Thursday, December 30, 2010

Knights Rock Wayne's World

I'm doing everything in my power to avoid the cliche "defense wins championships" after Gannon's 61-52 Porreco Cup championship win over Wayne State. But what else can you say about a team who wins despite shooting just 43% from the field, 4-for-14 on three-pointers, and committing 18 turnovers? You can win games doing that when your defense forces opponents to 35% shooting, 6-of-20 threes, and 17 turnovers of their own. So, I know you want me to say "defense wins championships," but my mom (an English teacher) would be mortified if I used a cliche.

The best part about the defensive effort is, man, did it require a supreme effort! It wasn't like Wayne was small, slow, passive, weak, young, or tired. They pushed; Gannon pushed back. Wayne dominated the boards early; the Knights ended the game with a 39-33 rebounding advantage. I don't want to overreact and extrapolate that the Knights are now PSAC contenders. But you have to be impressed that Gannon has the ability to go bicep-to-bicep with a team like Wayne and come out on top.

Other thoughts on the game:
* Does anybody know what the deal was with Wayne's Mike Hollingsworth Thursday night? Until the Porreco championship, he'd started all 10 contests for the Warriors, ranking second on the team in scoring (15.9 ppg). But he didn't play a second against GU. I think we was sitting on the bench the whole game but never took off his warmup.

* I was OK with Chris Giles from third-place Seton Hill earning Porreco Cup Outstanding Player honors. There wasn't any one player from either team in the finals that stood out more than Giles did. Kelvin Agee had 22 points vs. SHU, but he was just 2-for-11 for 8 points against WSU in the finals.

* I'm not sure if Gannon's defense is special or East Stroudsburg's is woeful. The Knights gave up just 67 points to Seton Hill and 52 to Wayne; ESU gave up 98 to Seton Hill and 82 to Wayne. Overall that's a difference of 61 points.

* Defense wins championships. There -- I said it. Sorry mom.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blunderful Victory

Two parts to this post:

Part 1: Wednesday's 71-67 win over Seton Hill in the opening round of the Porreco Cup had its share of errors. Most obvious was that Gannon needed Kelvin Agee had to catch fire down the stretch to produce team shooting charts of 14-for-28 on free throws and 7-for-20 on threes.

But in my view the most egregious error of the contest was made by Seton Hill coach Tony Morocco during the final minute of play. After a turnover by SHU's Kellen Holmes with 44 seconds left, Morocco had a quick decision to make: with his team trailing by 3, should he foul immediately or play normal defense in hopes of getting the ball back for one final game-tying shot? In most games, I think the strategy has to be to foul quickly and stretch the game as long as you can. With the way the Knights were drop-kicking -- er, shooting -- free throws Wednesday, the obvious choice was to foul and just make sure you get the rebound.

Instead of choosing one those two options, Morocco got swept up in the emotion of the game and chose neither. The Griffins overextended their man defense but didn't foul, leaving the basket wide open for Agee's game-sealing layup with 15 seconds left. There were a ton of mistakes made by players on both teams prior to that point, but I really felt like the Seton Hill coaching staff blew it by not being prepared for that final minute. And I hope you don't feel like I'm being a Monday Morning Quarterback (or in this case Thursday Morning Quarterback). Once Gannon's Anthony Clagett came up with the loose ball with 44 seconds left, I looked up at the clock, did the math to see Gannon could hold the ball until the 9 second mark, and said aloud to myself, "Foul. You gotta foul."

Part 2: That was a great gut-check for the Knights and Agee last night. One of the many things I love about the game of basketball is that momentum and the mental factor is so important. The Knights had many chances to fold yesterday -- especially when trailing by 6 with less than 6 minutes to play while only amassing 53 points by that juncture in the contest. What had been a consistently productive offense all season was sputtering, frustrating everyone in the building who wasn't rooting for Seton Hill. (Side note: There were exactly 4 people in the Hammermill rooting for Seton Hill.) Instead of imploding, Agee hit a three, the Knights got 4 stops and 4 scores over the next 6 possessions, and the Knights advanced to the Porreco championship. It wasn't a thing of beauty, but it showed this team has mettle. That's more important that one night's shooting percentage.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

My family usually talks some Gannon hoops over Christmas dinner. But because the Knights have played only 5 games this year, we kind of ran out of things to talk about before the fruitcake was served. So my brother asked, "How's the Salem International women's team doing this year?" You might recall that Salem had lost 56 straight games -- most of them lopsided affairs -- before a season-ending win over Ohio Valley last year.

Did that positive momentum carry over into this season? Not exactly. Click here if you want to see the details of Salem's 2010-11 season. If you want to spare yourself that pain, just check out these lowlights:

* 0-13 overall. I don't have their league record because athletics at Salem are so putrid that the WVIAC kicked them out of the league this year.
* They're being outscored an average of 84-40. Their closest game was an 81-52 loss at Virginia State. Their ugliest game (that's saying a lot) was a 123-45 stinker at Davis & Elkins. D&E led 66-16 at the half.
* Our Fighting Tigers are pretty consistent shooting from the field. They hit 25% of their overall field goals at 24% of their threes. Keep chuckin' those treys, ladies!
* They're being outrebounded 51-32 on average. They've collected only 234 defensive rebounds while opponents have hauled in 279 offensive rebounds.
* Only 7 players are listed on the SIU stat sheet. If you look at the roster page and team photo, there are 12 players. I'm not sure what happened to the other five, but I'm sure none of them graduated. The roster is comprised of freshmen only.
* I wanted to read up on their head coach, but this is where the SIU website points me. That's appropriate.

We'll keep an eye on SIU for their remaining 12 games of the season. They've lost 69 of their last 70, but I have a gut feeling they'll turn things around soon. Or maybe that's just the fruitcake still digesting.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Making A List, Boxing Out Twice

Tis the season for making lists, and based on Gannon's performance in their pulsating 70-68 win over Urbana, John Reilly had a list of his own entering Saturday's game:

Don't give up easy shots inside the three-point line. I don't know a lot of things, but I know Bob Dukiet's defense after watching and playing it in practice for three years. He called it "tough and slough" -- tough on the ball and helping in the paint on dribble penetration and post-entry passes. The weakness to that defense is that you can give up three-pointers. But if you have to give up something, you give up the shot that teams usually hit only 30% of the time. The Knights looked vastly improved playing Dukiet's D against Urbana. You might laugh at this, but my favorite defensive play of the game was when Danard Crouch helped out to tip away a UU post-entry pass. That tells the other team "you're not coming in here." Again the Achilles' heel of the defense is giving up threes and Urbana hit 16-of-31 (51%). Despite that stat, Reilly said in the paper Sunday that it was Gannon's best defensive effort of the season. Though I didn't see the road games, I agree that it's the best defense GU's played in their three home games. They didn't give up many layups and they kept Urbana out of the post. That will win you a ton of games.

Win the battle of the boards -- everybody's going to the glass. I saw Reilly's Brescia teams play a few times, and they looked like 6-foot-4 piranhas when the ball hit the rim. The Knights resembled those Brescia teams last night. Outrebounding Urbana 41-29 was impressive, but the stats inside of that are even better. GU had 16 offensive rebounds which allowed them to attempt 9 more field goals than Urbana (63-54). Four different players had 5 or more rebounds: Kelvin Agee 11, Travis Brannen 7, Anthony Clagett 6, and Stephen Battle 5. Combined with the Dukiet defense that I mentioned earlier, that kind of effort on the glass will win you a ton of games.

Get the ball inside every chance you get. When Steve Piotrowicz brings the ball up the floor he usually looks like he's crossing the street, scanning the court from one sideline to the other. Last night on a few occasions he put his head down and charged toward the basket like a team of reindeer after a giant carrot. In their first several games, the Knights settled for outside shots without even considering getting a shot in the paint. The emphasis Saturday was drive by your guy or try to throw the ball into Brannen before looking for a three.

Gannon's 40-2 points in the paint advantage was not a coincidence. If the Knights can keep teams on the perimeter, own the boards, and get shots in the lane consistently, they'll -- say it with me -- win a ton of games.

Related notes:
* The officials made the right non-call on the final shot of the game. If the contact on the shot is created by the shooter, it's not a foul. Imagine if that wasn't the rule. Basketball would be nothing but players attempting a shot fake, throwing up slop in the general vicinity of the basket, and then going to the free throw line.

