Canisius’ Groves suspended indefinitely by coach

Reggie Groves is averaging 6.0 points and 2.6 assists in nearly 30 minutes per game.

Reggie Groves has been suspended indefinitely from the Canisius men’s basketball team for academic reasons, the school’s athletic department told reporters before Friday night’s game after Groves did not participate in warm-ups.

Head coach Tom Parrotta said after the game that Groves is not academically ineligible by NCAA standards but that he chose to suspend the sophomore himself until he gets some “favorable response” from the academic side of campus.

Parrotta spoke about Groves for the first 5 ½ minutes of his 11-minute press conference after Canisius’ 78-66 loss to Manhattan. The entire discussion is transcribed below, with notable points bolded.

Every time Groves comes up in a post-game conference, Parrotta finds a way to mention that Groves has had three knee operations and that his knee (and subsequently, agility and effectiveness) is not what it was when Groves was brought in as a recruit. Keep in mind that Division I scholarships are one-year, renewable contracts, which any coach of any sport may choose not to offer any returning player; a fact that Parrotta knows and could possibly be considering as he discusses his 23-year-old sophomore.

  • Parrotta was informed of the situation when a professor contacted him.
  • Groves was suspended by Parrotta, not the NCAA.
  • The issue is limited to one class, not several.
  • Parrotta would not say when Groves would be back, only that he would need to “get some favorable response back from some academic folks to be able to have that conversation to move forward.”
  • It was especially important to Parrotta that the standards remain strict during a losing season (recall that the program receives national recognition for having all of its players graduate with Master’s degrees under Parrotta).
  • Parrotta used Groves as an example for his new recruits who have to sit out this season (Freddy Asprilla, Issac Sosa, Jordan Heath) to show them “this is how we do things.”
  • Groves watched the game in street clothes from the stands near corner of the gym. When asked why he wasn’t suiting up, he said “I’m on punishment.”

The Buffalo News’ Rodney McKissic opened the press conference asking about the status of Reggie Groves.

Tom Parrotta: He is going to take some time away to focus on academics. I’m glad you brought it up because we have a pretty high standard here. We’ve had unbelievable success in the classroom and you have to have certain things in place that guys have to follow through with. It’s simply one of those things that if you get those priorities out of whack a little bit … it’s always going to be academics here, then it’s going to be basketball, then it’s going to be social, and if any of those things get intertwined, I have to step in and make sure they get realigned in the right way. Nothing serious, just is a matter of not taking care of business in the classroom. It was one class and we nipped it and I said this is not a road we’re going to go down, especially in the midst of a season where you are struggling, and it’s one of those bridge-years where we have a program in place, there’s always going to be a program in place, and those same conditions are always going to apply to everyone, win, lose or draw. That’s why we have a strong program, to be able to get through a year like this, because we have a lot to look forward to, we really do. When we’re at full strength, meaning in a year from now with a lot of different folks, we’re going to be okay. But I’m not going to let anybody get those priorities out of whack – that will never be the case here.

McKissic followed up, asking how long Groves will be out for.

TP: What I said to Reggie is, ‘this is not the time for you to be around. Get your stuff together academically.’ He’s going to get together with some academic folks and kind of square away some things, and we’re not talking about three, four, five classes, we’re talking about a class. But I want to get some favorable response back from some academic folks to be able to have that conversation to move forward. That’s kind of how I left it. I didn’t give it much thought because I act on those things pretty quickly when it comes to academics … Let’s face it guys, Reggie is someone who’s had three knee operations – and I mean this in all due respect because he’s a really good kid – his knee is not nearly where it was when he first got here. So he’s very, very limited.

I asked if Groves violated an NCAA rule or if it was one of Parrotta’s team rules.

TP: Oh, no, no, no. [Not NCAA.] If I was to say if it was a major thing or minor thing, it’s minor. Things are nipped here when they’re minor so they don’t turn into major. This is the time to step up and make sure the conditions for your program are very much adhered to. And that’s what it was. Nothing serious. He’s not cooperating in one class. When you’re a student-athlete here, you get noticed. So if the professor reaches out and says he’s not carrying his weight in this class, I intervene. And I intervened.

