Monthly Archives: June 2007

Bobcats Have the Summer to Reflect on Disappointing Spring Season

Bobcats Have the Summer to Reflect on Disappointing Spring Season
By Jeremy Schilling

“The golf team worked extremely hard and stands to be the favorite to place first in the NEC Championship tournament in May 2007.” Those were the words of Quinnipiac Bobcats Head Coach John O’Connor at the conclusion of the 2007 fall golf season. Unfortunately for the team, with one exception, their stellar play of the fall failed to transfer over to the spring. And even as the weather warmed up, the shots did not, culminating in a finish in the NEC Championships that they’d rather forget about. Head Coach John O’Connor and his players now have over 100 days to think about what they need to do to return to the strong form with which they started off the 2006-2007 school year.

Individually, one Bobcat can look back at the spring and have a big ol’ smile: Steve Velardi. His victory at the rain-shortened Northeast Invitational on April 27th was the lone victory of any kind for the Bobcats, and one that he’ll look back on with happy thoughts now that he is a Quinnipiac alum.

In a season hampered at the start by cold weather, there weren’t many bright spots. Starting with the spring opener at Monmouth, the Bobcats finished 8th, 10th, 13th, 10th, 5th, 4th, and finally 8th in the NEC Conference Championship to close out the season.

On the bright side, as the coach and players look towards the fall, they can take solace in the fact that they have a relatively young team that seems loaded with talent. Only Velardi graduated, and a majority of the team will be sophomores and juniors.

Coach O’Connor, in his analysis of the spring said, “We need to focus on our short game and not worry about bombing the ball for distance and inevitably finding your ball in the woods or worse, the fairway traps. The kids are young and learned a great deal from this experience. Steve Velardi will be missed next year but we have a great group of kids coming back.”

It will be interesting to see come September how well this team rebounds from the adversity of the spring and if the short games Coach talked about have indeed improved.

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Cruz Headed To Quinnipiac

Cruz Headed To Quinnipiac
By Zach Smart

After weighing his transfer options, Jonathan Cruz has officially found a new hardwood home. Cruz, who had been considering New Hampshire and Boston University, signed with Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., this week.

The 6-foot-7 Cruz averaged a meager 1.5 points and 1.0 rebounds in 21 games for Rhode Island as a freshman this season. Cruz, once a heavily pursued prospect who gave an early commitment to the Rams, was sold on a new coaching staff, a new crop of recruits, and the opportunity to play in the TD Banknorth Sports Center– a sizzling $52 million dollar arena that opened in January and sits over 3,500.

A versatile combo forward who starred at Central Catholic High (Lawrence, Mass.), Cruz will sit out the 2007-2008 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules.

“He could be an all-league player (here),” said Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore during a recent interview with Foxsports.com. “He’s got terrific size and is a smaller version of Caron Butler. We’re going to try and feature him in similar ways.”

Moore, who served as UConn’s associated head coach the past two seasons, has been pinpointed as a springboard for Quinnipiac’s ascension into respectability.

Quinnipiac canned Joe DeSantis in March, shortly after the Bobcats were bounced from the Northeast Conference semi-finals with a 88-69 loss at Sacred Heart. They concluded the 2006-2007 campaign with a 14-15 record, going 11-7 in conference play.

Since Moore’s arrival, recruiting tools have emerged and players have been inked. Moore recently signed forward Louis Brookings, a transfer via Maryland-Eastern Shore and guard Jeremy Baker, a junior college transfer. Moore has received a verbal commitment from Baker’s younger brother, Evann, a top-flight high school player in Maryland this season.

Moore also added Scott Burrell–the first American to be selected in the first round of the NBA and MLB drafts–to his coaching staff. Burrell, a Hamden product who won a ring with Michael Jordan and the 1998 Chicago Bulls, helped Cruz finalize his decision.

After a yo-yo freshman season, Cruz filled out a transfer waiver in May. Cruz played sparingly this season, despite starting seven games.

