Jibreel Faulkner in for Griffs, Raven Owen out

By Nick Veronica

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Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon announced this week the addition of 6-foot-8 forward Jibreel Faulkner, a JUCO transfer with three years of eligibility remaining.

Faulkner would’ve filled the Griffs’ 13th and final scholarship, but the team paired his announcement with news that guard Raven Owen is transferring out of Canisius after all, bringing Witherspoon back down to 12 scholarship players.

Owen was named on ESPN’s list of transferring players back in June, but the team said at the time Owen was enrolled in summer classes and hadn’t transferred. He played in three games as a freshman.

Only six players from last year’s roster are still with the team.

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Faulkner, a Washington, D.C. native, comes to Canisius from San Jacinto Junior College in Pasadena, Texas. He began his collegiate career at Division I Cal State Northridge in 2014-15, but was one of six players who didn’t play all season amid a reported academic scandal that resulted in a school-imposed postseason ban, though the team never confirmed that any individual player was involved in wrongdoing.

Last season at San Jacinto, Faulkner averaged 4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. When he was in high school, the Washington Post wrote that he was “one of the best defensive players in the city.”

Faulkner was connected to Witherspoon’s staff through assistant coach Chris Hawkins, who recruited Faulkner out of high school when he was an assistant at Radford.

Here’s how the roster looks now:

Guards: Kassius Robertson, Chris Atkinson, Kiefer Douse, Malik Johnson, Isaiah Reese, Spencer Foley.

Forwards: Phil Valenti, Jermaine Crumpton, Selvedin Planincic, Ronnie Gombe, Dantai St. Louis, Jibreel Faulkner.

(Foley, who’s 6-foot-7, has been listed both as a shooting guard and a small forward. He’ll likely be a swingman who can play both positions, but the Griffs roster lists him as a guard.)

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Big 4 Classic throwback jersey options, ranked

By Nick Veronica

Western New York’s four Division I basketball programs announced Tuesday that they’ll meet downtown this season for another edition of the Big 4 Basketball Classic.

Fans also have the opportunity this year to vote on which throwback jersey they’d like to see their team wear.

Here’s a look at all three options for each school, along with my picks. Feel free to disagree.

UB

UB throwback options

I like the simple blue and white color scheme of the 1980s jerseys, but the gaps in the script font bother me.

Both of the other two options include red stripes. I’m not wild about incorporating red into a UB jersey, though it does give the uniform a nice Buffalo feel, even if it says “Bills” more than “UB.”

Between the 1970s jersey and the 1990s jersey, the triple stripe on the ’70s jersey really screams throwback to me. I’m a fan of the UB logo on the ’90s shorts, but I’m going with the ’70s unis here.

Verdict: 1970s throwbacks. [Submit your vote here]

Canisius

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This one, to me, is a no-doubter: Bring back the 1980s Lakers-themed jersey.

The 1990s jersey is sharper. I love the lettering. It’s very ’90s. The S’s remind me of Star Wars for some reason and the striping is better than the 80’s jersey.

But the 1980s jersey is just awesome. Seeing Ray Hall’s No. 30 with the Lakers font brings back a time when Canisius basketball was big. I know the 55 is Michael Meeks’ jersey, but somehow Hall’s 30 means more. Maybe that one also gets a boost since Mike Smrek, who played for Canisius in the ’80s, also went on to win two NBA titles with the actual Lakers.

The ’50s jerseys aren’t bad, but they’re a little too plain for me. They would, however, make awesome tanks if the school wanted to give them out to students at a game.

Verdict: 1980s throwbacks. [Submit your vote here]

Niagara

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Big fan of the NU eagle logo on the 1978-82 shorts, but the top doesn’t do it for me. The number looks too big and the yellow border feels weird.

Conversely, I really like the top on the ’84-’88 jersey, but don’t care for the NU logo on the shorts. “Purple Eagles” is a lot of letters to stack on top of each other, but it works here.

