Isaiah Gurley to leave Canisius

By Nick Veronica

isaiahgurley

Gurley

Backup guard Isaiah Gurley will become the first player to leave Canisius following Jim Baron’s unexpected retirement last week.

Canisius said it didn’t have the paperwork to officially confirm Gurley’s departure Tuesday night but acknowledged he’s unlikely to return since a junior college in North Dakota has already announced his signing.

Gurley will be the third player from last year’s team to transfer. His departure will give Canisius four scholarship openings, but it needs a coach to fill them. Delaware closed its coaching search Tuesday, leaving Canisius as the only team in the country still looking for a coach.

A team source said the school expects both players Baron signed to NLIs – point guard Malik Johnson and 6-foot-7 combo guard Spencer Foley – to remain with Canisius, adding that Foley is already on campus for summer classes and Johnson is expected later this summer after his graduation.

Gurley played in 30 games as a freshman but averaged only 9.5 minutes per contest, though he was expected to see a jump in playing time next year. He hit a big 3-pointer during Canisius’ record comeback against UL-Monroe.

Here’s an updated look at the status of last year’s team:

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Canisius ties NCAA comeback record, beats UL-Monroe in triple OT

By Nick Veronica

Canisius erased an 11-point deficit in the final 40 seconds of regulation and went on to beat Louisiana-Monroe in triple overtime Tuesday night, 108-96, tying the NCAA record for largest deficit overcome in the final minute of a game.

Canisius joined UNLV as the only Division I basketball team on record to ever win a game when trailing by 11 points with less than one minute to go. No team had ever trailed by as many points as Canisius with less time remaining while still managing to win the game.

Here’s the list of largest last-minute comebacks from the NCAA record book:

The victory pairs Canisius with Nicholls State for the final round of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic on Wednesday. Tipoff at Orleans Arena is set for 5 p.m. Eastern.

The comeback

Poor free-throw shooting doomed UL-Monroe, which missed six of its last seven free throws in the final 1:10 of regulation. Canisius made all four 3-pointers it took in the final minute.

11 – Canisius trailed by 13 points before freshman Chris Atkinson started the comeback, hitting two free throws with 1:02 to play.

8 – Justin Roberson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on UL-Monroe’s next possession before Atkinson hit a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left to cut the deficit to eight points at 77-69.

5 – Nick Coppola was the next Warhawk to miss the front end of a 1-and-1, and Isaiah Gurley hit a 3-pointer to make it 77-62 with 32 seconds left.

3 – After UL-Monroe entered the double bonus, Majok Deng hit 1-of-2 free throws with 25 seconds left, but Canisius’ Jermaine Crumpton hit a 3-pointer just three seconds later to make it a one-possession game at 78-75.

0 – Travis Munnings missed both of his free throws with 19 seconds left, which set up Atkinson’s game-tying triple with 12 seconds remaining.

Canisius erased an 11-point hole in just 28 seconds of game time. ULM coach Keith Richard took a timeout with four seconds left to draw up a play for a game-winning shot, but Deng’s late 3-pointer missed.

Overtime: 78-78

ULM’s Marcus Washington fouled Malcolm McMillan on a 3-point attempt with six seconds left while Canisius trailed by two.

McMillan hit all three shots to put the Griffs up by one. ESPN then sent out an alert that the game had gone final, but jumped the gun – ULM had two free throws to shoot in the final second. Coppola made the first but missed the second, sending the game to a second overtime.

2OT: 89-89

Deng tied the game with 37 seconds left, but Canisius looked like it would win when Kassius Robertson was fouled with one second remaining. Nope. He missed both shots to force triple overtime.

3OT: 96-96

Canisius outscored ULM 12-0 in the final overtime period to clinch a share of an NCAA record. McMillan had eight of the 12 points while Robertson found a bit of redemption, hitting both of his free throws. Four ULM players fouled out in the game, including three starters. Only Atkinson fouled out for Canisius.

Robertson finished with a career-high 28 points, which led all players. McMillan had 21 for the Griffs, while Phil Valenti had 16 and Atkinson and Crumpton each scored 13. ULM had six players in double-figures, led by Deng’s 21.

“When we were down eight, I told the guys: we can win this thing,” Canisius coach Jim Baron said. “We had to withstand the wave and we just kept battling.”

Junkyard dogs

The win also gave Baron an opportunity to use his favorite phrase.

“That right there was an example of how we play,” Baron said. “We’re junkyard dogs. We don’t give up.”

The win brought the Griffs to 5-6 and marked their first win this season away from the Koessler Athletic Center. ULM also moved to 5-6.

atkinson

Atkinson

Coppola played a school-record 54 minutes for ULM. Robertson led Canisius with 48 minuted but didn’t come close to the school record Billy Baron set by playing all 55 minutes of a triple-overtime win against Siena in 2014.

Canisius improved to 5-1 all-time in games going three overtimes or longer. That includes Canisius’ 4OT win over N.C. State in the 1956 NCAA Tournament, which Sports Illustrated in 2014 ranked as the No. 1 tournament upset of all-time.