Following an injury to forward Darrel Harris, Cruz was flushed into the starting lineup. He fell out of favor shortly afterward, however, and logged just seven minutes per game. Cruz was benched in three of the Rams’ final four games.

In making the shift to Quinnipiac, Cruz will be reunited with a familiar face: point guard Casey Cosgrove.

Cosgrove said he grew up with Cruz and the two have been playing together since the sixth grade.

“He’s real smooth,” said Cosgrove, who was selected alongside Cruz for the 2005-2006 Boston Globe Dream Team. “He knows the game. He can do a little bit of everything. What he does best though, probably, is pass from the post. He played the point in high school and he can really pass and shoot. His post game is real solid, too. He should fit in right away here.”

Binkoski Signs Minor League Deal With Phillies

Binkoski Signs Minor League Deal With Phillies
By Zach Smart

About 5.6 miles from the campus of Quinnipiac University lays a small baseball field at North Haven High school, where Tim Binkoski used to jump on opposing pitchers, rob hitters of extra-base hits in center field, and mow down the meat of potent lineups on the hill.

Binkoski, following a storied four-year stay at North Haven High—where he guided his team to the Class L state championship in 2003, his senior year—trekked 10 minutes up I-91 and quickly picked up where he left off at North Haven. A heavily pursued product on the recruiting circuit, Binkoski started in center as a freshman and evolved into one of the NEC’s top hitters. During his sophomore season, Binkoski’s name was etched in championship lure. The North Haven-bred Binkoski hit .340 to help propel the Bobcats to a NCAA tournament berth.

During the summer of 2006, Binkoski was stung by the injury mosquito. Hampered by a few nagging injuries, Binkoski admitted he didn’t hit the way he should have been in the summer leagues. “I (stunk) for a while,” said a joking Binkoski, sporting a smile outside Primo Pizza in Hamden back in September.

That’s where the jokes end. Binkoski spent nearly the entire fall and winter season getting in tip-top shape for his senior season.

Adopting the mentality and regimen of workout fiend, Binkoski hit the weight room, track, and worked on his swing. During the winter, Binkoski (an all-league basketball player at North Haven) ran full-court games with his alma mater’s varsity team to keep in good cardiovascular shape.

It certainly paid dividends this season, as Binkoski garnered Northeast Conference Player of the Year after hitting a team-leading .424, recording 81 hits, 15 doubles, 39 RBI, and three round-trippers.

Binkoski’s success at the dish also added some extra juice for stat junkies and baseball geeks nationwide, as the senior surpassed a few milestones in the program’s history. Binkoski shattered the single-season and career hits record. He also broke the career doubles record while sporting the nation’s eighth-best batting average.

Binkoski’s baseball career officially hit its pinnacle this week, as he was signed to a minor league contract by the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic right now,” said Binkoski. “It was a childhood dream to play professionally and now it’s a dream come true. Quinnipiac was such an important step in this whole process. “I have to thank Skip (Head coach Dan Gooley) for giving me the opportunity to play for four years.”

Binkoski is expected to report to the Phillies’ minor league affiliate the GCL Phillies of the Gulf Coast League in Clearwater, Fla.

New Schedule means new oppurtunities for Bobcats

New schedule means new oppurtunities for Bobcats
by Seth Rothman
June 14, 2007

Some say the season begins when the team takes the ice for the first time.

Some say the season begins when the team takes the ice against an opponent for the first time.

Some, however, say it begins when the new schedule is released.

For the Quinnipiac Men’s Ice Hockey team, today is that day. Coach Rand Pecknold has revealed the team’s 36-game schedule that they hope will take them to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the team’s Division I history.

After the dissapointment of last year’s loss vs. Clarkson in the ECAC Hockey League Championship Game, the Bobcats enter the new campaign as one of the pre-season favorites to win the conference newly named ECAC Hockey.

For the first time since the 2003-2004 season when they opened the season with the now-defunct Quinnipiac Cup, the Bobcats will open up at home. This year, the opener is against former Atlantic Hockey foe Bentley at the TD Banknorth Sports Center on October 16.

