April 17, 2007
The 2006-07 season will go down as one of the most successful in the history of Johns Hopkins men's basketball. It was season of broken records and trophies for the Blue Jays. Hopkins brought home four titles in a season where 12 school records were either broken or tied along with five Centennial Conference records.
The Blue Jays opened the season by winning their fifth straight Blue Jay Invitational Title with wins over Immaculata (71-58) and Rowan (70-68). Senior T.J. Valerio's late-game heroics, including an 18-foot game-winning shot with 2.5 seconds on the clock, lifted Hopkins to the win over Rowan. Valerio was named to the all-tournament team while fellow senior Danny Nawrocki earned MVP honors for the third consecutive season. He is the only player in the 16-year history of the tournament to earn MVP honors three times. In the win over Rowan, Nawrocki became Hopkins all-time defensive rebounds leader.
Hopkins followed that up by bringing home bragging rights for the state of Maryland by winning the Provident Pride of Maryland Tournament over Thanksgiving. Senior Matt Griffin and Valerio led the Blue Jays to a quarterfinals win at St. Mary's with 22 and 19 points respectively. In the semifinals, Nawrocki led five Blue Jays in double-figures with 20 points as Hopkins used a second-half rally to defeat Goucher 85-69. The following day, Griffin, Valerio and Nawrocki combined for 52 points as once again the Blue Jays rallied from a first-half deficit. The senior trio garnered all-tournament honors and Nawrocki took home his second MVP honor of the season. At 5-0, the Blue Jays moved into the national polls at #23.
The Blue Jays continued to roll, winning their sixth straight as they opened Centennial Conference play at home against the Swarthmore Garnet. Griffin, Nawrocki and junior Doug Polster all scored in double-figures as Hopkins outscored Swarthmore 39-24 in the second half. Hopkins made it seven in a row with a 62-56 win at Muhlenberg. The Blue Jays, trailing at the half for the fourth time in their last five games, came out of the break shooting 58.3 percent from the floor as they rallied for the win. Griffin led the Jays comeback with just his second career double-double on 15 points and 10 boards.
Now ranked #18 in the nation, Hopkins traveled to long-time rival McDaniel for a showdown between Centennial Conference unbeatens. Leading by just five points coming out of the half, the Blue Jays went on a 23-4 run to push out to a 60-36 lead with 11:36 to play. Free throw shooting was key in the victory for Hopkins as the Blue Jays connected on 24-of-29 in the second, while McDaniel shot just 4-of-10 from the line. Sophomore Phil Beggans and Nawrocki led five Blue Jays in double-figures with 19 points each.
Hopkins returned home and moved to 9-0 overall and 4-0 in the Centennial with a 76-60 win over Dickinson. Nawrocki scored the opening bucket off a lay-up and the Blue Jays never trailed. Nawrocki led the team with 18 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.
Off to its best start since the 1991-92 season, the #13 Blue Jays headed west for the 31st annual Tom Byron Classic. Hopkins ran into a tough #11 Mississippi College team that had won eight in a row. The Choctaws won their ninth in a row, 75-51 and ended the Blue Jays win streak. The following day, Hopkins got back in the win column with a dominating 72-50 win over Thomas More (KY). Polster led the Blue Jays with a game-high 16 points, including three treys, to earn all-tournament honors.
The #19 Blue Jays returned home and jumped back into Centennial Conference play with a home game against the Washington Shoremen. Hopkins held off an upset-minded Washington College team with a 77-72 win to remain unbeaten at 5-0 in conference action. Nawrocki posted another double-double, with 19 points and 15 boards, to lead the Blue Jays. Griffin (12 points) and Valerio (11 points) joined Nawrocki in double-figures. Hopkins stumbled in its next outing, falling 64-59 to a streaking Haverford team in Goldfarb. The Fords used clutch free throw shooting in the closing minutes to upset the Blue Jays.
Hopkins rebounded from the loss to Haverford with a 66-50 win at Ursinus, behind 21 points from Griffin. The win ended a six-game losing skid for the Blue Jays in Collegeville. The Blue Jays came out two days later and pounded the Muhlenberg Mules in a 78-58 win. Hopkins shot the lights out in the first half, connecting on 72.7 percent of its shots. Nawrocki punched up 10 points to become just the seventh player in school history with 1,200 career points.
The Blue Jays, who dropped to #25 in the rankings, defeated the Franklin & Marshall Diplomats in Lancaster for the first time since 1998. Hopkins won 69-66 on the strength of four late free throws to move to 14-2 overall and 8-1 in the conference. Griffin punched up 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while Valerio, Polster and freshman Patrick O'Connell combined for 7-of-11 from downtown for the Blue Jays.
