Sunday, April 29, 2012

Siena Women's Report: Talent There For More

Here's another in the series looking back and ahead at conference programs.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 9-9 in MAAC play, 12-17 overall.

2011-12 RECAP: The biggest news was the firing of head coach Gina Castelli after 22 years in that position. The school called it a "mutual" agreement (but, it wasn't). Record-wise, it was the once-dominant program's eight straight year of sub-.500 finishes overall. Yet ... it went 11-7 in the MAAC in 2010-11, 9-9 this past season (both fourth-place finishes) and won a conference tournament game both years. This season started poorly with the loss of starting point guard, sophomore Allison Mullings, who suffered a knee injury in the season's first game. Highly touted freshman Ida Krogh (planter fasciitis) barrely played and wound up red-shirting. Another freshman (Kim Lysius Cote) was injured and didn't play. Sounds like the Siena men's team, considering the unexpected personnel losses, although the women's team actually had a better conference record. The team had a slow non-league start against quality opponents (1-7) and, was 4-12 at one point before going 8-5 down the stretch as players matured and improved. It says here that coaching had something to do with that. Junior post player Lily Grinci had arguably the best season, at least statistically, of any MAAC player (15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds), finishing second in the conference in scoring and third in rebounding. Senior guard Cristina Centeno moved to the point when Mullings went down for the year, and became effective there. The team noticeably improved as pieces came together and, then, upset Manhattan in the post-season tournament's first round and, then, held a second-half lead over Fairfield in the semifinals before faltering down the stretch.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The 8-5 record in the last 13 games, and some strong individual peformances. Grenci, whose foot and ankle woes severely limited her effectiveness in her first two seasons, became the league's top inside player. She was the only player to score double figures in all 18 conference regular-season games. Centeno, who struggled in auditions at the point in previous years, did better this time finishing fifth in the MAAC in assists and becoming just the 11th playerr in conference history to have career totals of more than 900 points, 400 rebounds, 300 assists, 100 steals and 100 three-pointers. Picked to finish eighth in the preseason, the team exceeded expectations (finishing in a tie for fourth) for the second straight season. Clara Sole Anglada, a 6-1 sophomore forward (7.9, 6.0) was one of the conference's most-improved players after barely playing as a freshman. Tehresa Coles had a nice freshman season, including getting 1.9 steals per game. The team got a first-round conference victory over No. 3 seed Manhattan in a game that resulted in the lowest score by two teams in the history of the post-season event 34-33. And, then, it had a one-point lead early in the second half against No. 2 seed Fairfield before the Stags rallied.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Losing the starting point guard (Mullings) at the eight-minute mark of the season's first game is a recipe for disaster. Then, too, the Saints played, basically, the entire season without its top freshman and another first year player (injuries). Those woes helped precipitate the 1-7 and 4-12 starts. The team also let a couple of close ones get away, losing by four at Fairfield (after leading late in the game) and missing a wide-open three that would have sent a loss at Manhattan into overtime. Some might consider scoring 34 points in a post-season tournament game a cause for concern, but that total came in a game the team actually won (the 34-33 semifinal-round contest vs. Manhattan). Defensively the team was solid except defending the trey, finishing 333 of 336 Division I programs nationally in 3-point field goal defense. And, then, there was the eighth-straight sub-.500 overall record. Even though the bottom never dropped out ... the team was always competitive in conference play (37-35 over the past four seasons), and never had fewer than 10 overall wins in any season ... school officials aspire to a return to the pre-Marist era days when Siena was the conference's dominant team and perceived a change in coaches was the way to go. Still, Castelli was more than a competent coach and was likely to stay with the program for many, many years. Now, that position (not so dissimilar from the men's) is likely to become a revolving door.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Some very good seasons on the immediate horizon, if several of this past season's injured players return to full health. And, success was coming no matter who coaches the Saints. It's all about talent, and Siena will have more of it in the coming season than at any time in recent years. Grinci will be a strong Player of the Year candidate. The team lost senior perimeter players Centeno and long-range shooting specialist Maja Gerlyng, but the likely replacements (Davis at the point, and Krogh at off-guard) have the potential to be even better. But, health is the key. Davis, a transfer from George Washington, is dealing with a knee issue and Krogh had off-season foot surgery. There's also a strong freshman coming in, 6-2 post player Simone Kelly, who is expected to be in the playing group. If the health holds up Siena could legitimately go 10 deep with quality players next season. Grenci will be the team's only senior, so the 2013-14 season should be a good one, too.

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: Despite the loss of two solid players, the team is poised to be much better in the coming season. Right now, only Marist appears better set for next season. Niagara is expected to be a contender, too, despite finishing with the same league record and a worse overall mark than the Saints this year. Otherwise, every other program suffered more graduation losses of key players than Siena. It's not hard to envision Siena finishing in the top half of the standings, potentially as high as second. However, if the key players who battled injuries this past year aren't at their best then the Saints won't finish that high.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Siena Men's Report: Good Season, Better Next

Here's another in the series looking back and ahead at conference teams.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 8-10 in MAAC play, 14-17 overall.

2011-12 RECAP: It's not often that a sub-.500 season would be considered a good thing at Siena, but circumstances dictated the past year was so satisfying that second-year head coach Mitch Buonaguro wasn't far removed from being a Coach of the Year candidate in the conference. The Saints beat every other conference team, except Loyola, at least once. It went 7-2 against MAAC opponents at home. After a 3-7 start, it lost its top reserve (freshman DaVonte Beard) and, playing almost exclusively with just six players the rest of the way actually got better (11-10 after the 3-7 start). Siena avoided the play-in round of the post-season tournament and, then, upset No. 3 seed Manhattan in the event's quarterfinal round in overtime.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Plenty. Start with individuals. Freshman 5-foot-8 guard Evan Hymes might have had the greatest impact, and surely the most unexpected. A late recruit due to an off-season transfer, Hymes was brought in to back up starter Rakeem Brookins. But, when Brookins missed the season with a back issue, Hymes was thrust into the starting rotation and became indispensable (13.4 points, 3.4 assists and 61 three-pointers). He was also No. 3 in the league in minutes played. His backcourt mate, senior Kyle Downey, led the league in minutes and was a revelation (13.3 points, 4.9 rebounds) as a fundamentally sound, lunch-pail performer who had previously been an oft-injured role player. And, then there was 6-8 junior forward O.D. Anosike, a role player the past two seasons who suddenly became the most-effective front-court player in the league. His 12.5 rebound-per-game average was best nationally, and a midseason streak of 17 straight double-doubles was the second-longest in league history. The other three players in the rotation also had to contribute, and did. Brandon Walters, a 6-10 post player (6.8, 6.0) and 6-6 Owen Wignot (7.3, 4.4) were prototypical "glue' players, while 6-5 freshman Rob Poole (7.0, 3.3) was a contributor off the bench. And that, basically, was it after Beard departed after the first semester. The next highest scorer was Connor Fenlon, who began his career as a walk-on. The team was forced to play almost exclusively zone defense due to its limited numbers, and it committed fewer fouls than all but two other teams nationally. Its starting five also played more combined minutes than any Division I team, and as a result team chemistry benefited.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Plenty, and it was borderline amazing the success the team had despite its woes. Problems? Before the season even started it learned that four members of the likely playing group would miss the season. That included Brookins (9.0, 4.1 assists as a freshman in 2010-11), and 6-9 sophomore forward Davis Martins, a potential starter (off-season hip surgery). And, then, came an NCAA ruling that two touted freshmen forwards, 6-8 players Lionel Gomis and Imoh Silas, were both ineligible for the season due to not completing high school work within the approved time frame. That had the Saints down to nine scholarship players. Sophomore swingman Trenity Burdine, who showed flashes as a freshman, battled foot woes all year and never played. And, then, Beard left after 10 games leaving seven players on scholarship with one of those barely used. There were some growing pains (the 3-7 start), and some lopsided losses. But Siena bounced back from nearly every adversity. It suffered a lopsided 95-59 loss to Iona at Madison Square Garden early in the season and, then, knocked off the Gaels in the second meeting. Same with Manhattan, an early season blowout loss followed by a regular-season win over the Jaspers and another victory over them in the post-season tournament's quarterfinal round. The only teams the Saints couldn't contend were was Loyola, which beat them in all three meetings, including a 65-52 setback in the MAAC tournament's semifinal round; and, surprisingly, Saint Peter's, which won both its regular-season meetings with the Saints.

