College Basketball Nation: Colgate Raiders

Nathan Harries was a member of both the Model U.N. and National Honor Society as a high schooler.

The year after he graduated from Atlanta’s Centennial High School, the devout Mormon packed his bags and headed to Raleigh, N.C., for the first of two years of mission work. There, he worked with the less fortunate, performed service projects and studied the Bible.

Clearly, Harries is exactly the sort of kid the NCAA wants to bar from college athletics.

I mean, could you find a worse seed, a more twisted example of a student-athlete?

Thank goodness for all of us, and especially for the Colgate basketball team, which had the audacity to offer this rabble-rousing troublemaker a scholarship, the NCAA is here to protect the purity and sanctity of college athletics and has dinged Harries a year of eligibility.

The kid, after all, played in an unsanctioned church league at Dunwoody Baptist Church last summer after he got back from his final year of mission work.

Played with men in their 30s, guys so old (or is it experienced?) they even had facial hair and paunches. Played against teams with names like Make It Drizzle, which clearly shows how serious they took this thing.

Harries played three whole games (three!) over the course of two nights (two!).

One night, while playing in this fancy, highfalutin league clearly stocked with future Kobes, Harries wore an old high school jersey with no number. A pathetic attempt to cloak his identity, perhaps?

Heck, he wasn’t even alone. Other players were masquerading around in anonymity too.

“Two of us had on a black jersey with the same number, but one of us was left-handed so they said it was OK," 36-year-old teacher and future NBA player Matt Adams told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which detailed Harries’ rule-breaking ways.

And then, when the NCAA sent him a routine questionnaire before he finally headed off to Colgate, Harries did the most awful thing of all: He told the truth. When asked if he had played any organized basketball over the past two years, he said yes.

The absolute gall.

A week later, the NCAA saved us from this scourge on college athletics and deemed Harris ineligible. He had violated an NCAA rule that stipulates that if you don’t enroll within a year of graduating high school, you can’t compete in organized competition (defined as one where score is kept and referees are present).

Clearly all that time with those older, wiser, more out-of-shape men gave Harries a clear advantage over his peers who were off playing against fit, 18-year-olds and not doing mission work.

Colgate, in an attempt to circumvent this pathetic excuse for a student-athlete, asked for a waiver. The good folks in Indianapolis had the good sense to deny that immediately.

Now of course Colgate, that rule-bending, cheating institution of lower learning, is appealing the decision.

We can only hope the NCAA denies that too, saving us all from Nathan Harries, honor student and missionary.'s Patriot League preview

October, 22, 2012
Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Patriot League, here is Eamonn Brennan's one-minute wind sprint through the league:

Blue Ribbon breakdowns of all eight teams in the Patriot:

Army InsiderFree
Holy Cross
Navy's Patriot League preview

October, 20, 2011
Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Patriot League, here is Eamonn Brennan's one-minute wind sprint through the league:

Blue Ribbon breakdowns of all eight teams in the Patriot:

Army InsiderFree Bucknell
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Navy InsiderFree More Patriot League content:
Hiring Matt Langel won’t necessarily make David Roach popular among his former co-workers.

Before he became athletic director at Colgate, Roach served in the same role at Brown. His Ivy League catbird seat afforded Roach a pretty good view of the Penn basketball team. Back then, the Quakers offered a pretty bleak picture for the rest of the members of the Ancient Eight, their success so overwhelming that the rest of the conference members were left trying to make any inroads.

But now? Now those Penn connections are providing a pretty bright future for Colgate. Roach recently handed the head-coaching reins to Langel, who won two Ivy titles as a player while Roach was at Brown, and most recently served alongside Fran Dunphy as an assistant coach at Temple.

“I think my old buddies might be a little upset with me,’’ Roach laughed. “But obviously Fran Dunphy is someone I always admired and Matt has worked alongside Fran and played for Fran. Matt is the same. He’s a very sincere person and that comes through when you’re around him. It’s already rubbing off on people here at Colgate.’’

Only 33, Langel already is a head coach, ascending to a spot plenty of coaches spend their whole lives working to reach. Langel, though, never had a grand plan or a how-to guide to become a head coach. He chose Penn because of its combination of academic and athletic excellence and as his college career wound down, realized he wasn’t ready to give up the game.

“I wasn’t a guy who wanted to coach; I wanted to keep playing,’’ Langel said.

Encouraged by Dunphy to chase his playing career, Langel played four years in France and Switzerland. But when an opportunity fell through, Langel stood at a crossroads.

And there was Dunphy.

Langel had the blessing of both good timing and good fortune, winding up his playing career just as a spot opened on the Penn bench. Two years later, when Dunphy moved across Philadelphia, from Penn to Temple, he brought Langel along.

“There is not a finer coach nor a finer man in this profession than Fran Dunphy and that’s why I was able to get this opportunity,’’ Langel said.

