With the first round of summer classes and workouts set to begin this week, new Canisius basketball coach Jim Baron has his coaching staff set and has one scholarship left unclaimed.
Jermaine Johnson (Richmond, Va.) has all his paperwork in and is set to be a Griff next season. The left-handed point guard was reported to be recruited by a handful of teams in the Southern Conference while playing at St. Christopher’s School. He’s small — listed at 5-foot-10, 150 pounds — but quick. One person who saw him practice when he visited Canisius said he “makes Harold [Washington] look slow.”
Johnson tweeted his status last week. His highlight video can be found here (jersey #3).
Phil Valenti, a 6-7 forward from Aquinas Institute (Rochester), was a commit under Tom Parrotta who will still come to Canisius to play for Coach Baron. The school has not received his National Letter of Intent yet but says he is coming and will take Marial Dhal’s scholarship.
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported Valenti “did think about choosing another school,” but ultimately decided to stay committed to Canisius. Baron began his career at Aquinas and reaching out to Valenti is said to be one of the first things he did after taking the job. Valenti is on Twitter @pvalenti_23.
Jacobby Bledsoe is a 5-9 point guard from Indiana who tweeted he was coming to Canisius a week before Johnson committed but has not signed an NLI. He is reported to have offers from several schools.
Shortly before announcing his decision to play for the Griffs, he tweeted he was eating lunch with the mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown, and after he thanked everyone for congratulating him on signing. Here’s his highlight video from after junior year.
Baron’s coaching staff will be filled out by Pat Clarke, Fred Dupree and Mike Mennenga.
Clarke was on Baron’s staff at Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure before that. Dupree is a former Griff who played on the last Canisius team to go to the NCAA Tournament in 1996 and has been coaching at the College of Charleston. Mennenga has been an assistant at Buffalo, Iowa State and Providence College, and was seen on the sidelines recently as an analyst for Time Warner.
N.C. State assistant Levi Watkins was offered a position on the staff but turned it down to remain in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Every assistant coach from Parrotta’s staff was given an interview, but none were retained. Rob Norris has accepted an assistant coaching position with Eastern Michigan’s women’s team. There has been no news yet on Parrotta being hired and his house is still on the market.
Official announcements on recruits and coaches are expected within the next week.
With Valenti, Johnson and Bledsoe coming in, Baron has one scholarship remaining to award for next season. Dhal was the only senior to graduate this year, but Gaby Belardo, Franklin Milian and David Santiago chose to leave the program after the coaching change was announced. The athletic department said Canisius’ compliance office has handled queries on all three players.
The school could not comment on the status of Niagara Falls junior Jermaine Crumpton, who reportedly withdrew his verbal commitment after the coaching change.
The conference schedule will come out near Labor Day and the nonconference lineup should be out around July. Both UB and St. Bonaventure will visit the Koessler Athletic Center next year while the Griffs plan to return to Las Vegas for another meeting with UNLV. Canisius also owes a return game to Maryland-Baltimore County while Boston University, UMKC and Longwood come to Buffalo. Canisius will be on the road for the ESPN BracketBuster game.
More on Jim Baron’s hiring.