Jibreel Faulkner in for Griffs, Raven Owen out

By Nick Veronica



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.)


Weir won’t return for Griffs

By Nick Veronica



Reggie Witherspoon’s roster isn’t finished yet after all.

After filling every available scholarship last week, Canisius announced Wednesday that junior guard Adam Weir “has chosen to not return to the Golden Griffin men’s basketball program.”

The press release says Weir, who redshirted his first year at Canisius, has completed his undergraduate degree and wants to focus on getting his MBA.

“It shows his priorities were in place and while we were looking forward to coaching him, we are happy for his achievement and his aspirations going forward,” Witherspoon, the first-year coach, said in the release.

Weir, a graduate of Canisius High School and a former First Team All-Western New Yorker, was mostly a reserve for the Griffs, appearing in 19 games last season. He saw a drop in play time from his redshirt freshman season, when he played in all 33 games.

Weir was mostly known for 3-point shooting, but hit just five last season while shooting 23.8 percent from behind the arc. As a freshman, he hit 15 of 62 triples (24.2%).

Weir did not immediately respond to a message asking if he hoped transfer and continue playing or if he would remain at Canisius for graduate classes.

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Witherspoon adds 3 to fill out first Canisius roster

By Nick Veronica


Reggie Witherspoon with AD Bill Maher

Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon announced the signing of three recruits on Wednesday, completing the roster for his first season.

Witherspoon targeted size with with his final three additions, which was an area of need for the team. He added:

  • Selvedin Planincic, a 6-foot-11, 210-pound JUCO center who has two years of eligibility left;
  • Dantai St. Louis, a 6-8, 235-pound forward from Ontario;
  • and Isaiah Reese, a 6-4 guard from Florida.

The three additions join incoming freshmen Malik Johnson and Spencer Foley, who were signed by Jim Baron.

The additions fill all of Canisius’ available scholarships (UpdateAdam Weir is no longer on the team). The team said Raven Owen, who is named on ESPN’s list of college basketball transfers, has not transferred and is currently enrolled in summer classes.

The team has eight players back from last season, including starters Phil Valenti and Kassius Robertson:

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Guards: Kassius Robertson, Chris Atkinson, Kiefer Douse, Adam Weir, Raven Owen, Malik Johnson, Isaiah Reese.

Forwards: Phil Valenti, Jermaine Crumpton, Selvedin Planincic, Ronnie Gombe, Spencer Foley, Dantai St. Louis.

(Foley, who’s 6-foot-6, is sometimes listed as a shooting guard, but I put him at forward due to the Griffs’ lack of depth up front. He’ll likely be a swingman who can play both shooting guard small forward.)

Timing not ideal, but Witherspoon ready for challenges at Canisius

By Nick Veronica

May 31 is not an ideal deal day to introduce a new college basketball coach. The fall semester is less than three months away. Worse, recruiting is in what the NCAA calls a “quiet period” until after the Fourth of July, meaning coaches can’t watch recruits play or talk to them in person unless it’s on campus.

Reggie Witherspoon acknowledged those challenges Tuesday morning but took the microphone undeterred as Canisius College named him the 24th coach in school history.

“Canisius has been doing Division I basketball for a long time,” Witherspoon said in front of players, administrators, alumni and even the mayor at the Koessler Athletic Center. 

“It’s not a starter situation, it’s just rough road ahead. The timing is not great. But it’s a program that has been in existence for a long time. You have a lot of alumni who are in the area that care about the program, and I think that’s a plus.”

Witherspoon has been in tough spots before. Consider the circumstances he walked into at his last Division I head coaching job.

Witherspoon took over at UB five games into the 1999-2000 season after Tom Cohane left amid alleged recruiting violations. He was hired on Saturday, Dec. 4. The Bulls played No. 7 North Carolina on Tuesday. After that, it was off to No. 15 Indiana.

That was being thrown into the fire. This is just less than ideal.

“Reggie’s name quickly rose to the top,” Canisius president John Hurley said, “and made it a relatively easy decision.”

Athletic director Bill Maher spoke to the urgency in hiring Witherspoon just eight days after Jim Baron’s surprise retirement.

“We had to quickly look at our situation, assess where we were as a program,” Maher said. “There’s only about five weeks left of the summer session before [players] leave for the summer. To give those young men and the new coaching staff the best opportunity to meet, assimilate and understand each other, time was of the essence.”

Funny thing about timing. Witherspoon was back in Buffalo visiting family two weeks ago when a stomach illness delayed his return trip to Chattanooga, where he was an assistant coach.

When he started getting text messages saying Baron had retired, he thought people were playing a prank on him.

“I thought actually it was a joke,” Witherspoon said. “People have been saying, ‘Are you going to come back? Eventually you’ll come back.’ I didn’t see that [about Baron]. We were planning on driving back to Chattanooga and the texts started around 9 in the morning and I really thought they were people joking with me, because we would’ve been on the road. So I thought people were saying, hey, let’s get him when he’s about 400 miles into this trip and just make a joke out of it.

“I got a couple different text messages, and then one of them said ‘Coach Baron retired,’ and ‘SERIOUSLY’ was in all caps with exclamation points,” Witherspoon said. “And then I realized, maybe he did retire. He signed an extension in March and Jim and I are friends so I didn’t see this coming.”

But once the ball got rolling, “It didn’t take long for me to say yes to this opportunity,” Witherspoon added.


The entire Witherspoon clan was in attendance at Tuesday’s press conference.

He inherits a Canisius team that graduated its leading scorer and starting center. He has four scholarships to fill.

In following Baron, Witherspoon is tasked with replacing a coach who recruited one of the top-five players in school history (even if it was his son), took Canisius to the postseason three times (even if it was the CIT), and forced the school to increase its financial commitment to the program.

Witherspoon, 55, also becomes the first black head coach in the inner-city school’s 112 years of men’s basketball. (Former women’s tennis coach General Bass is believed to be the only other black head coach in school history.)

Witherspoon said returning to coach in his hometown is “an awesome privilege.”

“It’s unusual for Division I coaches to be in a situation where you’re at the press conference and you have your mom here, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my wife, my two daughters, my sister-in-law, my brother,” Witherspoon said. “It’s an honor to have that support, care and love here.”