Features

Binghamton teammates sad to see Michael Conforto leave, but happy for him

Excerpt from Newsday:

TRENTON, N.J. – Michael Conforto was here and then he was gone.

Binghamton Mets teammate Akeel Morris did not even get to say goodbye or share some parting thoughts on his major-league experience before Conforto departed for Queens to debut with the Mets on Friday.

“I was at the gym,” said Morris, who made one relief appearance with the Mets in June. “I saw him at the stadium before and then he was gone.”

The prevailing feeling in the Binghamton Mets’ clubhouse before Saturday’s game against the Trenton Thunder was twofold: sadness about seeing Conforto leave but excitement about watching his big-league career begin.

Martin Brodeur happy to start over with Blues

Excerpt from Newsday:

Martin Brodeur earned his 689th NHL victory Saturday. What made this one different was that he was wearing the colors of the St. Louis Blues.

After 1,260 games as the heart and soul of the Devils, Brodeur, 42, was feeling a little blue over the summer, waiting by an idle phone as he longed for a return to the NHL.

“There’s weeks, there’s days you don’t feel as good,” he said. “It’s like anything. It’s like anybody’s life. It’s tough sometimes when you expect to get something and you’re not getting it.”

Iona’s Ryden Hines comes in one variety: Alaskan

Excerpt from One-Bid Wonders:

There’s a section of rubber tiles in the Hines family’s backyard called “Mario’s Spot.”

It’s about 20 feet from a basketball hoop, shaded slightly to the right of the rim and set against the backdrop of the Chugach Mountains. The mudflat shores of Cook Inlet are two miles away. Spectators are rare, save for the occasional moose, rabbit or goose observing from the sideline, a patch of grass that gives way to a thin grove of trees separating properties.

Mario is Mario Chalmers, and Ryden Hines and his friends spent many a summer day at that spot imitating “Mario’s Miracle,” the desperation 3-pointer that capped Kansas University’s comeback and forced overtime against Memphis in the 2008 NCAA championship.

Donyell Marshall, former NBA forward, loving mid-major life at Rider

Excerpt from One-Bid Wonders:

This is a man who made $72.4 million over 15 NBA seasons. He flew from city to city on chartered planes and dressed in palatial locker rooms across the country.

Now he shifts around coach bus seats, trying to appease his wide, 6-foot-9 frame. He drives his own car to recruit, and his salary is just a sliver of the $1.2 million the 76ers paid him in 2008-09, his last and lowest-paying NBA season.

But Marshall isn’t a cautionary tale, another statistic on the long list of professional athletes who have gone broke after retiring.

Shane Richards: Manhattan’s No. 0 is no zero

Excerpt from One-Bid Wonders:

Michael Richards would routinely walk through the door of his apartment late at night after a long day’s work at the Metropolitan Opera, and his teenage son, Shane Richards, would not be home.

It would be 10 o’clock, sometimes later. Michael would never worry.

“I always knew where Shane was: in the gym at the 92nd Street Y,” Michael says. “That’s where Shane would be. If you wanted him, that’s where he would be.”

How Isaiah Williams went from unwanted to Iona glue guy

Excerpt from One-Bid Wonders:

The Isaiah Williams story is one of disappointment and triumph, temptation and restraint. It is about an irrepressible desire to find a way out of crime-ridden Newark, and a young man with NBA aspirations who began his college career paying tuition at Marshall.

Its mantra is inked on Williams’ right forearm, amidst a myriad of tattoos: “Life is what you make it.”

Cliché and idealistic? Perhaps. But Williams has lived by those six words ever since he was 10 years old. They have led him to Iona, where he is a 6-foot-7 forward on scholarship, instead of a jail cell or a grave, the destinations of so many of his peers growing up.

No Payne, no gain: Cameron Payne is Murray State’s No. 1

Excerpt from One-Bid Wonders:

Teardrops almost always accompanied losses when Cameron Payne was a young hoopster playing in a Memphis church league.

He did not sulk. He did not feel embarrassed.

“It was not so much crying but crying for passion, hating to lose,” Cameron’s father, Tony Payne Sr., says.

Fast forward 14 years, and Payne has discarded his tearful habits. Not that he has had much reason to cry lately, anyway.

Chavaughn Lewis’ story of debt, will and challenges

Excerpt from One-Bid Wonders:

People who know Chavaughn Lewis don’t think he’s a loser, despite his record at Marist. They don’t think he is selfish or egotistical or complacent.

Far from it.

“He’s underrated and under-appreciated as a player because the program recently hasn’t had a ton of success,” says Mike Maker, the third Marist head coach in as many years. “I think Chay sometimes gets unnecessary criticism because it appears like he’s trying to do too much. People may say he’s a selfish basketball player. He’s anything but that. I think what he’s trying to do is carry the program because he’s highly competitive.”

And because he’s playing for something bigger than himself.

Ryan Oliver: From Hollywood to Siena

Excerpt from One-Bid Wonders:

Ryan Oliver was so young that he can’t remember filming his first commercial.

