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LIU-Brooklyn men’s basketball to play in Belfast

Overseas trip one of many highlights on 2018-19 Blackbirds' schedule

August 22, 2018 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After pulling off a stunning run to the NCAA Tournament last season, the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds will make a special trip to Belfast this year as part of the annual Naismith Hall of Fame Classic. Photo Courtesy of LIU-Brooklyn Athletics

From Downtown Brooklyn to Belfast, Ireland.

That’s the once-in-a-lifetime trip the LIU-Brooklyn men’s basketball team will make this November as it prepares to defend its Northeast Conference title.

“We couldn’t be more excited to participate in the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic,” said second-year Blackbirds head coach Derek Kellog, just a few months removed from leading LIU to the NCAA Tournament last March.

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 “It is a tremendous opportunity for our guys to see the beautiful country of Ireland, experience a new culture, and get to play great competition while doing so.”

The Blackbirds, who completed a breathtaking and unexpected run to the NCAAs by topping top-seeded Wagner in the NEC Championship Game before losing to Radford in the national championship Play-In, will begin their Hall of Fame Tournament run stateside.

LIU will visit the University of San Francisco on Nov. 18, then head to the Midwest two days later to meet the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Other schools competing in the intercontinental event include the University of Albany from the American East Conference, the University of Buffalo from the Mid-American Conference, Dartmouth College, Marist College and Stephen F. Austin State University of the Southland Conference.

“I have had the great opportunity to work with the Hall of Fame for many years now, and their tournaments are always first class,” noted Kellogg, who participated in Hall of Fame events as head coach of the University of Massachusetts.


Following a quick trip back to Flatbush Avenue to host NJIT on Nov. 24, the Blackbirds will fly across the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the Belfast Classic portion of the Hall of Fame tourney against two as-yet-unnamed opponents.

“The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is a proud partner of this event,” said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“We are very fortunate to have this international opportunity to showcase the Hall of Fame brand,” he added. “We thank Sport Changes Life, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the participating schools, and all of our partners who make this become a reality for the student-athletes who won’t forgot this experience,”

Following their historic trip, the Blackbirds figure to do a lot less traveling.

After a series of local non-conference tilts, they will kick off the NEC slate in Fairfield, Connecticut against Sacred Heart on Jan. 3.

LIU will host neighborhood rival St. Francis Brooklyn at the Steinberg Wellness Center on Jan. 21 before taking the ongoing feud to SFC’s Pope Center on Valentine’s Day in what will be the official “Battle for Brooklyn” contest this season.

Though they won’t be going to Ireland this year, Remsen Street’s Terriers will continue pursuit of their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid when they kick off the NEC portion of their slate Jan. 3 at Bryant in Smithfield, Rhode Island.

Though SFC has not yet released the full 2018-19 schedule, head coach Glenn Braica is eagerly awaiting yet another opportunity to guide his squad into March Madness.

“In regards to the release of the Northeast Conference schedule, we are extremely excited to compete against our respective opponents in the league. We look forward to another tremendous season of NEC basketball,” Braica said.

Last season, the Terriers matched the Blackbirds with a 10-8 conference record, setting the rivals up for a winner-take-all NEC quarterfinal eliminator at LIU.

The NCAA Tournament-bound Blackbirds squashed the Terriers, 73-50, to advance to the semifinals.

“I have a lot of respect for that St. Francis team,” Kellogg said following the big win, which gave LIU a 2-1 edge in the overall season series between the Brooklyn programs.

“They came from kinda out of nowhere in league play and played really, really hard for coach [Braica]. And I thought that was going to be really tough game tonight, just like the other two.”

Braica was enthused by the way his team finished 2017-18, but he is looking toward making greater strides this coming campaign.

“Late in the season, we were right there fighting for second place,” he said.

“I think we surprised quite a few people, but I wasn’t all that surprised. I thought that we had a lot of talented guys and were certainly capable of turning it around. The season was a step in the right direction. Hopefully, what the guys experienced in some of those close games will help us next year.”

 


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