BY Jeff Weisinger
Senior Sports Editor
It’s been a long time since the Nat Holman Gymnasium saw “winning” basketball. Last season was absolutely atrocious – injuries and inconsistent play plagued both teams – with the men and women combining for a sad 13-38 record. If it counts for anything, both teams made the playoffs; then again, it’s an eight-team playoff in a nine-team conference; you do the math.
However, there’s something different going on with both the men’s and women’s basketball teams: something potentially special; something refreshing.
For the first time in a number of years, both teams have winning records after their first five games. It may not sound like much, however consider this: the men’s program is off to their best six-game start in the Tom Green era, riding a 4-2 record going into Tuesday night’s CUNYAC matchup against John Jay. The Beavers are also riding a three-game win streak going into Tuesday night, just the second time overall that they achieved that with Green at the helm.
Guard Khalil Hamer is once again having a solid season, scoring 16.5 points per game (eighth in the CUNYAC) and bringing down an average of 8.8 rebounds a game (fourth in the CUNYAC) and averages 6.7 assists per game (first in the CUNYAC).
But it’s not just Hamer that’s contributing. David Solano leads the CUNYAC in three-pointers per game (3.2 3pt/game) and third in three-pointers made (.380) in the conference; Mark Richards is in the top-10 in field goal percentage, shooting 43 percent from the court (30-for-70) and is the only Beaver ranked in that category.
As a whole, the men’s team currently owns the best scoring defense in the CUNYAC (67.8 ppg allowed) and is second in free throw percentage (.686), something that has been a huge staple in the team’s early success.
On the women’s side, the Lady Beavers are on a very promising turnaround after their dismal five-win season last year. Their 3-2 record may not seem like much, however it’s their best five-game start since the 2008-09 season where they started 4-1 in the first five games.
While the winning record is something to proudly look upon, it’s how they’re winning which deserves notice. CCNY’s Women’s basketball team has won games by an average of 19.3 points per game — their biggest win a 23-point blowout of The College of New Rochelle at home. They’ve won all three of their games by more than 17 points, including their first CUNYAC win of the season at York last Friday night in dominating fashion, leading by as much as 25 at the half, their best start to a game this season so far.
The women’s team is led by Tiara Brown, who’s continued to dominate since arriving at City last season. Brown, who was named CUNYAC Player of the Week. She’s recorded a double-double in four of the team’s five games, averaging a double-double for the season, racking 19.6 points per game (fourth in the CUNYAC) and 13.8 rebounds per game (third in the CUNYAC).
But, for the first time, Brown’s had help. Erika Richards has been nothing short of solid in her return from a torn ACL, averaging 16 points per game (ninth in the CUNYAC), giving City another consistent scoring option outside of Brown.
With a huge pair of home stands coming up for both teams, the men’s and women’s basketball teams could set themselves up in prime position to make a legitimate CUNYAC title run during the upcoming Winter break.
The men’s side has a five-game home stand starting Tuesday night while the girls have a three-game home stand before traveling to Yeshiva on Dec. 16th, followed by their trip to Florida for the Keiser University tournament.
Both teams will play a pair of winless teams in the conference in John Jay on Tuesday night (women’s at 5 p.m., men’s at 8 p.m.) and Hunter College on Friday (women’s at 5 p.m., men’s a 7 p.m.). If CCNY is going to make a solid run to the CUNYAC tournament, wins against John Jay and Hunter now, at home, could really set them up for the second half of the season.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s been a long time since the CCNY community experienced winning basketball. The men’s team won the CUNYAC in 2003, the only CCNY basketball title in the 2000’s and the only appearance in the championship game, while the women’s last title and appearance in the championship came in 1996.
The last time the men’s team reached as far as the semifinals was in 2007, where they lost 65-62 to York. The women’s team hasn’t been to the semis since 2002.
I, for one, can say that it would be huge for both teams to even get as far as the semis, since CCNY hosts the CUNYAC basketball tournament.
You get the idea. The struggle has been real at CCNY for a long time now. However, with a certain magic in the air, that struggle could be ending soon.
Again, there’s something going on in the Nat Holman Gym, finally.
Jeff Weisinger is the Founding Editor of CCNYBeaverBeat.com. You can check out his documentary project “The Semester” on YouTube and follow him on Twitter at @MrWeisGuy and on a lot of other social media platforms.