Lou Dunbar out, Jan Grzelinski and Isaiah Gurley in for Canisius

By Nick Veronica

Jan Grzelinski

Jan Grzelinski

Canisius finalized its 2014-15 basketball roster on Thursday, announcing the addition of guards Jan Grzelinski and Isaiah Gurley along with the departure of redshirt freshman Lou Dunbar.

Grzelinski, 20, comes to Canisius from Wroclaw, Poland, where he has been a member of the youth national program since age 16. Grzelinski stands at only 5-foot-10, 160-pounds, but averaged 10.8 points and 3.4 assists as a point guard for his hometown club WKK Wroclaw.

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Gurley is a 6-2, 185-pound shooting guard from Westinghouse Career and Technical High School in Brooklyn who averaged 16.6 points and 7.6 assists per game in last year. (No Jim Baron team is complete without a player from New York City.)

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Lou Dunbar

Lou Dunbar

Dunbar played two minutes in both exhibition games last season but redshirted and did not appear in any regular season games, giving him all four years of eligibility remaining. He is the son of former Harlem Globetrotter “Sweet Lou” Dunbar.

Here’s how the Griffs’ roster shapes up:

Guards (8)

Jeremiah Williams, senior
Jamal Reynolds, junior
Zach Lewis, sophomore
Kassius Robertson, redshirt freshman
Adam Weir, redshirt freshman
Jan Grzelinski, freshman
Isaiah Gurley, freshman
Raven Owen, freshman

Forwards (5)

Josiah Heath, senior
Kevin Bleeker, junior
Phil Valenti, sophomore
Jermaine Crumpton, redshirt freshman
Cassidy Ryan, freshman

With eight guards on the roster, several freshmen may be redshirt candidates. In two seasons as coach, Jim Baron has only played one true freshman, Zach Lewis.

Breakdown: 7 freshmen, 2 sophomores, 2 juniors, 2 seniors.

Departures: Billy Baron, Chris Manhertz, Chris Perez and Jordan Heath to graduation; Dominique Raney and Lou Dunbar to non-renewed scholarships/pursuing other opportunities.

Newcomers:  Reynolds, Owen, Ryan, Grzelinski and Gurley. (There are six departures and five newcomers because Billy Baron wasn’t using a scholarship.)

Canisius hiring assistant basketball coach to replace Mennenga

By Nick Veronica

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Canisius basketball coach Jim Baron is looking to add a full-time assistant coach to his staff following the departure of Mike Mennenga, who confirmed to IAGS that he’ll be joining Dana Altman’s staff at Oregon.

According to the job posting, responsibilities of the new coach include:

1. Recruit qualified student athletes for Canisius College Men’s Basketball Program.
2. Organize and execute individual skill instruction for players.
3. Assist with academic advisement, monitoring and development of student-athletes.
4. Develop scouting reports for opponents as assigned.
5. Market and direct the Canisius College men’s basketball camps.
6. Assist in organizing basketball events for and interact with members of the Blue and Gold Fund.
7. All other duties assigned by the head coach.

Applications are due to Baron by Sept. 10 — 52 days before the team’s first exhibition game. Division I coaching and playing experience are preferred and a bachelor’s degree is required.

The salary for the job is listed as “open,” meaning it is likely negotiable depending on experience.

Mennenga spent two years at Canisius. Before being hired by Baron, he worked with the Nike Elite Youth Basketball and CIA Bounce programs in Buffalo and Toronto, and was also a color analyst for Time Warner. Previously, he held various roles on the coaching staffs at Illinois-Chicago, Providence College, Iowa State, UB and Maine.

Mennenga is no longer listed as a coach on the Canisius site. His move was first reported by ESPN.

At the time of this job posting, Pat Clarke and Fred Dupree are Baron’s other assistants. Chuck Harris is the director of basketball operations.

(Note: It is my understanding that this line of the job posting — “Canisius College seeks a full-time Assistant Coaches for Men’s Basketball” —  is just clumsily worded and should not be interpreted to mean Canisius is looking for multiple coaches.)

Canisius goes to UMass, big-name opponents expectedly absent Griffs’ 2014-15 schedule

By Nick Veronica

CCLogobigJim Baron put a high-profile opponent on Canisius’ basketball schedule last season, and the result was an overtime thriller against Notre Dame.

But with this year’s team expected to be less competitive, the Griffs’ 2014-15 schedule is absent of a true big-name school.

Canisius’ nonconference schedule, released today, is highlighted by a trip to UMass on Dec. 13 to face Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen, who earned a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament last season. (UMass lost its first tournament game to Tennessee.)

Canisius heads to Ithaca on Nov. 26 to play Cornell and plays at Lehigh on Nov. 18. Home nonconference opponents include Vermont, Stony Brook, Holy Cross and UMKC — all return games for opponents Canisius has played in the last three seasons. Scheduling them all this year should allow Baron more freedom with his schedule in upcoming years when the team is more prepared to contend for a title.

