Where have you gone (Red Army edition)

(Updated: 1:18 p.m. with CSKA-Ural Great final below)

Everybody knows the story of Adonal Foyle, the Patriot League player who has enjoyed the most post-graduate basketball success.
Fewer are as familiar with the story of Bucknell grad J.R. Holden, who has easily had the second most successful hoops career among former Patriot Leaguers.

How Holden, the best point guard we have ever seen in a Patriot League uniform, was left off the league's All-Decade team, is still a mystery to us. Nothing against Brian Ehlers, the only PG on that squad, but as fine a player the three-time all league and two-time player of the year from Lafayette was, he could not carry Holden's proverbial jockstrap.

We still remember the night in March of 1997 when Holden carried Bucknell past Foyle's Colgate team in the PL semifinal game at Stabler Arena that proved to be Foyle's last collegiate contest.

An NBA scout sitting in front of me on press row was there to watch Foyle. Midway through the first half, he sent a tournament staffer scurrying for a Bucknell media guide. "Who is this kid?" he wondered.

Holden made the all-tournament team that season, and was a two-time first-team all-league selection. He went on to have cups of coffee in the NBA's summer leagues. But overseas is where Holden has shined.

After stints in Latvia, Belgium and Greece, Holden has found a home with CSKA in Russia, where he is widely considered the be the country's top point guard.

How highly is Holden regarded over there? Highly enough for Russian president Vladimir Putin to have granted him citizenship, making him eligible to play for the Russian national team. Holden was just named to the list of players being considered for the Russian team in September's European Championships.

Holden has led CSKA to two straight Russian league titles. Five years in a row his teams in Europe have won their league crowns (From his profile on the CSKA Web site: Won the 02/03, 03/04 Russian Championship with CSKA Moscow… won the 2001/02 Greece Championship with AEK (Athens)… won the 2000/2001 Belgian Championship with Oostende… won the 2001 Cup of Belgian with Oostende… won the 1999/00 Latvian Championship with SKA-Broceni (Riga)… participate in Latvian All Star Game in 2001… participate in Greece All Star Game in 2002).

So far this season, CSKA (also known as the Moscow Army team ... aka Red Army team) has already won the Russian Cup and qualified for the Euroleague (Superleague) and Russian League final fours (Please don't ask us the difference between the Russian Cup and Russian League, these things don't translate easily on the sites we have found so far. If you know, feel free to e-mail us and we will share with all).

Matter of fact, as we write this post, Holden has 6 points, 3 assists and 3 steals at the half of game one of CSKA's Russian League playoff series against Ural Great (CSKA leads 49-40).

The Euroleague final four will be played in Moscow May 6-8.

We tried back during the regular season to make contact with Holden through CKSA by e-mail. Maybe it was a bad Russian from the Web site we used to translate the request for an interview, or maybe it just got ignored.

Hopefully in the next few weeks we will be able to make contact for a more complete story on Holden's Russian adventures.

UPDATE: Final -- CSKA 104, Ural Great 91. Holden's line: 11 points, 4 assists, 5 steals, 0 turnovers in 22:59 of action. CSKA improves to 25-0 in Russian Superleague play, 46-1 overall (22-1 in Euroleague).

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Tough break for Leopards

Lafayette standout to transfer; Lehigh adds Canadian prep

Sophomore forward Jamaal Douglas, arguably Lafayette's best player, or at least the one with the biggest potential upside, is leaving school, according to Corky Blake in today's Express-Times.

Douglas came on big down the stretch for the Leopards. He was a key factor in Lafayette's late season upset of archrival Lehigh. A week later, he was Lafayette's only legitimate offensive threat in the blowout first round tournament loss at Bucknell.

We only saw Lafayette three times this season, but Corky covered the 'Pards on a regular basis, and he confirms our take on Douglas:
Over the second half of Lafayette's 9-19 season Douglas emerged as the Leopards' top player. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound power forward was second on the team in scoring at 9.9 ppg and led the team and the Patriot League in rebounding (7.0 rpg).
Douglas, of Miami, Fla., started 24 of 28 games and averaged 26.3 minutes. He produced 18 points and 17 rebounds in a 90-80 win over Navy and had a career-high 20 points in an 89-69 loss to Bucknell.
That 20-point showing was in the regular season game in Easton, by the way. In the tournament game we mentioned, Douglas scored 12 points, but that was almost double the next highest Lafayette scorer, Marcus Harley (7).

