Rider Men Picked Fourth, Women Fifth
EDISON, NJ—The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball coaches have selected the Rider Broncs to finish in the top half of the 11-team league this year, with the men picked to finish fourth and the women picked to finish fifth.
Last year the Rider men were picked seventh and finished in second place, winning 19 games under new head coach Kevin Baggett.
Last year the Rider women were picked to finish in sixth place and finished fourth with their best MAAC record (10-8) and their best overall record (15-15) in almost 20 years.
“Ranked fifth, I’ll take it,” said women’s head coach Lynn Milligan. “It’s nice to be thought of in the middle and be in the mix right off the bat. It’s a credit to our kids and their hard work that we have some respect in the league now. But preseason predictions are exactly what they are – they’re preseason predictions. There are so many other things that are going to happen throughout the season, controllable and uncontrollable, that the way we finish in March is what we focus on. It’s the destination that we want to get to.”
The Manhattan men are picked to finish first, after finishing the 2012-13 season in the MAAC Championship game. The Jaspers received 10 of 11 first place votes after winning seven of their final 10 regular season games last season and upset defending champion Loyola in the playoffs to finish 14-18.
Defending champion Iona is picked to finish second and Canisius was picked third. The Golden Griffins had a 15-game turnaround to compile a 20-win season last year.
“With their leading scorer coming back I thought Manhattan would be picked by most to win the conference,” Baggett said of the Jaspers. “Iona returns a lot from an NCAA Tournament team, and Canisius returns a great player and has a good transfer coming in. As far as us, we just want to get better every day and to peak at the right time, at the end of the year.”
The MAAC also announced that when Rider visits MAAC newcomer Monmouth December 5, Manhattan on January 24, Saint Peter's January 31 and hosts Iona February 21 the games will be broadcast on ESPN3 or ESPNU.
With last year’s starting backcourt now playing professionally, the Broncs will rely on a sophomore, Zedric Sadler and a freshman, Jimmie Taylor to replace the court leadership of the graduated Jon Thompson.
Sadler was fourth on the team in minutes played last year as a rookie despite making just one start all season. “I like Zedric’s leadership qualities,” Baggett said. “He’ll let a player know what’s important to our program. He also has shown the ability to make big shots.” Sadler’s three-point field goal with 15 seconds left led Rider to a come-from-behind win at Canisius.
Jimmie Taylor earned First Team All-State (5A) honors in Florida, averaging 24 points (second highest in Florida 5A), 10 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game, and will be given the opportunity to play the point guard this year.
“I’m counting on Jimmie to play significant minutes early at the point guard,” Baggett said. “He can score in number of different ways. I’m happy I’m going to have Jimmie and Zed for a few years, to continue to build this program.”
Stewart earned Third Team All-MAAC honors last year, finishing fourth in the conference in rebounding, seventh in field goal percentage, 13th in blocks and 21st in scoring.
“Danny made strides last year with his third team honors after being on the All-Rookie team as a freshman, but I need Danny to get to second or first team all-conference,” Baggett said.
Stewart, who wears lucky number 13 on his uniform, has 13 career ‘double-doubles’ and enters the season 13th in career rebounds. “We’re still trying to get Danny out on the perimeter more,” Baggett said. “He needs to average a ‘double-double’ for us to be as good as we want to be.”
Myles earned Third Team All-MAAC honors last year and ranked among the top 18 in the conference in scoring, rebounding and three-pointers, starting all 34 games. “I need Anthony to be the leader this year,” Baggett said. “He will be our go-to guy. He played really well the first half of last year and is very talented.”
Coming back for his junior season is Junior Fortunat, a veteran of 52 games who led the Broncs in field goal percentage last year. “Junior has shown signs of having that breakout season and I need to see more of it this year,” Baggett said. Fortunat averaged 11.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per 40 minutes played last year.
The Marist women are once again picked to win the MAAC, having won nine conference titles in the last 10 years.
Iona has five starters returning and the Lady Gaels are picked to finish second.
MAAC newcomer Quinnipiac is picked third, coming into the league off of its best season in program history (30-3) as an NCAA qualifier.
The Fairfield Lady Stags return four starters and are picked fourth.
“It’s a good league every year,” Milligan said. “Marist is the best team in the league until someone proves otherwise. But when you bring in quality teams like Quinnipiac and Monmouth and continue the growth of programs like us, like Manhattan, like Niagara, like Canisius and Iona, all the teams are making jumps and strides. It makes it fun; it’s a wide open league. It’s a credit to the players and the coaches who bust their butt every day to try to be the best. It’s the type of league that you want to be associated with.”
The Broncs return senior MyNeshia McKenzie, the first Bronc to earn First Team All-MAAC honors. A Second Team All-MET selection, McKenzie was second in the MAAC in rebounding (9.8) and fourth in scoring (14.2) last year.
The Rider men are picked to finish fourth, the Rider women fifth. Like last year, both teams hope to surpass expectations.