Northeastern Suspends Varsity Fall Sports

By Milton Posner

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages nationwide, Northeastern University announced on Friday afternoon that it is suspending fall sports.

The decision includes soccer, volleyball, field hockey, and cross country, with an emphasis on trying to play those sports in the spring. A decision on basketball, ice hockey, swimming, and track and field — which are considered winter sports — will be made later. Spring sports (baseball and rowing), which usually play out-of-season games in the fall, will not do so this year.

The school cited the need to ensure the health and safety of athletes and the campus community at large. Northeastern is holding in-person classes this fall and has announced evolving procedures — including housing and class changes to encourage distancing — aimed at preventing the virus from spreading on campus.

Northeastern’s statement acknowledged similar decisions by fellow Colonial Athletic Association schools and by other conferences. The CAA, which comprises ten schools spanning eight states from Massachusetts to South Carolina, suspended its football season, but left decisions on other sports up to its member institutions, acknowledging the schools’ need to rely on different local and state guidance.

Six CAA schools — Northeastern, Hofstra, Delaware, William & Mary, Towson, and Drexel — suspended fall sports. UNCW and Charleston will compete, while Elon and James Madison are monitoring conditions and have yet to make final decisions.

The decisions come a day after the NCAA asserted that pandemic conditions must improve before fall sports happen. The NCAA also released guidelines, including testing strategies, daily self-health checks, the use of face coverings, and physical distancing during and outside of athletics. Decisions on competition vary by conference, though two nearby conferences, the Atlantic 10 and Patriot League, have suspended fall sports.

Northeastern will honor all athletic scholarships for the 2020–21 academic year, and teams will work out during the fall in accordance with Northeastern, NCAA, and public health guidelines.

CAA Class of 2019 Goes Pro

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By Milton Posner

On April 7th, four CAA basketball players stood on a speedily assembled court in America’s largest shopping mall as dollar bills fluttered around them.

Northeastern’s Vasa Pusica, Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman, Charleston’s Jarrell Brantley, and UNCW’s Devontae Cacok had won the Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship — and its $100,000 prize — after seven straight wins over teams representing other conferences.

It was an entertaining, financially rewarding experience for two-thirds of the CAA’s 2019 First Team. But it would pale in comparison to where they were headed.

Pusica went first. Two weeks after the 3X3U Tournament, he signed a contract with KK Partizan, the winningest team in his native Serbia’s top basketball league. Since joining the team, he has averaged eight points, two rebounds, and two assists over 12 games. Pusica possesses the deliberate ballhandling, mature decision-making, and versatile scoring skill to isolate or to attack in the pick-and-roll.

Brantley and Wright-Foreman went next. The Indiana Pacers drafted Brantley with the 50th pick, then flipped him to the Utah Jazz for Utah’s 2021 second-round pick and $2 million. The Jazz also nabbed Wright-Foreman 53rd with their own pick. It marked the first time since 1992 that two CAA players were chosen in the same draft.

Both have great upside; Brantley is a 6-foot-7-inch, 255-pound powerhouse boasting strong athleticism, positional versatility, and a diverse offensive skill set. Wright-Foreman is an electric combo guard who displays blazing quickness, on-the-catch and off-the-dribble shooting, and strong drives courtesy of deft handles and space-consuming spins.

On Tuesday, the Jazz signed both of them to two-way contracts. These contracts allow players to alternate between the NBA and G League (minor league basketball). Brantley and Wright-Foreman will likely spend most of their time with Utah’s G League affiliate (the Salt Lake City Stars), but they can spend up to 45 days with the Jazz.

They will make about $80,000 (prorated) for their G League time and about $900,000 (rookie minimum, also prorated) for their NBA time. The Jazz can make either contract into a standard NBA contract at any time, provided they have a free roster space. Should the pair finish their two-way deals, they would be eligible for qualifying offers and restricted free agency.

Brantley played four Summer League games — he was limited by a hamstring injury — averaging nine points (38 percent shooting) and five rebounds in 22 minutes. Wright-Foreman also played four games, averaging 12 points on 33 percent shooting, three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 26 minutes per game.

But it was Devontae Cacok who shone brightest in Summer League. The 6-foot-7-inch, 240-pound dynamo averaged 23 minutes across eight contests, logging 12 points on 60 percent shooting, nine rebounds, and two steals a game for the Los Angeles Lakers. His Summer League coach and teammates have praised his defense, rebounding, energy, and toughness.

On July 9th, the Lakers signed Cacok to an Exhibit 10 contract, essentially a training camp invite with a bonus attached. It incentivizes Cacok to remain with the Lakers’ G League affiliate by paying him $5,000 to $50,000 if he is waived by the NBA club, signs with the G League team, and remains there for at least 30 days. The Lakers can also convert the deal into a two-way contract, allowing Cacok to transition between the NBA and G League clubs.

Just 100 days ago, these four athletes donned glitzy plastic sunglasses, gold-colored chains, and shot dollar bills from guns as they celebrated a win in a high-octane but mostly-for-fun tournament. Now they’ve all got real jobs, and how they develop and expand their skills will determine their longevity in an ever-changing sport.