After their non-conference game against the Falcons, Quinnipiac will make its’ lone plane flight trip of the season. In previous years, the team has flown to Colorado College, Michigan, and North Dakota. This year, the Bobcats will play a 2 game series at the Air Force Academy in Colorado.

While the opponent might be a let-down for some, the opponent’s resume should not be. Last year, Air Force won the Atlantic Hockey Championship and went to the NCAA Tournament where they nearly defeated Minnesota in the tournament’s first round.

After a game against AIC, Quinnipiac starts its ECAC Hockey schedule in Central New York. After beating Cornell in the ECAC Quarterfinals last year, the Big Red will be looking for some revenge. They will get it in the second ECAC game for both teams on November 3rd.

After travelling to Lynah Rink, the Bobcats will come home for a 3 game homestand. They will have 2 of those in the month of November in Hamden, and this one is a ECAC Hockey homestand.

But it won’t be easy.

The Bobcats will face off against the team universally thought of as the favorite to win the conference in Clarkson, and the team Quinnipiac beat to reach the Championship game last year in Saint Lawrence.

It is here the schedule goes off-roading a little bit.

Three consecutive games against ECAC Hockey travel partner Princeton in 7 days.

The first will be called a non-conference game, played in Hamden. The second two are the annual ECAC Hockey in-conference matchups between the two teams. All three will be played between November 17 and November 24.

After a series against the Capital District in Hamden, the Bobcats travel to Robert Morris for the back end of a home and home series that was started last year. 

After the break for finals that starts on December 9 after the Robert Morris series, the Bobcats are back in action in Vermont 2 days before the calender turns over into 2008. They will play Western Michigan in 1 game of the Sheraton/TD Banknorth Catamount Cup at the University of Vermont on December 29. They will either play Vermont or Holy Cross on December 30.

 The other non-conference games for Quinnipiac include Holy Cross in Worcester on January 19, and Niagara in Hamden on January 25th and 26. This is the 3rd consecutive year the Bobcats and Purple Eagles will face off, with Niagara winning 3 of the 4 previous encounters, including a sweep last year near the US/Canada border.

The Yale series is back as part of the ECAC Hockey schedule. Quinnipiac goes to Ingalls Rink in New Haven on January 12, while Yale makes the return trip to Hamden on February 8.

The Bobcats will end the regular season with what is annually described as the toughest road trip in the conference. A trip up to the North Country awaits Quinnipiac as February turns to March. First St. Lawrence, then Clarkson to end the regular season.

“We’re excited about our schedule for the upcoming season,” Pecknold said. “We’ve assembled a strong non-conference schedule to complement what will be another highly competitive year in ECAC Hockey.”

A highly competitive year that the Bobcats hope will lead them through the ECAC Hockey final four and into the NCAA Tournament.

But for now, all that’s left is the conjecture that happens at the start of a new season.

A new season that we now know the opening day of.

October 16, 2007.

Quinnipiac’s Gress Headed To Braves

Quinnipiac’s Gress Headed To Braves
By Zach Smart

Randy Gress needed to get away from it all. He needed to fend off the inevitable waves of anxiety that swarmed his stomach like wild mosquitoes. After watching the Tampa Bay Devil Rays select Vanderbilt’s David Price with the first pick, along with the laundry-list of other first, second, and third round selections in the 2007 MLB draft, the Quinnipiac University infielder decided that he had had enough.

Gress got the keys to his jeep and cruised up to his grandparents’ beach house in Westbrook, Conn., where he relaxed and did his best to avoid the tension of finding out when and if he would be drafted.

Suddenly, however, Gress received a phone call from teammate and now-Baltimore Oriole Pat Egan. At first, Gress thought he was in the midst of a practical joke. After asking Egan all the exact details, however, he soon realized he wasn’t. His childhood dream had just come to reality. He had been selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 18th round.

“I was about to pick up the phone and call home to see what round the draft was in and Pat called me,” said Gress.