WHAT'S AHEAD: A return to good times. Maybe not as good as the recent three-year run of trips to the NCAA tournament (2008, '09, '10), but the program is certainly moving in that direction. Three seniors leave, but two of them (Wignot and Walters) never averaged more than 7.3 points per game in any season. Downey is the biggest loss, but quality replacements are certainly on hand, not only the four players who missed the entire season, but with what looks to be a strong incoming trio of recruits. Buonaguro has indicated that he would use Brookins (generously listed at 5-10) in the backcourt with the 5-8 Hymes next season, which would create the smallest guard tandem in MAAC history. But, the quickness and outside shooting ability of those two could cause fits for defenders. Anosike returns to dominate the backboards, and should get plenty of help from Gomis, Silas and Brookins. Of the incoming freshman, 6-5 guard Ryan Oliver, who has standout long-range shooing skills, looks like the  most-likely to contribute right away. The roster's only senior will be Anosike. Martens will be a junior. Of the other 12 players on the roster, 10 will be either sophomores or freshmen, meaning Siena should be strong for the foreseeable future. And, after a season of slow-down offense and zone defense, a large and quick playing group almost assures the Saints will change to an up-tempo style for the coming season.

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: Loyola and Manhattan will be the preseason favorites for the top two spots, but Siena is right there in a group of four or five other teams that will vie to finish in the upper half of the standings. The pieces are in place for Siena to finish as high as third and, probably, no worst than fifth. And, as players continue to mature the Saints could be better at the end of the year than the beginning, making them a factor in the league tournament and, probably even better in 2013-14.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Around The MAAC, Some News And Notes

News and notes ... happenings from "Around The MAAC" (otherwise known as "ATM") never end, even in the off-season.


Canisius, a team loaded with talent for incoming coach Jim Baron, just lost some according a release issued by the school's sports information office.

Junior guard Gaby Belardo, sophomore guard David Santiago and freshman Franklin Millian will not be returning to the team for the upcoming season.

Belardo, a 6-2 guard, averaged 12 points and 3.2 rebounds per game this past season despite playing through severe back issues. He completed his undergraduate degree work at Canisius, according to the release, and has indicated that he will transfer into another school's graduate program for a course of study not offered by Canisius. That move will allow him to play next season as his new school, without having to sit out the normal transfer year.

Santiago, a 6-4 guard who transferred to Canisius after playing the 1909-10 season at American University in Puerto Rico, averaged 1.3 points and 0.8 rebounds per game for the Golden Griffins this past season.

Millian, also a 6-4 guard, averaged 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds and started in seven games for the Griffs this past season.

The moves aren't totally unexpected. Until the announcement, the Canisius roster listed 16 players. Only 13 players are allowed to be on scholarship in any season.


Iona's senior guard Scott Machado, who led the nation in assists this past season, was named the 79th Haggerty Award Winner as the most outstanding Division I player in the New York Metropolitan area.

Machado is the fifth Iona player to earn the award, presented by the NIT and the Met Basketball Writers Association. Steve Burtt was the last Haggerty winner for the Gaels for his play in the 1983-84 season. Other Iona winners were Jeff Ruland (1980), Gary Springer (1981) and Warren Isaac (1965).

Joining Machado on the all-Met first team was teammate senior forward Mike Glover. Junior guard Lamont Jones was a third-team selection.


Junior guard Kyle Smyth, whose playing time diminished significantly this past season due to the Gaels' abundance of backcourt players, recently requested and received permission to transfer out of the program.

Smyth averaged 10.1 points per game with 75 made three-pointers as a sophomore, but saw those numbers fall to 5.5 ppg. and 37 treys this past season.

The 6-4 guard, one of the MAAC's better long-range snipers in recent years, reportedly has received his undergraduate degree and can transfer to a program to take graduate-level courses and be eligible to play in the coming season.

Initially it was being reported that he would attend New Hampshire and re-unite with another former Gael, 6-10 center Chris Pelcher who will be eligible to play there in the coming season.

Recent internet reports, though, indicate that Smyth is also looking at Boston College, Seton Hall and Rutgers.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Niagara Women's Report: Late Run Fuels Optimism

Here's another in the series looking back and ahead at MAAC programs.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 9-9 in MAAC play, 13-19 overall.