Nothing in Blake's story gives any clue why Douglas is leaving. He is a long way from home, maybe he is just homesick. Or maybe he sees the futility of Lafayette's non-scholarship situation and is seeking greener pastures. It could be anything, so no fair speculating.

Nonetheless, it is a major blow to Fran O'Hanlon's hopes of returning the Leopards to the upper division of the league.

In the same story, Blake updates the Lafayette recruiting situation. O'Hanlon has signed two more players, meaning six new faces will join the roster next season. Of course anybody still available at this late date is likely to be a project, not an immediate impact type player. It is hard to imagine Lafayette's situation being improved a whole lot by the addition of six freshmen in the short term, especially given the loss of Douglas.

Meanwhile, Blake also notes Lehigh's addition of Greg Page, a 6-5 kid from Canada who had been at Vanier College in Canada after being All-Montreal as a high school player. By the way, Vanier is not a "college" in the U.S. sense of the word. It is actually a "pre-university" program. In other words, a prep school.

Page posted some diary entries on the Canadian Web site HoopLife.ca last season.

Admittedly, the Patriot League is not usually thought of as a refuge for the type players who need post-high school prep work to get into college. In the U.S., post-graduate prep schooling is usually reserved for kids who otherwise might lose a year of eligibility to Prop. 16 (the successor to Pprop 48). Since we have no real knowledge of how things work in Canada, we will assume Page is a legitimate outstanding scholar-athlete in the Patriot League spirit and tradition, though we admit Lehigh's past history could make some folks skeptical.

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Double for McNaughton

Bucknell's Chris McNaughton is the Patriot League's basketball Scholar-Athlete for 2005:
McNaughton, who carries a 3.21 cumulative grade-point average in Bucknell's challenging electrical engineering program, is the seventh Bison basketball player to earn Patriot League Scholar-Athlete honors and the first since Dan Blankenship won it in back-to-back years in 2002 and 2003.
McNaughton also was named Bucknell's team MVP.

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Where have they gone? (USBL edition)

From the official site of the United States Basketball League, word on three former Patriot League players in the struggling late spring-summer league.

Former Bucknell standout Boakai Lalugba and ex-Lafayette big man Franklin Barr are suiting up for the Hackensack-based New Jersey Flyers, an expansion franchise. The Flyers opened the season Friday night at the Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs, a franchise that appears to be clinging to life, barely.

According to the Express-Times only four players showed up for the team's first practice. One of those was Winston Davis:
Davis, a former Lafayette College star, was eager to answer the call from the ValleyDawgs -- which came from Amato earlier Wednesday. Davis, who lives on College Hill, was drafted by the ValleyDawgs last season but never played.

"I was injured last year," Davis said. "I've been at Lafayette, working out. When you get the opportunity to play, you play. That's just how it works."
Another Lafayette player, Sean Knitter, who was a senior on this year's Leopards squad, was selected in the fourth round of the USBL draft by the Darryl Dawkins coached ValleyDawgs. No word on whether he plans to sign with the team.

Knitter is not the only one the ValleyDawgs are waiting for a decision from. The league is also waiting for a commitment from a new owner.

According to the Morning Call:
The ValleyDawgs came close to dropping out of the eight-team United States Basketball League when overspending on player contracts forced former Pennsylvania owner Service Electric to cut ties with the team.

The USBL negotiated a deal with Kentucky investor Valerie McQueen to support the ValleyDawgs with financial backing, although league director of operations Ed Krinsky said Wednesday that hasn't yet been finalized. Krinsky added he expects the deal to be completed soon.
That deal may have fallen through. In a report on the opener, won 107-105 by the ValleyDawgs, the Morning Call said:
As of now, the USBL is funding and operating Pennsylvania, because Valerie McQueen of Newport, Kent., did not sign the paperwork. Ed Krinsky, the USBL director of basketball operations, said he made a handshake deal with McQueen Monday night at a restaurant in West Allentown.
We could not find any box score from the game.

Lalugba, by the way, has been playing professionally in Europe since graduating from Bucknell. The 6-5 forward averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds per game in Finland last season.

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Taylor content at Lehigh

The Allentown Morning Call reports Lehigh's Billy Taylor says he had no interest in the now-filled UNC-Greensboro job. Taylor tells the Morning Call he is busy plotting the Mountain Hawks recovery from this year's 14-15 season.