* I made the comment earlier about how the lone weakness of Dukiet's defense is giving up three-pointers. Imagine how effective that defensive scheme was before the advent of the three-point line? Click here and scroll to page 6 to see the scores when Duke was the head coach at St. Peter's (NJ) College in the early 80s. My favorite is beating Duquesne in the second round of the NIT, 34-33.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Schedule Scuttlebutt

By popular demand (that's marketing-speak meaning "one person asked for it"), I'm starting a thread about Gannon's schedule this season. I don't have much to say on it because Dan Teliski, GU's Super Sports Information Director, wrote me an eloquent email the he asked me to share with the Golden Knight faithful. I think his explanation is reasonable and I hope it quells the furor raised in the comment section of the Dec. 6 post. Take it away, Dan.

Let me clear up some confusion on your blog about scheduling. The NCAA reduced the maximum number of games played in a season to 26 games. The PSAC gives us a schedule with 14 PSAC West games and four more crossover games. That brings us to 18 games and leaves us with eight to schedule. The Gary Miller Classic and Porreco Cup takes up four more games which brings us to 22, leaving us four more games to schedule.

So, in the long run, we have four games to play with this year. Everything else is set and out of our control. We elected to play a home and home with Central State because we wanted the competition. Regardless of what anyone wants to say, Central State played in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional last year and we all know how difficult that region is since we played in it for so many years. Currently, they have six teams in the top 25. In addition, the lost to Bellarmine by only four points in the first round. Bellarmine is currently the No. 1 team in the country. And you know how hard it is to make it into the tournament as an independent, so we want to play them and as an independent, they could only fit our second game in during February.

So, that leaves us two games left. And we needed one of those two games right after finals to get the team back into game mode.

That’s the schedule wrapped up in a ball. As for the other schools playing more right now, basically everyone in the league will have played 7-8 games by the end of December. So, the question is, would you rather loaded up early, then sit the entire last half of December out and go cold turkey into the conference schedule. Our spread it out and play on the 18th, the 29th and the 30th – and be in the flow already for conference play. We seem to believe the latter is the better way to go as conference play is what makes or breaks your season. Back logging a schedule to December also helps student-athletes achieve their academic goals best until Finals – which ironically are this week. The NCAA only mandates student-athletes be eligible at the beginning of each YEAR. At Gannon, we mandate our student-athletes to be eligible at the beginning of each SEMESTER. So, the first semester is much more important to Gannon student-athletes academically than 95 percent of the schools in the country.

Of the schools mentioned …
Edinboro – 15 days off before conference play (but they also played two exempt games in early November that are allowed to be played once every four years)
West Chester – 23 days off before conference play
Mercyhurst – 19 days off before conference play
Mansfield – 23 days off before conference play
Shippensburg – 27 days off before conference play
Kutztown – 23 days off before conference play
Bloomsburg – 23 days off before conference play
Indiana (Pa.) – 16 days off before conference play
Lock Haven – 26 days off before conference play
Gannon – 3 days off before conference play

I think you get my point. We play three games in two weeks after Finals, and turn around and open PSAC play four days later. Different philosophy, but one we feel works instead of taking 20-30 days off and heading into PSAC play without any recent game action.

As for home games ... we only have two non-conference road games and six non-conference home games. We feel that’s a pretty good ratio.

Finally ... as for the afternoon doubleheaders. We have three, but they are not randomly placed. The January 15th doubleheader against Lock Haven is needed because the Burger King Classic is in the Hammermill Center that Friday and Saturday night. The January 22 doubleheader against Cal is needed because it’s our Hall of Fame day with the Hall of Fame banquet that night immediately following the games. And the February 5 doubleheader against IUP is our Annual Pink Zone game and the afternoon starts fits better for all the kids, cancer survivors and other groups that attend that day.

And one side note ... full PSAC crossover play begins next year. So, the 2011-12 schedule could be even more interesting. As I mentioned the NCAA max right now is 26 games. The 2011-12 PSAC schedule includes 22 games. Add the Gary Miller Classic and Porreco Cup for the other four games – and we will have zero regular non-conference games next year.

Hope I was able to clear everything up,
Dan

Monday, December 6, 2010

Trying My Patience

So, how should you feel when your team has already lost two road games this early in the season? The good news is that both the games have gone down to the wire. The bad news is that you're giving up nearly 80 points per game in those losses. Should you press the panic button? Here's what I predict will happen: the team we're talking about will once again win the PSAC and the Region and maybe even get back to the Division II national championship game.

Sorry to confuse you, but I wasn't talking about Gannon in that lead paragraph. I was describing pre-season top 5 IUP, who is now 3-2 after losing at West Virginia Wesleyan Dec. 7.

There's no reason for anyone in Indiana or Erie to panic, even if our Knights just lost at Central State. Opponents are averaging 74 points per game and are close to outrebounding the Knights (GU holds a slight 35-34 edge). John Reilly's history shows that he can teach his teams to play defense and to rebound. His history also shows that he needs more than 6 weeks to do that. So, I'm not panicked at 2-2 because the Knights still have 23 more games to get better. But if GU is 7-7 in mid-January, then you might have to talk me off the catwalk at the Hammermill Center.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

First Loss Blues

I don't feel like I have the right to say much about Gannon's 79-70 loss at Urbana Saturday. First, I didn't see it and, second, I still feel like I barely know this Gannon team. The only obvious recommendation I can make is next time don't get down by 17 points in the first half on the road.

I'm disappointed that the Golden Knights lost their first of the season to the Blue Knights, but there seemed to be some bright spots:
* As Coach Reilly said in the postgame interview, this team proved they have guts by coming back on the road down by 17
* Good to see Kareem Brown pour in 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting, including 5-for-10 on threes
* Stephen Battle (8 points, 3 rebounds) and Kelvin Agee (15 points, 12 rebounds) continue to impress as freshmen

Urbana -- or UU as they call themselves occasionally -- comes to Erie on Dec. 18. I'll go out on a limb and say that Gannon's defense will be improved over the next couple weeks, and GU won't allow UU 79 points. I'll also predict that Urbana won't have a 24-3 edge in foul shooting as well.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tons Of Answers, Still Some Questions

Gannon outlasted a talented Northern Michigan team tonight, 79-68, to win the Gary Miller Classic. Entering the weekend I had a million questions including basics such as, "Which guy in the layup line is Kelvin Agee?" With two impressive wins (and a combined 163 points in 80 minutes of play), we had many of our questions answered. But I still have a few:

Did you honestly think with so many high-scoring guards now on the roster that Danard Crouch (17 points tonight) would lead the Knights in scoring? Crouch, who at times last year played like the Tazmanian Devil hepped up on a 5-hour energy drink, was completely under control when he had the basketball tonight. With the Knights up by just 3 with under 10 minutes to play, Crouch doubled the lead with a nothing-but-net trey. Northern never got any closer the rest of the night.

Do you recall a year ago on Day 2 of the Miller Classic when Crouch went to the line with GU up 2 with less than a minute to play vs. Northern Kentucky? Crouch tossed a rock that nearly bent the rim. Tonight, he made 5-of-6 foul shots, hit 5 of his 9 field goal attempts, and dished out 4 assists.

Do you recall the final score of that GU/NKU classic a year ago? It was a mind-numbing 40-38. The two teams tonight combined for more points by halftime (44-35 Gannon).

How good was NMU big man Jared Benson tonight? He poured in a career-high 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field. Tanner Furno was so ineffective again Benson that John Reilly kept his super sophomore on the bench for the stretch run.

Will Reilly rotate 10 players this season like he did tonight?
Unlikely if you heard his post-game radio interview with Jim LeCorchick. Reilly said he likes everyone who played, but he needs to establish a more consistent rotation. You know how it goes -- if you split time among 8 guys, the few who stay on the bench are unhappy. If you split time among 10, then nobody's happy.

Could Reilly rotate 10 players if he wanted to? Yes. This team doesn't have a superstar on it (though Agee looks spectacular in bursts) and is as deep as I've seen a Gannon team in many years. Even if a Knight or two gets injured, there are capable reserves to pick up the slack.

Can this team win on the road? We'll find out Saturday at Urbana. The 1-6 Blue Knights have had an equally depressing and interesting season. On Dec. 2 they will make their home debut against Mercyhurst. Their early season road games have taken them to North Carolina (vs. Pfeiffer and Catawba), Kentucky (for the Ky. Wesleyan tournament), Cleveland State, and Kent State. Their only win is against the Univ. of Indianapolis.