I asked Parrotta to clarify if a professor had come to him about the incident.

TP: Well, yeah. That’s the relationship I have with folks here. And that’s a good thing. That’s how I want it, too. Because I have a very good reputation here as far as academics are concerned. So I want to know everything. We check every class. Every class that these guys go to we check. … If they’re not where they’re supposed to be or doing what they’re supposed to do, I find out about it. And that’s our program. That’s why we’re national news. Not for wins and losses this year, but for doing things the right way. Our guys have more degrees that you can shake a stick at. That’s how it’s done. I’m sending a message to the [transfers] that are sitting out, because they’re new here: This is how we do things. Because they’re all going to get their degrees.

Beamon dominant for Manhattan in tale of two halves

Gaby Belardo continues to push through a back injury, tweeting earlier this week that his back needs “a miracle.”

Canisius didn’t win Friday night on its home court against the Manhattan Jaspers – didn’t come close to winning, really, falling 78-66 – but after being dominated by Niagara and Rider start to finish last week, a game in which Canisius played a good first half was an improvement.

The first 20 minutes might be something Canisius can build off in the future. The defense was adequate – another improvement – and the offense made shots, led by 14 points from Alshwan Hymes and 10 from Gaby Belardo. An early 11-1 run put the Griffs ahead, and they even showed some of that resiliency thing good teams have, fending off pushes from Manhattan to keep the lead for the remainder of the half.

Coach Tom Parrotta opened the game in a four guard look, opting for smaller, quicker players who were able to hit 3-pointers and get penetration.

“If I was playing us,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said, “I think that’s a very sound strategy and a good philosophy. We worry about our pressure in our zone, probably [for them] to go small, more skilled guys, and I think that hurt us early in the game.”

Forwards Josiah Heath and Kevin Bleeker played only four minutes combined in the first half (and only nine total) as freshman Franklin Milian earned his first career start while Reggie Groves serves an indefinite suspension Parrotta imposed for academic reasons.

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Canisius’ Groves suspended indefinitely by coach
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Canisius hit over 40 percent of its shots in the first half and took a 35-33 lead into the locker room. Parrotta came into the game winning exactly 70 percent of games when his team led at halftime, but the Griffs have a tendency to get tired in the second half and fall off.

That’s exactly what happened Friday night, and then some. The Jaspers put on a press that pushed tired Canisius players into bad shots and turnovers while their best player, George Beamon, took command.

Masiello said he got on Beamon, his leading scorer, so hard in the locker room at halftime that he thought other players may not have been able to handle it. But the junior responded, going up, over and around Canisius defenders for 24 points in the second half alone to finish with a season-high 33.

“Beamon, he’s a terror,” Parrotta said. “I thought they wore us down. I thought that was clearly what happened out there.”

Belardo issued the same sentiment, that the Griffs’ lack of depth was cause for tired players who didn’t play to potential down the stretch. Hymes only made one shot after his 14-point first half and all five of Belardo’s turnovers came in the second half. The game was out of reach before Harold Washington finally got his scoring going. He finished with 16 points but had four turnovers in the first half and three more in the second.

“They came at us and we stopped playing hard,” Belardo said. “Me and Harold, for being the main two point guards on this team, he can’t have seven turnovers and I can’t have five. Me and Harold have to do a better job by taking care of the ball better.”

The Jaspers pushed their lead to as many as 16 at 69-53 with 5:31 to go, making it a 60-35 turnaround since the Griffs’ 11-1 first-half run that put them up 18-9.

Rarely-used David Santiago was another beneficiary of Groves’ suspension, logging 18 minutes of action. He scored five points in the game’s final 45 seconds to put Canisius over 65 points for the just the second time in 2012. Without his layup with 11 seconds to go, Friday night would have been the fourth men’s-women’s doubleheader out of five this season in which the Canisius women’s team outscored the men’s team.