Also in the story, some Lehigh scheduling news:
Taylor has toughened the Hawks' non-league schedule by dropping Penn State and adding road games at Villanova on Nov. 28 and at Pac-10 champion Washington Dec. 23. Adding the Huskies was a favor to Washington natives Jason Mgebroff, a sophomore center, and junior guard/forward Kevin Tempest.

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Ditto for Flannery at BU

Don Scott, of the Lebanon Daily News caught up with Pat Flannery between periods of a Hershey Bears (AHL) hockey game recently and filed this report:
"People talk about the Kansas game that got us national attention, but the win we got over Holy Cross was the kind that sets a program. I know we beat Pitt and St. Joe's, but stopping the Holy Cross 16-game win streak was real toughness on the part of our kids.

"The bad thing about the whole situation is it was just a magical season for us, and now everywhere I go people say they know we can get to the Sweet 16 next year. I say let's just enjoy this one for a while."
Flannery won a D-III national title at Lebanon Valley before taking the head coaching job at his alma mater, Bucknell. He told Scott he is happy where he is at and has no interest in moving on to bigger or theoretically better things

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Army attrition

Another one has bit the dust at West Point.

Freshman Luke Slater, a 6-5 forward from Illinois, says he is leaving the Academy at the end of his freshman year.

According to the Northwest Herald:
Slater seemed like an ideal fit for Army. A 6-foot-6, three-sport athlete, he graduated in the top five at McHenry East in 2004 and headed to West Point to major in engineering.

Once there, Slater heard about the high numbers of Army grads being sent overseas to combat.

"You really don't understand what's going on until you're there [at West Point]," Slater said. "After those five years, you're more than likely going over. You want to say I'd do anything to protect the nation. When you see what it's all about, it's a scary thought."

About 90 percent of cadets will be deployed to combat zones within three years of graduation.

Slater made a difficult choice. He will leave Army this spring after his freshman year is completed. Cadets may leave West Point before their junior year without penalty, similar to transferring from a regular college.
A note, Army's Web site lists Slater at 6-5, not the 6-6 the paper claims. That is not real easy to find if you visit GoArmySports.com, though. Slater's name has already been removed from the roster posted there. His profile page, though, is still there. We found it when we googled his name.

One of just four players 6-5 or taller on the Cadets roster, Slater appeared in 20 games, starting five, averaging 14 minutes of playing time in those 20 games. On Jan. 2 against Cornell, he posted a career-high 15 points in 30 minutes of action. But after the Cadets Feb. 4 game against American, Slater's name did not appear in any other Army box scores.

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Who killed AU tennis?

According to a story in Sunday's Washington Moonie, Jeff Jones and the basketball team caused the demise of American's tennis program:
The department was told it could not exceed its budget as in recent years. The cuts are partly a result of the lack of income generated from men's basketball, the school's only revenue sport and one that is expected to bring in money to help non-revenue sports like tennis.

However, sparse attendance (1,358 per game) at basketball games and a lack of income from postseason games have hurt the department.

The basketball team's budget is in excess of $1 million with 13 scholarships.

Fifth-year coach Jeff Jones hasn't been able to generate much interest in the team, which has not made an NCAA appearance during his tenure but has been to three conference tournament finals. Jones earns $225,000 a year, according to sources close to the program.

Jones' contract, which runs through 2008-09, is particularly rich for a low mid-major program.
In fairness to Jones and his team, they can hardly be blamed for the poor attendance.

Although they have not won the Patriot League title since joining the conference a few years ago, the Eagles have been consistently competitive and in the league's top division.

Selling Patriot League hoops in a city that also has NBA, ACC, Big East, A-10 and CAA ball to choose from can't be easy.

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Navy assistant on the move

From NavySports.com:
Dallas Baptist University Director of Athletics Matt Murrah announced Tuesday that Blake Flickner has been selected as head coach to lead the new men's basketball program at DBU. Flickner comes to DBU from the U.S. Naval Academy where he has served as assistant coach for the Midshipmen the past two seasons.

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Friday, April 29, 2005
Where have you gone (Red Army edition)

Tough break for Leopards
Monday, April 25, 2005
Double for McNaughton

Where have they gone? (USBL edition)

Taylor content at Lehigh

Ditto for Flannery at BU

Army attrition

Who killed AU tennis?

Navy assistant on the move

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