2011-12 RECAP: Considerable improvement, not only overall (the Purple Eagles were 0-18 and 1-29 in the previous year), but as the season progressed (5-3 in their last eight games). It certainly helped that the team filled its two major gaping holes from the previous year, at point guard and center, and with sophomores which bodes well for the next two years. Kayla Stroman, a 5-foot-5 PG who only played eight games in 2010-11 before being lost for the rest of the season, was a do-everything performer. And, 6-2 Lauren Gatto, who sat out last season after transferring into the program, was a good-enough force inside. There were also nice contributions from a four-member freshman class. It resulted in the team finishing in a tie for fourth place in the regular-season standings and, then, advancing to the post-season conference tournament's semifinal round, where it lost in overtime to Marist.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The return of Stroman, the eligibility of Gatto, some progress by a couple of returning players and the contributions of the freshmen. There were a lot of divergent parts coming together (including head coach Kendra Faustin, who wasn't around as much in preseason due to having a baby in early November). But, when things started coming together, things started working better. Stroman not only provided offense on her own (a team-best 10.8 points per game), but her 2.5 steals' average was second-best in the MAAC. Gatto scored at a 10.3 ppg. rate, and was at her best late, particularly in the MAAC tournament against Marist when she turned in a 19-point, 10-rebound effort. Meghan McGuinness became a nice third option by midseason (6.8 ppg.), hitting 53-of-115 from three-point range. Her 46.1 bonus-land percentage would have been the best nationally had she made enough treys to qualify for the national leaderboard. Sophomore Shy Britton, a 5-11 sophomore (5.9, 3.8) was a nice role player, and seniors Ali Morris (5.8, 3.8) and Meghan Waterman (2.3, 1.7) provided the requisite leadership skills. Another sophomore, 5-10 Chanel Johnson, added some athleticism to the starting lineup late in the season and the team went 8-6 with her in the starting five. Val McQuade (4.8, 3.6), a 5-10 freshman who made 20-of-48 treys, added to the team's long-range shooting ability. As a team Niagara's 35.7 percent accuracy from beyond the stripe was 16th-best nationally.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Probably a little too much youth, and all the adjustment to having five players in the nine-member playing group who saw just eight games of action a year ago (all by Stroman). It took some time for the pieces to come together, but they eventually did. Still ... Niagara would have been even better had it been able to take care of the ball. Its 18.4 turnovers per game was the worst average in the conference. The team also had to get by without the requisite "star." No team member was in the top 15 in the conference in scoring, or the top 12 in rebounding. And, despite Gatto's presence in the middle, rebounding remained a problem The team got outrebounded by 2.6 per game (only two MAAC teams had greater rebounding deficiencies), and Gatto (5.7 rebounds per game) probably needs to do more in that category. The offensive certainly has to be more productive (the 55.6 points-per-game average was ranked 286th of 345 Division I programs nationally). And, despite all the late-season optimism, remember that the team failed to finish over .500 in the league and was 13-19 overall. One MAAC program, Siena, fired its head coach despite having the same league mark and a better overall record than the Purple Eagles.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Certainly a little better, considering the only departing seniors were the team's fifth- and eighth-leading scorers. Team chemistry should be improved, picking up from the late-season successes. There will also be much optimism, particularly since the team's only two losses in its last five games were both to perennial power Marist ... one in double overtime and the MAAC tournament semifinal-round contest in OT. Niagara's athleticism caused Marist problems in both those meetings and league followers looking for someone to (finally) disrupt Marist's long-time league domination can grasp at those two overtime-game straws and say, "just maybe ..." But, there will be much optimism around the program as the starting lineup will likely include four juniors and a sophomore, which not only bodes well for the coming season but the year beyond that, too. And, then, there might even be some front-court help in the form of 6-1 freshman Gaby Baldasere, who played limited minutes but did get 16 rebounds in 66 minutes of court time.

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: Hard to envision Niagara overtaking Marist, which will be very good again in the coming season. Otherwise ... all the other teams that finished in the top seven in this year's standings had significant losses of key starters. Niagara's graduation losses were role players. The early pick here is that the Purple Eagles will finish second or third next season and, with a little improvement, be a legitimate challenger to Marist.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Niagara Men's Report: Youthful Squad Will Grow Up

Here's another in the series looking back and ahead at conference programs.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 8-10 in MAAC play, 14-19 overall.

2011-12 RECAP: Just the third losing record in head coach Joe Mihalich's 14 seasons at Niagara, but the second in a row. Still, some improvement over a 9-23 finish the previous year. And, that's considerable progress considering the roster was the third-youngest of 345 Division I teams nationally. There certainly were some high points, including beating regional rival Canisius all three times the teams met (twice in the regular season, once in the conference tournament), and a pair of three-game winning streaks. The second of those included victories over Siena and Rider, teams that finished higher in the standing. And, the win over Rider saw the team overcome a 17-point second-half deficit. Individually, freshmen were three of the team's top four scorers. Guard Juan'ya Green had a fabulous first year at the college level, and his 17.7 points per game was the second-best average by a freshman nationally. He also led the conference in steals, was its Rookie of the Year (first ever from Niagara) and was the's mid-major level Freshman of the Year. Niagara went 4-2 in its last six games, its season ending with a loss to tournament winner Loyola in the quarterfinal round of the MAAC's post-season event.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The youth delivered considerable optimism for the future. Green looked capable of emerging into one of the league's elite players oer his next three years, and makes for a formidable backcourt combination with red-shirt frosh Antoine Mason (15.1 ppg.). A third guard, 5-11 sophomore Marvin Jordan (10.4 ppg.) ensures the Purple Eagles' perimeter game is well-fortified for the next two seasons. Mason became one of the league's top snipers, and his average of 2.5 three pointers per game was 63rd best nationally. The team's trademark fast-tempo offense also showed signs of life, averaging 70.4 points per game, up nine points from the previous season's 61.4 ppg. average. A third member of the standout freshman class, 6-6 forward Ameen Tanksley, also had a nice first season (8.7 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds). And, yet another freshman, 6-7 forward Joseph Thomas (3.5, 3.7) flashed signs that he can develop into a contributor. The team also used its youth and athleticism to its advantage. Green topped the conference in steals (1.9 per game), and Niagara's 8.3 thefts per game was 26th-best nationally. Niagara also forced opponents into an average of 3.3 more turnovers per game than it committed, the 18th-best average nationally.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Too much youth. There were too many inconsistent nights, the likes of which turns a veteran coach's already gray hair even grayer. The team started 5-11. After that, it put together two three-game winning streaks but, between those, lost five straight games. It had a chance to avoid the post-season tournament's play-in round, but lost that chance with a lopsided 89-77 loss to Marist in the final regular-season game. And, typical of a young team, the defense was too often lacking. Niagara allowed 74.2 points per game, ranking it 308 of 345 Division I teams. There was also considerable lack of inside play. Eric Williams, a 6-8 junior, (1.0, 1.0) didn't come close to his 4.1/3.2 averages the previous year. But, Williams truly didn't fit into the up-tempo style. Then, too, highly touted junior college recruit 6-6 Ali Langford, was a disappointment (1.8, 2.0), and was recently was granted his release to move elsewhere. Thomas truly didn't come around until late in the year, and the team's tallest player, 6-8 Scooter Gillette (4.5, 2.5), doesn't contribute much in the paint.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Considering that the youth will develop together and theoretically build team chemistry, Niagara could be very good again fairly quickly. The expectation is that it will most-definitely approach a .500 record, at the very least, in the coming season with the chance for even better. But, that will all depend on the development of the inside players. Thomas and Tanksley in particular. They probably also need to bring in at least one more post player, although they haven't found one yet via recruiting. Green, Mason and Jordon (along with 6-3 sophomore Malcolm Lemmons) deliver the potential to be one of the better perimeter groups in the conference. And there's one more so-called wild card in the form of 6-5 freshman Josh Turner, whose academic struggles early restricted him from even practicing with the team until he was declared eligible for the second semester. He still averaged 3.4 points and 1.8 rebounds, but much more is expected of him and he could come up big next season.

