Sanabria leads strong recruiting class for St. Francis Brooklyn
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The potential for a dream season evaporated amidst an off-the-court scandal and a first-round exit from the Northeast Conference Tournament for the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers’ men’s basketball team nearly two months ago.
But with a strong recruiting class for next season, headlined by the addition of St. Peter’s guard Glenn Sanabria from Staten Island, the Terriers should be right back in the hunt for their first-ever NEC crown come November.
"We are extremely happy to be able to add three talented and high-character young men to help us build on last year's success," said St. Francis head coach Glenn Braica after announcing that Sanabria would join swingman Gunnar Olafsson of Iceland and transfer student Chris Hooper from the Bronx in the group of incoming players.
"I think all three will have an opportunity to contribute right away,” Braica added.
The Terriers went 18-14 a season ago, including a 9-7 mark in the NEC, undoubtedly their best campaign since reaching the conference championship game twice under former head coach and current assistant Ron Ganulin more than a decade ago.
While they flirted with taking the NEC regular-season title for most of the campaign, a sudden skid of four losses in five games in February, coupled with the suspensions of several key players during that stretch, left them fifth overall in the league standings.
A heartbreaking 72-71 loss at No. 4 Mount St. Mary’s in the opening round of the NEC Tournament brought an abrupt halt to what many considered the Terriers’ best opportunity to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program’s history.
Braica, who has been responsible for building the Terriers into a legitimate title contender during his three seasons at the helm, knows he landed a critical player in Sanabria, who helped pace St. Peter’s to the Staten Island High School title with a 27-4 mark last season.
The diminutive (5-foot-10) but heady point man averaged 16.0 points and 6.0 assists per game, and should serve as a perfect back-court compliment to returning Terriers guard and Brooklyn native Brent Jones.
"Glenn is a skilled guard that possesses a great feel for the game and comes from a winning background," Braica noted. "He excels at creating opportunities for his teammates but is also a very good scorer and knows how to use ball screens. He's also physically strong for his position and has the potential to be a very good defender."
Olafsson, a 6-foot-2 guard-forward has played for SC Keflavik in his native Iceland the past two seasons. He averaged 8.9 points and 2.8 rebounds last year under former Terriers assistant coach Andy Johnston.
"Gunnar is an athletic wing guard that has an excellent mid-range game and is a good three-point shooter," Braica said. "He's a high-effort player who is really good in transition and is an excellent defender."
The 6-foot-6 Hooper prepped at Satellite Academy before playing one season at both Kaskasia Community College in Illinois and at Odessa Community College in Texas.
Hooper, who averaged 12.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in his senior year at Satellite Academy will have two years of eligibility remaining on Remsen Street.
"Chris gives us another physical inside presence in the frontcourt," Braica said on the school’s website.
"He will be able to score, rebound, and block shots with any of the top frontcourt players in our conference. Chris also brings a great personality and has a team-first attitude."
After matching an NEC record with nine non-conference wins, including a stunning early-season upset of then-reigning ACC champion Miami, the Terriers are hoping to finally grab the title that has eluded them during their long history.
"We are looking forward to having a chance to be a very good team next season," Braica said. "We have a decent amount of experience returning and we should be extremely athletic. Our rebounding and shot blocking ability should be great strengths of ours."
Though he was unable to lead LIU-Brooklyn to its fourth consecutive NEC title last season, senior point guard Jason Brickman continues to pile up the individual accolades.
Brickman earned a spot on the 2013-14 All-Metropolitan First Team for the second straight year, and was scheduled to receive the honor in person Tuesday night at the 81st Annual NIT/MBWA Haggerty Awards dinner in Tarrytown, N.Y.
Brickman enjoyed his finest individual season as a Blackbird, scoring a career-high 11.3 points per game while dishing out an incredible 10.0 assists per contest to lead the nation in the category for the second consecutive season.
Brickman's total of 290 assists matched his LIU Brooklyn and NEC single-season records set last season, and pushed his career total to 1,009 to rank fourth all-time in NCAA history.
He’ll be sorely missed in Downtown Brooklyn.
On the ladies side, St. Francis Brooklyn guard Eilidh Simpson, who spearheaded the Terriers to a program-record 19 wins this past season, was one of 20 players invited to camp by British Basketball for Great Britain's 2014 EuroBasket qualifier campaign.
"It feels great to have an opportunity to play overseas and it's an honor to be selected," said Simpson, who received second-team All-NEC honors after averaging a team-best 14 points per contest
"I would like to eventually end up playing there after college,” added the native of Melbourne, Australia. “The American style of basketball and how it's played in other countries is pretty different, but I believe I've adapted to both styles well. It feels great to be representing St. Francis Brooklyn and getting the name out there is also a positive. The growth of the program from my freshman year has been amazing. This will be a great opportunity for me and I will only learn from this experience and grow as a player."
"This is a great opportunity for Eilidh to represent one of the countries that she maintains citizenship in," added Terriers head coach John Thurston. "It will be difficult for her to make the team but the experience and work she will put in for a few weeks will be extremely beneficial to her growth as a player."
LIU Brooklyn women's basketball senior forward Cleandra Roberts was named to the All-Met Basketball Writers Association Third Team, the organization announced on Monday.
It is the first All-Met honor for the departing senior.
A first-team All-NEC honoree, Roberts finished the regular season averaging 18.7 points per game, ranking fourth overall in the NEC. She led LIU in scoring in 21 of the team’s 29 games, and had 14 games with at least 20 points.
Roberts was also one of the most accurate shooters in the conference, as she shot .481 from the field this season, the third best total overall.
The Miami, Fla. native was also seventh in the conference in rebounds per game, pulling down 7.4 while recording seven double-doubles. She was also top-10 in the league in steals per game (1.63) and defensive rebounds per contest (5.30).
Off the hardwood and onto the diamond, senior Joe Mendez of the St. Joseph’s (Brooklyn) baseball team made history last Friday afternoon at Coney Island’s MCU Park, becoming the program’s all-time hits leader.
Mendez went 2-for-3 with an inside-the-park-home run, helping the Bears to their season-high eighth consecutive victory while surpassing Kevin Diaz (158) on the school’s hits list with base knocks Nos. 159 and 160.
To read more on the St. Joe’s baseball program, read Rob Abruzzese’s column online and in Wednesday’s Brooklyn Daily Eagle on page 11.
In local high school sports news, the Brooklyn Friends first-year boys’ volleyball team is off to a perfect 6-0 start, having won matches against Staten Island Academy, Greater New York Academy, local rivals Packer Collegiate and Berkeley Carroll as well as Horace Mann.
“So far, our small team with a big heart is made up of eight players,” noted head coach Felix Alberto, who has led the Pearl Street private school’s more-established girls’ volleyball squad to several league titles.
Spearheaded by junior co-captains Thomas Chamberlain and Griffin Edwards, the Blue Pride Panthers are hoping to continue establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Private School Athletic Association’s Eastern Division.
Lucas Miller, Julien Bouguennec, Juan Alonso, Quran Davis, Tyler Vincent and Phillip Camposano round out the thus-far undefeated unit.
“As we keep improving, and every player continues learning the system and their roles, we keep getting better,” Alberto noted. “Everyone is playing with great determination, focus, and commitment to being the best team we can be."