A strong first half propelled #25 Hopkins to a 77-40 win at Dickinson three days later. After two Collin Kamm free throws gave the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead, Griffin and Nawrocki combined for 14 of the Blue Jays next 19 points. Hopkins maintained a double-digit lead for the remainder of the game on the strength of 52.5 percent shooting from the floor. Hopkins returned to Goldfarb and on the strength of 29 points from Griffin, defeated Gettysburg 83-67. With his 28th point of the game, on a free throw with 4:12 to play in the game, Griffin became the 13th player in school history with 1,000 career points. The Blue Jays outscored the Bullets 50-31 in the second half to rally from a half-time deficit.
The #22 Blue Jays continued to roll, winning their sixth straight with a 72-54 win at Washington. With 5:08 to play in the first half, Nawrocki grabbed the 826th rebound of his career, breaking Bill Jews' 33-year old record. The win was the 450th in the career of head coach Bill Nelson. Hopkins, now ranked #20 in the nation, hit the road to take on a hot Swarthmore team. Trailing 59-49 with just 3:26 to play, Griffin, Valerio and senior Chris Morley combined for 12 points as the Blue Jays rallied for 14 unanswered points to win 63-59. The win pushed Hopkins to 18-2 overall and 12-1 in the Centennial.
Hopkins remained on the road and came from behind to win for the second consecutive game. The #20 Blue Jays avenged their earlier loss to the Fords with a 72-68 double-overtime win at Haverford. Hopkins trailed the entire game until Polster hit three free throws with 49 seconds remaining to give the Jays a 52-49 lead. A trey from Chaz Thomas though tied the game up and sent it to overtime, where Hopkins finally prevailed. Griffin, who finished with a team-high 20 points, scored 11 of those in the two overtimes. The win officially clinched the Blue Jays a berth in the Centennial Conference Tournament.
The #17 Blue Jays suffered a set back on their return home, as they were upset 70-68 by McDaniel in Goldfarb Gym. Hopkins late game 9-0 rally fell just short as the Blue Jays suffered just their third loss of the season. Nawrocki grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds to tie the Centennial Conference career record in the loss. Three days later, Griffin, Valerio and Nawrocki combined to score 53 points as #17 Hopkins got back in the win column, defeating Ursinus 74-68 at home. The Blue Jays converted 8-of-10 free throws in the final 47 seconds to seal the win. Nawrocki broke the conference career rebounds record with his first of the night, finishing with a game-high 12.
Despite a 22-point night from Valerio, Hopkins was upset by Gettysburg 65-58 on Valentine's Day in Gettysburg. The Blue Jays had the hot hand in the first half, shooting 54.5 percent from the floor, but went cold in the second, connecting on just 23.5 percent of their shots. The #24 Blue Jays returned home for senior day and completed the season sweep of Franklin & Marshall with an 84-68 win. The five seniors combined for 64 of the team's 84 points. Hopkins once again had the hot hand, shooting 58.5 percent from the floor, including 83.3 percent from downtown. The Blue Jays also converted 86.1 percent of their free throws.
The following weekend, Hopkins hosted the Centennial Conference Tournament as the #1 seed. The Blue Jays avenged their regular-season loss to Gettysburg with an 80-73 win over the Bullets in the semifinals. It was the 350th win at Hopkins for Nelson and a school-record 22nd win of the season. The next day, Hopkins won its first Centennial Conference title in eight seasons with a 68-61 win over Haverford. The Blue Jay seniors once again led the way, combining for 52 of the team's 68 points. Griffin broke both the single-season free throws made and attempts records in the win.
Hopkins entered the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999 and its ninth overall with a 23-4 record. The Blue Jays on the strength of their outstanding season, earned the right to host first and second round games at Goldfarb. In the first round, Hopkins faced cross-town rival Villa Julie, winners of 15 straight. The Blue Jays rallied from as much as 18 points down to win 84-72 in front of a packed house at Goldfarb Gym. Griffin led four Blue Jays in double-figures with 24 points. Nawrocki, who finished with a game-high 13 rebounds, broke the Hopkins single-season record with 6:48 to play in the first half. The Blue Jays advanced to the second round to face the #19 Guilford Quakers. Hopkins once again found itself trailing in the game and once again pulled out one of its patented runs, outscoring Guilford 19-9 late. But this time it was not enough, as the Jays could get no closer than six points and the Quakers held on for the 80-73 win. Valerio and Nawrocki led Hopkins with 17 points apiece in the loss, while Nawrocki posted his 17th double-double of the season. Hopkins 24 wins and five losses were school single-season records, as were the Blue Jays 15 Centennial Conference wins.
The individual honors were numerous for the Blue Jays, led by All-Centennial nods for Griffin, Nawrocki and Valerio. In addition, Griffin was named a finalist for the prestigious Jostens Player of the Year Trophy and an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American. Nawrocki and Griffin combined for five Centennial Conference, four PrestoSports/Pride of Maryland Player of the Week honors and both were named to the PrestoSports/Pride of Maryland All-State teams. Nawrocki was also an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honoree and a D3Hoops.com All-Region selection.
Griffin was named an Honorable Mention All-American by D3Hoops.com as well as earning all-region honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC).
Updated player bios in PDF version.