By Nick Veronica
What we learned: Jan Grzelinski might be able to start at point guard this year. The Polish import got the start Saturday and distributed well for his for collegiate appearance, though his defense needs work. He won’t be a star in the MAAC this year but looks like a good late pickup for Jim Baron.
Grzelinski will be a player other teams love to hate. He finished with three assists and two turnovers in 19 minutes and played big minutes late in a close game for a true freshman. Kassius Robertson and Jeremiah Williams also rotated in at point guard, which Jim Baron previously said will be “by committee.”
— Josiah Heath played with more vigor than we’ve seen in years past. He hauled in 9 rebounds and added 12 points in 35 minutes of action. The Griffs will really need him at both ends. We’ll see how he responds to the increase in play time — his high last year was 24 minutes, and that came in a 3OT game.
— Zach Lewis is going to take a ton of shots this year. He’s the best player on the team and one of the only consistent scoring threats. “Let Zach shoot” seemed to be the go-to resort when the offense couldn’t figure itself out, which was frequent Saturday. Lewis put up 16 shots (including 11 three-pointers) and led the team with 20 points. He was 6 of 11 from the free-throw line.
— And, uhh, oh yeah: this team has a very real chance of winning less than 10 games. The defense needs a lot of practice and the Griffs have no size. You knew that from looking at the roster, but it was even more apparent seeing the team in person. Iona’s David Laury and Quinnipiac’s Ousmane Drame should have these two games circled on their calendars. The guys who do have some height are not very wide. Jim Baron may experiment with some guard-heavy sets.
Sweating it out: This game was closer than any exhibition should be. Ryerson had two shots to tie the game with under 10 seconds to go! Canisius trailed most of the first half and never led by more than 10 points. Ryerson entered the game 7-0 against Canadian competition, but you don’t schedule exhibitions to take you to the wire. These are tune-up games. Jim Baron had to go to a full-court press midway through the first half when Ryerson led 23-18. If Jordon Gauthier or Adika McNeilly had made a last-second three-pointer, we would’ve had overtime.
McNeilly played well for the Rams, finishing with a game-high 22 points and 14 rebounds while Aaron Best had 21 points.
Glass men: Josiah Heath and Kevin Bleeker, the only Griffs taller than 6-foot-7, used their reach to pull in nine and eight rebounds, respectively. Six of Bleeker’s rebounders were on the offensive end. Jamal Reynolds, a 6-4 junior, also had eight rebounds. The Griffs were last in the MAAC in rebounding last year and will need them any way they can get them this year.
Let’s get Weir: Canisius high school product Adam Weir finished with 12 points in his first collegiate action after redshirting last year, including 3 of 6 from behind the arc.
Preseason for the refs, too: As Zach Lewis collected a rebound with 9.8 seconds left and waited to be fouled in the corner, a referee blew his whistle and signaled Canisius had called timeout. Lewis was dumbfounded and Jim Baron yelled from the bench that no one had called for time. Canisius didn’t have any timeouts left and was issued a technical foul, which gave Ryerson two free throws that made the score 76-79.
Who started: 1-Jan Grzelinski, 2-Zach Lewis, 3-Jamal Reynolds, 4-Josiah Heath, 5-Kevin Bleeker.
Injury front: Phil Valenti sat out with an ankle injury but wore basketball shoes and is no longer on crutches. Raven Owen had a small walking boot on his left foot but looked mobile on his stress fracture. Jermaine Crumpton was suspended for violation of team rules and will miss the next game as well.
Hall of Fame redesign: Canisius redid its Hall of Fame in the hall outside of the basketball court in the Koessler Athletic Center. Take a walk through if you’re in the building. It looks sharp. Touch screen exhibits are being installed soon.
Next game: Canisius hosts Daemen in its final exhibition on Nov. 11.