MAAC Tournament Gameday: 5-Canisius vs. 4-Monmouth

MAAC Tournament quarterfinals: 4-Monmouth vs. 5-Canisius,
2:30 p.m., Times Union Center, Albany


By Nick Veronica

After earning a surprising fifth-seed in the MAAC, Canisius meets No. 4 Monmouth today in the quarterfinals.

Canisius Golden Griffins: 16-13 overall, 11-9 MAAC, picked 10th in preseason poll. RPI: 171. BPI: 161. KenPom: 176. Streak: W1.

Monmouth Hawks: 17-14 overall, 13-7 MAAC, picked sixth in preseason poll. RPI: 194. BPI: 182. KenPom: 185. Streak: W1.

2015_maac_tournament_bracket_day1

Sooo… who’s gonna win? At first glance, Monmouth appears to have an edge in this matchup, given that it’s seeded higher and that it swept the season series from Canisius. But it’s certainly worth noting that Canisius fared better than Monmouth in all three national rankings listed at above. Additional, KenPom’s MAAC Tournament preview favored Canisius over Monmouth, projecting the Griffs to advance to the semifinals 51.2 percent of the time. (KenPom also gave Canisius a 19.9 percent shot of advancing to the championship game and a 9.6 percent chance of winning the whole thing. Iona, of course, is the favorite.)

[Niagara eliminated from MAAC Tournament, 71-54]

Monmouth’s King Rice is seen a slick, up-and-coming coach while Jim Baron is the savvy old vet who brings his lunch pail to work and just the job done. Both teams are known more for their defense than their offense, though Canisius has the edge in rebounding. This one could go either way, but after how the last two seasons ended for Canisius, doesn’t a third meeting with Iona feel imminent?

(What’s that? No? Hmm. Well, like I said. Toss-up.)

If it makes you feel any better, Canisius’ game notes are feeling confident:

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.56.08 PMVegas says: At the time of this writing, Vegas Insider has the game as a pick. Like I said, toss-up.

Players to watch: Monmouth guard Justin Robinson was named First Team All-MAAC by the league’s coaches after averaging 13.4 points and 3.8 assists per game, which was fourth in the conference. Deon Jones adds 12.7 ppg for the Hawks while Brice Kofane leads the team with 5.8 rebounds a night.

[Marist upsets Quinnipiac at MAAC Tournament]

Canisius is led by MAAC Third Team selection Zach Lewis, who averages 12.9 points a night but hits only 33.3 percent of his field goals (120 for 360). Forward Josiah Heath has stepped up his game since Phil Valenti’s injury, averaging 13.6 points and 10.7 rebounds since becoming the go-to forward. Heath’s improved play can also be attributed the senior’s experience, becoming the Griffs’ all-time leader in games played (127) during the final week of the regular season (breaking a record held by Frank Turner). Additionally, Jeremiah Williams has been hot, averaging 15.6 points per game over the last five games.

Series history: Season: Monmouth 2-0. All-time: Monmouth 3-1. Tournament: 0-0. Jim Baron vs. Monmouth: 7-9.

Bleeker honored: Canisius redshirt junior Kevin Bleeker was named to the MAAC’s all-academic team Friday afternoon. Rider’s Kevin Baggett was named Coach of the Year. As I said here, I would’ve voted for Baron, but expected Baggett to win.

Random player tweets: 

Bold prediction: Jim Baron gets hit with a technical foul Saturday. BONUS BOLD PREDICTION: The Tim Horton’s coffee I get before the ride to Albany will be Roll up the Rim winner. (I don’t know which is more likely.)

Score guess: Canisius has outperformed every projection this season, so I won’t pick against it now. Canisius 71, Monmouth 65.

How to follow the game: I’ll have courtside updates on Twitter and will have reactions, video and more posted here shortly after the final buzzer. The game will be available online via ESPN3. You should also send a Twitter follow to Jon Snyder and Pat Malicaro, whom I’ll be bothering with random sports trivia the entire ride down.

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Canisius basketball end of the year rundown

Head coach Tom Parrotta and the Canisius brain trust added seven new recruits for next season, with an emphasis on size. That's Parrotta on the right, and going clockwise, Director of Basketball Operations Gabe Michael (back of head), assistant coach Tim Paul (profile view), assistant coach Derrick Worrels (bald head), and associate head coach Rob Norris (middle).

