Local College Journal: Bisson gives Rivier hoop team early wake-up call

NASHUA – The basketballs began bouncing early Saturday over at Rivier University’s Muldoon Center.

Try 7 a.m. early

“I got ’em going after it early in the morning,” Raiders men’s basketball coach Lance Bisson said.

Saturday, you see, was the first day NCAA Division III teams could begin practicing for the 2016-17 season. Daniel Webster also started its practices, gearing up for the final season in school history.

But for Bisson, the former Nashua High School North and Rivier standout, Saturday marked the first day he addressed the players with the “interim” tag removed from his title. Also a former Raider assistant, he took over last December after longtime coach Dave Morissette resigned to devote more time to his family in Exeter.

“It felt great,” Bisson said. “I now able to put my plan in place, something I’d been planning for awhile for whenever the day came that I’d be a head coach. This was a chance to put my preseason plan in place, able to do things my way. It was energizing to see the respect the players have for me as their (permanent) leader.”

Bisson played on the Raiders only NCAA tourney team as its point guard in 2007, and he knows what Division III athletes go through.

“I know being a former D-III athlete what it takes,” he said. “I know the NCAA restrictions and what they’re able to do under my supervision or what I can tell them (in the off-season).

So Bisson put together a workout regimen for the players and was pleased that they looked as if they had followed it. “I know the culture I want to create,” he said, “with the commitment level being consistent.”

While DWC coach Donald Morris, Jr. has a roster in the 20s, Bisson has a small number this year of just 12.

“We were hoping to have a couple more but we had some players who had to deal with some things in the off-season and aren’t able to play,” Bisson said. “But we’ve got a solid base of 10 guys who will definitely make an impact.”

The Raiders will be looking to improve on back-to-back 4-21 seasons. Bisson has two key freshman recruits from Connecticut, 6-foot-2 shooting guard Tristan Givens and 5-11 point guard Keith Poitier. They played on the same AAU team, and when Bisson was recruiting Poitier, he spotted Givens, and ended up with both.

The big thing for Bisson is he is now on campus full-time. Even when he was interim coach, he was only part-time and had to spend a lot of time with his job in sales.

“The big thing is now I’m on campus during the day,” he said, “and I’m able to be around the players, able to talk to them about their classes, etc. It’s such a big plus.”

Bisson will be joined on the bench again by his former Titan teammate, Troy Bowen, but has also added a new face – former Bishop Guertin coach Jim Migneault.

DWC basketball

Over at DWC, Morris, Jr. is looking at the season as a good way for seniors like Nashua’s Ray Farmer to go out with the program, as well as an opportunity for players to put a good campaign on their resume in moving forward with their college careers.

“By the end of the year, we’ll move kids to other places,” Morris, Jr. said. “If we go somewhere (he and his staff), then we may take some with us. For them, it’s not much of a change, their focused on their school work and playing. Some of them have come from junior colleges, so they’ve made this type of move before.”

One who already made the move was Rondell Best of Brockton, Mass., who was a First Team All-New England Collegiate Conference player last year with 20 points and 9.9 rebounds a game. Best, with Morris, Jr.’s help, moved on with a scholarship Xavier College in New Orleans, La., a Divison I NAIA school.

Meanwhile, Morris, Jr. said it was good to get his roster together. About 30 players came out, and he and his staff have narrowed things down to 22. Farmer, who averaged 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds a year ago will be a key player and the Eagles could be buoyed by the return of 6-5 guard Antwuan Boyd, who missed most of last season with an injury. But Morris, Jr. is also thrilled to have 6-9 forward Jaquan Harrison out of Connecticut. A couple of other newcomers are Mikol Blake-Green and Marquis Caudil.

It certainly is a different scenario. Rather than gain building blocks for a program, Morris, Jr., who arrived on the scene as a last-minute hire this time two years ago, is assembling an Eagle team for the final time.

“I think they understand the situation,” he said. “They saw we were able to place Rondell somewhere. In my AAU program, I’ve placed 200 kids.’’

Last year’s Eagle team went 11-15 overall, 8-8 in the NECC and were ousted in the first round in a close game vs. Regis. Two years ago they went 11-16 but made it to the NECC semis.

Midnight Madness is out

It’s a month until both Riv and DWC open their seasons, but it won’t be against each other in what had been the annual Midnight Madness game.

In fact, they won’t be facing each other at all.

“It’s too bad,” Bisson said. “Being from the community, I know what a big event it’s been. But we couldn’t do it this year, we have Plymouth State two nights later and to ask them to practice the next night after being up til 3 a.m. and then face Plymouth was too much.”

Notable numbers

There were some milestones set over the weekend women’s volleyball players this past weekend.

Rivier senior outside hitter Molly McCormack became the first Raider ever to reach 1,000 career digs and 1,000 career kills.

The Raiders (21-3) topped both St. Joseph’s (Conn.) and Albertus Magnus in two key matches at the Muldoon.

Needing just two kills to reach the four-figure mark, McCormack took care of business early against St. Joseph’s. She became the fifth Raider to reach the 1,000-kill milestone.

Meanwhile, for the Eagles of Daniel Webster, Nicole Beard (Shelton, Conn.) reached the 1,500 career assist mark in a 3-0 conference win over Elms.

Beard had 26 assists in the match to surpass the 1,500 total, making her only the second setter in Eagles history to get to that milestone. Also, Madeline Roulier of Pittsfield, Mass. played in her 100th career match, just the third Eagle to do so. She is fourth in school history in sets played.

The Eagles, who were slated to visit Lesley University on Tuesday, are enjoying a stellar season, 16-7 overall and 5-1 in the NECC.