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St. Francis men’s hoops voted No. 1 by NEC coaches

October 22, 2014 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Senior power forward Jalen Cannon and Remsen Street’s St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers have been picked No. 1 in the NEC preseason coaches’ poll for the first time ever. Photo courtesy of SFC Brooklyn Athletics

SFC Brooklyn Grabs Top Spot in Preseason Hoops Poll

Williamsburg native Glenn Braica was blindsided. 

“I thought they were my friends,” the 50-year-old St. Francis Brooklyn head men’s basketball coach jibed when it was announced Tuesday at Downtown’s Barclays Center that his Terriers were tabbed to finish atop the Northeast Conference this coming campaign via the preseason coaches’ poll.

St. Francis, which has never reached the NCAA Tournament and has failed to capture the NEC crown in any of its previous 26 tries, now is confronted with the unenviable challenge of living up to its lofty ranking.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Braica noted, when asked what it felt like to be selected as the league’s team to beat by his coaching peers. “A few years ago we were picked to finish last, and went 12-6 [in the NEC].”

Last season, the Terriers appeared primed to finally end their ongoing drought, rolling toward the NEC Tournament with impressive non-league wins over the likes of Miami, Florida Atlantic, Stony Brook and a home rout of then-three-time defending NEC champion and neighborhood rival LIU-Brooklyn.

But a well-chronicled sexual assault scandal involving several key players coincided with a late-season slump, spoiling St. Francis’ chances of entering the league championships as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

The Terriers lost a heartbreaking opening-round game against Mount St. Mary’s, somehow squandering a 19-point second-half lead en route to a bitter 72-71 defeat that left Remsen Street fans wondering when, or if, they’d ever experience March Madness.

“We should have gotten to the finish line,” Braica lamented following his team’s fourth straight tournament appearance.

“Bottom line is we should have finished it out, we didn’t. That’s life. We live with it. We face up to it.”

Now, the Terriers will have to face up to the daunting task of having the proverbial bullseye on their backs entering the season.

This is the first time in the history of St. Francis basketball that they have been selected No. 1 overall in a preseason poll. 

With returning senior stars like First Team All-NEC Selection Jalen Cannon and shooting guard Brent Jones, junior forward Amdy Hall and senior forwards Kevin Douglas and Lowell Ulmer leading the way, the Terriers received six first-place votes in the poll.

But Braica remains steadfast in his belief that championships aren’t won with votes received in a meaningless poll, but rather with great defense and point production on the hardwood.

“It’s hard to win any game,” he said. “So I’m not gong to start worrying about winning all of them.”

The Terriers added seven new players this past recruiting season, including New York products Tyreek Jewell and Chris Hooper via the junior college route. 

Jewell, a 6-foot-2 swingman from the Bronx, starred at Jamestown Community College last season and is expected to make an instant contribution to this year’s title-hungry squad.

“We are looking forward to Tyreek becoming an integral part of our program,” said Braica.  

“Tyreek is a great scorer, is extremely athletic, and he’s got the ability to create his own shot. He can also create scoring chances for others and rebounds very well for his position.” 

The Terriers (18-14 overall, 9-7 NEC in 2013-14) will open the season Nov. 15 at Georgetown before hosting Army at the Pope Center on Nov. 19. 

LIU, which won an unprecedented three straight NEC crowns from 2010-13, finished out of the running for the league tournament last season and received a No. 8 ranking in the preseason poll.

Coach Jack Perri’s unit, which will return only senior guard Gerrell Martin from the dynasty team after losing Jason Brickman, the nation’s assists leader for two years running, will open against St. John’s on Nov. 19 in Jamaica, N.Y.

The annual LIU-SFC rivalry games will be played on Jan. 31 and Feb. 26, respectively.

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