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: Hard to envision Niagara competing with Loyola and Manhattan for the top spot in the conference. After that, though, there's not much distance between the next six or seven teams and Niagara certainly falls into that group. It might be a year too early for Niagara to finish as high as third in the coming season, but a top-five finish isn't out of the question.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Marist Women's Report: Potential To Be Even Better

Here's another in the series looking back and ahead at MAAC programs.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 17-1 in MAAC play, 26-8 overall.

2011-12 RECAP: Slow start, terrific finish (except for the season's last few minutes). When it comes to Marist, everything is relative. For instance, the other nine conference teams would all have been overjoyed just to advance to the NCAA tournament. Marist, though, is likely a little disappointed by not getting past St. Bonaventure (a 66-63 loss) in the NCAA's second round, after holding a 49-47 lead with 10 minutes left. Otherwise ... Marist started 5-6. Slow start? The six losses were to Virginia, Princeton, Boston University, St. Bona's, Hofstra and Kansas State. Three of those were NCAA tournament teams, the other three went to the WNIT. Combined record of the six: 142-55. If nothing else, it toughened the Red Foxes up for MAAC play, where it continued to dominate the conference (nine straight league titles, seven straight NCAA appearances) with a 17-1 record. After that, it swept the MAAC tournament, albeit with a scare from Niagara in the championship game. And, then, it won a first-round NCAA contest against a very solid Georgia team. Again, every other program in the league would sell its proverbial soul for that kind of success. Marist is likely thinking it could have done just a little more. Still, all things considered, a very satisfying season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Plenty. Player of the Year guard Corielle Yarde lived up to preseason expectations with averages of 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists. She was the league's only player to finish in the top 10 of all three of those statistical categories. Another senior, 6-2 forward Brandy Gang, stepped up particularly on the offensive end (12.6 ppg.). Otherwise, it was basically a new cast of characters, but none made a greater impact than sophomore guard Casey Dulin, who was the least-used scholarship player in 2010-11 but became the team's point guard when senior Kristine Best blew out a knee after six games. Dulin averaged 9.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Sophomore guard Leanne Ockenden (8.8, 3.5) and 6-2 junior Kelsey Beynnon, both role players a year ago, stepped into more-featured roles. Overall, this team was greater than the sum of its parts, a credit both to grasping an intelligent style of play (side-to-side ball movement in an unpredictable motion-type style) and head coach Brian Giorgis, who might have done his best work this season. This wasn't close to being the most-talented team in the on-going nine-year run, but it still found ways to overcome the almost total lack of an inside game (Yarde, a 5-8 guard, was the leading rebounder) to continue its run of success. After the 5-6 start, the team won its next 10 games, inexplicably dropped a 48-44 decision to Manhattan and, then, reeled off 11 more victories (a 21-1 stretch) before falling in the NCAA's.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Pessimists will point to the 5-6 start. Your scribe will counter that those games might have included one of the program's most-challenging non-league schedules ever while serving to better prepare the team for conference play. This was a somewhat flawed team, and Giorgis admitted it in the preseason when he noted his squad didn't have its usual level of inside play. Still, Marist was a team in the truest sense as seven different players averaged at least three rebounds per contest. The team also lost senior point guard Kristine Best after six games (she'll return next season), but saw Dulin became a capable replacement. It also didn't get a lot from touted UMass transfer 6-1 junior forward Kristina Danella (6.5, 3.4), whose defensive shortcomings, according to Giorgis, kept her from playing more. Mostly, everything went right for Marist until the closing minutes of its second-round NCAA tournament game. There it held a 49-47 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining and still trailed by just a point with under two minutes left but committed an uncharacteristic turnover and, then, missed a three-pointer on its final two possessions in losing to Bona's by three, 66-63. Make no mistake, though, St. Bona's has been a formidable opponent of late. The Bonnies have beaten Marist in regular-season games in each of the last three years in addition to this season's NCAA loss. But, one more good play down the stretch of that contest and the Red Foxes would have advanced to the Sweet 16 round for the second time in program history.

WHAT'S AHEAD: More of the same. Marist loses its top two scorers in Yarde and Gang, but the old cliche fits: This program doesn't rebuild, it reloads. It reloads with 6-3 center Tori Jarosz, a solidly built inside player who transferred in after a season at Vanderbilt. Your scribe saw Jarosz play a number of times in her pre-college days, and she will be a force in the MAAC. Although she only played 15 total minutes as a frosh at Vandy in the 2010-11 season, she got eight rebounds. She provides the inside game that Marist could have used more of this past season. Then, too, will come the continued development of players like Dulin, Ockenden, Beynnon, Danella and freshman Natalie Gomez, who had some nice moments as a first-year point guard and certainly will challenge Best for playing time next season. And, then, comes another very strong incoming group. Giorgis has recruited five players, including four players taller than 6-0, including 6-4 center Delaney Hollenbeck. The best might be 6-0 guard Sydney Coffey from Minnesota. Giorgis calls the group "one of the finest classes we have ever brought in to the Marist women's basketball program." This from a coach not prone to hyperbole, so that comment speaks volumes. Between Jarosz, who will be a sophomore in eligibility terms this coming season, and the strong incoming group ... don't look for Marist to come back to the pack any time soon.

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: Death, taxes and another dominant season coming up. By now, do you expect anything different? Niagara, which took Marist into overtime of the MAAC tournament's championship game, should be a viable contender in 2012-13. Canisius, Rider, maybe even Siena and Iona should all be much improved. But, no one else has enough to derail the Marist express from reaching another MAAC title. And, with Marist, it's wise to even look beyond that. With Jarosz inside, the team will be built for more NCAA tournament success next season.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Marist Men's Report: Some Success, More Coming

Here's another in the series that looks back and ahead at conference programs.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 7-11 in MAAC play, 14-18 overall.

