Head coach Steve Roccaforte begins his fifth year at the controls of the Lamar University basketball program with his sights set on a successful 2010-11 season. An enthusiastic coach and a tireless recruiter, Roccaforte looks poised to return the Cardinals to the top of the Southland Conference standings.
Roccaforte's penchant for recruiting was as evident as ever this past season as Lamar's eight-player class was ranked ninth by HoopScoopOnline.com and 15th-best in the nation by Basketball Times. The class, which features three of the top 15 scorers in Junior College Division I, should help Lamar return to being one of the top scoring teams in the country.
Roccaforte, 63-61 in four seasons, led the Cardinals to the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament in his first season, and guided LU to its first SLC regular-season championship in more than 20 years in his second season with an impressive 13-3 conference mark.
In his first four seasons, Lamar has gone a sparkling 47-15 in the Montagne Center and compiled a 32-32 regular-season mark in Southland Conference play. Last season the Cardinals led the SLC in home attendance for the eighth-consecutive season, averaging 3,000 fans per game with a season-high 4,675 on hand for a late-season SLC contest with UTSA.
Roccaforte has continued to put together an impressive regular season schedule. Included in Lamar's home schedule last season were victories over Rice (77-61), Tulane (70-67) and Arkansas State (87-68).
For the three seniors on last year's squad, Justin Nabors, Ashton Hall and Lawrence Nwevo, the 2009-10 season was a success. All three graduated from Lamar, while Nabors became the seventh player during Roccaforte's tenure to be named All-SLC.
Academics remain a high priority for Roccaforte as evidenced by the fact that Lamar's increase in Academic Progress Rate (APR) is among the best in the country. Lamar's APR, which is a real-time measurement of a team's ability to stay on course and graduate, moved up 101 spots to No. 20 in the country during Roccaforte's tenure.
Fifth-year senior Coy Custer has been honored for his work in the classroom and on the court as he has been named to the Academic All-Southland Conference squad two straight years, and has been on the SLC Commissioner's Honor Roll four times.
The 2007-08 season featured a number of impressive streaks and great players. Among them were a 14-2 home record, a school-record six-consecutive conference road victories and the eighth-largest home crowd in school history. Lamar ranked eighth in the nation in scoring offense (81.5 ppg.) and in the top 50 in both field goal percentage (46.9) and 3-point field goal percentage (38.2).
For his efforts, Roccaforte was named the 2007-08 Southland Conference Coach of the Year by the Lake Charles American-Press newspaper. Senior Lamar Sanders and Dawkins were both named first team All-SLC, with Dawkins matching his teammate as SLC Newcomer of the Year.
Roccaforte guided the Cardinals to a 15-17 overall record and an 8-8 mark in SLC play in 2006-07. Lamar finished tied for third in the SLC East Division. As the No. 7-seed in the SLC Tournament, Lamar upset No. 2-seed Sam Houston State in the opening round before falling to No. 3-seed Northwestern State in the semifinals.
Among the Cardinals' 15 victories was a thrilling 86-77 overtime win over Brigham Young, which won 25 games and was an at-large NCAA Tournament selection. Lamar ranked 12th in the NCAA in assists at 17.3 per game, 31st in three-pointers made per game (8.3) and 52nd in three-point percentage (.379).
Individually, Sanders led the SLC, and ranked 12th in the NCAA, in rebounding at 9.8 rpg. The Cardinals set a new single season school record for three-point attempts (702) and posted the second-best mark in three-pointers made (266).
Roccaforte's first recruiting class as the head coach paid immediate dividends as Sanders was named SLC Newcomer of the Year and earned second-team All-SLC honors. Center James Davis was a third-team All-SLC performer, and guard Darren Hopkins was an honorable mention selection.
University president Dr. James Simmons and former athletics director Billy Tubbs could not have found another person on the planet with as much enthusiasm, passion and desire to be the men's basketball coach at Lamar University as Roccaforte, who was hired March 21, 2006.