Men’s hockey welcomes 8 new recruits

Former Boston College High School defenseman Ryan Shea , a draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, will help fill the holes at the blue line for Northeastern.
Former Boston College High School defenseman Ryan Shea , a draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, will help fill the holes at the blue line for Northeastern.

by Dan McLoone

BOSTON – With the Northeastern men’s ice hockey team preparing to defend its first Hockey East crown since 1988, head coach Jim Madigan welcomed the eight members of the incoming freshman class on Thursday. With six graduating seniors and three players leaving school early, the fresh faces will be able to jump right in and contribute.

“This incoming class is a class that I think can continue what our senior class started four years ago, which each subsequent incoming class has been able to do, which has provided us with a lot of hard work,” said Madigan. “They’re passionate, productive and smart players, and they want to be here at Northeastern. We’re excited to welcome there here to Northeastern this fall.”

With Kevin Roy, Mike McMurtry and Will Messa leaving Northeastern, Madigan has brought in four forwards to bolster the Huskies on the attack. Matt Filipe, Grant Jozefek, Biagio Lerario and John Picking are all expected to fight for ice time, while Madigan is excited about the potential contributions from each forward.

Filipe, a Lynnfield native who is eligible for this year’s NHL Draft, scored 19 goals and added 17 assists for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders in the USHL last season. His father, Paul, was also a Northeastern hockey player and former teammate to Madigan.

“Matt is a big, strapping 6’2″, 200-pound forward who gives you some flexibility and versatility in that he can play forward or left wing,” said Madigan. “He’s heavy on pucks, strong, a great skater with great offensive ability.”

Jozefek tallied 21 goals and 32 assists last year, making him the 12th leading scorer in the USHL for the Lincoln Stars. Also eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft, his playmaking ability will be an important part of Northeastern’s attack.

“He’s an offensive player, really cerebral, and will remind you a little of a McMurtry and Roy, who were cerebral,” said Madigan. “He’s a playmaker who over the last year has become more of a shooter, and he plays really well with any type of player.”

Lerario notched 16 goals and 24 assists while also plying his trade for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL as captain last year.

“He’s a 200-foot guy, two-way guy, a real tough competitor someone that plays with a lot of passion with high-end compete level, and a real good skater,” said Madigan. “He’s got stick skills, he’s got the ability to impact the game in more than one way, not just contributing offensively but defensively tough to place against.”

Picking, a Wellesley native, led the Boston Junior Bruins and finished third in the USPHL with 59 points (24 goals, 35 assists) last season.

“He’s a good two-way player, smart, a real good skater,” said Madigan. “Here’s a young man just down the road who we believe is an underrated type of player, someone who is smart, can contribute offensively, but he plays 200 feet.”

With five defenseman leaving the squad, including Colton Saucerman (23), NU head coach Jim Madigan reloaded with three new defensive recruits.
With five defenseman leaving the squad, including Colton Saucerman (23), NU head coach Jim Madigan reloaded with three new defensive recruits.

Madigan also added three new skaters defensively. With Dustin Darou, Jarrett Fennell, Colton Saucerman, Matt Benning and Logan Day leaving the squad, Jeremy Davies, Nick Fiorentino and Ryan Shea will bring new depth along the blue line.

Davies led all USHL defensemen in scoring last year, tallying 13 goals and 36 assists for the Bloomington Thunder. His efforts earned him a nod as a USHL All-Star.

“He’s someone who will break us out of our own zone,” said Madigan. “He’s really intelligent, a good skater, jumps up in the play well and supports the play. He’s [not just] an offensive player, he plays 200-feet, but he does it with an effortless approach.”

Fiorentino scored nine goals and added 29 helpers for the Merritt Centennials of the BCHL last season.

“Nick…is a young man who brings a bit of a different dimension to our core,” said Madigan. He’s a physical, big, strong defenseman. He gets around the ice really well, he has really solid puck skills that can make simple break out plays.”

Shea, a Chicago Blackhawks fourth-round draft pick, saw his season with the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL shortened by injury last year. However, the Milton resident is expected to be an immediate contributor on the blue line.

“He’s a smart, puck-moving defenseman with high-end offensive skills who converted back to defense four years ago,” said Madigan. “He breaks you out of your zone really well, he’s smart, intelligent, and we’re excited for him to be here.”

With backup netminder Derick Roy graduating, Madigan brought in Curtis Frye from the Philadelphia Flyers Elite as a third goaltender. With a 3.36 goals against average and .908 save percentage, Frye is expected to push Ryan Ruck for ice time.

“He’s big, he’s athletic, he moves well, and he’ll challenge for some ice time,” said Madigan. “He’s a wonderful young man, he’s ready, and he understands what he needs to do to play here at Northeastern at the Division I level.”

The Huskies kick off their  Hockey East title defense against Quinnipiac on Oct. 7th.

Image Credit to SBNation