2011-12 RECAP: A sub-.500 usually isn't considered a notable achievement, but in light of the fact that the Red Foxes finished 1-17 in league play and 1-29 overall just two years ago (2009-10), this past season was one of considerable progress. And, there were plenty of bright spots. For instance, after a 7-7 start the team lost eight games in a row at midseason and could easily have lost its enthusiasm. Instead a cast of youthful players hung in there and won seven of its last 10 games, including a post-season tournament play-in game (a 61-57 victory over Saint Peter's) before losing to Iona (87-63) in the event's quarterfinals.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The youth grew up quickly, as evidenced by that 7-3 finish down the stretch, including a victory over Loyola, the MAAC's representative to the NCAA's. There was one senior on the roster (R.J. Hall), and he was a lightly used role player. Second-leading scorer Devin Price was a junior and everyone else in the eight-man playing group was younger than that.. Frosh 6-foot-5 swingman Chavaughn Lewis (14.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals) did enough to merit Rookie of the Year honors in most seasons, but had the misfortune to be a first-year player in a year of standout freshmen. Still, he crafted a solid foundation for becoming one of the league's elite players in future years. Price, who was wildly inconsistent earlier in his career, developed into a mature leader and a real scoring threat (13.6 points per game). Sophomore 6-10 center Adam Kemp, who only played 16 games before an injury a year ago, stepped up as a serviceable big man (8.5, 7.2, 2.2 blocks). Isaiah Morton, a 5-8 freshman point guard (7.8, 2.6 assists) developed nicely as the season progressed. Sophomores 6-5 Jay Bowie (7.3, 4.3) and 6-6 Anell Alexis (4.2, 3.1) and 6-5 freshman Manny Thomas (5.3) all were nice support players who appear capable of becoming significant contributors in the future.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Too much youth. In a league where players develop and veteran teams have the most success, Marist was among the youngest teams in the MAAC. Lewis and Morton, among others, had early season growing pains. Much of the early season was spent developing not only young players, but overall team chemistry. Remember, three key players from the previous year left the program with eligibility remaining, and that kind of turnover was bound to mean some growing pains this season. Then there was the significant loss of 6-6 junior swingman Dorell Carter, who was averaging 11.7 points through three games before an ACL injury forced him to miss the rest of the season. And, there were problems inside. Kemp ws the only player taller than 6-6 who played significant minutes, and that lack of height showed up on the defensive end as opponents pounded the ball inside. Marist's field-goal defensive percentage of 46.2 percent was the worst in the league.

WHAT'S AHEAD: More progress, and it should be interesting to see just how much. The program went from that 1-29 finish two years ago to 6-27 overall last year to this year's 14-8 mark. There probably won't be another eight-game improvement to the overall record, but it's not difficult to think that the continued development of the youth (one can envision how effective the slender Lewis can become, for instance, with an additional 10 pounds of muscle) along with better team chemistry will result in a better-than .500 record in 2012-13. For sure, the Lewis/Morton tandem will be fun to watch develop. If Carter comes back healthy, he adds a veteran offensive presence. The need, though, is for some inside help for Kemp, whether it be just from returning players bulking up a little or from incoming freshmen 6-10 Eric Truog (Kenston H.S./Baimbridge, Ohio) or 6-7 Phillip Lawrence (Mount St. Joseph's H.S./Baltimore).

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: It's not hard to envision Marist finishing in the upper half of the league standings. Right now Loyola and Manhattan look like the conference's top two teams, but Marist is right there with the next group of pretenders. If all stays in place and the development continues ... could Marist be the 2013-14 season's early choice for the league's top team?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

St. Peter's Women's Report: More Tough Times

Here's another in the series of team reports looking back and ahead at conference programs.

Up now,


2011-12 RECORD: 4-14 in MAAC play, 5-26 overall.

2011-12 RECAP: Exact record as the men's program, but a slight drop from 2010-11 when the Peahens won six games overall. Like 2010-11, there was a horrendous start. The team started 0-15 this past season and then won back-to-back games (including a surprise victory over Loyola). It then lost seven more in a row before a 3-4 mark in its last 7 outings, including a play-in round tournament upset of Canisius. Jynae Judson, a senior forward, was among the better players in the MAAC, but the entire roster was otherwise comprised exclusively of, at least for this past season, role players.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Judson finished seventh in scoring (13.4) and 14th in rebounding (5.6) among league players. Quina Porter, a senior forward, was a warrior inside and one of the MAAC's most improved players (averaging 7.5 points, 6.5 rebounds). Kristal Edwards, a Division II transfer who didn't play last season, added some front-court athleticism (6.5 points, 4.5 rebounds). Then, there was team resiliency. An 0-15 start could have been discouraging, but the team continued to play hard, maybe buoyed by the back-to-back mid-season victories over Loyola and Rider. It also beat Canisius twice (once in the regular season, once in the league tournament), and the Golden Griffins had considerably better individual personnel. Does it bode well for a building block heading into 2012-13? Maybe not. The Peahens won three of their last four games at the end of the 2010-11 season, and that momentum didn't carry over.

WHAT WENT WRONG: As good as Judson was, she missed six games via suspensions for violating team rules. Having her pop in and out of the lineup didn't help. Even when she was around, she was a solo act offensively, making the team easy to defend.. No other player averaged more than 7.5 points. Aziza May, after a promising freshman year at point guard, had the exact numbers in her sophomore season (5.2, 3.0 assists) as she did as a freshman. And, we'll need someone to explain what happened to sophomore guard Teresa Manigrasso. After she was the team's second-leading scorer as a freshman (7.5 points per game), she barely played as a sophomore and averaged just 1.9 points on 24.1 percent shooting. A decent long-range sniper as a frosh (24 treys made), she was just 2-of-22 from bonus depth as a soph. Team-wise, the Peahens were at or near the bottom in just about every statistical category among league members, except for total rebounds. And, that statistic was padded because the team missed so many shots (shooting a league-worst 33.2 percent from the floor), meaning there were more rebounds available in its games.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Probably another year of struggling to get more than five or six wins. Judson, the only offensive weapon, graduates as does Porter, the team's top rebounder. Gone, too, is senior forward Lauren Morris, who had some nice late-season games. Edwards, who averaged just 6.5 points per game, is the top-returning scorer. May, as a freshman, looked like she could develop into one of the league's better point guards, but then didn't make the progress expected from a sophomore. Kaydine Best, a 6-1 junior forward (4.4, 3.4) will need to make major strides.

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: The program is 18-70 overall over the past three seasons, and there's no end in sight for escaping those kinds of results. Still, despite the lack of recent success, there aren't many teams in the league that play harder every night and that usually gives the Peahens a chance to be competitive. For Saint Peter's to avoid the cellar, though, it needs its role players to make major strides forward and to get some contributions from incoming freshmen ... and, that's a lot to ask.

St. Peter's Men's Report: Some Improvement Likely

After a brief break that included a week-long trip to California, it's time to get back to basketball and to the team-by-team post-season reports.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 4-14 in MAAC play, 5-26 overall.

