Sunday, December 23, 2012

An Arena Grows in Brooklyn Part I (Recap of Tulane v. Hofstra)

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”   From A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 
I never read a "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn".  But I have seen many times the classic Bugs Bunny  "A Hare Grows in Manhattan" which refers to the famous book during the cartoon.  Yesterday, for the first time, I was getting to see the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for a college basketball tripleheader.  I had bought tickets for the game earlier in the week from Stubhub.  Instead of paying the seemingly going rate of $55 per ticket, I found Section 29 Row 7 seats for $24 a piece.  Pretty good deal.

If community activists and local residents had their way, just like the doomed West Stadium project, the Barclays Center would never have been built.  After numerous court battles and various rulings by the New York State Supreme Court, the New York Court of Appeals and Brooklyn Supreme Court, which allowed eminent domain for the project, construction started in March 2010.

By the way, whatever happened to the affordable Cablevision sponsored housing project that was supposed to take place instead of the West Side Stadium?   Yeah, nothing ever happened.

The Barclays Center is right across from the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.  It's really easy to get to by train. Take the LIRR (whether from Penn Station or if you on Long Island) to Jamaica. Then take the train to Atlantic Terminal.  Go outside and walk directly to Barclays Center.  There is also the Atlantic Avenue – Barclays Center subway station which is accessible by the 2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q and R subway trains.  You can't ask for a more conveniently accessible arena.

Barclays opened in March, 2012 to eight consecutive sold out shows by Jay-Z.  The Nets have moved there and as a result, they finally have a true rivalry with the Knicks after all the years toiling at the Izod Center.  Barclays Center also saved the Islanders from moving out of state. The hockey team will move there for the 2015 season, if the NHL is still in existence at that time.  In the short time Barclays has been open, it has made a major impact in the city and financially for businesses in the area that sorely needs business.

Finally, the Barclays Center is making a name for itself in college basketball.  Looking to get certified as a NCAA regional location, it already it is hosting the Atlantic 10 Tournament in March 2013 and already has been the home to several college basketball events, including a doubleheader last weekend with St John's and Michigan.  Then yesterday, it hosted The Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational tripleheader - Tulane vs. Hofstra, South Carolina vs. Manhattan and Seton Hall vs. LIU Brooklyn.

I took a 12:51 LIRR train from Bellmore and transferred at Jamaica for the Atlantic Terminal train.  My friend Tieff was going to meet me at Barclays.  After I sat down on the train, someone like him walked by  me, followed by a taller guy wearing a jacket with "Britain" on the back. I figured they were so close walking together that it couldn't have been him.

But figuring what the heck, I called him on his cell.  He answered and said he was on the train to Atlantic Terminal.  I asked, was a guy in a "Britain" jacket following you.  He said "Yes".  I told him to come back because he had walked right by me.  Sure enough, I see Tieff on his phone heading towards me.  Small world.

We got to Atlantic Terminal an hour before game time.  So we headed up to Atlantic Terminal Mall, conveniently located across from the Barclays Center.  Though the mall was swamped with Christmas shoppers, there were actually open seats at the Buffalo Wild Wings.  Tieff and I enjoyed our lunch watching Temple upset Syracuse at Madison Square Garden.  When we left Buffalo Wild Wings, there was a huge wait for tables in the alcove area of the restaurant.   Guess we beat the shoppers' break there.

As we headed outside and crossed the street, I was struck by the entrance to Barclays Center.  It includes an Oculus, an opening to the building roof structure.  If that didn't strike you, once you entered the arena, the giant scoreboard will strike you.

As told to me by Tieff, unlike the Michigan - St John's doubleheader, the upper level section of the arena was curtained off.  It looked like the cousins of the Evil Black Curtain in Webster Arena adorned the upper level section of the arena.  It made Ray Curren, my friend and writer for Mid Majority who was there for the tripleheader, and I feel at home.

Still there were more people there for the first game then Tieff and I had thought.  Hofstra was wearing the home whites and Tulane wore the road green, as a team nicknamed the Green Wave should do.  It turns out, as my friend Mike Brodsky, who was there for the game to root on South Carolina and meet up with a lot of  our fellow northeast based CAA friends, noted that Tulane has a large alumni base in the New York region.  That was affirmed when a chant of "GREEN...WAVE" occurred in the second half.

As most of you are aware, Hofstra has struggled since four of their players were suspended from the team after being arrested for stealing student laptops and other electronic items.  Entering yesterday's game, the Pride had lost six straight, including four games after the incident.  But you have to support your school through good times and in bad, and I was wearing my "Hofstra Basketball" sweatshirt.

