Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Fairleigh Dickinson hadn’t beaten Rutgers since 1993 and had not taken down Seton Hall since 2006.
Now, in the span of six days they have beaten both New Jersey teams.
“It’s two huge wins for our program, but we’re just starting to win here and it just shows that what we do, we do it hard, we do it right and we do it all the time, and it could be successful for the future,” first-year FDU coach Greg Herenda coach told SNY.tv Sunday after his club won at Seton Hall, 58-54, to improve to 3-6.
On Tuesday, FDU won at Rutgers, 73-72.
FDU was picked 10th in the 10-team Northeast Conference and had lost at current No. 2 Arizona, 100-50, in the NIT Season Tip-Off.
“To beat Rutgers and Seton Hall on their floors on consecutive nights, being picked where we were in our league, is just a testament to our players’ fortitude and skill. We have better players than people think,” Herenda said.
Senior guard Sidney Sanders Jr. went for 23 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists against Seton Hall Scooter Gillette, a grad student power forward who spent four years at Niagara before coming to FDU, added 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Sanders Jr. is averaging a team-best 17.4 points and 5.6 assists. Mustafaa Jones is the second leading scorer at 11.6 points per game and freshman guard Matt McDonald of Buffalo is averaging 8.2.
Herenda took over a team that returned six players and he brought in six of his own after coming over from UMass-Lowell.
“I got all six new guys after May 1st,” Herenda said. “So they were basically six players that a lot of players overlooked for a lot of different reasons and we were fortunate to be able to pick them up late.
“And the six returners, they were guys who have not won a lot but who have gotten the short end of the stick in their careers. And now they have pride because we work really hard.”
Rutgers and Seton Hall will square off next Sunday and the average New Jersey fan has to be asking, Are these teams that bad, or is FDU somehow that good?
“I don’t know how good anybody is at this time of the year,” Herenda said. “It’s December. But I think we validated the Rutgers win with the Seton Hall win.
“I think what it says is that we’re better than people anticipated and we’ll find out how Rutgers and Seton Hall are down the road. I’m the coach of Fairleigh Dickinson and all I can say is I’m really proud of my guys.”
FDU’s next three games will be great tests, too. At Stony Brook, at Princeton and at an Iowa team that lost to Villanova Saturday night in the Battle 4 Atlantis final.
“Our long-term goal here is get in to postseason play,” said Herenda, whose program hasn’t even made its own conference tournament since 2010. “We haven’t been in postseason play in a long time.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.