2011-12 RECAP: There's got to be a morning after, so to speak, and this past season was it for the Peacocks. On the heels of capturing the 2010-11 conference tournament and a bid to the NCAA's, the program lost four significant starters and, then, head coach John Dunne dismissed another key role player for disciplinary issues prior to the season. If that wasn't bad enough, two key front-court players were lost for the year to injury by the mid-way point. Yes, indeed, the bottom dropped out. For the entire season all Saint Peter's got was a non-league win over a moribund Binghamton squad, two wins over the conference's last-place Canisius team and, inexplicably, two victories over Siena, the MAAC's sixth-place team. The season included two eight-game losing streak, including an active one with a season-ending setback to Marist in the play-in round of this season's conference tournament.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Very little, but there were a couple of bright spots, most notably the two conference victories over Siena that kept the Saints from finishing over .500 in both league play and overall. The second  of those, on Siena's home court, included a stalwart defensive effort led by 6-7 junior center Darius Conley that held his Saints' counterpart O.D. Anosike to nine points and ended Anosike's string of 17 consecutive double-doubles. Conley, after being a role player for the past two years, had a nice break-out season averaging 11.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game as a third-team all-MAAC selection. Freshman guard Lamin Fulton had a solid first year (8.9 points per game). Otherwise, not much else went the Peacocks' way, which was somewhat expected considering all the personnel losses from a year ago.

WHAT WENT WRONG: This could be lengthy. Four key players graduating was tough enough. Then, senior forward Jack Hill (4.7 points, 2.8 rebounds), who was playing relatively well, went down for the season after nine games. And, then, junior college transfer Karee Ferguson (4.1, 3.3), who was expected to provide some front-court offense, tore an achilles in the team's 16th game and was lost for the rest of the season and his status for the coming season is up in the air. Fulton, despite some solid statistics, was wildly inconsistent. And, then, he recently informed the coaching staff that he would be transferring out of the program. Chris Prescott, a transfer from St. Joseph's, didn't come close to living up to expectations (10.1 points per game, but 33.9% shooting), and looks like little more than a role player for the coming year.  Another big man, 6-10 freshman Gaetano Spera from Italy who was an intriguing project, lasted six games and opted to leave school. The team's hallmark of recent years, its defense (second nationally in field-goal defense in 2010-11) was non-existent and ranked 296 of 337 Division I teams nationally in that statistically this past season.

WHAT'S AHEAD: More rebuilding. Fulton and Ferguson could have been nice pieces for next season, but Fulton is gone and there's a great deal of uncertainty over whether Ferguson will be able to recover from his injury to play in 2012-13. Prescott doesn't look like much of a factor. It leaves Conley and 6-3 junior guard Yves Raymond (7.5, 3.9), who had a solid season coming off the bench, as the primary building blocks. Head coach John Dunne, though, knows how to build a program. He'll need to continue to develop current sophomore perimeter players Chris Burke (6.2, 4.0) and Blaise Ffrench (4.4, 2.6), both of which came in to fairly high expectations, to be able to be competitive. He'll also need to find a big man, maybe in 6-9 incoming freshman Lawrence Fejokwu, who attended Sunrise Christian Academy, a Kansas Prep school, for the past two years.

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: They'll probably be picked to finish last when the coaches' preseason poll comes out in October, the the potential is there for a little better if the team stays healthy, if players like Burke and Ffrench step up and another adequate front-court player is found. It's more than a little to ask, but if it happens Saint Peter's is capable of much better than this past season.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Siena To Name Ali Jaques New Women's Coach

After 22 seasons the Siena women's basketball team will have a new head coach.

The school has set a 2 p.m. press conference for tomorrow (Thursday), at which it is believed it will announce Ali Jaques to succeed long-time coach Gina Castelli, who was fired last month.

Jaques, according to sources at Siena, has officially accepted the position. Several other upstate New York media outlets are also reporting that Jaques is believed to be the school's choice.

But, your scribe has an impeccable source confirming Jaques' hiring.

Jaques' candidacy was aided by a strong recommendation by another former Siena head coach Jim Jabir's (Castelli's predecessor). Jaques was an assistant for one season (2005-06) under Jabir at Dayton.

A 1998 graduate of New York University, she began her coaching career as an assistant at Rider for one season. She also served as an assistant for three seasons at Sacred Heart Univerity and, then, three seasons at Furman University.

After Dayton she was an assistant at George Washington University for two seasons, moving from there to Northwestern prior to the 2008-09 season.

Over her time at Northwestern that program had a 58-68 record, but was 51-45 over the past three seasons.

Castelli had been at Siena since the 1989-90 season serving one year as an assistant (under Jabir) before becoming the program's head coach prior to the 1990-91 season.

Niagara's Green Earns Top Mid-Major Frosh Honor

Here's a nice honor for a player from a conference team, just passed along to your scribe by the Niagara's sports information office ...

Niagara's freshman guard Juan'ya Green has been named the's mid-major level Freshman of the Year.

The Philadelphia native led the Purple Eagles in scoring, assists, steals, field goals and free throws while starting in every game this past season.

He was the nation's second-leading freshman scorer (17.7 points per game), and his scoring average was third in the MAAC. He was also third in the conference in assists (4.5 per game) and led the league in steals (1.9 per contest).

Green also set the school's freshman single-season record for points (585), field goals made (188), free throws made (148) and steals (63).

The individual honor is a just reward for a terrific season.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Loyola Men Lose Key Reserve Guard Drummond

The Loyola men lost a key role player earlier this week with the announcement that 6-foot-4 sophomore guard guard Justin Drummond has told school officials of his intention to transfer to another school. The perception, according to news reports, is that Drummond will seek to play at a higher level.

This one is a little bit of a head scratcher. From observations, it doesn't appear that Drummond will be a significant factor at a higher level. Not if, in his first two years, he couldn't break into the Greyhounds' starting lineup. And, not after averaging just 37.5 percent shooting from the floor (25.4 percent on 3-point attempts) and committing nearly three times as many turnovers (63) as assists (23).

Then, again, he did average 10.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as Loyola's fourth leading scorer.

But, with starters Dylon Cormier, Robert Olson and R.J. Williams back at the team's perimeter positions the likelihood is that Drummond would have been facing another season of coming off the bench.

In the era where personal situations often become more important than team goals (i.e. ... who's getting playing time), the guess here is that Drummond's departure has more to do about finding a place where he can be a starter and get more minutes than anything else.

Drummond was named the MAAC's Sixth Player of the Year for this past season.

"We would like to thank Justin for his contributions to the program," said Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos, in a statement released by the school's sports information area. "We met with Justin and his family, and we offered to redshirt Justin to help him continue his development as a top-level player. Justin, however, expressed his desire to play at the highest level of college basketball in an effort to continue his career beyond college.

"Justin helped us to do something special this year (Loyola won the MAAC's post-season tournament and advanced to the NCAA's), and we want to support him in his decision to move on to another school ... He will always be part of the Loyola basketball family."

There is no indication what schools Drummond is considering for his next location.

Team Report: Canisius Women Set To Bounce Back

Here's another in the "state of MAAC programs" series, looking back and ahead at conference men's and women's teams.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 6-12 in MAAC play, 12-18 overall.