Yes, before Siena’s junior guard became one of the MAAC’s most lethal 3-point shooters, he was an actor, appearing in several commercials as a child. He debuted at 11 months old for a health care product, and filmed a handful of other plugs before high school.

“Intel was the big one,” he says.

Zaid Hearst and his genetic balancing act

Excerpt from One-Bid Wonders:

Zaid Hearst has a lot on his shoulders.

He’s the first captain Tom Moore has ever named in eight years at Quinnipiac. He has a 3.5 GPA to maintain, while serving as Moore’s locker-room pulse reader and the Bobcats’ leader on the court, where he is averaging 19.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

And then there’s the elusive NCAA tournament bid, the one Quinnipiac has chased fruitlessly since joining Division I in 1998.

Most student-athletes don’t have the chemical makeup to lead, read and succeed at equally high levels. Hearst might have been like them, too, if not for the example set by his mother.

Weight off his shoulders: How David Laury moved on from last season’s bitter end

Excerpt from One-Bid Wonders:

Replays of the shot cycled through David Laury’s head all offseason.

With Iona trailing Manhattan 71-68 in the 2014 MAAC championship’s waning seconds, the ball landed in Laury’s hands deep on the right wing. He had no choice but to shoot, and that’s what he did.

The shot ricocheted off the backboard, clanked off the rim at the buzzer and popped the cork on the rival Jaspers’ celebration.

“I thought about it all summer,” Laury said.

Rafael Montero showing command for Binghamton Mets

Excerpt from Newsday:

In baseball, statistics can provide only so much insight.

So when Rafael Montero, pitching for the Double-A Binghamton Mets, allowed 10 runs (seven earned) and 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings against Erie on May 1, pitching coach Glenn Abbott looked deeper than the boxscore.

“I guarantee you he’s never been hit like that, given up runs like that,” said Abbott, who pitched for the Athletics, Mariners and Tigers from 1973-84. “But the beautiful thing about it was it didn’t bother him. He kept doing what he does.”

Shawn Teufel trying to reinvent himself with Binghamton Mets

Excerpt from Newsday:

Tim Teufel, the former New York Met, taught his son Shawn to persevere, and that value has helped the younger Teufel rejuvenate his career.

In 121 innings in Detroit’s farm system last year, Teufel went 6-9 with a 6.62 ERA. He had spent three years in the minors and desperately needed to find an edge.

So during the offseason, the 26-year-old drastically altered his arm angle, dropping from three-quarters all the way to submarine.

“I just wanted to come back as a different look, different player, different pitcher,” said the lefty who signed a minor-league deal with the Mets on March 26. “I had a so-so year last year, and I thought if I could do it, I should come out and try it and give it a chance.”

America East hoops coaches speak out against transfer rules

Excerpt from Pipe Dream:

The one-time transfer exception, amended to its current state in 2006, has forced coaches to alter their approach to roster building. Before the rule’s inception, a coach had no qualms redshirting a player — for reasons ranging from a logjam at the player’s position to the player’s wiry frame needing a year in the weight room.

“The danger is now, and I said this to my staff, if the rules stay like they are — my assistants have mentioned to me, ‘Hey, this kid has a chance to be really good. Maybe we take him, redshirt him for a year, let him get stronger, then we have him for four years,’” Brown said. “But you don’t want to redshirt a kid and develop a kid so he can play his final year somewhere else.”

Giving ‘home team’ a whole new meaning

Excerpt from Pipe Dream: 

A photograph of Shannon Kane swinging a bat sits on the windowsill of an office in Binghamton University’s Innovative Technologies Complex. Located front and center, the picture is a valued possession of Terrence Kane, Shannon’s father and the school’s assistant vice president for government relations.

The Kanes live in Binghamton, so Shannon’s decision to play softball at BU presented a rare opportunity for the family of an elite college athlete.

“Shannon’s 86-year-old grandfather and I are regulars at all of her home games,” her father said. “Most parents at the Division I level, if they can get to one or two games they’ve done well. I get to see her play in 15 or 20 games.”

But for Binghamton’s softball team, the Kanes aren’t the only family close enough to do so. Four other Bearcats — Briana Andrews, Meghan Tucker, Mikala King and Jessica Bump — grew up locally, and their families are also regulars at the East Gym Field.

Dusan Perovic, Romello Walker excited to join BU together

Excerpt from Pipe Dream:

It was a simple, unsolicited offer of hospitality, but it left an indelible impression on Romello Walker.

The athletic 6-foot-6 guard from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had arrived on South Kent School’s campus for the first time as a student when a jovial Montenegrin teammate named Dusan Perovic approached him.

“He came up to me, ‘Hey, what can I help you with? What do you need? Can I help you with anything?’” Walker fondly recalled.

In that brief moment, Walker knew he had found a friend he would like to keep. Their relationship blossomed throughout their one common year at South Kent, and when the time came for Perovic to commit to a college basketball program, his choice was straightforward.

Madray, BU’s most-hyped recruit, ready to prove himself

Excerpt from Pipe Dream:

The Internet and YouTube never fail to bring the 9-year-old with the wicked crossover, the seventh grader who can windmill and the 14-year-old all-around phenom to our computer screens and into our living rooms.