Canisius hosts UB at the First Niagara Center on Nov. 29 in the Big 4 doubleheader, as was announced last month, and travels to St. Bonaventure on Nov. 22. Canisius goes to Niagara on Dec. 6, and the Purple Eagles come to the KAC on Tuesday, Feb. 24.

One other point worth noting (that doesn’t affect Canisius) is the early start to the MAAC schedule: Niagara and Saint Peter’s open the conference season on Nov. 20, one of the earliest MAAC start dates in history.

Canisius’ full schedule:

Sat, Nov. 1 vs.  Ryerson (Exhibition), Koessler Athletic Center
Tue, Nov. 11 vs. Daemen (Exhibition), KAC
Sat., Nov. 15 vs. Vermont, KAC
Tue., Nov. 18 at Lehigh, Bethlehem, Pa.
Sat., Nov. 22 at St. Bonaventure, Olean
Wed., Nov. 26 at Cornell, Ithaca
Sat., Nov. 29 vs. UB, First Niagara Center
Wed., Dec. 3 at Saint Peter’s, Jersey City, N.J.
Sat., Dec. 6 at  Niagara, Lewiston
Sat., Dec. 13 at Umass, Amherst, Mass.
Thu., Dec. 18 vs. Stony Brook, KAC
Sun., Dec. 21 vs. Holy Cross, KAC
Tue., Dec. 30 vs. UMKC, KAC
Fri., Jan. 2 vs. Monmouth, KAC
Sun., Jan. 4 vs. Manhattan, KAC
Thu., Jan. 8 at Marist, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Sat., Jan. 10 at Iona, New Rochelle, N.Y.
Fri., Jan. 16 vs. Siena, KAC
Sun., Jan. 18 vs. Iona, KAC
Thu., Jan. 22 at Fairfield, Bridgeport, Conn.
Sat., Jan. 24 at Rider, Lawrenceville, N.J.
Fri., Jan. 30 vs. Quinnipiac, KAC
Sun., Feb. 1 vs. Marist, KAC
Fri., Feb. 6 at Manhattan, Riverdale, N.Y.
Sun., Feb. 8 at Monmouth, West Long Branch, N.J.
Fri., Feb. 13 vs. Rider, KAC
Sun., Feb. 15 vs. Saint Peter’s, KAC
Thu., Feb. 19 at  Siena, Albany
Sat., Feb. 21 at  Quinnipiac, Hamden, Conn.
Tue., Feb. 24 vs. Niagara, KAC
Fri., Feb. 27 vs. Fairfield, KAC

The Big 4 basketball doubleheader returns to the First Niagara Center

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The Big 4 logo for the event, used with permission.

By Nick Veronica

Niagara and St. Bonaventure will play at the First Niagara Center on Nov. 29 before the Canisius-UB basketball game, setting up the first true Big 4 doubleheader since 1998.

The event, confirmed today in an official release, is being branded as the Big 4 Basketball Classic.

“We are excited to be able to bring a true Big 4 doubleheader to First Niagara Center,” Canisius athletic director Bill Maher said in the release. “We believe this will be a must-see event for sports fans across Western New York.”

Niagara-Bonaventure is at 2 p.m., followed by Canisius-UB at (roughly) 4:15. The event is the Saturday following Thanksgiving, which should help ticket sales since many fans will already be back in town.

Tickets start at $20 and are good for both games; floor seats will be $30.

Canisius, UB and Niagara played downtown last December in a doubleheader that also served as the First Niagara Center’s mandatory dress rehearsal for hosting the NCAA Tournament. St. Bonaventure was not at the event, as Niagara hosted Davidson instead (Canisius beat UB 69-55, Niagara beat Davidson 83-72).

The first Big 4 doubleheader played downtown was in 1996. The event continued in 1997 and 1998 but has not been recreated with all four teams in the last 16 years.

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Javon McCrea signs with Germany’s Medi Bayreuth

By Nick Veronica

Former UB Bull Javon McCrea will join Medi Bayreuth of the German First Division, the club announced today.

“I think [McCrea] is the player exactly who has been missing in our team,” Bayreuth coach Michael Koch said in the release, through Google translate.

Bayreuth was promoted to the first division in 2010 after winning a title in the German second division. The team finished 14th out of 18 last season with 11 wins, 21 losses and two overtime losses.

The release said Koch came to the United States to find a new center and selected McCrea, the MAC Player of the Year. Koch said he watched McCrea play in Las Vegas Summer League.

Here’s Koch’s full quote on McCrea, via Google Translate:

Javon is 201 cm certainly not the greatest player, his lack of inches in height, he makes up with an enormous range of his arms up for it. He is very agile and powerful jumper, which are benefits that fit right into our game. I’ve seen him play not only in Las Vegas but could also talk to him, which is very important to me. The impression I got from Javon is very good and I think he is the player exactly who has been missing in our team. A look at his stats shows that he is tremendously versatile. He gets in, but also has a good eye for his teammates. He is rebounding strongly and can also clean under their own basket. In short, he is exactly what we need.

McCrea’s contract runs through the 2014-15 season, according to the release.

(And re: the header picture – yes, that’s really the team’s logo)