But for Niagara I’m picking the 1970s throwback. I have no complaints about it; it’s simple and very clean. The striping isn’t over the top. The lowercase scripts feels super 1970s and apparently I like that. It’s sharp.

Verdict: 1970s throwbacks. [Submit your vote here]

St. Bonaventure

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So, these jerseys look kind of similar.

The 1960-61 jersey has a standard, boring font, but it’s a clean and serviceable jersey. I like the font better on the 1969-70 jersey, but the double stripes on the top don’t match the stripes on the on the shorts.

The yellow trim on the ’76-’77 jersey works better than the yellow on the Niagara jersey, and it’s similar to the color the Bonnies still accent with today. “St. Bonaventure” has to be shrunk down so it can fit across the jersey, but I don’t hate it. I guess I’d give this jersey the edge over the ’60-’61 jersey, but I could be talked into either.

Verdict: 1976-77 throwbacks, by a hair. [Submit your vote here]

 

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The Big 4 doubleheader returns Dec. 17

By Nick Veronica

The Big 4 Basketball Classic returns to First Niagara Center on Dec. 17, putting all four of Western New York’s Division I basketball teams under one roof on the same day.

St. Bonaventure and Niagara open the event at 1 p.m., with UB and Canisius to follow. That game will be Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon’s first matchup against his former school.

The event marks the fifth time all four teams will get together in downtown Buffalo. They played in 1996, 1997 and 1998, but the event then lapsed until November 2014. There was no event last season.

Teams will again wear throwback jerseys for the event, though this time they will be jerseys the team previously wore instead of Buffalo Braves-themed throwbacks (pictured above). Fans can vote for the jersey they want their team to wear via each school’s website.

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Vote: Buffalo Canisius Niagara St. Bonaventure
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Tickets, good for both games, start at $25, with floor seats starting at $35. They are available through Tickets.com, at the First Niagara Center Box Office or by phone at 1-888-223-6000.

UB beat Canisius at First Niagara Center in 2014, 72-57, while St. Bonaventure beat Niagara, 74-59.

Canisius basketball to face Kentucky

By Nick Veronica

72148972005Canisius men’s basketball team will play a game against national powerhouse Kentucky on Nov. 13.

The game at Rupp Arena in Lexington is part of a tournament called the Bluegrass Showcase. Each team in the event will play four games. Canisius is expected to play three of those on the road and host one at the Koessler Athletic Center.

The other teams in the event, according to a promotional video put out by Kentucky’s team Twitter account, are Duquesne, Cleveland State and Tennessee-Martin.

UPDATE: Canisius is at Cleveland State on Nov. 15, at Duquesne Nov. 18, and hosting UT-Martin on Nov. 21.

[RELATED: How’s Witherspoon’s roster looking?]

Kentucky went 27-9 last season and earned a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats nearly completed an undefeated season in 2015, losing only to Wisconsin in the national championship game.

UB played at Kentucky in November 2014 and performed admirably against country’s top-ranked team.

No word yet on the rest of Canisius’ nonconference schedule.

Canisius’ all-time penalty minutes leader becomes NHL ref

By Nick Veronica

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MacDougall at Canisius

Former Canisius hockey player Peter MacDougall will be one of four new NHL referees next season, according to Scouting the Refs.

MacDougall, 30, graduated from Canisius in 2010 and left as the program’s all-time leader in penalty minutes, scoring eight goals and racking up 398 PIMs in 128 games. The forward was the team captain in his junior and senior seasons.

After Canisius, MacDougall played two years for the Columbus Cottonmouths in the Southern Professional Hockey League. The Lumsden, Saskatchewan native recorded more than 100 penalty minutes in both seasons there.

Pro Hockey News did a story about MacDougall becoming a ref in 2012. Scouting the Refs wrote that MacDougall spent the last three seasons working the ECHL, earning an appearance in the Kelly Cup Finals last season, and also worked some AHL games.

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(I checked for you, MacDougall only picked up a two-minute penalty for boarding during the RIT brawl game)

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Starting salary for an NHL ref is reportedly $165,000, while linesmen start at $110,000.