In a lot of ways, it’s an opportunity tailor-made for Langel. Colgate, like Penn, has a strong academic reputation and asks its student-athletes to fill that mold. Langel not only is accustomed to recruiting those sorts of players, he was one. He can relate to the academic demands and rigors his players will face because he carried the same load at Penn.

And Langel purposefully made sure his assistants were cut of the same cloth. He hired Terrell Ivory, the former director of basketball operations at Davidson who previously worked at Blair Academy; Michael McGarvey, an assistant at Division III Ursinus College and his former Penn teammate, and David Klatsky, who had been working as a volunteer assistant at Stevens Institute of Technology while holding down a lucrative trading job in New York City.

“I told Klatsky to get evaluated in the psych ward,’’ Langel joked.

It’s a young staff but it is, Langel believes, the right staff for the job.

“We’re not going to get kids because our assistants have deep roots with an AAU team,’’ Langel said. “This is an academic place and we need guys who can relate to that.’’

There is plenty for everyone to do at Colgate. The Raiders went 7-23 last season and aside from an appearance in the Patriot League title game in 2008, things have been pretty bleak. In the three years before that '07-08 season and the three years after, Colgate has averaged just under 10 wins a season. The only two NCAA tournament appearances in school history came in back-to-back years in the mid-90s.

“In the sport of basketball, it doesn’t take a lot to turn a program around,’’ Roach said. “The first step is to become competitive in the Ivy League and after that, anything is possible. As mid-major teams have proven throughout the country now, you never can tell. Look at what Penn did. Cornell did it a year ago, so any school like us can do it, too.’’

The numbers you need to know

February, 17, 2011
An inside look at the numbers behind Wednesday's top performances:

1. Kemba Walker broke out of a prolonged shooting slump, scoring 31 to lead Connecticut to a 78-70 win over Georgetown. He took the game over in the second half with 21 points, more than he’s been averaging in his previous eight games (17.3 ppg). Walker also added 10 assists and seven rebounds. He’s just the third player this season to post a 30-point, 10-assist game (Myron Strong, D.J. Cooper). The last time a power-conference player did it was March 12, 2009. That’s the date of the epic six-overtime Connecticut-Syracuse marathon where both Jonny Flynn and A.J. Price went for at least 30 and 10.

2. At halftime against Georgia, Vanderbilt was a mess. It had shot just 21.6 percent, and the top two scorers had done nothing. Just one game removed from his career-high, John Jenkins was scoreless. Jeffery Taylor was 0-for-10. But in the second half, Jenkins came alive with 21 points, including five 3s. Georgia scored only three points in the final 9:46 as Vanderbilt came from behind to win 64-56. The win is particularly impressive when you look at Taylor’s shooting performance. He went 2-for-18 from the field, and is just 3-for-25 over the last 2 games. It’s the worst shooting performance (min. 15 attempts) by an SEC player since Florida’s Matt Walsh went 1-for-15 against Alabama in 2004.

3. The most shocking result of the night was in San Diego, where the 5-21 Toreros knocked off No. 23 Saint Mary’s 74-66. Consider that two of San Diego’s wins had come against non-D-I schools and it’s even more improbable. But a team with only one player averaging over 10 ppg had four starters in double figures. This one was all about the second half. Trailing by eight going at halftime, San Diego shot 66.7 percent in the second half and hit 6 of 7 from 3-point range. For Saint Mary’s, Mickey McConnell and Mitchell Young combined for 45 points on 20-for-30 shooting, but the rest of the team shot just 26.7 percent. The Toreros now have more wins over the RPI top 50 than teams like UAB, Utah State and Cleveland State.

4. Speaking of Cleveland State, Norris Cole hit the court for the first time since his 41-point, 20-rebounds effort on Saturday. He didn’t quite have a repeat performance against Wright State, but the Vikings still came out on top 74-72. Cole finished with 16 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. He’s averaging 20.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 5.6 apg on the season. Since 2000, only three players have averaged 20-5-5 over a full season: Evan Turner, Ricky Minard and Speedy Claxton. Cleveland State got all 74 of its points from the starting lineup, and has now gone three consecutive games without a point off the bench.

5. Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum is listed at just 6-3 and 185 lbs, but plays like a much bigger man. On the season, he’s averaging 22.3 ppg and 8.3 rpg, which puts him in the top 10 in the nation among guards in both categories. On Wednesday, he did his best Norris Cole impersonation. McCollum posted 31 points, 15 rebounds, five steals and two blocks, but the Mountain Hawks fell short in overtime to Colgate. As impressive as McCollum was, this game actually belonged to Colgate’s Mike Venezia. He scored 11 of his career-high 27 points in overtime, and connected on 5-for-8 from 3.

Previewing the Patriot League

October, 15, 2010
Eamonn Brennan takes a quick look at the Patriot League:

For in-depth previews of all eight Patriot League teams, check out Blue Ribbon's breakdowns: Insider

InsiderFree Bucknell
Holy Cross