Indy must stink, right? Not so fast. On Nov. 8, Indianapolis won at nationally-ranked Division I Tennessee, 79-64. Twelve days later they lose at home to Urbana by 11 points. Meanwhile, Tennessee is beating #7 Villanova by 10 to win the preseason NIT. No wonder coaches go insane.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fresh(man) Start To The Season

Gannon's 2010-11 regular season is off to a grand start after an 84-71 whipping of Cedarville in the first round of the Gary Miller Classic. After the game I couldn't help but look waaay ahead with excitement to the 2012-13 season. Yes, I know that's totally jumping the gun -- thinking ahead 2 years after just 1 game -- but the quality performances of GU freshmen Kelvin Agee (17 points, 7-for-13 FG, 3-for-7 3FG) and Stephen Battle (13 points, 6 rebounds, 6-for-8 FG with one of them a resounding slam) was the highlight of the evening for me.

Agee has a smooth stroke plus athleticism, isn't afraid to shoot, and can even finish inside. He worked hard on both ends of the floor all evening long, harassing Cedarville's leading scorer Matt Harner into a 5-for-17 shooting night. Battle is strong with two pogo sticks for legs. He frequently skied above everyone else on the floor to grab rebounds and contest shots. He even hit a 19-footer from the top of the key and showed a decent mid-range jumper. Two years from now, Agee and Battle will be juniors while Tanner Furno will be a senior. That's a pretty good nucleus to build a program around.

It will be interesting to see how Gannon's 8-man rotation performs Saturday night in the championship game vs. old GLIAC foe Northern Michigan (3-1 this season despite being outscored by their opponents 300-295). Both GU and CU were dragging down the stretch in tonight's game, and I'm sure the Knights will be sore at shootaround tomorrow. I don't care how hard they've been practicing the last few weeks. There's nothing quite like the game's intensity ... and the morning after.

Other thoughts on the Gannon/Cedarville game:
* Of course the Knights weren't perfect, but they looked like they were in control most of the game, executing their motion offense and rotating correctly on defense. Last year, especially in the early season, everything was helter-skelter. I thought guards Steve Piotrowicz, Kareem Brown, and Anthony Clagett did a nice job handling the ball and making sure the Knights got good looks.
* How about I've already mentioned six guys who played well for GU, and I haven't even talked about the solid evenings by seniors Travis Brannen (15 points, 6 rebounds, 7-for-12) and Danard Crouch (8 points, 5 rebounds, 3-for-3 FT, and just 1 TO). The 8 who played for the Knights looked like they will compete in the PSAC this year.
* This was the first-ever game I've attended with my Droid smart phone and, to quote former GU broadcaster Steve Bohen, "Wow!" does that enhance the game experience. I logged onto the live stats for the game periodically to stay updated on the details of the game.
* Because of that, I was stunned when I saw in the final stats that the Knights outrebounded the Yellow Jackets 38-30. I know when I looked at some point in the second half, GU was being outrebounded by 5. They really dominated the boards down the stretch.
* John Reilly is a really classy guy. I shook his hand before with game -- with just 7 minutes left in warmups -- and he engaged me in a conversation about my family, Bud Elwell, Bob Dukiet, and this year's team. He's clearly focused on winning, but that doesn't interfere with friendships.
* Speaking of classy coaches, I was told that former GU boss Jerry Slocum, whose Youngstown State Penguins are off to a fast 3-1 start, drove in to Erie today to pay his respects to the family of Bud Elwell at Brugger funeral home.
* I have a really sweet Northern Michigan long-sleeve T-shirt in my closet. Should I bust it out for the championship game just to mess with some people?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks For The Memories, Mr. Elwell


We all know former Gannon player, coach, and legendary athletic director Howard Elwell as "Bud," but I never called him that when talking with him. He was (and always will be) "Mr. Elwell" to me. Even though he and I developed a friendship over the years -- he'd wryly say "Jimmeeee" instead of "hello" when our paths crossed -- I had too much admiration and respect to call him anything but "Mr. Elwell." He passed away at age 76 on Tuesday due to complications from a heart operation a month earlier.

I want to express my condolences to his wife Nancy and the entire Elwell family. They have been fixtures at Gannon games over the past decade. I also want to share some Elwell stories that I'm very fond of:

* In February 1989, four months into my freshman season as a Gannon walk-on, I was in the lockerroom about 45 minutes before practice began lacing up my sneakers with my back to the door. Mr. Elwell walked in and asked me for some towels. I looked in the lockers around me and said, "I don't know where any are." He replied, "What do you mean? I just gave you about 20." Startled (and a little panicked) I turned to face Mr. Elwell and said, "Um, I didn't get any towels," to which he responded after looking me in the eyes, "Oh -- sorry. I thought you were Boone (team manager John Boone)." I knew I wasn't showing up on any opponent scouting report, but I thought at least the AD from my own school knew who I was!

* My first three years at Gannon I worked as the sports editor at the Gannon Knight student newspaper. Our annual April Fool's edition was 16 pages of made-up stories and fake names, and for one of those issues I had written (what I thought was) a doozy. In the late 80s, there was lots of talk of Gannon moving to Division I, so I took it to the absurd and wrote an April Fool's story about Gannon deciding to jump over Division I and right into the professional ranks. Also, earlier that year, Mr. Elwell had broken his leg chasing some miscreant teenager from his backyard. He'd made things worse -- and received jabs from many in the athletic department -- when he fell down the athletic department steps in the Hammermill one afternoon. Tying all that together in my story, I attributed this quote to athletic director "Thud Felwell": "It's always been my dream for Gannon to have professional teams. But then again, I have this recurring dream where I'm running naked through a pool of green Jell-O while being chased by Santa Claus, so maybe my dreams aren't applicable here." That was hilarious in my head, but when I saw it in print I thought, "Holy crap! I just insulted my athletic director ... and I don't think I've ever seen him smile!" That week I saw Mr. Felwell -- er, Elwell -- in the athletic offices and he called me over to his desk. "I saw your story," he said without a smile before pausing. "Pretty funny." From then on, whenever I visited the sports information office, I'd say hello to Mr. Elwell and we'd talk about journalism and glory days of Erie sports.

* When I was an upperclassman I ran into Mr. Elwell about a half hour before a practice. I was getting in some pre-practice jumpers at the Audi when he said, "Drug test today, Jimmy," which meant everyone had to pee in a cup before practice. "Ugh," I replied. "I just used the bathroom." I figured I'd have to drink a gallon of water before practice to produce a sample for the NCAA to enjoy. But Mr. Elwell came to my rescue. "Hell, you won't even drink a beer," he said. "Skip this one. I'll take care of it." I hope sharing this story doesn't bring NCAA sanctions against Gannon ...

* When the 1989-90 Gannon team made its run to the Elite 8 in Springfield, all home playoff games for the MCC (Mideast Collegiate Conference) tournament and NCAA were broadcast live on local TV. By the time the regional final came around, Mike Gallagher and Brian Duffy had already interviewed every decent player on the team, so they kind of had to do a story on me. Or Gumby. The thing I recall most about that piece came after right after the segment. Gallagher added during the live broadcast, "Gannon athletic director 'Bud' Elwell added that Jim Roddy is quote 'one of the classiest players in the history of the Gannon program.'"

As you know already, I was ecstatic just to be a minuscule part of the Gannon basketball program, so to hear that compliment on TV thrilled me to no end. Heck, 20 years later I'm still beaming about it. But the best part of all was that those words were from one of the finest gentlemen in the history of Gannon University, Mr. Elwell.

Feel free to share your comments on Mr. Elwell below or click here to leave a condolence for the Elwell family through the Brugger Funeral Homes website.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting Ugly Early

The season is very young, but the PSAC has already suffered some ugly losses. Shippensburg was thumped 84-71 at Goldey-Beacom, not exactly a Division II powerhouse. West Chester lost a snoozer (45-42) at University of the Sciences, who was 7-20 a year ago. And you know how the DII schools usually kick the crud out of the tiny Penn State branch campuses (like Penn State-Greater Allegheny)? Well, Penn State Wilkes-Barre turned the tables on Bloomsburg by a 73-70 count.

But guess who laid the biggest egg of the early season? Our good friends at Lock Haven University. Click here to read the game story and click here for the box score. When I first saw the score on the PSAC website, I thought it had to be a typo. But, no, coach John Wilson has taken the Bald Eagles to new depths, losing by 106 points in their second game of the season. Some of the highlights from the stat sheet:
* Turnovers: LHU 34, WL 8
* Steals: WL 25, LH 5
* Assists: WL 40, LHU 7
* Players in double figures: WL 9, LHU 1
* WL had 21 three-point field goals, Lock Haven had 18 total field goals
* FG%: WL 68%, LHU 29%
* WL started the game on a 38-3 run
* WL scored its 100th point with 14:17 left in the game
* LH scored 48 points for the game. WL had 48 points 10 minutes in.