“I can’t even explain how I feel right now. It’s a dream come true. It’s something I’ve worked hard for, and it really is a great feeling. I really can’t wait to get started.”

Gress, a power hitter who helped steer the Bobcats to the Northeast Conference regular season crown and the highest single-season win total (29 victories) in the program’s rich history, had being weighing his pro stock before the 2007 season kicked off. Following the season, Gress said he received positive feedback from a bevy of teams. Bobcats coach Dan Gooley had said since the end of Gress’ junior season (when he hit .292 with a team-high 11 home runs), that he felt Gress had some pro potential.

The Shelton product proved Gooley right his senior year. Gress batted a robust .297, clubbing 12 homers while registering 45 RBI. Gress also sported a slugging percentage of .586 and scored a team-high 47 runs, en route to being named Akadema/NEC Player of the Week on the final day of the regular season.

Gress was chosen with the 558th pick of the MLB draft. He’s slated to report to Atlanta’s rookie camp this week, which will take place at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.

As Gress vaulted into the upper-tier of the nation’s scholastic baseball players, he rounded out a quartet of Quinnipiac seniors that have taken their athletic careers to the next level this season.

Reid Cashman of the men’s hockey team signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs in May. Following this, Adam Gonzalez of the basketball team inked a professional contract with Carolina of the Baloncesto Superior Nacional (BSN), Puerto Rico’s professional league. The aforementioned Egan, who the Baltimore Orioles owned the rights of after drafting him twice in the past, signed a minor league deal with the club in late May.

Now it’s Gress’ turn.

“I didn’t think it would be this early,” admitted Gress. “Everything is so up in the air (with the draft), there’s always a chance it might not happen at all.”

Burrell Hired As Assistant Coach

Burrell Hired As Assistant Coach
By Zach Smart

The latest addition to the Quinnipiac men’s basketball coaching staff comes with much excitement— and a bit of fanfare as well.

Scott Burrell, a former NBA player and the first American athlete to be selected in the first round of both the NBA and MLB drafts, was hired as an assistant to head coach Tom Moore. Burrell arrived on campus in a Lexus this week and got acclimated to a new situation. Players who are enrolled in summer session I are currently holding everyday conditioning workouts and scrimmages at the TD Banknorth Sports Center with Moore and the rest of the coaching staff.

“I’m really excited to have Scott join us as we start to build a program,” explained Moore, who was hired in March after serving 13 years under Jim Calhoun at UConn—the last two as the Huskies’ associate head coach.

“He has tremendous experience as both a college player at UConn and in the NBA, where he was a world champion with the Chicago Bulls. He also has a great reputation in Hamden as a high school star.”

The Hamden-bred Burrell spent eight seasons in the NBA. His career featured stints with the Charlotte Hornets, Golden State Warriors, New Jersey Nets, and Chicago Bulls—where he won an NBA championship alongside Michael Jordan in 1998. Burrell enjoyed his best season during his sophomore campaign with the Hornets in 1994-95, when he averaged 11.5 points as a fixture in the starting lineup. That season, Burrell emerged as a candidate for the NBA’s most improved player.

Burrell had a storied career at Hamden High, where he starred as a three-sport athlete in football, basketball, and baseball. Burrell was drafted by the Seattle Mariners during his senior year of high school, but opted to attend UConn to play basketball.

During his stay at Storrs, the 6-foot-7 Burrell emerged as the first NCAA player to score 1,500 points, register 750 rebounds, 300 steals and 275 assists. The Charlotte Hornets selected Burrell with the 20th pick of the 1993 NBA draft.

He’s the epitome of a hometown hero. After spending the last few years of his playing career overseas, the 36-year-old Burrell is home in Hamden—where much of his family still resides—and here to stay.

“I love teaching and I love teaching basketball,” said Burrell, who will likely spend much of his first year trying to sell top-flight recruits on Quinnipiac.

“I’m going to be able to help players both on and off the court. I can’t wait to get started.”

Burrell receives his first collegiate coaching gig after working as an assistant with the Colorado 14ers of NBA’s Developmental League last winter.