But scour the web for middle school highlights of Nick Madray, and you will return empty-handed. You won’t find his high school statistics, either.

“I don’t know much about Madray,” Vermont head coach John Becker said.

He’s not alone. Basically, Madray, the most hyped player in Binghamton’s freshman class, is more myth than man as the 2013-14 season tips off.

Back in Binghamton, Augliera looks to continue ascension through minors

Excerpt from Pipe Dream:

Music blares in the cramped visiting clubhouse at NYSEG Stadium nearly four hours before first pitch of Tuesday night’s game between the Binghamton Mets and Portland Sea Dogs.

One Sea Dog, sitting at his locker, repeatedly pounds a ball into his glove. Another receives a massage from the team’s trainer. With just the pitching staff and catchers occupying the clubhouse — if you could call it that — players don’t have much space for comfort.

But this is minor league baseball.

If you don’t like it, says Sea Dogs pitcher Mike Augliera, you should play better.

With Dempsey at helm, BU optimistic about long road ahead

Excerpt from Pipe Dream:

All the Beatles need is love. Tommy Dempsey, on the other hand, needs time and patience.

The first-year Binghamton University men’s basketball coach inherited an unenviable situation when he took the program’s helm in May. Since the 2009 scandal — which resulted in the dismissal of six players and the firing of then-head coach Kevin Broadus — Binghamton has fallen into college basketball’s purgatory.

The 2011-12 Bearcats found their first win 27 games into the season, finishing with just two victories overall, including the America East tournament play-in game win over University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Things won’t change overnight, and this isn’t a video game, so you cannot simulate through the rough years. But Dempsey has made great strides already, blazing a path on the recruiting trail to sign four players to this year’s incoming class, which is an impressive feat, given that Dempsey only signed with Binghamton on May 24.

Seniors hope to have laid groundwork for future success of Binghamton men’s basketball

Excerpt from Pipe Dream:

In sports leagues across the country, coaches often preach the idea that winning isn’t everything. There’s more to a game, a series or a season than the record.

And while Binghamton’s senior class of Jimmy Gray, Taylor Johnston, Javon Ralling and Mike Horn would have liked to win more games, they know they’ve helped set the cultural foundation for a basketball program hoping to emerge from the sport’s purgatory.

Tommy Dempsey was the man hired last May to revitalize Binghamton basketball. It was a tall task, given the team’s struggles in the wake of the 2009 scandal. But the head coach said the senior class’ “character” has made his job easier, as they adopted his principles with alacrity.

With three regular-season titles in four years, SBU men’s basketball still seeking ticket to Dance

Excerpt from Pipe Dream:

Win the Big East regular-season title, and you’re guaranteed a bid to the NCAA tournament. Win the America East regular-season title, on the other hand, and all you’re guaranteed is the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament and an NIT berth.

Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell can verify that, as he has experienced both scenarios. As a player under Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun at UConn, Pikiell and the Huskies earned a trip to the Big Dance after taking the Big East regular-season crown.

Brown hoping to extend career with success in America East tourney

Excerpt from Pipe Dream:

A glance at the stat sheet elicited a one-word response from Roland Brown.

“Damn,” said the senior forward, shaking his head with a bewildered smile plastered across his face.

The Binghamton men’s basketball team had just defeated Maine handily on Feb. 8, snapping an eight-game skid and pulling within one game of the eighth-place Black Bears. Brown had scored 17 points and snatched nine boards. He needed one more rebound to collect the first double-double of his career, and he knew it.

Great Danes search for leadership after graduations of Iati and Black

When Gerardo Suero decided to go pro and Logan Aronhalt transferred to Maryland, Albany faced the tall task of replacing 35.3 points per game. But head coach Will Brown knew his 2012-13 squad could thrive anyway.

“When we lost Suero and Aronhalt,” he said, “we automatically became a much better defensive team, a more unselfish team.”

The fresh dynamic helped the Great Danes reel off nine wins in their first 11 games — including an upset of Washington. By season’s end, they were America East tournament champions twirling with No. 2 seed Duke in the Big Dance.

Unintimidated, Garn beats pro runners in prestigious Wanamaker Mile

Excerpt from Pipe Dream: 

Walking into the New York City Armory on Saturday, Jesse Garn found himself in elite company.

The Binghamton University junior had reached the NCAA regionals in each of his first two seasons as a member of the Bearcats’ track and field squad, but this was an entirely different level. This was the Wanamaker Mile at the prestigious Millrose Games.

Wilfredo Rodriguez embraces status as role model

The phone rings five times before Kevin Kehoe answers it.

“Hello?” he asks in a quiet, seemingly unenthused tone.

Just moments later, Kehoe’s voice is dripping with ebullience. That is, of course, because he’s talking about Wilfredo Rodriguez.

Ari on the AE: Evans playing bigger than his size for Albany

The story of DJ Evans as an Albany Great Dane begins at a 2012 NJCAA tournament game in Hutchinson, Kan.

Longtime Albany head coach Will Brown sat in the arena, searching for a junior college wing that could help his team immediately. Instead, he saw Evans, a diminutive point guard generously listed at 5-foot-9.

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