Griffs schedule exhibitions with Ryerson, Buff State

By Nick Veronica

CCLogobigThe first chance to get a glimpse of the 2015-16 Canisius men’s basketball team will come in an Oct. 30 exhibition against Ryerson University.

The team’s exhibition schedule, released on Wednesday, wraps up with a Nov. 6 meeting with Buffalo State. Both Friday night contests are set for 7 p.m. at the Koessler Athletic Center.

Canisius faced Ryerson, the Toronto university, in an exhibition last season, squeaking out 79-76 win. The Griffs last had an exhibition against Buff State in 2010, when Tom Parrotta was the coach, and won 84-72.

[Griffs complete roster with PG Atkinson]

Daemen College, the Division II school led by former Canisius coach Mike MacDonald that handed Canisius an 83-81 OT loss in an exhibition game last season, was not invited back for a rematch.

Canisius has played two exhibition games in every season since Jim Baron became the coach in 2012.

Canisius roster

*new for 2015-16

Guards (8)

Malcolm McMillan*, redshirt senior
Jamal Reynolds, senior
Kiefer Douse*, junior
Kassius Robertson, sophomore
Adam Weir, sophomore
Raven Owen, redshirt freshman
Isaiah Gurley, redshirt freshman
Chris Atkinson*, freshman

Forwards (5)

Kevin Bleeker, senior
Phil Valenti, junior
Jermaine Crumpton, sophomore
Cassidy Ryan, sophomore
Ronald Gombe*, freshman

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Immediate reactions: Canisius 79, Ryerson 76 – 11/1/14

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.

Gameday: Canisius vs. Ryerson (exhibition) 11/1/14

Ryerson University at Canisius (exhibition), 1 p.m., Koessler Athletic Center

By Nick Veronica

Canisius Golden Griffins: 0-0, 0-0 home.

Ryerson Rams: 7-0, 3-0 away.

First look: Today’s game is the first look we have at the Griffs ahead of what will be a rebuilding year. It is the first of two exhibitions ahead of the Nov. 15 opener, with the other coming against Daemen on Nov. 11. Winning an exhibition should never be in question, but the game should give us a look at how coach Jim Baron plans to attack the MAAC in his first season without his son Billy.

Who plays what?: Projected starting forward Phil Valenti is out with an ankle injury, freshman guard Raven Owen is out with a stress fracture, redshirt freshman forward Jermaine Crumpton will sit out both exhibitions due to a violation of team rules and Baron also mentioned at Big 4 Media Day that guard Jeremiah Williams was injured over the weekend.

Josiah Heath and maybe Kevin Bleeker will start at forward and Zach Lewis will be in at one of the guard spots. Baron said they’ve been trying a number players at point guard “by committee,” including, in the order he mentioned them, Kassius Robertson, Jan Grzelinski and Williams.

I asked Baron if he had thought about having Lewis play point guard.

“He’s part of the committee,” Baron said. “Everyone’s part of the committee. We’re looking at everybody.”

About Ryerson: Ryerson is a massive university in Toronto with 38,000 undergrads. The basketball team had its first game in August (?) and is undefeated against Canadian competition. The school website does not have up-to-date stats, but guards Jahmal Jones and Adika Peter-McNeilly have been leading the offensive surge. The Rams’ roster boast five players 6-foot-7 or better, while the Griffs have only three. The Rams coach is Roy Rana.

What to watch for: With Valenti and Crumpton out, Heath, Bleeker and Cassidy Ryan are the only active forwards. They’ll likely all log large minutes. The most floor time Heath had last season was 24 minutes in the 3OT game against Siena, so we’ll see how he responds to the increase in usage. The Griffs are counting on him to make a big leap this year.

How to follow the game: No live blog for this one, but I’ll have some updates Twitter and a blog or two after. There’s no link on Canisius site for an audio broadcast yet, but there may be one closer to game time.