The New York men's basketball team regained its winning form last season by capturing its fourth Hudson Valley Men's Athletic Conference (HVMAC) Championship in six seasons and, in its first season of competition, finishing a respectable fifth place in the United State Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) Division II National Basketball Tournament.
The team’s nineteen victories in twenty-six games represented an astonishing basketball record under head coach Chris Christiansen, now entering his 15th season at the helm of the Knights. For 2011-2012 his team will look to scale even higher expectations in both defending their HVMAC title and competing once again in the USCAA national basketball championship in March. Coach Christiansen believes that “the greatest results in life are achieved by determination, perseverance, and a perpetual passion to succeed”.
This season looms to be both promising and challenging for Berkeley. The Knights will return nine players from last year’s team, including three of their All-Americans, giving the team much needed experience as it will face its most difficult schedule in team history: twelve NCAA Division III teams are on the slate, including a matchup against last year’s USCAA Division I national champion Southern Virginia University.
Much of Berkeley’s success for the upcoming season will fall upon the shoulders of its returning All-American trio of Jose Stable, Elijah Craig, and Kaseem Williams. A 6-4 guard/forward, Stable (EBC HS for Public Service/Brooklyn, NY) had a spectacular rookie campaign, winning HVMAC Rookie of the Week five times and USCAA Co-Player of the Week honors three times. He also led the team in scoring (19.9 points per game) and rebounding (11.7 rebounds per game) while shooting a blistering 61% from the field, tying him for first in the USCAA Division II national ranking.
Craig (Seward Park/Brooklyn, NY), a 6-8 sophomore, was an imposing and intimidating figure on the inside, finishing second in rebounds (11.0 rebounds per game), first in blocked shots (2.7 blocks per game), and double-doubles with 15.
Rounding out the trio is Williams (Boys & Girls/Brooklyn, NY). A 6-0 junior, Williams led his team in assists (4.0 assists per game) and steals (3.4 steals per game), and while mainly setting up his teammates for scoring chances, he remained a scoring threat with a 11.7 points per game average while shooting at a 49% clip.
Guard Stanley Hamp (Nazareth/Brooklyn, NY), the team’s lone senior, brings veteran gamesmanship and prowess to a squad featuring nine freshmen and sophomores. Among the returning underclassmen, sophomore Jovan Bovell (Jamaica/Jamaica, NY) contributed significantly in his rookie season, finishing second in scoring at 12.6 points per game and received the Most Valuable Player of the 2011 HVMAC championship tournament. Bovell will be counted on further to fill an even stronger leadership role on the floor this season. Sophomore guard Mario Guzman (West Oaks Academy/New York, NY) and junior guard Richard Rampersad (Herbert H. Lehman/Bronx, NY), can be expected to bring depth and sound fundamentals each time they step onto the hardwood.
Three freshmen join the Knights this season, each one bringing a diverse uniqueness that will give the Knights even more weapons at their arsenal. Danzel Whyte (Teachers Preparatory/Brooklyn, NY) is a bruising 6-4 forward whose ability allows him to play physically inside as well as display a soft touch from the outside. Jerrell Hampton (Queens Vocational & Technical/Astoria, NY) is a versatile 6-2 swingman who brings explosive athleticism to court that opponents will find hard to defend. Rounding out the freshmen is Hector Navarro (Wilby/New York, NY), a fiery 5-10 guard from Connecticut who possesses a shooter’s touch and a level of intensity that will surely prove to wreak havoc on opponents. Second-year forward Yang Zhang (Kumming China) and sophomore guard Alexander Loniakan (Frolunda Gym Sweden) further contribute to the overall success through their hard work and intensity.
The Knights open up the 2011-2012 regular season on November 5th at Borough of Manhattan Community College against the New School of Research in the 2nd Annual Berkeley Invitational. Key early season games include Lehman College (October 15th) and tournaments at New England College (November 18-19) and Hamilton College (November 26-27). Following the holiday break, the Knights will be further tested in tournaments at DeSales University (January 3-4) and NHTI (January 7-8) and a rematch against Brooklyn College on February 6. As part of Berkeley’s seven game home slate are HVMAC rivals St. Joseph’s (January 21), Vaughn College (February 11), and Southern Virginia University (February 25).