Canisius basketball crashing to rock bottom?

When Iona and Fairfield traveled to Buffalo early in December, Canisius coach Tom Parrotta commented on how it might be good just to get the league’s juggernauts out of the way, referring to the two  not as the best and second-best teams in the league, but as 1A and 1B.

Now, eight weeks later, the Fairfield Stags (5-3) look up from fourth place while the Iona Gaels, which blew an 18-point lead at Siena last weekend, cling to their share of the conference lead. At 7-2, Iona is in a three-way tug-of-war for first place with Loyola Maryland and Manhattan, both of whom visit the Koessler Athletic Center this weekend.

Griffs, meet 1C and 1D.

A meeting with the unlikely league-leaders (Loyola was a distant third in the MAAC’s preseason poll; Manhattan was eighth) is the last thing Canisius needs. The team is sliding worse than a freshman driver in a snowstorm and shows no signs of regaining control.

One year removed from celebrating its first season in a decade without a losing record, Canisius is now 11 games below .500 before the end of January and needs to win out the remainder of its schedule to break even in-conference.

The Griffs (4-15, 1-9 MAAC) were thoroughly embarrassed on their home court last Thursday by the Purple Eagles, whose lineup of freshmen and sophomores showed the sellout crowd of 2,196 what a group of promising recruits looks like.

Gaby Belardo started the game red hot. It looked like it could be the beginning of one of those Canisius-Niagara rivalry performances where one player takes his game to another level and steals the show. Three minutes and 13 seconds in, he already had 10 points and the Griffs led 12-4.

Then they forgot to play the rest of the half.

Marvin Jordan came off the bench for Niagara and turned the tide with 12 straight points – four consecutive 3-pointers – during a 12-minute stretch of basketball when Niagara tripled Canisius, 33-11.

The Griffs made things interesting in the second half, as they tend to, cutting it to a two-possession game at 58-53 with 5:45 to go. But after spending themselves to close the gap, Canisius – whose bench played only 18 minutes and was outscored by Niagara’s, 25-0 – ran out of gas.

Alshwan Hymes, usually stoic, was visibly upset on the court and spoke at length about one of his team’s overarching problems in the press conference.

“I think that’s something that shows up in a lot of our games: We get down early by a lot of points and we end up coming back, getting it to single digits, and then it comes down to a string of plays [where] we just can’t convert on the offensive end and can’t get stops on the defensive end and it goes right back,” he said. “By that time it’s too late. Those strings where we get the score down to single digits and we start coming back, people can see how good of a team we can be. Once we can put 40 minutes of that together, we’ll be at the top of this league.”

Parrotta said that his team has “some holes to fill, obviously” and “until we figure out ways to score points from the guys who need to score points, we’re going to find ourselves in this type of position.”

He may not have expected that position to come again so soon, just three days later when the Griffs traveled to Rider.

Canisius was held scoreless for the first five minutes while Rider built a 10-0 lead. A 3-pointer from Belardo with 7:44 left in the first half brought the Blue and Gold back within one possession at 19-16, but the Broncs then ripped off a 15-0 run that the Griffs would never recover from.

Canisius was nearly doubled at halftime, 43-22, and the 21-point deficit matched its largest at the break this season. The Broncs literally were twice as good as Canisius in the first half, making double the amount of field goals (12 to six) and missing only half as many (13 to 26).

A 12-0 run in the second half put Rider up 30 points, 79-49, before it coasted to a 24-point win. Harold Washington hit 9 of 15 shots to finish with 22 points and five assists while Belardo hit 7 of 15 for 19 points. Hymes finished with 10 points but made only two of his 14 3-point attempts.

Rider came into the game ahead of Canisius in the MAAC standings but both teams had had their share of struggles this season, losing 14 games apiece. Yet, even on a three-game losing streak, it was Tommy Dempsey’s squad that came out ready to play and improved to 4-5 in the MAAC and 7-14 overall.

