall and 1-3 in NEC play.
Unfortunately, the Blackbirds were unable to build off the milestone win, suffering a tough 3-2, nine-inning loss to Hofstra on Wednesday in Hempstead.