Remember how last year Gannon started its season with a 30-point loss to Urbana? That game was awful. Now add 76 points to UU's total and try to imagine how that tastes.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All Eyes On Cedarville


While the Golden Knights are still trying to figure out each other, their opponent for the opening round of the Gary Miller Classic is already raising a trophy. Cedarville is 2-0 after defeating host Rio Grande, 85-78, in the championship game of the Rio Grande Bevo Francis Tournament Saturday. Here are some stats on the Yellow Jackets you might find interesting (thru 2 games). Please keep in mind that two games doesn't exactly make a trend, but it does shed some light on the club:
* Two seniors and two sophomores average double figures -- Matt Harner (15.5), Austin Foote (14.0), Brian Hecker (13.5), and Derrick Hannon (13.0)
* The Yellow Jackets are 25-of-55 on threes (46%) and 74-of-129 (57%) from the field overall. Good shooters, right?
* Well, maybe that's only when they have a hand in their face. They're only 10-for-21 from the foul line, a paltry 47%. Harner has made 7-of-9 threes but he's 0-of-4 from the charity stripe.
* Opponents are shooting 50% from the field against them.
* They've outrebounded opponents an average of 38-25.
* The attendance for the championship game was 340. I've had bigger parties at my house. Apparently the Yellow Jacket fans don't travel well, but they support their team like crazy on campus.

Before heading to the Hammermill Center, Cedarville -- who is ranked #14 in NAIA Division II -- will play two more important games in their division. They host #24 Indiana Wesleyan as well as preseason #1 and defending national champion Saint Francis (Ind.) on Nov. 19-20 in the 33rd Annual Cedarville Invitational. (We'll provide updates on those games on the Gannon Hoops website. And if you think I'm the only one blogging about Cedarville basketball, guess again.)

I'm trying to get a gauge on how good Cedarville is, but I'm not sure if I should be impressed that they beat Bluefield (W.Va) by 23 to open the season. I don't know anything about Bluefield -- not even their team mascot. CU was 26-9 last year with one of those losses by 17 at Urbana (88-71). Then again, they shellacked Urbana at home 97-75. Other W's came against Roberts Wesleyan, Daemen, and Taylor (Ind.), who GU held off for a two-point home win last year. Everyone else on their schedule from a season ago sounds like a high school (St. Xavier), a bank (Huntington), or a merger between a blood-pressure drug and a rural church (Trevecca Nazarene).

Update #1: (11/16/10) Cedarville led at halftime, 45-39, but lost at Findlay tonight by a 94-75 final. The Oilers are preseason #3 in Division II play.

Update #2: (11/20/10) Cedarville lost at home Friday night to NAIA Division II #24 Indiana Wesleyan, 70-65. The Jackets shot just 41% from the field in front of a nice-sized crowd of 1700+.

Update #3: (11/21/10) Cedarville fell to 2-3 overall after their 100-84 home loss to NAIA Division II #1 St. Francis (Ind.). Cedarville was just 4-of-12 from the foul line, making them an even 50% for the season (25-for-50) on charity tosses. I'm perplexed how a team that shoots it so well from three-point range (40%, 50-for-125) can be so abysmal when uncontested. I also can't understand how St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, could be so mean to Yellow Jackets.

Update #4: (11/24/10) Cedarville ended its three-game losing streak with an 87-75 home win over Ohio Christian. The game was close throughout. CU jacked up 35 threes (making 11) and shot 59% from the foul line, bringing their season FT percentage to 53.2%.

Geez, I think we know more about Cedarville than we do our own Knights. We'll learn a lot Nov. 26-27. And so will coach John Reilly.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Where Are They Now?


Want to know where some ex-Gannon players have gone? Me, too. Here's the latest, courtesy of a Friend of Gannon Hoops:

- George Johnson is at Division II power Augusta State. They have an exhibition game Thursday at the University of Georgia. Please -- no jokes about him quitting the team after they lose that game.

- Filmore "Mook" Bouldes transferred to GLVC member Missouri S&T. They've had 2 exhibition games so far, but Bouldes has yet to play in either.

- Daren Dexter is at Division III Greensboro College (N.C.). In their 103-60 exhibition game loss to DI Elon, Dexter was the leading scorer with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals in 30 minutes of action.

- Jerell Sanders is in the GLIAC now, suiting up for Ferris State. Sanders started in the Bulldogs' 69-39 exhibition game victory over Aquinas, but he did not score in 20 minutes of play. I'm sure he and combustible assistant coach Ed Douma will get along famously. UPDATE #3: Sanders had 9 points and 10 rebounds off the bench in FSU's overtime loss at Indiana. No, not Indiana (Pa.) -- at freaking Indiana University in Bloomington. Sanders hit what would have been a game-winning shot as time expired in regulation, but it was ruled just after the horn.

UPDATE #1 (thanks to Coach Corey)
- Anthony Simmons has landed at NAIA Division I Xavier (La.). In first game against Webber International, Simmons started and was 6-for-8 from the field for 12 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 turnover in 22 minutes playing time. I think the biggest shock here is that there's a Webber International University and they have an athletic program.

UPDATE #2 (thanks to an anonymous emailer)
Larry Swann has landed at NAIA Division II Dakota Wesleyan University (S.D.) . Swann has started and hit double figures in each contest for the 4-0 Tigers. He hasn't exactly found his shooting stroke yet, hitting on only 12-of-36 field goals attempts including just 3-for-12 from three-point range. The coolest thing of all is that DWU's home arena is the Corn Palace.

If you know anything about Isaac Reid's basketball situation, please let me know.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

We're Number ... 4?


The PSAC announced its preseason coaches poll today, with Gannon tabbed #4. What exactly does that mean? Absolutely nothing. Seriously. You're better off guessing what Cleve Wright's going to eat for lunch on Aug. 25 of next year. (My money's on Spaghettio's.)

Let's take a look at what the experts said about our Golden Knights last year. First, the Knights were among "others receiving votes" in the 2009-10 NABC preseason Top 25. Even more comical was the predicted finish of the PSAC West last year. The coaches forecasted: IUP (which was a no-brainer), Cal, Gannon, Slippery Rock, Mercyhurst, Edinboro, Clarion, and Lock Haven (an other no-brainer in part because their coach is a no-brainer). Cal and Slippery Rock didn't even make the playoffs while Clarion surged to second place.

Here's my predicted finish for how the West will be won this season. My methodology is simple: IUP is first, Lock Haven is last, and everyone else will be picked at random. Let's look after the season and see if my technique is more accurate than the PSAC coaches. I'm actually going to write names of the 6 remaining schools on scrap paper and pick them out of a Gannon hat. Here goes:
1. IUP
2. Cal
3. Mercyhurst
4. Edinboro
5. Clarion
6. Gannon
7. Slippery Rock
8. Lock Haven

So when Gannon comes in second, I'm sure someone will say, "Ha ha! You thought they were going to miss the playoffs!" I'll blame my hat.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Le Troy Nesmith


One of my all-time favorite interview subjects -- no matter what school, sport, or gender -- was former Golden Knight All-American Troy Nesmith. I recall conducting a pre-season interview him and Steve Moyer together in the Gannon library. The always extremely confident Nesmith said something like, "I think we're the best backcourt in Division II basketball, and maybe one of the best in all of college basketball." Nesmith was skilled at shooting both the ball and his mouth off.

I was excited when I did a Google search tonight for "Troy Nesmith" and came across a video interview about his European professional basketball career. Watch and listen to it by clicking here. Does he seem different to you?

Here are a few other Nesmith-related stories. I love the English-translated headlines:
* Troy Nesmith, born leader
* Troy Nesmith returned to Alsace. This story makes no sense to me.
* The favorite Dessenheim. Not much value here, except a good picture of Nesmith rebounding.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ace of Knights


Dave Lanahan, a co-worker of mine at Jameson Publishing and former basketball player at Mercyhurst College, loves talking Gannon Hoops. Especially after the Knights lose. Regrettably, he was very chatty last year. So even though it's been 258 days since GU lost the Hurst, Dave was talking Gannon basketball today. He asked if I had heard about the former Gannon basketball player who was participating in the World Series of Poker. Here's a partial transcript of the ESPN broadcast that Lanahan heard:
00:40:40 And johnny lodden waiting on the turn.
00:40:47 It's an 8 of hearts.
00:40:54 The $9 million top prize is enough for him.
00:41:02 And checks it on board.
00:41:02 Berkey from los angeles.
00:41:03 Berkey played basketball at gannon university in pennsylvania.
00:41:08 The river card, 5 of diamonds.
00:41:15 Both unimpressed by the diamonds.
00:41:22 He says, I got jacks.
00:41:25 And that's a winner.