There will be plenty of new faces dressed in Blue and Gold next year at the Koessler Athletic Center.

Tom Parrotta and his staff have signed seven new players for Canisius, meaning less than half of the 13 on the roster are returning members from this year’s team.

Kansas State transfer Freddy Asprilla (6-10, 280) highlights the new signing class, although he will sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Once thought to have quit college basketball for a pro career in his native Colombia, Asprilla seems to have had a change of heart.

He will be joined on the bench by Issac Sosa (6-3, 190), who transferred to Canisius from Central Florida. Sosa is another player with ties to Art Alvarez, president and CEO of the Miami Tropics, one of the top AAU basketball programs in the country. Alvarez has a good relationship with Parrotta and Canisius and had a hand in getting other players in uniform for the Griffs, such as Gaby Belardo. Also notable, but likely unrelated to his decision, is the fact that Sosa majored in finance at UCF, a program Canisius is well-known for.

Both Asprilla and Sosa will have one year of eligibility left to play in the 2012-13 season.

Other additions:

  • The Griffs add size in 6-foot-10 Dutch center Kevin Bleeker, whom Parrotta recruited while watching former Griff Frank Turner play with his pro team in the Netherlands. Bleeker is listed on the U20 roster for BV Noordkop in the Netherlands.
  • Jose Agosto comes to Canisius from Gatlinburg-Pittman High School in Tennessee, with a reputation for rebounding. Standing at 6-6, 215 pounds, Agosto appears to be similar to Elton Frazier (6-6, 208) and Tomas Vazquez-Simmons (6-7, 220), though matching their athleticism is one tall task. Of Puerto Rican decent, Agosto liked the strong Puerto Rican ties at Canisius.
  • Josiah Heath and Harold Washington are the only American recruits. Heath (6-9, 230) hails from Irondequoit High School and is arguably the best player from the Rochester area. He replaces Vazquez-Simmons as the only Western New Yorker on the roster, which was important to him because he wanted a local school where his family could watch him play. Washington (6-1, 175) is a Maryland native coming to CC after finishing his two years at Cecil College (also in Maryland), which took sixth place in the national junior college tournament this year. He was reported to be scouted by Big East school Providence and MAAC opponent Loyola.
  • The last addition to the team is Franklin Milian, who comes to Canisius from Our Savior New American School, the same high school as Marial Dhal. There seems to be little information out there about the 6-4 guard, but he’s money from behind the arc with his shirt off.

Alshwan Hymes is now Canisius' most experienced player, with 54 games played.

The Griffs knew they’d be losing five seniors to graduation. Julius Coles, Greg Logins, Rob Goldsberry, Frazier and Vazquez-Simmons leave Canisius with their names scattered across the record book. Logins, Coles and Frazier have all expressed interest in playing professionally overseas. Logins will attend an overseas combine camp and has signed with the same agent as Turner.

Freshman Ashton Khan, who was suspended earlier this year for a dorm room theft, will not return to Canisius next year and is looking for an opportunity with another school. David Santiago, who was also suspended for the theft, will be on next year’s team.

Rokas Gricius, who was set to be one of two seniors on next year’s roster, has several internship and job offers and decided not to play basketball next season. He already began work on his master’s courses this spring semester.

It is also reported that Eric Kindler will not return for the Griffs next season. He is rumored to be transferring to a school closer to his hometown of Camp Hill, Pa. Kindler’s departure has not been officially announced but the Griffs do not have any scholarships left to give.

Faced with limited playing time, Rokas Gricius opted to pursue other opportunities.

Next year’s schedule will be announced later in the summer but will include 18 MAAC games; a game in Harrisonburg, Va. against James Madison, as a return game for the 2010 BracketBuster; another meeting with Lamar University (Beaumont, Texas), who recently hired Pat Knight, son of Bob Knight who was fired by Texas Tech this season; as well as likely meetings with St. Bonaventure and UB, although a Big 4 tournament is still a few years off.

The last game in Canisius’ contract with Syracuse University was this year, but the Griffs are likely to pick up games with another top-tier school, which come with a large paycheck.