RECAP: The team of the future still looks to have a bright one, but it didn't come this past season. After a 6-12 league mark and an 11-20 overall record in 2010-11, with four key freshmen in that year's playing group, there was the expectation of significant progress. It never came ... or, at least when it did appear to be on the verge, things fell apart. The Golden Griffins started 8-6 overall and, then, went 4-12 after that including five straight season-ending losses that concluded with a conference tournament play-in round setback to 5-26 Saint Peter's. The problem? The Griffs were still very young. Every other conference team had at least two seniors on its roster except Canisius which had zero. What solid experience it did have was lost at midseason when 5-10 junior swingperson Allison Braun, a team player and prototypical "glue" player, went down with a leg injury. She played 18 games and was instrumental in the team's fast start, but her loss was the start of the season's second-half slide. Hard to envision that a player who averaged just 4.6 points and 3.6 rebounds had such an effect, but she did. Then, two other frontcourt players, sophomores Jen Lennox and Courtney VandeBovenkamp, were nicked up  physically for much of the season and didn't match strong freshman seasons.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Jamie Ruttle, a 6-4 post player, had a nice sophomore season (11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds) and showed the ability, once she becomes a little more assertive, to eventually be one of the conference's better inside players. Another soph, guard Jen Morabito, remained one of the MAAC's best long-range snipers and her 38.5 percent accuracy from bonus territory was 19th-best nationally. Kayla Hoohuli, who was limited early while recovering from a knee issue, was one of the conference's top freshmen, an under-control player with a nice outside shot. She made more three-pointers than any other league freshman. Junior point guard Ashley Durham made 89.1 percent of her free throws, the 7th-best percentage nationally and Canisius was 6th best as a team from the foul line (78.0 percent). That 8-6 start was also a positive trend that, unfortunately, didn't continue. Still, there were some satisfying victories, including a 64-60 non-leaguer over UAlbany, the America East Conference's representative to the NCAA tournament; and a 58-57 win over regional rival Niagara.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Braun's injury and subsequent loss for the season's second half was a big blow. So, too, were the nagging woes to VandenBovenkamp and Lennox. Overall, there just wasn't enough experience. The team failed to make plays or have consistent positive stretches ... signs of a young team still figuring things out. While Durham did average 4.2 assists per game, she still struggled at times running the team and was in and out of the starting lineup all season. Freshman Ashley Gomez, who might have helped out at point guard, suffered a preseason knee injury and never returned. With all those woes, the team needed more from Ruttles than it did. But, to be fair, she didn't get a lot of inside help this past season. And, while the Griffs have plenty of height on the roster, there isn't a lot of inside athleticism. What little athleticism the team had up front came from 5-11 junior college transfer Ashley Wilkes (7.0 points, 4.5 rebounds), but just not on a consistent enough basis.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The Griffs will probably go back to the future. The program that, not so long ago, ruled with its three-point shooting ability will probably rely heavily on the long-range attack again as Morabito and Hoohuli will both be a year older and incoming freshman Emily Weber, a 5-7 guard from Shenedehowa High School (Clifton Park, N.Y.), will fit right in as a stellar three-point sniper. Ruttle almost assuredly will step up and if VandenBovenkamp and Lennox are fully healthy and Wilkes steps up just a little, Canisius could make significant improvements in the coming season.

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: Almost no place to go but up for a team that has every player back. This is a program that, as recently as 2008-09, looked like a serious challenger to Marist's long-time league superiority. That year the Griffs went 14-4 in league play and 24-9 overall. And, the Griffs are the MAAC's last team other than Marist to advance to the NCAA tournament (2005). But since the 24-9 mark of 2008-09, the Griffs have been 6-12 in league play for three consecutive seasons without winning more than 12 overall in any of those seasons. Still, there's enough returning talent to expect the team to finish in the upper half of the league standings, possibly as high as second or third.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

MAAC Women Have Several On Nat'l Stat Lists

Here's a look at how MAAC women's players and teams finished among the national leaders, mentioning any that finished in the top 25.

Individually ...

- Canisius' sophomore guard Ashley Durham finished seventh nationally in free-throw percentage (89.1).

- Canisius' sophomore guard Jen Morabito finished 19th in 3-point field-goal percentage (38.5).

- Loyola's junior guard Katie  Sheahin finished ninth nationally in steals (3.4 per game).

- Iona's senior guard Suzi Fregosi finished 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.14).

Teams ...

- Canisius was 6th nationally in free-throw percentage (78.0.

- Fairfield was 5th nationally in scoring defense (52.0) 18th in fewest turnovers per game (13.9) and 14th in fewest fouls per game (13.5).

- Niagara was 16th nationally in 3-point field-goal percentage (35.7).

- Manhattan was 6th nationally in fewest personal fouls per game (12.7), 14th in steals (12.1 per game), 19th in turnover margin (4.85 per game fewer than opponents) and 24th nationally in scoring defense (54.0).

- Marist was 9th nationally in fewest personal fouls per game (12.9), 13th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.08), 17th in fewest turnovers per game (13.8), 20th in 3-pointers made per game (7.0), 23rd in field-goal defense percentage (35.1) and 24th in free-throw percentage (75.3).

Many Mentions for MAAC Men Among Stat Leaders

With college basketball season over, statistical totals are also final. And, the MAAC had several prominent mentions among national leaders.

Here are how MAAC men's players and teams finished statistically, with mentions to any that finished in the top 25 nationally.

Individually ....

- Iona's senior guard Scott Machado led the nation in assists at 9.9 per game. Machado was also one of just 30 players nationally to record a triple-double this season, and he also finished fourth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.03).

- Siena's junior forward O.D. Anosike led the nation in rebounds with 12.5 per game. He was also second nationally in double-doubles (23).

- Iona's senior forward Mike Glover was second nationally in field-goal percentage (63.7 percent).

- Manhattan's sophomore forward Rhamel Brown was 20th nationally in blocked shots (2.47 per game).

- Manhattan's junior swingman George Beamon was 24th nationally in scoring (19.0).

- Canisius' junior guard Alshwan Hymes was 22nd nationally in three-pointers made per game (2.8).

Teams ...

-Iona was No. 1 nationally in scoring offense (82.9 points per game), No. 1 nationally in assists (19.3), No. 2 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.54), No. 3 in field-goal percentage (50.2), No. 14 in turnover margin (3.5 fewer turnovers per game than opponents) and No. 21 in 3-point field-goal percentage (38.7).

- Fairfield was No. 23 nationally in steals per game (8.4).

- Manhattan was 22nd nationally in blocked shots (5.0).

- Niagara was 18th nationally in turnover margin (3.3 fewer per game than opponents).

- Siena was 3rd nationally in fewest fouls per game (13.9).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Baron, Transfers Could Mean Success at Canisius

April is here, college basketball season comes to an end after tonight's NCAA women's tournament's championship game, and that means one thing ..

A time to look back, and to look ahead. Today begins the annual team-by-team report on all 10 men's and women's MAAC programs. We'll start from the bottom of this season's men's standings and work upwards. After reviewing the men's program, we'll do the same for that school's women's program (regardless of where it finished this past season). So, after doing the Canisius men first, we'll follow up with the Canisius women's review in our next post.