How far have the Griffs fallen? The Relative Performance Index (RPI), one of the few measures that effectively compares all of the country’s 344 Division I teams against each other, ranks Canisius 329th overall – 15th last. The teams Canisius beat this year are no great shakes, either: First was Longwood (6-13, RPI 301), then South Dakota (4-12, 279), then Binghmaton (0-20, 343) and finally Marist (7-12, 278). It’s not even that the Griffs have played tough competition – their strength of schedule ranks 327th.

Think of the RPI in another way: Imagine that each team in the country represents one mile (the distance from the KAC to Lyons Hall and back). If the Griffs stood on their court, the nation’s Number One team in the RPI (Syracuse) would have its feet planted in the Atlantic Ocean near Atlantic City, N.J., while the worst-ranked team in the country (UC Davis) would be so close that it wouldn’t even reach Niagara’s campus.

Griffs match last season’s loss total in blowout

After being embarrassed by Niagara on its home court Thursday, the Canisius basketball team at least did its fans a favor Sunday afternoon by going on the road for its next beat down.

The Rider Broncs dominated Canisius start to finish in Lawrenceville, N.J., pushing their lead to as many as 30 in the second half before downing the Griffs 89-65. The loss dropped Tom Parrotta’s team to 1-9 in MAAC play and 4-15 overall, matching their loss total from all of last season.

Brandon Penn had 25 points and Novar Gadson had 22 as the Broncs knocked down half of their field goals (29 for 58) while holding Canisius to 34.9 percent from the floor and 29.4 percent from behind the arc.

The Griffs were held scoreless for the first five minutes while Rider built a 10-0 lead. A 3-pointer from Gaby Belardo with 7:44 left in the first half brought Canisius back within one possession at 19-16, but the Broncs then ripped off a 15-0 run that the Griffs would never recover from.

Canisius was nearly doubled at halftime, 43-22, and the 21-point deficit matched its largest at the break this season. The Broncs literally were twice as good as Canisius in the first half, making double the amount of field goals (12 to six) and missing only half as many (13 to 26).

A 12-0 run in the second half put Rider up 30 points, 79-49, before it coasted to a 24-point win. Harold Washington hit 9 of 15 shots to finish with 22 points and five assists while Gaby Belardo hit 7 of 15 for 19 points. Alshwan Hymes finished with 10 points but made only two of his 14 3-point attempts.

The Broncs came into the game ahead of Canisius in the MAAC standings but both teams had had their share of struggles this season, losing 14 games apiece. Yet, even on a three-game losing streak, it was Tommy Dempsey’s squad that came out ready to play and improved to 4-5 in the MAAC and 7-14 overall. Tom Parrotta’s Griffs fell 11 games below .500 (4-15) and need to win out to match their conference record from last season (9-9).

Conference championship picks

No Brees vs. Rodgers matchup. No Tebow. The NFL playoffs trudge on.

Those of us without teams left to root for are hoping San Francisco and Baltimore win to set up a meeting of their coaches — brothers Jim and John Harbaugh — in the Super Bowl.

I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. Home teams are cruising in this year’s playoffs (7-1) while Baltimore has struggled on the road this season (4-4), with losses to San Diego, Seattle, Jacksonville and Tennessee.

The Ravens’ only two touchdowns last week came off turnovers when Joe Flacco had great field position: an interception that started Baltimore 34 yards out and a fumbled punt that put Flacco on the Houston 2-yard line. Playing the Patriots in New England is a much more daunting task than playing against T.J. Yates at home.

New York-San Francisco should be a closer game. Alex Smith, least elite of all remaining quarterbacks, is coming off a game in which he rallied his team twice in the fourth quarter to take down the Drew Brees and the mighty Saints.

The Giants, meanwhile, are rolling. Eli Manning and his receiving corps needed a Week 17 win over Dallas to get into the playoffs but are peaking at the right time, similar to the Giants’ last Super Bowl run. I’m sure Eli wouldn’t mind using Peyton’s off-year to pass his older brother in the ring category.

Baltimore at New England (-7)
Patriots

Giants at San Francisco (-3)
Giants

Playoff picks: 5-3