Griffs first-half report card

Canisius' own Fab Five (left to right): Rob Goldsberry, Tomas Vazquez-Simmons, Elton Frazier, Greg Logins, Julius Coles.

Don’t look now, but Canisius’ 2010-2011 men’s basketball season is already halfway over.

Through 15 games, the Griffs have compiled a record of 7-8 and are just 1-4 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play.

Surely this is not the position the program hoped to be in at this point in the season, especially in a year it has five seniors who all contribute significant minutes.

Canisius currently sits in eighth place in the MAAC, on pace to finish bottom-four in the conference for the 12th straight year.

Canisius has played well at points this season but struggles with consistency. The Griffs have the potential to win on any given night, but even head coach Tom Parrotta admits the team hasn’t played to potential.

With the second (and more important) half of the season ahead, here are the Griffs midterm grades:

Offense: B-

Canisius is third in the league in scoring average at 69.8, which puts the team in the top half of the country. However, the emergence of Alshwan Hymes as a 3-point threat is the only thing that keeps the Griffs out of C-range.

The first half against Rider last Sunday was about as well as the offense has been running all season. A shooting percentage over .500 and 20 points in the paint led to a 42-point outburst against a good team. The Griffs moved the ball well and the defense created offense.

Elton Frazier dunks in the Carrier Dome.

But over the next 20 minutes, Canisius went back to old habits. Settling for bad shots early in the shot clock is a good way to lose a lead. So is missing free throws. And giving up huge runs.

Giving up runs has been a major problem for the team. Even after getting ahead early, Canisius frequently allows huge, momentum-swinging, lead-changing runs. Five or six minutes of bad basketball is more than enough to blow a game. The defense is just as much to blame for giving up runs, but if you keep scoring then it isn’t really a run.

People in sports love talking about the “eye test”—whether or not it simply “looks good”—and that can be a good way to judge the Griffs. The half-court offense always seems lethargic and there isn’t really any killer instinct. Even against Siena’s zone last Friday, Canisius got the ball moving, but it just wasn’t moving fast enough.

The individual play isn’t there either. No players are in the top-10 in the MAAC in scoring. Elton Frazier leads the team at 11.9 points per game (ppg). Julius Coles, a Preseason Second Team All-MAAC selection who averaged 13.6 points last year, is second on the team at 11.1.

Hymes is third 10.6, and Gaby Belardo and Greg Logins are close behind at 9.9 and 9.5, respectively. Canisius could potentially have five players scoring in double-digits, but again, were talking about potential and not the real thing.

Defense: B-

The Griffs have been equally as shoddy on the defensive end as the offensive. Whatever points the unit earned against Siena, it handed right back against Rider.

Tomas Vazquez-Simmons is tied for second in MAAC history with 248 blocks, but it’s going to take more than a few blocks to start winning some basketball games. The Griffs’ 70.5 points allowed per game puts them fifth in the league and 234th in the country.

Though Canisius is thought to have decent size, a lot of the players are tall but not very wide. This difference between “big men” and “tall men” was exposed in the game against Syracuse. You can argue that Syracuse exposes weaknesses in everyone, but take the Rider game for example. Even one of the bigger men, Logins, was no match inside for Mike Ringgold.

Their size does help them rebound, which is one of the few things they do well night in and night out. The Griffs lead the MAAC in rebounding average and are 80th in the country. Not allowing second chances is especially important for stopping runs, and can help in the transition game.

Again, it goes back to the eye test. Far too often, opponents have open looks at the hoop before knocking down shots. Not sort-of open, wide open. If Division-I players have time to set their feet and look right at the rim, they are going to make shots.

Six of Canisius’ seven wins this season came when they held opponents to under 40 percent from the field. That’s not a challenge, that’s something to work on.

Coaching: C+

Marial Dhal has been a waste thus far, averaging just 4.3 minutes per game… in the ones he actually gets in to. There’s a problem when we’re getting excited over a season-high four points.

Parrotta after Canisius beat Niagara in overtime last year (the white shoes were part of a promotion).

The team is still falling into the same issues it had last season and the senior core is not as far along as one might have hoped.

