The Long Island University Brooklyn Campus Blackbirds have played some serious basketball over their 74 years on the hardwood - LIU was one of the premier New York City area teams - but they've fallen on hard times lately.The Coach
So far this year they've lost 6 games to teams like Hartford, Binghamton, Virginia and Delaware. They were on a 3 game win streak in December, including a conference win, but dropped their last two at the USF Shootout holiday tournament last weekend.
This is a big team in numbers - LIU has 16 Roster players, including 5 seniors. Their star is a 6-0 guard, Antawn Dobie, more about him later.
The Silver and Black Blackbirds are looking ahead to rebuilding themselves back into a Northeast Conference Power. With 5 Seniors, they should be able to start to do that this year. Play with the Big Ten on the road? Wellllll....
Playing away at Welsh Ryan should be a good warmup for their season - the Blackbirds only play 10 home games this year.
The Blackbird's head coach is a native Long Islander - Elmont's Jim Ferry.The Starters
This is his first year running the LIU program, and his first year in Division I.
It is also only his fourth year as a head coach, and while he's got a challenge this year, rebuilding the Blackbirds, he's got some impressive credentials - 104 career wins. You can't knock his coaching -in three years at Division II Adelphi he amassed an 82-11 record. Before that he had a one year 22-8 mark at Div III Plymouth State College.
According to LIU, he stresses an uptempo offense and tough defense that matches the style of his players.
What stands out to this casual observer is 104 wins at the levels where you never know what your team will look like until the start of Fall semester.
Coach Ferry has been juggling his lineup this year. Only two players have started all 9 games for LIU. At the USF Shootout, Coach Ferry started these 5:
At Forward: 6-7 Senior JaJa Bey [#5] and 6-6 Senior Dawan Gary [#22]
Center: 6-7 Sophomore Derek Bell [#1]
Guard: 6-0 Senior Antawn Dobie [#2-right] and 6-6 Freshman Brandon Thomas [#14]
6-7 Junior Raymond Edwards  started the first 7 games of the year at Center for LIU. He didn't play at all in the USF Shootout.
The Big Gun
No doubt about it - its the young man with a college degree - Antawn Dobie [#2]. He averages 37.4 minutes a game, is shooting 63 of 148 [.426] from the floor, 13-52 [.250] from the arc and is 22-29 on free throws.The Rest of the Team
He averages 5.1 boards and 7.7 assists a game and had a school record 17 Assists in LIU's last win.
On the Boards, its the 6-7 Soph Center/Forward Derek Bell [above right] with 26 offensive and 53 defensive rebounds [Total 79 ]. Bell is also good at field goals - he's 40-65 [.615] from the field.
6-7 Forward JaJa Bey [left] is the Birds best 3 point shooter. He's 19-41 for a .373 average. Maurice Yearwood has tried the most from the arc [20-55/.364]] with Dobie right behind him
Former starter 6-0 Senior Point Guard Maurice Yearwood [#21-right] and 6-2 Freshman Guard Morgan Williams [#4] seem to be the the players with the most minutes. 6-6 Senior Forward/Center Clet Titus [#3], 6-5 Freshman Forward Jahda Martin [#23], 6-6 Freshman Forward Dontay Jackson [#52]and 6-8 Senior Forward/Center Craig Taylor [#33] also have been getting minutes as Coach Ferry works out his starting five and his bench rotation.The Challenge to the Wildcats
Yearwood seems to be the best candidate to return to the starting rotation - his 11.4 points a game have led to an average of 31.1 minutes a game. He started 4 games earlier in the year, but has been coming off the bench to relieve Freshman Brandon Thomas at point in recent games.
First off shut down Antawn Dobie, or at least slow him down. He's been the NEC player of the week already, and has shown that he can get the ball inside to Bell and Edwards, and can score himself if he wants to. Having to guard both Dobie and Yearwood should really test Jitim Young and TJ Parker's defense.Again - No TV
Second would be to keep one of the other players from having a big game. Jaja Bey has also scored over 20 in a game, and every one of LIU's starters have scored in double figures at least once in this short.
Third will be to force turnovers. LIU has a 1.0 Assist to Turnover ratio.
Fouls might be another opportunity. LIU is shooting .682 from the charity stripe. Both Bell and Gary have fouled out of games - Bell twice and Gary 3 times.
And Domination - The tallest player on the LIU team is 6-8 Senior Craig Taylor, who doesn't play very much. The starting center, Derek Bell is 6-7/215. NU's Aaron Jennings and Davor Duvancic are taller and bigger, they should be able to close down the middle of the court.
The game will be on WGN 720 AM, WGN.com, and I plan to have a Chat going too.