First, most of what was said there made no sense to me -- including the Gannon basketball reference. There wasn't a guy named Berkey from Los Angeles who played for the Knights. So what in the name of Mike Kopas is going on?

Thanks to the Gannon Hoops research team (that would be my wife Barbara), it appears the ESPN announcers misspoke when they said "basketball." Matt Berkey (pictured above) played baseball at Gannon, pitching from 2002-05. He's listed at #5 in Opponents Batting Average (.318) and #7 on Gannon's all-time list for best Earned Run Average (7.39). Those stats reveal how stunningly unspectacular pitching has been at Gannon over the years. (A kid with a 9.39 ERA and .350 opponents batting average is on of the school's all-time best list? Do the other guys throw underhand?)

So no ex-Gannon basketball player is raking in big money at the World Series of Poker. Nuts. I was hoping I could get familiar enough with the game to some day say with a straight face, "I want to get my money in with the worst hands, suck, and double up" and "before you can seize it, you better flop it."

Monday, October 11, 2010

New Knights Keep On Coming


Gannon SSID (Super Sports Information Director) Dan Teliski sent me an email yesterday informing me that complete bios for the men's basketball team are now online. Click here for the team roster and then click on the player's name who you want more info on.

But don't click just yet. I came across two very interesting facts while doing my clicking on the roster:
1. The Knights have named a new assistant coach. He's Matt Stearsman (see photo) and he comes to GU from NAIA St. Catherine (Ky.) College, which I have to admit I've never heard of before. Nuts -- I thought I knew every U.S. college that had a basketball team! Stearsman coached previously for two seasons at NAIA Oklahoma City University where former Kentucky Wesleyan coach Ray Harper jumped to before KWC was placed on probation. My guess is that there's a connection between Harper and John Reilly, who both coached in Owensboro, Ky. -- Harper at Wesleyan and Reilly down the street (literally) at Brescia.

2. You probably already knew that Mercyhurst Prep grad John Eisenman was walking on for the Knights, but did you know that he's the son of Nancy Eisenman and former Gannon athletic director and hoopster Howard "Bud" Elwell? Not to put any pressure on John, but Bud registered 253 points between 1951-54. You'd better score at least 50 points this year or you're going to hear it at the dinner table all off-season.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gannon Team Photo


Thanks for the heads up from Gannon SSID Dan Teliski and GUBBFWLR that the team photo is now online at GannonSports.com. Here are the photo IDs:

Front row (L-R): Kelvin Agee (12), Kareem Brown (5), Anthony Clagett (10), Steve Piotrowicz (3), John Eisenman (4), Danard Crouch (20), and Ramon Smith (32). Back row: Alvin Tucker (15), Darrell Blanton (40), Stephen Battle (30), Travis Brannen (42), Tanner Furno (21), Dennis Rumph (2), Clinton Springer-Williams (1), and Malcom Woodbury (25).

Personal note: My daughter's favorite player is the guy whose uniform number matches her age. Past faves have been Joe Lindsey (3) and Piotrowicz (4). Congratulations Kareem Brown!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Knight: Darrell Blanton F jr. 6-3

This should be the 9th and final installment of "New Knights" and "GU Recruits" for the 2010-11 season. When I sat down at my computer to research Darrell Blanton, I honestly thought I'd find some ho-hum stuff on just another guy. Here's Blanton in a nutshell: high-scoring Division I signee, juco All-American, and all-state high schooler who drew comparisons to NBA stars. Pretty decent first impression, huh?

Below is some more info on Blanton. Let's hope everyone sticks around so next off-season we only need to talk about the replacements for seniors Danard Crouch, Travis Brannen, and Kareem Brown.

* A May 30, 2010 story from the Akron Beacon-Journal stated: "Rivals.com is reporting that Darrell Blanton, a Chicago junior college player originally from Euclid, has signed a letter of intent to play at Akron. A team source tells me that Blanton, a 6-foot-3 forward, will likely be a walk-on in 2010 if his grades are sufficient." I'm not sure if Blanton didn't make the grade at Akron or if a Gannon scholarship offer was better than walking on for the Zips.

* Blanton played his sophomore season at Kennedy-King (IL) College in Chicago. If you know Kennedy-King's nickname, I'll buy you a bag of popcorn at Gannon's home opener. If you know Blanton's stats at Kennedy-King, I'll buy you a drink as well. K-K has very little information on their website but they are the proud owners of one of the lamest schedule pages in all of college basketball.
* Blanton was an honorable mention NJCAA Division I All-American at Kennedy-King.
* He was named Player of the Week for his region after two games with cumulative stats of 52 points (64.7 percent from field), 17 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks.

* As a freshman, Blanton played at Fort Scott (KS) Community College, where he averaged 17.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.2 steals, and 1 block per game. He shot 55% from the field and 64% from the foul line.
* At FSCC, Blanton was named to the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference honorable mention team. If you're thinking you've heard of that conference before, it's where GU recruits Anthony Clagett and Dennis Rumph played last year.

* At Euclid High School, Blanton received several honors including Division I All-Ohio 3rd team All-State by Ohio Prep Stars and Honorable Mention All-State by the Associated Press. He was also accorded Northeast Lakes All-District 1st team accolades after averaging 19.1 ppg in 2007-08.
* Blanton was the #40 senior in Ohio in 2008 as rated by Hoop Scoop Online. Everybody from #52 and up was either going Division I or uncommitted to a college.
* The info related to Blanton's high school days that really jumped out to me were the statements made by his former assistant coach at Euclid when talking about a current EHS player. Tedd Kwasniak, who won back-to-back state championships as the head coach at Villa Angela-St. Joseph in 1994 and 1995, is an assistant at Euclid. Talking about Demetrius Treadwell, Kwasniak "brought up names such as former NBA player Ruben Patterson, current New Orleans Hornet forward James Posey, former VASJ standout Jerome Davis, former St. Joe's and Ohio State standout Treg Lee, and former All-Ohioan Darrell Blanton - a Euclid grad."

* I couldn't find a photo online of Blanton, so I'll pretend that this is him. Man can that kid get up!

So that's all the new Knights. We've pretty much exhausted every detail of the entire Gannon roster and we talked about a guy who was never on the roster. What do we do for the next two months until the Gary Miller Classic? Research Cedarville, I guess.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Knight: Alvin Tucker G jr. 6-3


All of Gannon's new players will have to make adjustments this season, but Alvin Tucker may have it the worst. The last two seasons he's been at sunny Florida Tech in Melbourne, Fla., where he averaged 8.6 points and 5.6 rebounds (2nd best on the team). Tucker played in all 27 Panther games last year, starting 3, shooting 46% from the field including 22-of-58 (38%) from three-point range. He shot 80% from the free throw line and registered 32 steals, both second best on the team.

Tucker, who hails from Upper Marlboro, Md. -- where John Reilly has a slew of connections from when he grew up there -- played scholastically at Georgetown Prep. He averaged 16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals as a senior for the Little Hoyas. (Side note #1: I don't know what a "Hoya" is, so I'm really confused about what a "Little Hoya" could be.) Tucker shot the ball well, hitting 78% on free throws and 48% on threes. He led Georgetown with 32 three-pointers in 25 games.

That data above is from the press release on his signing with Florida Tech two years ago. Here's some other info from that release you may find interesting:
* "Tucker was voted the number one most underrated player in the Interstate Athletic Conference. After suffering an injury his junior year, he started the 2007-08 in the shadows of two other players receiving Division I offers. Tucker, however, made an immediate impact on his team, posting double figures in nine of the team’s first 10 games. He eventually led the Little Hoyas to an IAC Tournament Championship and earned all-conference honors for his efforts on the court. He was additionally named to the Good Counsel Tip-Off Classic All-Tournament Team after leading his team to the championship game."
* Georgetown Prep coach Dwayne Bryant (Side note #2: Yes, he played at Georgetown in the late 80s.): "Alvin is a terrific kid who I think could be an instant contributor to Florida Tech as a freshman. Florida Tech is getting an excellent basketball player and an even better person."
* Tucker: "My dream is to use my athletic and intellectual talents to further my education and become a first generation college graduate in my family."