Two things Tom Parrotta teams are known for are rebounding and free-throw shooting. They have rebounding. Converting from the charity stripe is another story. The team works hard at this in practice, often hitting around 80 percent, but it hasn’t translated to the games. Not only does the team struggle to get to the line (last in the conference in FTs attempted per game), once they get there, the Griffs only convert 65.7 percent of the time.

Parrotta was given an extension in the offseason to keep him with Canisius through the 2012-13 season, but the classroom aspect and potential recruiting issues played just as large a role in the decision as actual performance on the court. Graduating all seniors with master’s degrees is certainly honorable and looks great for the institution, but it doesn’t do much for the win-loss column.

The fifth-year head coach has also had trouble getting change out of his team following halftime. The second half almost always plays out like the first, for better or for worse. Parrotta’s teams have held the halftime lead 57 times in his tenure, and they went on to win 40 of those games, good for a .702 percentage.

However, when trailing at halftime, Parrotta-led teams rarely come back. When behind at halftime since 2006, Canisius’ record is 8-69. Looking at only MAAC games, the record falls to 4-42, or .087.

Over the last two seasons, Canisius has never come back to win a game after trailing by more than 10 points, but as recently as last Sunday the Griffs blew a 14-point lead.

The players certainly seem to like playing for Coach P, but alumni and fans need more.

Bench: B

The matchup between Canisius freshman Chris Manhertz and UB freshman Javon McCrea will be a good one for years to come, but first Manhertz has to get himself on the court. While McCrea is atop the country in shooting percentage, Manhertz has been limited to only six games all season with an ankle injury.

Reggie Groves.

Canisius is getting fairly good production from its bench, which scores 24.1 ppg, or 35 percent of the offense.

A few players have battled the injury bug this season, but depth is somewhat of a concern. Hymes usually comes off the bench, as does either Logins or Vazquez-Simmons. Redshirt freshman Reggie Groves has provided a spark and looks more and more confident with the ball in his hands. After those players, there are some question marks.

Dhal has played 47 minutes all season and often looks lost. Ashton Khan looks like he can finish at the hoop, but hasn’t gotten into Parrotta’s rotation. Rokas Gricius hasn’t played since Nov. 23 against UB, sometimes due to injury, but usually due to coach’s decision. Eric Kindler played in every game but one in December, but still has work to do before he can think about being a regular contributor.

Overall: C+

A team searching for an identity after Frank Turner is yet to find it, unless inconsistency is what they are going with.

Turner (left) and Belardo.

A lot of excitement surrounded Belardo before the season as many slated him the next big thing for Canisius. The main knock on Belardo’s predecessor, Turner, was his turnover issues, but thus far Belardo has followed suit.

Through 15 games, Belardo has 56 turnovers, more per game than Turner, which puts him 40th in the country. Belardo has 56 assists for an even assist/turnover ratio of 1.0., not comparable with the better guards in the league like Derek Needham (1.31), Justin Robinson (1.65) or Scott Machado (2.27).

To be fair, Belardo is seventh in the MAAC in assists per game and has done a lot of good things too. Almost every opposing coach comments about him, and twice he has scored 19 points in a game.

However, after UB showed how to eliminate Belardo from the game, opponents have watched that tape and adjusted their defense accordingly, at times stymieing the Canisius offense.

Belardo’s 19 helped power the Griffs past St. Bonaventure in the opening game of the year, but we haven’t seen any fire from the Griffs since. A few alley-oops and heated moments here and there, but no defining, coming together moment.

The MAAC is wide open this season and is there for the taking for a team with five seniors. But it’s going to take more than one win against a team above .500, which is how many Canisius has right now (Bonaventure).

The MAAC Tournament is less than 50 days away. There’s light at the end of the tunnel if the Griffs can turn this thing around, but Parrotta’s group is going to have to put the pedal to the metal for that to happen.

Stats as of 1/11/11

Hymes sets shooting record as Griffs roll Northwestern State

Alshawn Hymes is now shooting .427 from 3-point range, which puts him in the top-40 nationally.

What a difference ten days can make.

Just over a week removed from a sloppy 12-point loss to Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La., a completely different Canisius team took the court Wednesday night in Buffalo as the Griffs manhandled the Demons, 85-52, at the Koessler Athletic Center.

It was a career day for sophomore Alshawn Hymes, who set the Canisius College record for most 3-pointers in a single game, with nine.