With nearly 20 years of experience at the NCAA Division I level, Roccaforte has worked with some of the top coaches in the business and has recruited some of the top talent in the country. He has served under Billy Tubbs, John Calipari and Perry Clark and helped develop multiple nationally ranked recruiting classes.
Roccaforte was listed as one of the top four assistant coaches ready to take over their own program according to Dan Wetzel of CBS Sportsline.com and was voted the seventh-best assistant coach in the country by Basketball Times for the 2002-03 season. According to recruiting analyst Dave Telep, Roccaforte is one of the 25 hardest-working coaches in the nation as well as one of the top 15 recruiters in the country. Clark Francis of HoopScoop.com listed Roccaforte as the top mid-major assistant coach in the country in 2005.
Roccaforte is also no stranger to postseason play, having served on the staff of seven teams that extended their seasons. He has been to a pair of NCAATournaments, one each with Tulane and Memphis, and five NITs with Tulane, Wyoming and Memphis. Tulane advanced to the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden in 1996. Memphis made a pair of trips to MSG, including a championship run in 2002.
During his career, Roccaforte has coached or recruited such future NBA players as Larry Robinson-Centenary, Jerald Honeycutt-Tulane, Chris Owens-Tulane, Linton Johnson-Tulane, Josh Davis-Wyoming, Dejuan Wagner-Memphis, Antonio Burks-Memphis, Earl Barron-Memphis, Sean Banks-Memphis, Qyntel Woods-Memphis, Amare Stoudemire-Memphis, Kendrick Perkins-Memphis and Rodney Carney-Memphis.
Known as a relentless recruiter, Roccaforte put together top 25 recruiting classes at Tulane, Memphis and Lamar. In fact, Memphis had the nation's top-rated recruiting class in 2001. Lamar's class in 2004, the first full recruiting class with Roccaforte on staff, was rated among the top 10 in the country by HoopScoop.com.
Prior to being named to the top spot at Lamar, Roccaforte served for three seasons with the Cardinals as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under Billy Tubbs. Lamar posted winning campaigns in two of those years and the team's recruiting classes included a pair of junior college All-America selections.
Roccaforte spent three years as an assistant coach at the University of Memphis before returning to Lamar. He helped the Tigers advance to the NIT final four in 2001, won the NIT championship in 2002 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2003 for the first time in seven years. Included during that run was a pair of Conference USA National Division titles in 2001-02 and 2002-03. The Tigers had top-10 recruiting classes in all three years of his tenure, including the No. 1 rated class in 2001, and he recruited two McDonald's All-Americans.
Prior to Memphis, Roccaforte spent two seasons as an assistant coach on the Wyoming staff (1998-2000). The Cowboys were 37-22 during his tenure which included a trip to the NIT, where they advanced to the second round. He helped put together the top-rated recruiting class in the Mountain West Conference in his first season.
Before heading to Wyoming, Roccaforte worked at Tulane where he coordinated the Green Wave's recruiting activities. During his four years at Tulane, the Green Wave consistently ranked among the top-25 recruiting classes in the nation and included an All-American and seven All-Conference USA selections. The final recruiting class that he helped sign was ranked eighth nationally.
Roccaforte was part of a Tulane staff which coached the Green Wave to three consecutive 20-win seasons during his tenure (1994-98). The Green Wave advanced to the NCAA Tournament second round in 1995, the NIT Final Four in 1996 and a second NIT appearance in 1997. The program also captured Conference USA Red Division titles in 1995-96 and 1996-97.
Prior to coaching stints at Tulane and Wyoming, Roccaforte was an assistant coach at Centenary College for five seasons (1989-94). Centenary won its first TAAC regular-season championship during his tenure.
Roccaforte began his coaching career as a student assistant coach for three seasons at Lamar. He earned his bachelor of applied arts and sciences degree from the University in 1989.
Roccaforte and his wife Tina have two daughters, Victoria Elise (15) and Sofia Rose (4) and a son, Lucien Anthony (11).