So, let's begin. First up ...


2011-12 RECORD: 1-17 in MAAC play, 5-25 overall.

RECAP: A season of transition for the program in just about every way possible. After losing four starters to graduation after the 2010-11 season, the Golden Griffins knew they'd be down this past year. But, they didn't expect to be this far down. Blame a little bit on the injury to all-league caliber guard Gaby Belardo, who played through the season with significant back issues. He practiced fewer than 10 times all season, and was clearly far  below his best physically. Blame, too, an effort by coach Tom Parrotta to reload for next season by bringing in three quality transfers in 6-10 center Freddie Asprilla (Kansas State), 6-10 center Jordan Heath (Robert Weslyan) and 6-3 guard Isaac Sosa (Central Florida). All are expected to be significant contributors next year ... heck, all three might be in the starting lineup. But, that didn't help things this year as the Griffs got just one victory in MAAC play (a 67-57 victory over Marist). It wasn't anywhere near enough for Parrotta to keep his job. School officials fired him the morning after Canisius lost its first-round MAAC tournament game.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A little. For instance, the emergence of junior college transfer Harold Washington (17.0 points per game), one of the most-talented backcourt performers in the league. Also, the development of Alshwyn Hymes as a premier long-range sniper (84 tree-pointers). Reserve guard Reggie Groves also bounced back well after knee woes. Freshman Josiah Heath, the 6-9 younger brother of Jordan, had flashes including back-to-back rebounding efforts of 18 and 15 in mid-season non-conference games. But, he only had one other double-figure rebounding effort other than those contests. And, 6-6 sophomore Chris Manhertz (7.0, 7.4) had a nice season as an undersized power forward while moving into the starting lineup after being a lightly used reserve as a frosh.

WHAT WENT WRONG: With the perimeter talent, Canisius should have had a better record. But, then, came the back woes of Belardo that probably cost the team a couple of wins. And, there just wasn't enough quality height. Teams just pounded the ball inside against the Griffs with great success. Canisius allowed 75.7 points per game, the worst by more than a point among conference teams and 323rd of 338 teams nationally. Other than watching Washintgon's individual achievements and Hymes' long-range accuracy, just about everything else went wrong. And, fans can justifiably question whether it was wrong to bring in three transfers, two of which (Sosa and Asprilla) only have one season of eligibility apiece, rather than traditional four-year players who could have used this past season to develop and create a better foundation for the program.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Canisius hire 58-year old Jim Baron, who was fired after 11 seasons at Rhode Island, to replace Parrotta. The good news here is that Baron has a lot to work with right away. Every player who saw significant minutes this past season returns, and the three talented transfers can all play next season. Parrotta did the shopping and, now, Baron gets to do the cooking. The result should be an on-court culinary delight, at least for a season. After that? Baron better get to recruiting right away because Belardo, Washington, Jordan Heath and Asprilla, arguably the program's best four players, will be gone after the 2012-13 season. The coming season could well be a one-hit wonder. Baron knows western New York, having played at St. Bonaventure and coaching there for nine seasons before taking over at Rhode Island. How much will Baron mean to Canisius? He is a know commodity, and will probably command the respect of his players which will be huge as he tries to fit all the pieces into a cohesive unit and salve egos. There are at least eight, if not nine, players here that could start for most MAAC teams and three or four of them might not be overjoyed about coming off the bench. As far as creating something here for the long term ... the jury is still out. Baron had four straight 20-win seasons before a 7-24 mark this past season, and one bad season was all Rhode Island needed to get rid of him despite two years remaining on his contract. Plus, he has only gone to the NCAA's twice in 25 years as a head coach.

PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: Things can't get any worse. In fact, they'll get much better. All Baron has to do is keep his players' egos in place and figure out how to find enough playing time for nine quality players, and where they all fit. Hard to tell, for sure, how things will go particularly since the three key transfers haven't been seen by most MAAC observers (including your scribe). But, if they are as good as advertised ... and Balardo's back improves ... Canisius has as much talent as any other MAAC team. The feeling here, though, is that it's difficult to incorporate so many new players into a team concept. Loyola and Manhattan will probably be the two teams expected to do the most next season, but Canisius won't be far behind contending for third, fourth or fifth in the conference. For sure, it will contend for the greatest positive turnaround of any program nationally.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Canisius Set to Name Baron As Its New Coach

The next men's basketball coach at Canisius College will be Jim Baron, who last month was fired after 11 seasons at Rhode Island.

There are a variety of interesting points to make about the Golden Griffins' decision to bring Baron aboard. So, in no  particular order:

- Baron, who turned 58 on March 20th, is believed to be the oldest individual ever hired as a MAAC coach. The closest ones your scribe can remember are Mitch Buonaguro (57 when Siena promoted him from assistant to head coach) and Jerry Welch (55 when Iona brought him in).

- The hiring probably means a greater emphasis on the men's basketball program at Canisius. No word on Baron's salary, but it is sure to be higher than what Tom Parrotta, who the school fired in early March, received. Also, there were reports that Baron, during contract negotiations, was seeking higher salaries for assistants within the program. Higher salaries, theoretically, help ensure Baron will be able to higher quality assistants and, possibly, keep them longer than he could otherwise.

Baron's reported salary at Rhode Island was a $350,000 base with attainable incentives that pushed his pay rate to close to $500,00 annually. He assuredly won't approach those numbers at Canisius.

- Baron walks into a relatively good situation. The program returns every significant player, and also has three transfers who will be eligible next year, and all three (6-foot-10 center Freddie Asprilla of Kansas State; 6-10 center Jordan Heath of Robert Weslyan and guard Isaac Sosa of Central Florida) are likely starters next season). It's not hard to envision a top-five finish within the conference for the Griffs next season.

- Baron should have western New York connections, although he's been at Rhode Island for the past 11 seasons. Prior to that he coached nine years at Saint Bonaventure, and five years before that at St. Francis (Pa.), He also graduated from St. Bona's.

- Baron's record isn't sterling, although he did have some success most notably at Rhode Island. In his 25 previous years as a head coach he has taken two teams to the NCAA tournament: St. Francis in 1991 and St. Bona's in 2000. He failed to secure an NCAA berth for Rhode Island in 11 seasons.

He had a record of 74-71 at St. Francis, of 132-131 at St. Bona's and 184-166 at Rhode Island. But, he did win at least 20 games in four consecutive seasons with the Rams, a streak that ended this past year when Rhode Island finished 7-24. He was also the only Rhode Island coach in the program's history to have three 20-loss seasons. Baron had two years remaining on his contract when Rhode Island opted to go in a different directions and replace him with former Wagner coach Danny Hurley.

Baron, according to Canisius officials, will receive a five-year contract and will be introduced at an afternoon press conference tomorrow (Tuesday).