Here are a few more tidbits on Tucker:
* This article from the Washington Post talks about a big Little Hoya win and includes quotes from Tucker. (Side note #3: How cool would it be as a high school kid to wear those Georgetown uniforms?)
* I'm guessing this photo of Tucker won't be in the Gannon media guide.

- - - - - - - - -

Final side note: Why does the guy in this video remind me of Mercyhurst coach Gary Manchel? Take 5 minutes today to watch this video. You'll thank yourself (and maybe me) after you do. I'd like to find out where this guy got his Master's in Communications.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New Knight: Clinton Springer-Williams 6-4 F soph.


I remember when Mercyhurst scrimmaged a Canadian college basketball team several years ago and someone in the stands quipped: "Do you know who Canadian basketball players are? The kids who got cut from the hockey team." I hope that's not the case for Clinton Springer-Williams, a Canadian native and transfer to Gannon from Brock University (St. Catherines, ONT).

I'm not sure how many Canadians have played hoops for Gannon. The only one I can recall is Kwame Manu, and his athletic resume won't get him into the GU sports Hall of Fame anytime soon. But I have to say that looking at the accomplishments of Springer-Williams has me excited.

As a freshman at Brock, he was named Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Rookie of the Year. Basically, that's equivalent to being named NCAA Freshman of the Year for Canada. His stats are eye-popping for a first-year player. He averaged 21.2 ppg -- best among CIS rookies and 6th among all CIS players -- while shooting 46% from the field. In his conference (the Ontario University Athletics Conference), he ranked in the top 10 in three other offensive categories -- 5th in field goals made (143), 4th in free throws made (121), and 8th in free throw percentage (82.3). He also reached double figures in 30-of-31 games, including 13 with 20 points or more, six with 30 or more and a season-high 40 in Brock's season finale. Springer-Williams also averaged 6.2 rebounds per game.

If those numbers don't get your attention, maybe the comments for his former head coach will. Brock's Ken Murray, who resigned after the 2009-2010 season, his 20th for the Badgers, has said plenty about Springer-Williams:
* Soon after Springer-Williams signed with Brock: "We stole the (Springer-Williams) kid. He had some big American schools after him. He's probably going to be the most exciting player we've had in our lineup in a long, long, time."
* "[Clinton] is the one guy that will always give that extra effort. He's playing until the final buzzer. He's just a great offensive talent. He's very difficult to stop. The only one who stops Clinton is himself."
* "Clinton had one of the best seasons I have seen by a rookie in my 30-plus years of coaching. He has clearly shown people across the country his pure athleticism and scoring ability."

According to The CIS Blog, Springer-Williams "was a HoopStars Canada top 50 player, had a tryout for Canada's junior national team, drew NCAA D-1 interest from the likes of Davidson, which had its Cinderella run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament in 2008 — not unlike Brock did in the Final 8, eh." I know that last statement about Brock in the Final 8 means nothing to all of us, but I couldn't edit out the "eh" part. It proves the quote is from a legit Canadian website.

At Regina Mundi Catholic HS, Springer-Williams averaged 26 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists per game and was twice the team MVP. The Brock U website also claims that when Springer-Williams signed with them, he "just recently turned downed numerous Division 1 scholarship offers including one from Davidson College."

Now if after all this you're still scoffing about Canadian basketball, maybe this info will win you over: In an exhibition game just prior to last season -- one of his first in a college uniform -- Springer-Williams scored 30 points in a 4-point loss to the University of Findlay. Yes, that Findlay.

Here are additional links on Springer-Williams:
* Here's a feature story from The Brock Press.
* This is an article from the Welland Tribune about Springer-Williams' transfer to Gannon.
* This video is from a high school dunk contest. The crowd kind of overreacts, don't you think?
* Here's a photo of him winning the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) Rookie of the Year award.
* That last photo was kind of boring. Here are a couple action photos: driving to his left and flipping up a shot during a Brock game.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rumor & Roster

I'll dig in and get more details on these topics in the near future, but in the meantime here are some Gannon Hoops tidbits I thought you'd find interesting:

* This isn't on the Gannon website, but I've been told that on Nov. 4 Gannon will have an exhibition game vs. Division I Canisius. That's cool, but here's the kicker: the game will be played at the Hammermill Center. A DI going on the road to a DII? Win or lose, that would be a tremendous way to tip-off the season.

* I've heard that highly touted recruit Kyle Servance was injured in the off season and won't play for the Knights this year. He's not even enrolled at Gannon but could still attend GU next year. Too bad -- for the kid and for us. Servance ranked in the NJCAA top 10 in both assists and three-point percentage last year. I'm thinking that leaves the point guard battle to Steve Piotrowicz and Anthony Clagett.

* The 2010-11 Gannon roster is now online with no more changes planned. (Insert sarcastic, cynical comment here). Three names we haven't heard much about are listed: Mercyhurst Prep grad John Eisenman, sophomore transfer Clinton Springer-Williams, and junior transfer Alvin Tucker. Again, I'll dig up some more details on these guys, but in the meantime enjoy this story on Springer-Williams courtesy of Gannon Hoops follower JRD.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Former Knight in FIBA World Championships


I'm sure that not every Gannon Hoops fan is following the FIBA World Basketball Championships taking place now in Turkey, but after reading this post you might follow the tourney a little closer. And I'm not talking about Team USA. Former Gannon player Zaid Al-Khas is a member of the Jordanian national team and receives quite a bit of playing time. Through three games, Al-Khas has played 66 minutes, scoring 16 points and grabbing 17 rebounds.

Since his days in a Gannon uniform, Al-Khas has been playing professionally in Jordan and doing well. Heck, the guy has his own Wikipedia page and is a hit on YouTube. Al-Khas was one of the most underrated Golden Knights of all-time. He was big, strong, wide, had good hands, a soft touch, and rebounded like a bull. Yet when GU fans talk about the best big men in recent Gannon history, they talk about Josh Morgan, Geoff Husted, and Kyle Goldcamp but rarely is Al-Khas in the conversation. Good to see him fulfilling his dream as a pro basketball player and representing his country in a prestigious tournament.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gannon to Wright: Cleve, Don't Leave!


Just wanted to make sure that everyone heard the great news today that Gannon extended Cleve Wright's contract through 2012-2013. My only criticism of this is that GU didn't extend it through the 2112-2113 season when Wright will be 145 years old. Does anybody have anything negative to say about this guy? (I'm asking that rhetorically. I'm really not looking for dirt on him.) Kudos the the Gannon administration for making this move.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reilly, Gannon Hoops making headlines

Kudos to John Dudley of the Erie Times for this mid-August story on John Reilly and Gannon basketball. The story appeared on the front page of the Sunday paper. The following is an excerpt from the piece. (I won't copy-and-paste the whole thing fearing that the Meads, Cuneos, and Bob Jarzomski will track me down, string me up, and then beat me senseless with a heavy typewriter for violating their copyright.)

"It might be August, typically a down time for college men's basketball, especially at the Division II level. At Gannon, though, where men's basketball is king, and where there is a full-time, independent blog devoted to the school's marquee athletic program, there really is no offseason.

"'That's a positive,' Reilly said last week of the year-round interest in his team, even if some of that interest takes the form of blind speculation, Monday morning quarterbacking and straight reporting of plain old bad news.

"'I think it's great that people care that much about us,' he continued. 'I also think that not everybody really understands everything that we're dealing with on a day-to-day basis.'"


I'm thrilled that Gannon basketball is making headlines in the middle of the summer. If I have an ulterior motive with this site, it's to make sure that interest in Gannon Hoops doesn't wane. Cheering fans packing the Hammermill is the best-case scenario, booing fans are second best, and apathy about your program is by far the worst.

I'm glad that Reilly sees it that way, too. He was a positive influence on my life, and, to be honest, I feel twinges of remorse when a website that I started is the platform for people to call him some form of a meathead.

And how about Gannon Hoops getting some street cred from Dudley? As we've talked about the past couple months, Internet sites like this are really nothing more than a nitwit at a keyboard speaking his feeble mind. Your ongoing commentary makes the site what it is today. Thanks very much for your time, your interest, and your comments. Apparently, lots of other people are watching what we do.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Dwayne Soders Saga Continues ... Before It's Even Started


I don't know if there's ever been more discussion around Erie or on local sports talk radio regarding a kid that Gannon hasn't even acknowledged they're interested in than Dwayne Soders. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can catch up on Soders, aka Mr. Walk Like Jordan, by reading the comments on this recent Gannon Hoops post.

