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)

UB announces 2014-15 nonconference basketball schedule, Bulls visit two Final Four teams

By Nick Veronica

ublogoUB announced its nonconference basketball schedule Wednesday morning, including games at Kentucky and Wisconsin, Final Four teams a season ago. Both are big pulls for second-year coach Bobby Hurley.

As agreed upon last year, UB and Canisius will play another game downtown at the First Niagara Center, on Nov 29. UB travels to Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure on Dec. 3 and hosts Niagara Dec 19.

This year’s opponents combined to finish 217-212 in 2013-14.

Full nonconference schedule
(“vs.” games are home, “at” games are away, last year’s record in parenthesis)

Nov. 14 vs. South Dakota State (19-13, 10-4 Summit)

Nov. 16 at Kentucky (29-11, 12-6 SEC, national runners-up)*

Nov. 18 at Texas-Arlington (15-17, 9-9 Sun Belt)*

Nov. 21. vs. Montana State (14-17, 9-11 Big Sky)*

Nov. 25 at Grand Canyon (15-15, 10-6 WAC)*

Nov. 29 vs. Canisius at First Niagara Center  (23-13, 14-6 MAAC)

Dec. 3 at St. Bonaventure (18-15, 6-10 Atlantic 10)

Dec. 7 at Robert Morris (22-14, 14-2 Northeast)

Dec. 16 vs. Drexel (16-14, 8-8 Colonial)

Dec. 19 vs. Niagara (7-26, 3-17 MAAC)

Dec. 28 at Wisconsin (30-8, 12-6 Big Ten, Final Four participant)

Dec. 30 at Binghamton (7-23, 4-12 America East)

Jan. 3 vs. Cornell (2-26, 1-13 Ivy)

*Part of a tournament

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Billy Baron and Javon McCrea’s NBA Draft outlook

By Nick Veronica

Canisius’ Billy Baron and UB’s Javon McCrea have spent the last month flying across the country, giving workouts to as many NBA teams as possible.

If either player was able to impress a club, he’ll find out tonight during the NBA Draft (7 p.m., ESPN).

While the most likely scenario is that both players go undrafted, that’s not the end of the road for either of their professional dreams. Both Baron and McCrea, the MAAC and MAC players of the year, respectively, could get a look in the NBA Summer League, where they’d have additional opportunities to prove they can play at the next level.

“I know I made a pretty good impression on a few teams so we’ll just leave it up to that,” Baron said in a recent interview with Big 4 Talk’s Johnathan Snyder. “If I don’t get drafted, it’s not everything in the world,” Baron added. “There are many routes to the NBA, it’s not just on Thursday.”

“With the NBA, you never know what’s gonna happen,” McCrea told WGRZ. “I hope my name’s called, and if not, I just have to work harder throughout the summer to make sure I’m playing in November.”

Baron worked out for 10 teams — one-third of the league — prior to the draft (Chicago, Atlanta, Utah, Milwaukee, New York, Cleveland, Houston, Washington, San Antonio and Detroit), while McCrea auditioned for seven (Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas, Toronto, Memphis and Philadelphia) after a good showing at the Portsmouth Invitational, which Baron opted not to attend.

McCrea was linked to the Philadelphia 76ers late in a recent ESPN mock draft, if you’re looking for a guess on where he might end up. (You have to be an Insider to see the full mock, but Hustle Belt wrote about it here.) Philadelphia has an absurd five second-round draft picks, so I’m guessing that would make them less hesitant to go off the board a bit for a player like McCrea.

Baron’s most likely destination, if you’re trying to connect the dots, is the Detroit Pistons. Their general manager, Jeff Bower, coached at Marist last year and is a big fan of Baron’s game. Their coach, Stan Van Gundy, is a former Canisius assistant and a graduate of Brockport. He visited campus two years ago and met with Baron and the team.

(Above: Stan Van Gundy at Canisius)

If you’re thinking these two have forgotten about Canisius now that they’re in the pros, think again. Jordan Heath worked out with the Pistons Wednesday and posted on Instagram that he was looking forward to Summer League. If he’s on their radar, you can bet Baron is too.

Detroit only has one draft pick (38th overall), so I don’t see them using it on Baron, but they could go after him later.

Baron’s agent, B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group, is a former Chicago Bulls point guard who also represents Derek Rose (Chicago), Al Horford (Atlanta), JaVale McGee (Denver), Gerald Henderson (Charlotte), Omer Asik (traded from Houston to New Orleans Wednesday night), Jason Terry (Sacramento) and several others.

McCrea’s agent, Mike Kneisley of The Neustadt Group, also represents Shelvin Mack of Atlanta and Darius Miller of New Orleans.

If Baron made it to the NBA, he would be the first Canisius player in the league since Mike Smrek retired in 1992. McCrea could become just the second UB player to make the NBA (Sam Pellom, 1979-83) and the school’s first draft pick. The only Big Four player currently in the NBA is St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson, who was selected 19th overall by Orlando in 2012.