And in the first half, my alma mater gave me hope that they might break the losing streak.  Unlike their previous game against Wright State, Hofstra started out strong.  The Pride's leading scorer on the season, sophomore guard Taran Buie scored eight of Hofstra's first twelve points giving the Pride a 12-8 lead over the Green Wave.

Hofstra extended the lead to seven, 25-18 on a Moussa Kone dunk with six and a half minutes left.  But Tulane responded with an 8-0 run as the Green Wave's leading scorer on the season, Josh Davis hit a resounding dunk to put Tulane up 26-25 with a little under three and a half minutes left in the half.  But Hofstra's Matt Grogan would hit a shot clock beating jumper to tie the game at thirty at the half.

During the game, it was a local CAAHoops/NYC metro hoops gathering in Section 26.  You had Mike Brodsky, a Northeastern alum known as NUHF, you had Jaden Daly, from Daly Dose of Hoops, Alex Faust, play by play voice of the Staten Island Yankees and Merrimack College Athletics as  well as a Northeastern grad and hockey expert, Victoria Rossi, a Hofstra grad/WRHU member and Northeastern graduate alum, who does web production work, Chris Heimall, another Hofstra grad who does play by play for Manhattan College now, the legendary Defiantly Dutch, Jerry Beach, Ray Curren, who might break the Mid Majority record for games covered in a season, Tieff and myself.   It made the two basketball games we watched even more fun.  And yes, Mike, we have it better.

I was glad that I was with such good company because within four minutes of the start of the second half , the game was basically over.  That's because Tulane guard Ricky Tarrant became a one man wrecking crew. He scored the Green Wave's first thirteen points by himself.   Tarrant nailed three consecutive three pointers, then added two free throws and a layup.  It was part of a Tulane 20-0 run that turned a tie game into a blowout.  With sixteen minutes still left in the game, the Green Wave were up 50-30 on Hofstra.

Unfortunately for the Pride fans in attendance, the Tulane lead actually expanded to thirty points, 67-37.  No one who had seen the first half would have thought that Hofstra would have been outscored 37-7 in the span of basically eight minutes.  Tarrant would score twenty one of his game high twenty eight points in the second half.

The Pride would eventually cut the lead down at the end to twenty one points before losing 83-62.  Buie who had started out so strong with eight points in the first seven minutes of the game, only had seven more points the rest of the game, but still led Hofstra with fifteen points. Steve Mejia had nine points, eight rebounds and six assists.  The Pride though shot only thirty eight percent.  Mejia and Buie combined to shoot an ugly six of twenty six from the field.

Due to having only eight scholarship players, Hofstra has had two walkons, Matt Grogan and Adam Savion play significant minutes.  The bright side was they combined to shoot five of seven from the field.  Also, 6-10 forward Daquan Brown played his first game for the Pride after sitting out due to NCAA eligibility rules.  In just seven minutes of play, he had three blocks.

Tulane was led by Tarrant's twenty eight points, eight rebounds and five steals.  Davis had eighteen points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks.  Jordan Callahan added fifteen points for the Green Wave.  Coming into the game, Tulane was averaging only two blocks per game.  They had six vs. Hofstra.

Adding insult to injury for Hofstra fans was the news that South Dakota State, behind Nate Wolters' twenty eight points, upset previously undefeated #16 New Mexico 70-65.  This was the same Jackrabbbits' team the Pride beat at home 66-63 when they had their full team.

I feel for Hofstra Coach Mo Cassara.  Those four kids that were arrested ruined their lives and potentially a very good basketball season. It's almost impossible to overcome the loss of two starters and two key reserves.  Then on Friday, it was announced that Jamal Coombs McDaniel, who was counted on to be a key member of the Pride's team this season, was out for the year due to a knee injury. Things just can't get worse for Hofstra fans.

After the game, Tieff and I need a break before the second game and some consolation.  It came in the form of custard ice cream at the Junior's Cheesecake concession stand right outside of our section.   The custard was very good.

I still had one more game to watch, but it only took two hours for the Barclays Center to impress me.  The sight lines for basketball were good, the arena is beautiful and the trip to get there was easy.  You can't ask anything more for an arena.  It's the biggest thing in Brooklyn sports since the Dodgers left.

And just think, this might not have all happened had a few "community" activists had their way.  Glad common sense won out...this time.

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