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Date Posted: 09:34:41 11/18/05 Fri
Author: J.J.
Subject: Devils look to shoot their way to top of NEC
In reply to: J.J. 's message, "Central Makes New Classic Arrangements" on 09:25:56 11/18/05 Fri

A good season preview by The Herald.

By MATT STRAUB , Assistant Sports Editor

NEW BRITAIN -- Howie Dickenman is known as a coach who demands a tremendous work ethic from his players. That wonít change this season, but the veteran mentor has added a new edict for the menís basketball team at Central Connecticut in 2005-2006.
He wants his charges to shoot the basketball.

Part of that philosophy comes from the talent that Dickenman, entering his 10th year at the helm of his alma mater, possesses with this yearís roster. The Blue Devils, who finished eighth in the regular season in the NEC and were 1.4 seconds away from the biggest upset in NEC tournament history at Monmouth a year ago, are poised to make a run up the standings this year thanks to a loaded backcourt.

The list of dangerous guards begins with senior Justin Chiera, who enters the year third in CCSU history in three-pointers (177) and has hit two or more from behind the arc in more than half the games heís played during his career in New Britain. Chiera has upped his totals from the previous season in almost every offensive category in each of the past two years, so another jump isnít out of the question.

"Justin is in great shape. He knows this is his last year," Dickenman said. "He just needs to take better shots."

Chiera will be joined in the backcourt by sophomore point guard Tristan Blackwood. The Toronto native was the only player to start all 28 games last season for CCSU and, while there were growing pains that come whenever a freshman takes the floor, Dickenman expects better from Blackwood this year.

"We put a lot of stock in his (playing) time and we expect some payback on that investment," Dickenman said.

Blackwood didnít necessarily have eye-catching numbers, but he demonstrated an ability to get the ball into the hands of the right people at the right times. He has caught his coachís eye with his shot, however.

"His release is extremely quick. He doesnít bring the ball back down to his waist," Dickenman said. "He has as pretty a shot as anyone in the area, and he is shooting the ball extremely well ..Now we just have to get him to take shots."

Lenny Jefferson, the teamís other senior guard, will be another weapon for Dickenman. He will, however, not be available until the fourth game of the season, having to sit out the first three games for playing in three summer games that were in violation of NCAA rules. When he does return, he provides another source of veteran leadership.

That leadership will be even more important this season as the Blue Devils look to minimize the loss of guard DeMario Anderson and his 14.1 points per game. Anderson, who became a key in the CCSU offense by the end of his sophomore season, transferred out of the program this summer.

If Jefferson and Chiera are the teamís veteran leaders, junior Javier Mojica is the emotional leader at CCSU. Mojica, who has worked his way from walk-on to starter and played everything from guard to power forward last season, is a virtual lock to lead the team in hustle plays this year.

"I donít want to coach him," Dickenman said. "Iím afraid Iíll (mess) him up."

While the Blue Devils are strongest on the perimeter, the cupboard is not bare inside. Junior forward Obie Nwadike is back after battling leg injuries last year. Nwadike averaged 7.5 rebounds last year despite being just 6-4 and being hobbled for much of the season.

"I thought he did very well playing in pain on what I would say was a leg to a leg-and-a half," Dickenman said. "Obie is our team leader ... He appears to be fully healed."

A healthy Nwadike is a dominant presence under the basket, but Dickenman is hoping he can expand his game this season. There were several times last year when Nwadike found himself out near the foul line, and his coach wants him to be more than just a screener when heís away from the hoop.

"I told him to just shoot it," Dickenman said. "Otherwise theyíll continue to sag in the lane."

The biggest question mark of the season comes from CCSUís big men after Nwadike. Sophomore forward Jason Hickenbottom closed last season well, playing his best game in the tournament loss at Monmouth. The question is whether he or junior forward Jemino Sobers can do enough to prevent teams from focusing solely on Nwadike.

"Heís making progress, and that has a lot to do with confidence," Dickenman said of Sobers, who saw a host of injuries limit the 6-foot-7 forward to just eight games last season. "Heís someone we need to have step up and play consistently well."

Redshirt freshman Jermaine Middleton and junior Ingo Baudet, 7-foot-3 and 6-foot-11 respectively, are also options inside, but both must continue to improve their games to become factors.

Another pair who CCSU will look to see continual improvement from are the two freshmen on this yearís team, Chris Winters and John Williams.

