Rebuilt basketball team shifts focus

Rebuilt basketball team shifts focus

Tonight before a packed house at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., the 2006-07 men’s basketball team will debut their new uniforms.

But that is a very minor change compared to the others this team has undergone in the offseason.

Bill Coen will make his debut as a head coach after nine seasons as an assistant at Boston College under Al Skinner. Coen will be joined by New York coaching legend Tom Murphy, who spent 34 years at Hamilton College, where he coached Coen while he was a player. Murphy also gave Coen his first job coaching college basketball, when Coen worked as an assistant under Murphy from 1987-89.

Jim McCarthy, a fellow NU assistant, also played for the Continentals under Murphy. Rounding out the coaching staff is Boston College graduate Uka Agbai. He was a part of three NCAA Tournament teams with the Eagles, including the 2001 Big East Championship squad.

The new coaching staff will work with a young squad that has accumulated little court time. Leading the Huskies will be senior co-captain Bobby Kelly.

He has laid low for the previous three seasons, allowing Aaron Davis and former Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year and current Dallas Maverick Jose Juan Barea to lead the team in scoring. The 6-foot, 3-inch guard averaged 8.6 points per game last season. The Dedham native has become the court leader throughout the practice season.

“Bobby has become the vocal leader,” Coen said. “But it is a feeling-out process. Once the games begin, his leadership qualities will emerge. Everyone has to pick up the slack for this team to be successful.”

The Huskies’ only other returning starter is 6-foot, 9-inch Bennet Davis. The senior co-captain will start at the forward position. He is a viable double-double threat for the Huskies, averaging six rebounds per game and 7.7 points per game for his career.

Senior co-captain Adrian Martinez will take on the starting role for the first time in his Northeastern career. After three seasons with an average of 13 minutes per game, he will be the Huskies’ starting point guard this season.

“We lost Jose Juan Barea, who was the team’s only true point guard,” Coen said. “He had the ball 90 percent of the time so we are asking the returning players to adjust their roles. They all have to do some of the things he did.”

Freshman Matt Janning has garnered a lot of buzz this preseason and will play a variety of roles for the team. In tonight’s game he will start at guard, but Coen said he expects Janning to be a role player for Northeastern. He graduated as his high school’s all-time leading scorer, averaging 31.8 points per game.

“Matt has a good feel for the game,” Coen said. “He has good size and can shoot the ball with range.”

Rounding out the starting lineup is forward Manny Adako. The 6-foot, 8-inch freshman will work with Davis in the front court.

“He has a good feel around the basket,” Coen said. “He has long arms and broad shoulders and will only get better with time for us.”

The Huskies will have some options off the bench, such as returning senior guard Dipo Popoola, junior forward Mark Washington and sophomore guard Matt Smith. Though none have logged substantial playing time, they will provide depth for the young Husky squad.

With limited recruiting time, Coen brought in a solid core of freshmen and transfers to build toward the future. Freshman Eugene Spates is a combo forward who will find time at the small and power forward positions. Baptiste Bataille, a freshman from Ferin, France, is another option at point guard with the ball handling and passing the Huskies will miss from Barea.

“This is one young team with no primary ball handler,” Coen said. “I am asking all five guys on the court to make decisions. It will take time to adjust.”

Northeastern’s season opens tonight against No. 6 Syracuse. Over the weekend the Huskies will play three games in the Colonial Classic Tournament hosted by Pittsburgh. They will return home to take on Boston University in the home opener Tuesday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.

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