2012-13 Rider University Men's Basketball Outlook
Success is Becoming Better Each Day
"The best competition I have is against myself to become better." - John Wooden
In 16 years as a Division I assistant coach, Kevin Baggett has had the opportunity to observe many great head coaches and take from them qualities and styles used in developing his own philosophy. The head coach that had one of the greatest influences on him, however, never shared the court with him.
"I'm a John Wooden fan," said Baggett, who takes over the reins of the Rider University Broncs this year after six years as a Rider assistant. "Our main goal this year is just to get better every day. As long as we're working as hard as we can and we're doing all the right things; as long as we're getting better; as long as guys are playing hard each day, the way I want our guys to play, I think we'll give ourselves an opportunity to be there at the end and give ourselves a chance in the conference tournament."
Jon Thompson, no relation to the Thompson brothers who graduated from Rider and are now playing professionally, Jason (NBA) and Ryan (Belgium), has started 50 games for the Broncs, and has a 2.0 career assist/turnover ratio.
"Jon is going to be an All-MAAC player this year," Baggett predicted. "He has come so far. He came in as a role player and has worked extremely hard. I think he's going to have a great year. We count on Jon for his leadership, his direction on the court and his defense. Being a veteran, he's going to be real important to our success this year."
Stewart was a Freshman All-American in 2011 and in 2012 was third in the MAAC in field goal percentage (.561), eighth in rebounding (6.6) and 22nd in scoring (11.1).
"Danny had a great freshman year (MAAC Rookie of the Year), and started off like gang busters last year," Baggett said of the 6'7", 210 pound junior. "Somewhere along the line he seemed to get worn down having to guard the centers until we got Junior (Fortunat, a 6'9", 220 pound foreign student who was cleared to play 10 games into the season). This year we need to keep Danny fresh. He doesn't have to guard the 'five' anymore, now that he is playing the 'four'. We're expecting a lot out of him."
Lindsey is a 6'3" two guard who came to Rider from St. John's University, where he averaged 11.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists in nine games last fall before transferring to Rider. A graduate of Overbrook High School, Lindsey attended Redlands Community College and earned First Team All-NJCAA Region II honors, averaging 22.3 points (sixth in the nation), 5.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.5 steals per game.
"Nuri is a scorer but he can do a lot of things," Baggett said. "He can run the point if we need him to, and he can certainly get to the basket with the best of them. He finishes and he gets to the free throw line. He's working on his perimeter shooting."
At Overbrook Lindsey compiled 1,315 career points in just three seasons. He averaged 35.8 points per game his sophomore and junior seasons to lead the Philadelphia Public League.
"He has a high basketball IQ," Baggett added, "and we'll be leaning on him to help us win some games."
Myles scored 20 points in the season opener last year and came back to score another 20 at Pitt two days later. After starting the first eight games of the season he returned to the starting lineup for three games in February before suffering a season-ending hand injury.
"Anthony was coming on last year when he hurt his hand," Baggett said. "He was starting to come into his own. We're really counting on Anthony with his experience to take the next step."
Myles averaged over 10 points per game last season and shot .862 from the foul line. "He's a very good shooter but we'd like him to get to the free throw line more," Baggett said. "He worked on it after his freshman season and came back a good foul shooter."
Returning in the middle is Fortunat, who threw down a thunderous dunk against the ranked Florida Gators just seconds after entering his first collegiate game. In his first start he grabbed nine rebounds against Iona.
"In order for us to be good, Junior has to be good," Baggett said of his young big man. "He needs to average a double-double for us. We need to be able to throw it in to him and get him to score for us and we need opponents to collapse their defense to help our perimeter players. He's coming into his own now."
Nd-Ezuma played in 24 games last season, starting seven, and was fourth on the team in field goal percentage (.523).
"We're going to count on Dera to be able to spell Junior, and at times I might play them both," Baggett said. "He's a veteran now, he's been through it."
Pereira played in 15 games last year until an ankle injury in February cut his season short. An outstanding out-side shooter (.400 from three-pointers), all but two of Pereira's field goals over the last two years were three-pointers.
"This has got to be a good year for Tommy," Baggett said. "We need Tommy to be able to stretch the defense. He had some games last year where he hit some big shots." Pereira made all three of his three-point shots in a MAAC win at Manhattan last year. "He was the reason we won that game," Baggett said. "He made some big second half shots. We need that on a more consistent basis from Tommy this year."