“I came in this morning and I just felt like something hit me, like the team was ready to play,” Hymes said. “It’s something I felt it a couple games throughout the season so far, but it was just so much stronger tonight.

“I dream about [nights like this] all the time. I know how good of a team we can be, and tonight we proved we’re taking steps in the right direction.”

Hymes finished the night with 28 points, the highest single-game output from a Griff since Frank Turner put up 30 against Southern Miss on Dec. 22, 2009.

Senior Julius Coles also had a night to remember, as his 15 points put him over the 1,000-point mark for his career. He is the 31st player in school history to accomplish the feat.

The teams traded baskets early on the contest, with Canisius leading 12-11 just over five minutes into the game.

The next five-minute block was an uneasy one for Canisius supporters. The Griffs went on another one of their infamous first-half cold streaks, missing 12 consecutive shots while being outscored 10-0 over the drought.

Sophomore Gaby Belardo knocked down a jumper with exactly ten minutes to play in the half, and it was the start of the comeback. Instead of turning the ball over and committing fouls like they did in Louisiana, Canisius controlled the boards and started making shots.

Twelve points from Hymes over the next seven minutes helped back a commanding 26-2 run that put Canisius back in the driver’s seat as they went up 38-23 and never looked back.

The Griffs finished the game with 43 rebounds—21 defensive, 22 offensive. The team also had 16 steals while forcing the Demons into 29 turnovers.

Like Emilio Lopez in Mr. Deeds, Tom Parrotta is very very sneaky.

“Had we played like this down in Louisiana… it would have been a different story,” Canisius head coach Tom Parrotta said. “I think some of the guys said that tonight on the bench, ‘How did we let that happen down in Louisiana?’ ”

Even with a big lead, Parrotta stuck with his main rotation of eight players. Freshman Ashton Khan and junior Marial Dhal checked in with 2:06 left in the game and freshman Eric Kindler did the same with 1:03 to play.

Dhal didn’t collect a rebound but blocked two consecutive shots in a three-second span. Junior Rokas Gricius missed his third straight game with back spasms and freshman Chris Manhertz continued to be bothered by a bad ankle.

Canisius (6-6) shot 41.4 percent from the field while holding NSU (8-5, 1-5 road) to 33.3 percent.

Up next for Canisius is a road game at Saint Peter’s on Monday, Jan. 3. The Peacocks had won five straight games before losing star players Wesley Jenkins and Ryan Bacon to injury during Dec. 21’s game at Binghamton.

Jenkins is reported to have re-injured the same right knee he partially tore his ACL in over the summer, and Bacon is reported to have a sprained ankle. There is no official word yet on whether either player will be ready for the Canisius game, although neither played Wednesday night against Lehigh.

Jeron Belin and Nick Leon now lead the charge for Saint Peter’s. Both are good players, but this would be a great way for Canisius to make up ground in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings.

They said it

“I wish I could come up with something real positive to say about my bunch, but, you know, it’s going to be hard to find a silver lining in that. My daddy says, ‘You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.’ Y’all prolly ain’t heard that one.”
-Northwestern State head coach Mike McConathy

Star sighting

Buffalo Bills tackle Demetrius Bell was on hand at the KAC for the game. Bell is a graduate of Northwestern State. He originally went to the school to play basketball.

Two can play that game

Bell (right, obviously) with a member of the Canisius High School pep band. Nice smile.

Coming into the contest, the Demons’ William Mosley led the nation in blocks per game (4.3). That was only extra motivation for senior Tomas Vazquez-Simmons, the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots, who joked that since both players wear the same number, he was glad to show people who the best number 42 is. Mosley finished the game with four blocks. Vazquez-Simmons had five.

Unsung Hero

Rob Goldsberry. Five assists, no turnovers, three rebounds. Sold a lot of foul calls early when the Griffs needed it. It’s the little things.

Former Canisius College athletes ink professional deals

On any given weekend throughout the year, you’re bound to find college students across the country huddled together around the television, watching whatever sports game they can find. But here at Canisius, we never really planned on tuning into a game and hearing the broadcaster call a classmate’s name. 

Until now, that is. 

