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The 2017-18 LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds are being picked 6th in the Northeast Conference preseason poll by the coaches. The expectations are mild at best, which is something head coach Derek Kellogg should welcome. He’ll have his work cut out for him in his second season. They lost NEC Player of the Year Jerome Fink, third team All-NEC Iverson Fleming, and underrated Nura Zanna from a 20 -win team. In all, nearly 60% of the scoring and almost 70% of the rebounding must be replaced.
The Blackbirds do return All-NEC rookie performer Jashuan Agosto. He will have to improve on 11.2 points per game and team leading 3.2 assists per game if they want to approach 20 wins. His backcourt partner, Julian Batts, will also need to step his game up. More shot attempts should help his cause, due to his 40% accuracy from three point range. Also key will be redshirt senior Joel Hernandez, who is back from an injury he suffered in the first game last season. The 6’3” inside-outside guard was expected to be a big contributor after a strong 2015-16 season. Can last season’s surprise, Raiquan Clark, continue his rise? The walk-on averaged 6.2 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game the last month of the season.
The rest of the roster is an unknown with five newcomers. LIU welcomes three transfers in 6’3” guard Craig Owens Jr (West LA CC), 6’6” forward Jamall Robinson (Hofstra) and 6’7” forward/center Zach Coleman (UMass). Also in the fold are two incoming freshmen with 6’7” wing Eral Penn (St. Francis Academy-Maryland) and 6’1” guard Shyheim Hicks (Springfield Commonwealth-Massachusetts). Any production from any of them will help. Time will tell. The season opens November 10th at Tulane.