The newcomers are led by Prep school alums Khalil Alford, Shawn Valentine and Zedric Sadler, and two more Philadelphia Catholic League stars, Derrick Stewart of Neumann-Goretti and Jamal Nwaniemeka from Conwell-Egan.
Alford averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game at Fishburne Military School last year. At Kestrol Heights High he averaged 19 points and nine rebounds and at Southeast Raleigh he was a three-sport letterman, earning Second Team All-North Carolina honors as a safety in football.
"Khalil is a very good shooter," Baggett said. "He's a little more experienced coming from Fishburne, more seasoned. His body is a little more mature than most freshmen."
Valentine averaged 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds at Phelps Prep as the team's Defensive Player of the Year. At Winslow Township High he averaged over 16 points and five rebounds per game, earning Second Team All-Group 4 South Jersey honors in 2010.
"Having played at the prep school he's a little older,' Baggett said. "He is a smart player who can get to the basket. He has a great feel for the game. He'll start out playing a 'four' but he could eventually develop into a 'three' for us."
Sadler averaged 18.7 points and 6.8 rebounds at Cody High and comes to Rider from South Kent.
"Zedric is a tough young man from Detroit," Baggett said. "He's going to be our energy guy. He'll defend, dive on loose balls, and take the charge. His freshman year that will be his role. He can play some point and he can get to the basket."
Derrick Stewart, the younger brother of Daniel, was voted the Defensive MVP of the PCL and twice earned Third Team All-State honors. "Derrick is a winner," Baggett said. "He never lost a PCL game. He is similar to Danny in some ways but different in other ways. Derrick plays more of the perimeter. We'll need him to be a defender and rebounder for us this year."
Nwaniemeka was a Second Team All-State and Second Team All-Philadelphia selection last year as the Lower Bucks County Player of the Year after compiling 502 points and 234 rebounds as a senior.
"Jamal is going to be a special kid," Baggett said. "He can score the ball, he has a body like a defensive back, and he can jump out of the gym. We need Jamal to take this year as a learning year, take what the defense gives him, take open shots, and defend. He's going to be really good down the road."
"Emerson is a very hard worker who is a great role model and a great young man to have on this team," Baggett said. "He does everything right. He has a very important role on this team. We liked Myles a few years ago when he was at the Hun School. He can play either guard spot; he can score and has a good nose for offensive rebounding."
The Broncs begin the season hosting Robert Morris, Stony Brook and Monmouth. "This is the first time I can recall in my six years at Rider starting the season off with three consecutive home games," Baggett said. "It is very important to protect home court so we will need to be ready if we want to get off to a good start."
After the home stand Rider takes part in the Hoops for Hope Classic, playing at South Carolina, at Southern Methodist and two games in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
"I am looking forward to playing South Carolina and SMU," Baggett said. "With both schools having new coaches I know those programs will be excited and ready to go under new leadership. Frank Martin did a great job at Kansas State and the legendary coach Larry Brown has been successful at every stop, college and the NBA. I'm excited about giving the team a chance to go out and play some high-level teams and see where we are. The trip will serve as a team bonding experience and this is all to prepare us for the conference."
Rider plays MAAC foes Siena (in Albany) and Fairfield (at home) in December, with the rest of the conference schedule beginning January 4 at Loyola. "Loyola and Manhattan will be the top picks this year," Baggett said, "but Niagara and Fairfield are going to be good as well. I think from top to bottom there is a lot of parity in the league."
Rider has been known to play an up-tempo game from time to time over the last several years, and this year will be no exception. "In the past we got up and down sometimes, I want to get up and down all the time," Baggett said. "We ran a lot more when we had Jason (Thompson '08) and we're going to get back to that, with the personnel we have now. I want our players to expose those teams who do not get back well enough in transition. I want to press. I want to set the tempo."
John Wooden was a groundbreaking trendsetter who played an up-tempo style not well-known on the West Coast at the time. And like Coach Wooden, Coach Baggett believes that getting better each day is the key to success.
"I really believe that our success, as a team and individually, will be measured in how we progress each and every day we step on the practice floor," Baggett said.
"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable." - John Wooden