Winters is a 6-foot-6 forward from East Lyme

"Weíll probably see early contributions from Chris Winters," Dickenman said. "It depends on his effectiveness as a shooter. He could be a bit of matchup problem because he can go inside-outside and make threes. I think youíll see John Williams come gradually. Heís learning the ins and outs of basketball. Heís been very receptive to the little things weíve been coaching him on, and heís probably one of the fastest runners on our team."

Thatís saying something considering the speed at Central this season. Dickenmanís team will run this year, and if he has his way, theyíll shoot more, too.

Matt Straub can be reached via email at mstraub@newbritainherald.com

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[> [> It's about respect for Blue Devils -- J.J., 13:16:55 11/18/05 Fri

Yet another article to kick off the season.
By: John F. Silver, Journal Inquirer
November 17, 2005

NEW BRITAIN - It has been almost four years since the Central Connecticut State University men's basketball team won the Northeast Conference championship and subsequent NCAA berth, and it is undeniable that the aura has changed in New Britain.

Central is coming off a 12-16 season - its first losing season since coach Howie Dickenman's first year - and a first-round exit in the NEC tournament at the hands of Monmouth.

It was a long and difficult offseason for the Blue Devils. The coaching staff was overhauled and leading scorer DeMario Anderson transferred out. "We had as much respect as any team in the league and we have lost it. We want that back," Dickenman said. "We need to get that swagger back. We lost a lot of close games last year and that can shake your confidence."

The Blue Devils will open the season Friday night in the Mohegan Sun Classic when they host Birmingham Southern in New Britain (8 p.m.). Northeastern and Brown will play in the first game of the tournament on Friday (6 p.m.).
The Blue Devils, picked fifth in the conference in a preseason coaches poll, have some talent to work with.

Junior forwards Obie Nwadike and former walk-on Javier Mojica are the main threats for the Blue Devils. Nwadike is an undersized power forward at 6-foot-4 and is coming off a season in which he averaged 11.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Mojica, a 6-foot-3 wing from Auburn, Mass., averaged 9.9 points per game last season, mostly off the bench. "Javier may be our best all-around player in a true sense of the word," Dickenman said. "And Obie can go out there and on any night score 20 for us."

On the perimeter, senior guard Justin Chiera (7.0 ppg) will start at the point, with sophomore Tristan Blackwood (5.2 ppg) at the off-guard spot. Chiera and Blackwood are interchangeable and Dickenman expects both to see considerable time at the point. Chiera is coming off a down season. His scoring average was a career low, and he shot 36 percent from 3-point range. A return to form should be in order. Blackwood had a strong summer competing with the Canadian U-21 team at the Junior World Championships in Argentina.

Senior guard Lenny Jefferson is the top returning scorer on the perimeter at 10.2 per game but will sit out the first three games under an NCAA suspension for competing in an unsanctioned summer league in Bridgeport.
Also returning is sophomore forward Jason Hickenbottom, who started 14 games as a freshman and averaged 4.4 points.

The scoring is there, but with Anderson's abrupt departure late in the summer, the Blue Devils will have to find a new go-to guy.

The frontcourt figures to be a work in progress. Junior center Jemino Sobers is the leading candidate in the pivot. The 6-7 Sobers has had an injury-plagued career, playing only 65 minutes as a sophomore, but he can be an effective shot-blocker with his long arms.
"It comes down to confidence with Jemino," Dickenman said. "He didn't even know if he was going to play again. He isn't as aggressive as we want him to be, but he is improving."

Dickenman also has a couple of penny stocks on the bench that he hopes to hit big in 7-foot-3 red-shirt freshman center Jermaine Middleton and 6-foot-11 sophomore Indo Beaudot. To call the pair works in progress is an understatement, but Dickenman is hoping they will produce dividends down the line. With Sobers the only other player over 6-foot-6, their development is much needed.

The Blue Devils brought in a pair of players in 6-foot-2 combo guard John Williams of San Jose, Calif., via Marianapolis Prep in Thompson, and East Lyme forward Chris Winters, who prepped at St. Thomas Moore last season.

The Blue Devils will be tested early. After the Mohegan Sun Classic, Central will be on the road for the next five games against Florida International, Binghamton, Harvard, St. Bonaventure and NEC opponent St. Francis (N.Y.).
Central doesn't play its next home game until Dec. 18, when it hosts LaSalle.

Central has had some great teams and dominant players under Dickenman. He is confident a return to NEC glory isn't that far away.

"We lost some good players along the way, two NEC Players of the Year, and when you lose those players you slip a little bit," Dickenman said. "We have to get back to that level of respect that we have earned."

©Journal Inquirer 2005

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