5 questions for Canisius basketball in 2014-15

griffs_maac

By Nick Veronica

Canisius has its first official basketball practice of the season today. Here’s a look at five questions facing the Griffs in 2014-15.

1. Wait, before we start, remind me who’s on this team again:


Canisius lost six players from last year’s team and added five new ones (don’t forget Billy Baron wasn’t using a scholarship).

Departures:
G Billy Baron (graduation)
G Chris Perez (graduation)
G Dominique Raney (scholarship not renewed)
G Lou Dunbar (scholarship not renewed/pursuing other opportunities)
F Chris Manhertz (graduation)
F Jordan Heath (graduation)
Asst. coach Mike Mennenga (Oregon)

Kassius Robertson

Kassius Robertson

Additions:
G Jamal Reynolds (JR)
G Raven Owen (FR)
G Jan Grzelinski (FR)
G Isaiah Gurley (FR)
F Cassidy Ryan (FR)
Asst. coach Mike Iuzzolino

Last season’s redshirts:
G Kassius Robertson
G Adam Weir
F Jermaine Crumpton

Which bring us to the 13-man roster:

Guards (8)

Jeremiah Williams, senior
Jamal Reynolds, junior
Zach Lewis, sophomore
Kassius Robertson, redshirt freshman
Adam Weir, redshirt freshman
Jan Grzelinski, freshman
Isaiah Gurley, freshman
Raven Owen, freshman

Forwards (5)

Josiah Heath, senior
Kevin Bleeker, junior
Phil Valenti, sophomore
Jermaine Crumpton, redshirt freshman
Cassidy Ryan, freshman

Don’t blink on Senior Day this year. You might miss the ceremony.

1. Thanks for that. Question 1 for real this time: I need some optimism in my life. What’s the absolute best-case scenario for this year’s Griffs?


Well, the Griffs only return one starter from last season, so there will be plenty of new faces in the lineup. That usually doesn’t bode well for a team’s outlook, but since you’re looking for unbridled optimism here, let’s imagine everyone outperforms their projections, fits into their roles perfectly and no one gets injured.

Zach Lewis

Zach Lewis

Zach Lewis becomes a stud and starts torching teams for 18 points a game, getting into consideration for Second Team All-MAAC. Josiah Heath brings it every night, finds his scoring touch and hauls in nine rebounds a game, combining with Phil Valenti to form a respectable inside game. Kevin Bleeker breaks out, Jeremiah Williams comes back with a chip on his shoulder after being ruled academically ineligible last year, Jan Grzelinski brings some Polish flair, Kassius Robertson is as good or better than advertised, Jamal Reynolds and Cassidy Ryan play at a level that forces Jim Baron to give them some floor time and local kids Jermaine Crumpton and Adam Weir are forces off the bench. (Switch Isaiah Gurley or Raven Owen in there anywhere you like.)

If all of those things go right, the Griffs play lock-down defense, catch some breaks in the schedule, get a handful of lucky bounces, calls go their way and they go on a tear through February, then maybe they sneak into the fifth seed and avoid the play-in round at the MAAC Tournament. That would be more impressive than anything Jim Baron has done at Canisius.

[RELATED: Lewis’ ankle has ‘significant sprain,’ no breaks after CIT scare]

2. Seems like a longshot. What’s the absolute worst-case scenario this year?


Remember 2012? That was the last time Canisius lost a lot of veterans all at once. If you’ve tried to erase that season from your memory, it was the year after Elton Frazier, Greg Logins, Julius Coles, Rob Goldsberry and Tomas Vazquez-Simmons all graduated and the team went 5-25. This year could be similar to that if things don’t go well.

Those Griffs couldn’t stop anybody. They had injuries up the wazoo and averaged the fewest assists in school history. That team needed a point guard like those walruses in Alaska need ice. Who runs the point this year? I don’t know, but it will be somebody who’s never done it before at this level. Lewis started 19 games last year but Billy Baron ran the show. Grzelinski is a point guard, but who knows if he’ll be able to adjust to Division I fast enough. Robertson and Gurley are supposed to be decent but were recruited as a shooting guards. Maybe Jeremiah Williams? The Griffs have eight guards on the roster so there should be some decent competition.

After that, there are still plenty of questions. Not only did the Griffs lose four starters, they lost five of their top six scorers from last season and four of their top five rebounders. Those numbers aren’t easily replaced. Last year’s team had the conference Player of the Year and only finished in fourth place. This year’s team is asking freshmen and sophomores to do jobs seniors had trouble with last year. The 2014-15 Griffs have more talent than the 2011-12 version, but the worst case here is the same: Canisius gets throttled all season and loses the battle with Niagara for last place in the MAAC.

[RELATED: Exit interview with former Griffs assistant Mike Mennenga]

3. Dang. So if those are the two extremes … does Canisius fall in the middle? Seventh or eighth place?


Falling in between two extremes is usually a safe bet. But if you’re being realistic, the Griffs’ worst-case scenario is a lot more likely than the best-case scenario. I’d say Iona, Siena, Manhattan and Quinnipiac are the conference favorites this year. Then there’s a bunch of teams in the middle, and then Canisius, Niagara and Marist will battle it out for the last three seeds.

