By Adam Zaki
Published: November 8th, 2017
After being blatantly out-bodied in most of their losses last season, the Brooklyn College men’s basketball team has turned one of their biggest weaknesses into a strength this year, bringing in new players that have one distinct trait in common: size.
After taking the floor at many points last season with three or four players under six feet in height, the Bulldogs finished with a 6-20 record on the season, a 4-13 record in the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC), and a winless record against conference opponents at home. On the season, Brooklyn College ranked third-worst defensively, and second-worst in field goal percentage (39 percent) in the conference.
In addition to their poor shooting, a lack of size forced them to the bottom of the CUNYAC in opponents’ defensive rebounding, giving up a staggering 44.7 rebounds per game to their opponents. Their season rebound margin (-5.8 percent) was ranked dead last in the conference.
A combination of poor shooting, lack of size, and an inability to finish close games caused the Bulldogs to have one of their worst seasons in recent years. The team seemed to be stricken by a CUNYAC Championship hangover as the season progressed. Despite wild victories on the road against Montclair State University and Baruch College, the Bulldogs failed to consistently overcome their foes in other matchups.
In a 91-89 victory in last season’s home opener against St. Joseph’s of Brooklyn on Nov. 22, the Bulldogs competed in a heated matchup which ended up being their last home victory. This was an intriguing contest that brought the best out of both teams, and it definitely served as the start of a new rivalry. It was the brightest point of their season, and the team stood at 2-2, but the Bulldogs would go on to lose 13 of their next 14 games.
For the 2017-2018 season, the Bulldogs have eight new additions on the roster, and they all stand above the six foot mark. First year member Roki Mendoza-Familia is a transfer from LaGuardia Community College who, at 6’6” and 200 pounds, provides a much needed body underneath the basket at both forward and center. Mendoza-Familia can match up with large, opposing shooters between mid-range and under the basket, and also proved to be dynamic offensively in his time at LaGuardia. Averaging seven rebounds per game last season for the Red Hawks, Mendoza-Familia may be able to provide some desperately needed glasswork for the Bulldogs.
In a further attempt to gain size as a team, the Bulldogs have brought on as a center Ilir Ndreci, a 6’7”, 235-pound transfer from College of Mount Saint Vincent. Other new arrivals to the team that bring height to the roster are forwards Leonel Familia (6’4”) and Daniel Shulman (6’5”). First-year guards Alpha Bah and Luke Carson also stand at 6’4” and 6’2”, respectively.
Returning playmaking guards, sophomore Michael Tesoriero and senior Niv Konfino, will have much less pressure to take on overwhelming defensive matchups if the newcomers can provide some defensive stability. If the Bulldogs can consistently grab rebounds and allow these guards to make plays, the team will put themselves in a better position to relinquish their bottom-of-the-barrel field goal percentage from last year.
Senior forward Maynard Grant carried the Bulldogs at many points last year, and he can be a force under the basket and a defensive presence on the opposite end. Grant provides a large athletic body down low that, when healthy, seemingly always guards the opposing team’s best player. Much like with Tesoriero and Konfino, Grant can expand his game on both ends of the floor with relieved pressure from bigger bodies coming off the bench and into the starting lineup.
The team’s path will become evident over time, as their first few matchups will need to incorporate an adjusting process to develop chemistry between new teammates. Their play in the first few games of the season will need to be analyzed with a learning curve. If the team can find camaraderie with each other while efficiently and consistently executing game plans, the Bulldogs may very well find themselves preparing for a deep CUNYAC championship run come mid-February.