Just when I thought this was over (before it ever really began), this comment shows up on this site yesterday. I'm sharing it here because not everyone will read 20 comments deep on a post. Here goes:

darius said...

Its funny how people will sit up and talk about a individual they've never met to make themselves feel important! I know the kid Dwayne Soders from fort worth witch is one of the greatest players to come through fort worth ISD. He was the MVP of the district of fort worth, leading his team all the way to the semi finals in 2007. Signed with McClennan Community College where he was a very important piece of what was a great program, playing in the national junior college playoffs being recruited very highly from schools like Arkansas razor backs Nevada, Rutgers, Morehead State,MISSOURI IN THE BIG TWELVE, TCU and many other schools. His sophmore season from kilgore College where he was one of the important pieces leading them to the playoff's witch they hadn't made before he signed. he led them in field goal percentage, while leading the team in rebounds while he was 4th in scoring. Dwayne Soders decided to sit out a year to work toward his associates degree he needed to compete at the division one level. while Dwayne Soders took a year off he did a lot of community service to give back to those who helped him get to where he was and receive his accomplishments. He was called to give a speech to the chairman and board of the BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB OF GREATER FORT WORTH on why they shouldn't close boys and girls club's, he gave his time the entire summer coaching a AAU team of young men took them to La's Vegas and won the entire tournament! I know Dwayne Soders personally i deal with him on the every day basis he is a great individual with the heart and desire to make a difference in the up coming future! Dwayne attends church where his grand father is a pastor witch is who he stays with, he plays the drums and participates in all kind of activities in the church. I Believe it is sad how you guys will sit up and down grade a person you know nothing about. I hope you guys know that Dwayne Soders is coming to Gannon University feeling better than ever, while sitting out this summer Soders has trained with Arkansas hall of fame and NBA'S retired veteran OLIVER MILLER KNOW AS BIG O, and the Harlem Globe Trotters LARRY COLEMAN ALL SUMMER. DWAYNE SODERS IS A 6'6 ATHLETIC, VERSITLE GUARD FORWARD, HAS A TONE OF STRENGTH, AND HAS BEEN SAID TO BE ONE OF THE HARDEST WORKING PLAYERS TO HIT THE FLOOR, DWAYNE BRINGS HIS GAME IN A TONE OF WAYS, HE'S A BIG TIME REBOUNDER, VERY SKILLED AND POWERFULL POST PLAYER, CAN PUT IT ON THE FLOOR, AND SHOOT THE THREE. LOOK OUT GANNON!!!! I AM DARIUS THOMAS WHEN I SAW THIS ARTICLE I HAD TO LEAVE A PIECE OF MIND!
August 4, 2010 11:18 PM


And check out a post from today on the @MrWalkLikeJordan Twitter page: WHAT I SAW ANOTHER INDIVIDUAL WRITE UP ABOUT ME IN A ONLINE ARTICLE... AND KNOWS NOTHING OF MY CHARACTERISTICS.... I'M USING AS MOTIVATION!! (Aug. 5)

I find the dynamic of this whole thing fascinating. Most of our sources for this is user-generated text on the internet which could have zero validity whatsoever. Any day now I'm expecting to hear that this whole thing was a charade. At the same time, I'm expecting a press release from GU SID Dan Teliski announcing Soders' signing.

Is this whole thing fact or fiction? Don't know, don't care. Either way it's drama. Most Division II basketball teams don't get fans talking about them during the season let alone in the dog days of August. As long as we're talking Gannon hoops, I'm a happy guy.

Side Note: I've been told that spotted on the Gannon campus this week was Ferrakohn Hall, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Seton Hall (the Pirates had a coaching change this off-season). He didn't have great stats at Seton Hall (2.4 ppg), but he was first-team all state at White Station HS (Tenn.) and is described as "long and athletic." I've also been told that Hall was offered a scholarship by coach Reilly and accepted immediately. Could he be the big man we've been waiting for?

No -- because what I said in the previous paragraph was completely fabricated. As far as I know, Ferrakohn Hall has never heard of Erie, let alone visited here. I just made it up. But I had you going for a second, didn't I? Be careful what you read on the web ...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My new favorite Gannon player: Malcom Woodbury


Malcom Woodbury may have only scored a handful of points in his college basketball career, but he scored some major points for a former high school classmate recently. Read the story below for details. For photos from the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, click here. Thanks to perennial GU season-ticket holder Paul DeSante for the heads up on this article.

Granby grad returns to keep prom-night promise

By Jaedda Armstrong, The Virginian-Pilot © May 24, 2010

Malcolm Woodbury sat at a table dressed in a black tux as he watched other prom goers boogie. He turned to his prom date, Sharonda Lebray, who sat beside him clad in a teal cocktail dress, cupped her chin in his hand, gazed into her eyes and asked, "Wanna dance?"

Malcolm is a 21-year-old college student who could have been anywhere that night. But he was at the Harrison Opera House for Granby High School's prom. He flew from Pennsylvania to be Sharonda's date. If he hadn't, he said, Sharonda probably wouldn't have attended.

They met four years ago, when he was a junior at Granby. He was a popular basketball player, a self-proclaimed ladies man. And Sharonda, 22, has cerebral palsy, a muscle disorder caused by brain damage. She can walk and eat on her own, but can't speak. He decided to join the Physical Education Leadership Training (PELT) class, which pairs students with disabled classmates.

Nervous at first, his concerns faded as he started interacting with the students. After playing bean bag toss and other games with Sharonda, he realized that she wasn't much different from other girls. She likes her hair and clothes, and sometimes she even has an attitude, he said.

He decided to take her to his prom in 2007. He remembers how his classmates were stunned to see him, a guy who had a list of possible dates, enter the ballroom with Sharonda on his arm.

"I just wanted her to have the chance to be out there with the rest of the school, and be as beautiful as she was that night," said Malcolm, a junior communications major at Gannon University in Erie, Pa. "It made people realize that I'm not as shallow as they perceive athletes to be."

That night he promised he'd come back to take Sharonda to her prom. When he'd be home from college, Malcolm made sure to stop by Granby to see his former teachers, and check on Sharonda, who would start to cry when she spotted him. "It's extremely humbling," Malcolm said. "She can't talk, but the tears rolling down her face and the noise she makes tells me that she's happy."

Sharonda requires constant assistance from an aide, Deborah Shuler, who holds Sharonda's arm when she walks. Sharonda can't go far and is easily distracted. When she gets tired of walking, she'll abruptly sit on the floor or in a chair and refuse to budge. Her movements are rough, her hands shake and she has seizures daily. "We know she may not ever have a boyfriend or get married, so this is her magical night," Shuler said.

At her prom, Sharonda gazed at the bright lights as Malcolm nodded his head to the music. They got up to dance as Malcolm walked her to the floor. He wrapped his arms around her waist. When they sat back down, he held her hand and whispered into her ear. Sharonda smiled hard as if he was telling her a juicy secret. By 10:30, Sharonda was tired. The night ended with them taking pictures.

It was bittersweet, Malcolm said. He was happy that he could take Sharonda to the prom, but she's graduating and his family has moved to Atlanta. He won't have a reason to come back to Granby High. He still plans to call and check up on her. And maybe visit every now and then. Sharonda's prom was perhaps as important to him as to her, he believes.

"If I was to just graduate and leave and never come back, that wouldn't have been right," he said. "I didn't want it to just be a moment."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

GU Recruit: Ramon Smith G 6-3 jr.


It's taken quite a while -- that's what happens when you replace two-thirds of your team -- but here's the final bio on the 7-member Gannon recruiting class. (Note: Another signing could be made later this summer; if it happens we'll hop back onto Google and look for info on that guy, too.)

I tried uncovering as much info as I could on Ramon Smith, but that's hard to do with a guy named "Smith." For example, he's from the Virginia area and dang was I excited to see that Ramon Smith was named Washington Post All-Met honorable mention in 2006. The first team for that squad included Kevin Durant (Texas/NBA), Austin Freeman (Georgetown), Greivis Vasquez (Maryland/NBA), and Darryl Webb (IUP). But that Ramon Smith was from St. Stephen's/St. Agnes High School, not Patterson High School like Gannon's Ramon Smith. So, he's not that guy, but thank goodness he's not THIS Ramon Smith.

Here's what I could come up with on the real Ramon Smith, much of the data thanks to Gannon's Super SID Dan Teliski:

* Transferred from Frederick (Md.) Community College, where he led the Cougars to their first-ever regional title
* Named to the NJCAA Region XX Division I All-Tournament team after registering 19 points, 9 rebounds, 6 steals and 4 assists in the regional championship game. Here's the article from that contest.
* Here's his bio from FCC. Rather underwhelming from an information perspective, eh?
* I'm not sure who Frederick is playing in this photo of Smith, but holy moly is that a huge arena.