Phil Valenti

Phil Valenti

Offense might be hard to come by, and scoring will be especially thin in comparison with last year’s team, which set the school record for points in a season. Every returning player combined scored less than 20 points per game last year. Zach Lewis, an all-Rookie selection, has shown he can score, but what’s to stop teams from shifting their defense to take him out of the game? Can Phil Valenti and Josiah Heath score enough to make them pay? If not, it’ll likely be up to a rookie.

Canisius will almost certainly be in the play-in round at the MAAC Tournament. Having a play-in game doesn’t have the same stigma as it used to (before the conference expanded, seeds 7-10 had a play-in game; now it’s seeds 6-11), but those games are Thursday evening before the weekend of the tournament. If the Griffs are seeded low enough, there’s a chance they could be headed home before the party even starts.

[RELATED: Baron: ‘It’s going to be a rebuilding type of year for us’]

4. Speaking of all the players who graduated, is this team going to get any rebounds?


Good question. On the surface, it looks bad with Chris Manhertz and Jordan Heath out of the picture. But when you think about it, the Griffs didn’t rebound well last year, anyway. They had formidable players, but that didn’t translate to the stats. Canisius was dead last in the MAAC in rebounding. Dead last! So even if the Griffs are poor rebounders again, it’s not like it’ll be a big drop-off in production from what they were getting before. The only difference is if this year’s team is bad at rebounding, you’ll probably notice it more. Billy Baron & Co. were efficient enough on offense to make up for it. This year’s Griffs may not be.

[RELATED: Billy Baron signs with Lithuanian club

5. There’s a lot of young guys on the team. Who redshirts?

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We know Jim Baron loves his redshirts. Three players sat out last year and I’d expect at least three to sit out again this year. Baron usually keeps a short rotation but may be forced to go a little deeper this year. I don’t think any forwards will redshirt. Heath is a senior, Bleeker, Valenti and Crumpton already have, and if Ryan redshirted, an injury would make the Griffs seriously thin at the position.

That leaves guards. Grzelinski, Gurley and Owen are all true freshman. If Baron doesn’t get early indication that they could make an impact right away, they’ll be watching this year. Lewis won’t redshirt; he’s already established. Reynolds is a JUCO transfer, which should put him ahead of other players developmentally, but could mean he needs more seasoning. Williams is a senior so he probably won’t redshirt unless something is off academically. Exhibitions don’t count toward redshirting, so we’ll see at the first game on Nov. 15 who’s in and who’s out.

[RELATED: Canisius to face UMass, but big names absent on schedule]

Lou Dunbar out, Jan Grzelinski and Isaiah Gurley in for Canisius

By Nick Veronica

Jan Grzelinski

Jan Grzelinski

Canisius finalized its 2014-15 basketball roster on Thursday, announcing the addition of guards Jan Grzelinski and Isaiah Gurley along with the departure of redshirt freshman Lou Dunbar.

Grzelinski, 20, comes to Canisius from Wroclaw, Poland, where he has been a member of the youth national program since age 16. Grzelinski stands at only 5-foot-10, 160-pounds, but averaged 10.8 points and 3.4 assists as a point guard for his hometown club WKK Wroclaw.

Gurley is a 6-2, 185-pound shooting guard from Westinghouse Career and Technical High School in Brooklyn who averaged 16.6 points and 7.6 assists per game in last year. (No Jim Baron team is complete without a player from New York City.)

Lou Dunbar

Lou Dunbar

Dunbar played two minutes in both exhibition games last season but redshirted and did not appear in any regular season games, giving him all four years of eligibility remaining. He is the son of former Harlem Globetrotter “Sweet Lou” Dunbar.

Here’s how the Griffs’ roster shapes up:

Guards (8)

Jeremiah Williams, senior
Jamal Reynolds, junior
Zach Lewis, sophomore
Kassius Robertson, redshirt freshman
Adam Weir, redshirt freshman
Jan Grzelinski, freshman
Isaiah Gurley, freshman
Raven Owen, freshman

Forwards (5)

Josiah Heath, senior
Kevin Bleeker, junior
Phil Valenti, sophomore
Jermaine Crumpton, redshirt freshman
Cassidy Ryan, freshman

With eight guards on the roster, several freshmen may be redshirt candidates. In two seasons as coach, Jim Baron has only played one true freshman, Zach Lewis.

Breakdown: 7 freshmen, 2 sophomores, 2 juniors, 2 seniors.

Departures: Billy Baron, Chris Manhertz, Chris Perez and Jordan Heath to graduation; Dominique Raney and Lou Dunbar to non-renewed scholarships/pursuing other opportunities.

Newcomers:  Reynolds, Owen, Ryan, Grzelinski and Gurley. (There are six departures and five newcomers because Billy Baron wasn’t using a scholarship.)