September 17, 2014
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Sports Column
Knights the exception in rough winter
Photo courtesy of CCRI
FLYING: Fromer Cranston West star Bryan Yarce is one of the many reasons to go watch the CCRI men's basketball team.

It’s been a mild winter, but for college basketball fans in Rhode Island, it’s been more like the winter of our discontent. Want to watch some good hoops? Hope for an upset – or turn on ESPN.

The horror was even exposed to the rest of the world a few weeks ago, when national sports web site Deadspin posted a story entitled “The Worst College Basketball in America is Played in Rhode Island.”

Ouch.

I guess the truth hurts. At the time, the state’s four Division I men’s basketball teams were all sitting in last place in their conferences, with a combined total of six league wins. It’s gotten a little better – PC and Brown are out of the basement – but not much. March Madness is going to be quiet around here.

Except for one thing.

Some of the best junior college basketball in America is played in Rhode Island.

And you don’t have to go far.

The Community College of Rhode Island men’s basketball team has been lighting up the Vin Cullen Fieldhouse in Warwick all season. The Knights finished the regular season 26-4, tied for the best mark in school history. They’re ranked third in the nation in the latest NJCAA Division II poll, and they’ll begin their quest for a berth in the national championship when they host the region tournament this weekend.

In short, the Knights are the most successful college basketball team in Rhode Island. I know they’re not the best in terms of talent or level of play, but if you want a see a team dominate its competition, the Knights are your safest bet.

They’ve been doing it all year. The Knights are averaging 76.3 points per game and allowing just 62.3. They’ve won eight consecutive games, most by double figures.

And they’ve got talent.

Desmond Williams is the brother of former Maryland star Jordan Williams, who now plays for the New Jersey Nets. A Connecticut native, Desmond enrolled at CCRI this year as the most high-profile recruit in head coach Rick Harris’s six-year tenure, and he hasn’t disappointed. Williams, who stands 6-foot-5, is averaging 19.1 points per game.

Inside, the Knights have five more players who stand 6-foot-5 or taller, led by Roger Livramento, who averages a double-double.

And in the backcourt the Knights have former Cranston West star Bryan Yarce, the lightning quick point guard who carried the Falcons to the Division I championship last year. Yarce is averaging 7.3 points and 6.8 assists per game. He ranks 11th in the nation in assists per game.

It all adds up to a team that’s fun to watch, but as usual, CCRI tends to fly under the radar. I’m guilty of it too. Our high-school schedule is pretty jam-packed so I confess that I haven’t yet had a chance to see this team up close.

But I’d really like to change that, and if you’re a hoops fan bogged down by a rough winter, then you should too. This weekend, the Knights will host the Region XXI championship on Sunday at 1 p.m. If they win that game, they’ll also host the Northeast District Tournament, which will be held March 10 and 11.

If all goes according to plan, that’s three chances to see the most successful college basketball team in Rhode Island. Let’s put down the remote and make it happen.

For a change, I don’t think we’ll be disappointed.

 
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and williamg@rhodybeat.com.


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