While most of us were off enjoying our summers (or working it away…), several former Golden Griffin athletes were busy signing contracts to play professionally. High profile athletes in their own right during their time at Canisius, Carl Hudson, Frank Turner and Steve McQuail, among several others, are making names for themselves in the pros. 

Hudson crunches Syracuse's Maksim Mayorov. The Panthers like his physical play.

Hudson, a senior defenseman for the hockey team last year, is playing for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. He began playing for the Amerks last spring following the conclusion of Canisius’ season. According to amerks.com, Hudson signed an amateur tryout contract with the Rochester Americans on March 26, 2010. He played seven games with Rochester at the end of the regular season and five more in the playoffs, picking up one assist and tallying 28 penalty minutes along the way. 

Rochester liked what they saw in Hudson, especially the physical aspect he brought to the team. Once the free agency period started this offseason, the Florida Panthers of the NHL signed the former Griff to a one-year, entry-level contract, which most likely keeps him with their minor league affiliate Rochester for another year. CapGeek.com reports the deal to be valued at up to $525,000. Hudson will be a restricted free agent when the contract expires. 

“Last season I had the fortunate opportunity of playing pro hockey in Rochester, which was a great experience,” said Hudson.  “I believe that having played a few games last year will really help me with the upcoming season since I know what to expect.” 

Hudson is the first Canisius player to sign with an NHL team.  “Canisius has really help[ed] me to mature both as a person and a hockey player, and for that I must thank everyone who I have been involved with over my four years at Canisius,” Hudson said. He hopes his signing will help attract recruits to the school. 

A four-year member of the Canisius men’s basketball team, Frank Turner is now playing professionally in Europe. On July 30, EiffelTowers Den Bosch announced they had signed the guard to a one-year deal. The club is a member of the Holland-Eredivisie, the top basketball league in the Netherlands. 

Turner drives to the hoop on an occasion when he seen without the iconic upside-down headband.

Turner is currently in his second week of preseason with the team, and says things are going well. “It took me a day to get adjusted with the difference between American and European players,” Turner said. “European players are more skilled and Americans depend more on their athleticism, so that was a big difference. 

“Another difference is practicing two times a day! The first week it had me a little exhausted but I am now adjusted and doing well.” 

Turner credits his time at Canisius with helping him make the transition smoothly. 

“Playing at Canisius helped me tremendously! Coach Parrotta and his staff prepared me very well with certain techniques and ideas of the game. My current coach here in Holland has the same philosophy offensively and defensively as the coaching staff at Canisius.” 

Turner added that this bodes well for the current Griffs, who are left in good hands. “Not only are the players prepared to dominate on both sides of the ball every night at Canisius, they are also being taught the professional game.” 

Turner was a two-time all-league selection and is the all-time games played leader in Canisius history. He also ranks fourth all-time in points and third in steals.  

McQuail makes running down a fly ball look easy with this catch near the wall

The baseball team had good news this offseason as well, when Steve McQuail was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the Major League Baseball Draft. A 30th round selection, McQuail is currently playing for the Auburn Doubledays, a Class A Short-Season affiliate of the Blue Jays who play in the New York-Penn League. 

Last year as a junior, McQuail led all Griffs with a .398 batting average and 20 home runs, and set a MAAC record with 81 RBIs. 

This year, the outfielder is currently hitting .252 with the Doubledays and has hit four homers through 38 games played. 

Several notable major leaguers began their careers in Auburn, such as Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, Billy Wagner, Luis Gonzalez, Kenny Lofton, Julio Lugo, and Morgan Ensberg; as well as current Blue Jays like Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, and John Buck, who was named to the American League All-Star team this year.  

Other members of last year’s hockey team continue to play after Canisius. Dave Cianfrini, Jason Weeks, Josh Heidinger and Andrew Loewen are all reported to be playing in mid-level professional leagues across the country, while Dave Kostuch (who holds dual citizenship with Canada and Poland) is giving up his final two years at Canisius to play for MKS Cracovia Krakow of the Polish Elite League. 


Links: 

-Amerks’ bio of Carl Hudson
-EiffelTowers press release on Turner, translated from Dutch.
-Auburn Doubledays’ bio of Stephen McQuail

This article is the original write-up of a similar story that appeared in The Griffin, August 27, 2010