GU Recruits: Anthony Clagett and Dennis Rumph

I don't think new recruits Anthony Clagett and Dennis Rumph will mind us talking about them together. After all, they were teammates the past two seasons at Allen County Community College in Iola, Kansas. The Iola website says that the town of 5,700 boasts "one of the largest town squares west of the Mississippi." More importantly, I learned on the Internet that Allen CCC was 17-13 last year (11-7 in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference), losing in the first round of the postseason tournament. The only team that I recognized on the AC3 schedule was Neosho (KS) College, the alma mater of former Golden Knight Cass Wright.

Here's a breakdown of each player; again kudos to Gannon SID Dan Teliski for much of the information:

Anthony Clagett (PG, 6-1, jr.)
* The most insightful data I came across on Clagett is this highlight video of him at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington D.C. Looks like he can really slash to the basket and finish with either hand. His jumper is also pretty smooth.
* The move at the 3:14 mark of the tape is pretty nasty. If that was me, I'd be watching that segment of the video over and over and over and over. I think John Reilly's favorite part was the stretch showing Clagett's defensive prowess (that begins right around 2:30).
* The final 30 seconds of the tape provides this data: Clagett won over 50 games as a junior and senior; he's the epitome of intelligence, toughness, and leadership (and maybe hyperbole); and "he is also your next point guard."
* I have to admit, it's hard to watch the video and not get fired up that he's joining Gannon. But I have to remind myself that it's a high school highlight tape. For all I know, the kid could commit 22 turnovers a game.
* At AC3, he averaged 12.1 points, 4.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals, shooting 49 percent (80-for-165) from the field
* A Kansas juco website describes him as "point guard ... excellent ball handler, strong on-ball defender and great competitor"
* Here's his bio from AC3
* In high school he averaged 13.5 ppg, 7 apg, 6.2 rpg, and 4 steals
* His Twitter account is protected, so you can't see what he's writing -- which is VERY smart -- but I think you'll like his account name: @GU_Knight

Dennis Rumph (F, 6-6, jr.)
* I couldn't find as much info on Rumph. His AC3 bio says he's from Boynton Beach, Fla. That's where Bob Dukiet was residing when he passed away, and it's the hometown of former Gannon leaper Vince Mosley.
* At AC3, he was named to the KJCAA all-conference second team.
* He's not a big scorer (9 ppg), but he had good stats in terms of rebounding (8.2 avg) and blocks (2.2 avg) last season. Shot 49 percent (90-185) from the field.
* A Kansas juco website describes him as "excellent rebounder and shot blocker who gets up and down the floor well."
* Here's a photo of Rumph in action at AC3

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stephen Battle Signing Article


Kudos to A.J. Mason from The Independent newspaper in southern Maryland for forwarding to me his story on recent GU signee Stephen Battle. The text is below; the photo of the signing ceremony is on the right.

Ready for the next Battle
Thomas Stone graduate signs with Gannon Univ.

By A.J. Mason, Staff Writer

For four years on the basketball court, Thomas Stone forward Stephen Battle battled through workouts, games, practices. And for the last two, he was the most dominating big man in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.

Now, Battle, a recent graduate, will face even bigger battles at the collegiate level as he recently inked his letter of intent to play at Division II's Gannon University. The institution is located in Erie, Pa., and holds more than 4,000 students.

"It was the position that they said I would play and the coaching staff said that if I'm ready to play, then they would put me in," Battle said on what led to his decision to head to Gannon, a member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. "We will run sort of a motion offense and I can step out and use my athleticism, so I'm definitely ready for the next level."

Battle will be playing under Gannon head coach John Reilly, who was very high on the 6-foot-6 swingman who was a force this season, averaging 17.5 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks a game. He also showed his touch from three-point range, knocking down nine of them, and shooting 72 percent from the free-throw line.

A three-year starter for Thomas Stone head boys basketball coach Dale Lamberth, Battle will be able to shoot, defend, attack the rim with his potent jumping ability, rebound and pass out of double teams.

"Coach Reilly invited me to his house on the first visit," said Battle, who visited Gannon in April. "He just made me feel at home and I was comfortable after that. The campus was very traditional and everyone up there was like a family."

Quinnipiac (Conn.), Delaware State, St. Francis (Pa.), Central Connecticut and Cleveland State (Ohio) were schools at the Division I level that were interested in Battle, but Gannon was just the perfect fit.

"The main thing that I want to bring to Gannon is intensity and momentum," said Battle, who led the Cougars to a SMAC title this winter and a third consecutive state tournament appearance. "I want to continue to work hard and prove myself every time I step on the court."

Battle's older brother, Mike, who played guard at the University of Central Florida from 2005 to 2008, knows the ropes of the college level and often give pointers to his younger brother. "He has to set goals for himself and the team," Mike Battle said. "The main thing is keeping up on his schoolwork because you can't play without the grades. Stephen has to stay humble and keep working hard and beat the next man out for a spot."

The older Battle mentioned that along with improving on every aspect of his game, he wants his brother to improve on his pull-up jump shot and be more aggressive at all times. "I've been watching him his whole life," Mike Battle said. "It's definitely a good thing to see how he developed over the years into the player he is now. He's put a lot of work in, and the hard work has paid off."

Lamberth and Mike Cole, Battle's AAU head coach for the Southern Maryland Mustangs, helped him make his decision on Gannon, along with his mother, Sheila, and father, Michael.

Sheila Battle mentioned that her son will do just fine on the next level, but just has to continue to develop and step it up even another notch. "At the next level I think he will do well," she said. "There is always room for improvement and Stephen was more like a team player in high school, but I told him at the next level, ‘You have to go,' and when the game is on the line and the coach tells you to take the shot, you have to do it. Having the green light is hard to get at any level."

Battle noted that he is undecided about his major, but wants to get into the marketing and advertising field.

While going through battles in high school practices, Battle now will go up against teammate Kendal Smith, who signed with Bloomsburg University, also in the PSAC. "It's going to be fun playing versus Kendal," Battle said. "On the court, we won't like each other, but after it's all said and done, we will still be friends."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

GU Recruit: Kyle Servance PG 6-0 jr.


If I had to pick a player on the current Gannon roster who would be the starting point guard when the season opens Nov. 26, I'd put my money on Kyle Servance (on the far right in this photo). The juco transfer from from Howard Community College in Maryland is unlikely to sit on the bench after ranking the NJCAA top 10 in assists (6.9 avg) and three-point percentage. Yes, I know James Bryant came in highly touted last year and that worked out about as well as BP's deepwater drilling plan. But Bryant didn't have the luxury of spending all off-season with the team and the pre-season with the coaching staff. Point guards are rarely plug-and-play.

Here's some info I uncovered on Servance, much of it thanks to Gannon SID Dan Teliski:
* Averaged 16.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals last season at HCC
* A threat from the outside, he hit 50 threes on the year
* Named second team all-conference in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference
* In a 107-98 loss at Monroe College, Howard hit for a game-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, including 5-of-8 on threes
* Here's the cover of a Howard CC game program featuring Servance (with ball, on the left).

* Led Reservoir High School (Md.) in scoring (15.8 ppg) and assists as a senior, earning team MVP honors. (Personal note: Reservoir's nickname is "Gators." Man did they miss an opportunity to nickname themselves the Bulldogs so they could call themselves the Reservoir Dogs. But maybe the self-proclaimed "Friendliest School In The Country" didn't want to be associated with Quentin Tarantino's violent movies.)
* Earned all-Howard County honors, ranking 5th in the county in scoring, 8th in assists (3.2 avg), and 8th in three-pointers made (47)
* Played in the Maryland-vs.-Pennsylvania All-Star Basketball game, which I bet you didn't know existed until just now

That's Servance as an athlete. Now let's talk about the kid as a student.
* I'm not sure if he'll be a Communications/TV major, but this video, which appears to be directed and produced by him, would get him a front row seat in Gannon's Comm/Arts program.
* Looks like he was a member of the HCC Times, the Howard Community College student newspaper. (Scroll to page 4 of this link.) Could he be a guest contributor to Gannon Hoops?

On Facebook, Servance lists his interests as "chillin" and "ballin." Let's hope he's stellar at the latter so Gannon fans (and Coach Reilly) can do more of the former this season.