Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:19 pm

Vermont's Apfeld overcomes three torn ACLs

By Jeff Goodman

After Luke Apfeld did it for the third time, in a preseason game as a freshman at Vermont, one of his former coaches suggested he sign up for a Facebook page.

"It was for anyone who had torn their ACL three times," The Catamounts one-time ultra-athletic forward said. "Now I'm an official member."

Apfeld can joke about it now, since he's as healthy as he's been since first tearing his right knee in a summer event in July of 2008. But this is no joke. Imagine going through the arduous rehab process three times.

Apfeld suffered the first injury prior to committing to Vermont in July of 2008. Then he rehabbed and tore the ACL in his other knee in the second practice of his senior year at Brewster Academy -- in January of 2009. Then came another rehab stint followed by yet another knee injury, this one coming in November of 2009 when he tore the right one again.

That's three within about a 16-month span. Enough to make just about anyone throw in the towel.

"I thought about giving up basketball," Apfeld admitted. "My doctor wanted me to hang it up, that the risk after doing it three times is as high as it can be. He told my parents that my body wouldn't be able to take it if it happened again."

But Apfeld had put so much into three rehabs to get onto the court and he had yet to play a college basketball game.

Now Apfeld is a starter, as a redshirt sophomore, at Vermont. He's second on the team in scoring (9.8 ppg) and rebounding (4.1 rpg) while playing 21.7 minutes per game.

"It's worked out," Apfeld said. "I've kept my fingers crossed and am keeping them crossed."

Apfeld's game has changed due to the injuries. He's no longer a pogo stick and has now worked on his skill, which fits well into new coach John Becker's flex system.

"I remember being able to jump off one leg really well," he said. "I can't do that anymore. Now I'm more of a two-foot guy. ... I know I'll never get that athleticism I used to have back."

But Apfeld is fine with that - as long as he can remain healthy and continue to be a key contributor.

"It's definitely a relief to see results," he said. "Everyone talks about how hard work pays off, but for the first couple years I didn't really see any results on the court. It feels good now that all the work and rehabs have paid off."

Since Apfeld is an expert in terms of coming back from major knee injuries (I'm not sure there's anyone else who has suffered three torn ACL's and returned), he's got some advice.

"The physical part of the rehab is the easiest thing," Apfeld added. "The most difficult part is the mental aspect. You've got to keep the faith and know you're going to get back on the court. Keep that mindset, come in ready to work every day."
Posted on: July 12, 2011 9:24 am
Edited on: July 12, 2011 9:28 am

Vermont's John Becker emotional for good reason

By Jeff Goodman

John Becker was 38 years old when he decided to take his family – wife and two daughters – to Burlington, Vermont to join Mike Lonergan’s staff as the director of operations.

The salary was $10,000 per year.

That was just five years ago, so you can understand why Becker became so emotional at the news conference on May 20 in which he was introduced as Lonergan’s successor.

``I didn’t get the job in the conventional way,” the 43-year-old Becker admitted.

No, he sure didn’t.

His coaching career began as an assistant at Gallaudet University, the only four-year school for the deaf and hearing impaired in the country, where he joined without even knowing sign language.

He was promoted to the head spot in 1997 and went up against Lonergan, who was in the same league at Catholic University. However, Becker was being paid just $5,000 at Gallaudet and was also forced to work a full-time job doing computer work.

It was ultimately too much for too little at Gallaudet and Becker got out of the business, getting his master’s degree at George Washington.

``I missed it,” Becker said.

So Becker jumped at the chance to join Steve Howes’ staff at Catholic after Howes replaced Lonergan – who went to join Gary Williams’ staff at Maryland.

He was there for two years before Lonergan called about the director of operations gig.

``The rest is history,” Becker jokes.

But if a spot hadn’t opened up after two years as a full-time assistant, Becker isn’t sure how much longer he would have been able to survive with a wife and two kids on ten grand a year.

Vermont AD Robert Corran handed Becker the interim tag after Lonergan got the GW job this past offseason, but few figured that Becker had a legitimate shot at the permanent job.

``I was shocked when they offered me the job,” Becker said. ``I went home and told my wife that I had good news and bad. The good was that I got the job and the bad was that I probably had no leverage after the way I reacted when they offered it to me.”

Now Becker’s paycheck reads a little different than a few years back. His salary is $170,000 now and that 1994 Toyota Camry with 200,000-plus miles that he was unable to drive on the highway because it shook too much has been replaced by a brand-new Honda Accord.

``This is unbelievable,” Becker said. ``It’s better than the best-case scenario.”  

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 1, 2011 12:10 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 10:53 pm

Conference tourney preview: America East

The America East tournament format is certainly unique. While many conference tournaments have different ways of rewarding higher seeds and/or deciding how its respective bracket is formed, the America East chooses to have a neutral site — this year, it’s Hartford, as it was in 2010 — for its first round, quarterfinals and semis, then has the highest remaining seed host the title game.

It’s a system that puts everyone on a level playing field until the title game. Make it that far, and your regular-season play is rewarded. I’m a big fan, even if it’s not perfect. Only the Horizon, with its double-bye into the conference semifinals for the high seeds, is a better format. The America East also has the largest layoff between semifinals and finals — six days. Play begins on Thursday and wraps up Saturday night. The two remaining teams will play for a 16 seed (no doubt this conference is getting a 16; the power numbers have, well, no power) on March 13. Is that a good thing? I don’t know, but it’s done for television purposes, clearly.

So what are we looking at this year? Well, at 13-3, Vermont (22-7) won the league. Boston University, which for so long stood tall over the AE, finished second with a 12-4 record. Vermont wasn’t supposed to be this good, but behind Evan Fjeld, he of the epic mustache, and Brian Voelkel, coach Mike Lonergan has UVM on the verge of getting back to The Tournament for the first time since this happened. And how awesome that was.

Boston (18-13) is considered the team with the best play as of late, though, and it’s led by John Holland (right), who is the conference’s best player. It does seem like a two-team race. Maine (9-7), Albany (9-7) and Stony Brook (8-8) are lumped into that mediocre category, and Hartford (7-9) will have to fuel playing on its home court into an upset or two.

The team with the best chance to keep a game close is Vermont, as the Catamounts played well with UConn early and have solid size and quickness for a program at this level. Fjeld is sneaky good and a very efficient shooter because he's crafty in how he scores close to the hoop. And I do not veil it at all: I grew up 10 minutes from the UVM campus, and when the Cats do well, I’m happy. Would love to see them win this thing.


Title game: Sunday, March 12, ESPN2.


  1. John Holland, Boston
  2. Tim Ambrose, Albany
  3. Brian Voelkel, Vermont

Conference RPI: 28

KenPom.com rating: 29

Sagarin rating: 29

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None 

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:

Albany Great Danes: 2007, 13 seed, an 84-57 loss to Virginia

Binghamton Bearcats: 2009, 15 seed, an 86-62 loss to Duke

Boston University Terriers: 2002, 16 seed, a 90-52 loss to Cincinnati

Hartford Hawks: N/A

Maine Black Bears: N/A

Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers: 2008, 15 seed,  a 66-47 loss to Georgetown

New Hampshire Wildcats: N/A

Stony Brook Seawolves: N/A

Vermont Catamounts: 2005, 13 seed, a 60-57 win over Syracuse in the first round followed by  a 72-61 loss to Michigan State in the second round

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Matt Norlander

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