Friday, December 30, 2011

Where's Juan Rankin When You Need Him?

When Gannon loses a double-overtime game on a half-court heave like they did Friday night vs. Seton Hill, you'd think I'd feel awful. Surprisingly, I actually feel tremendous -- I witnessed one of the greatest games in the history of the legendary Porreco Cup. In the grand scheme of things, so what if Gannon came out on the short end, 103-100? Don't get me wrong. If this would have been an NCAA playoff game to end Gannon's season, I'd have jumped off Dobbins Landing into the bay before the teams made it back to their locker rooms.

Here's what I witnessed last night that I've never seen before and probably won't ever see again:
* A buzzer beater from just beyond midcourt (watch it here at the 1-minute mark) to win a tournament championship. It was awful for us Gannon fans, but incredible for SHU's Oliver McGlade. His Twitter feed shows this is the highlight of his athletic career. Good for him.
* A college tournament championship game where both teams reach the 100-point mark.
* A team rally on the road from 13 down with 5 minutes to play and from 6 down with under a minute to go to force OT.
* A team making 15-of-22 threes (68.2%), and getting hotter from behind the arc as the game wore on. Here's Seton Hill's 3-point shooting chart for the game: 1st half -- 5-of-9, 2nd half -- 5-of-7, OT -- 5-of-6.
* Oh, and they made all 8 of their free throw attempts, making their combined three-point and foul shot percentage a robust 76.7%. And they still needed 2 overtimes to dispose of the resilient Knights! When you shoot like that, you usually win going away.
* Andrew Cressler, Seton Hill's #3 scorer, played out of his mind for an incredible 46 minutes, scoring 27 points on 11-for-14 shooting. Through 8 games prior to the Porreco finals, he averaged just 11 ppg was 8-for-19 on threes. He made all 5 of his treys against the Knights, most of them in the clutch.
* The final play of a game at the Hammermill hitting #2 on ESPN SportsCenter's top plays the next day. Kudos to Gannon SID Dan Teliski for the link.

I'm looking at the Gannon media guide right now, and I can't think of a better Porreco final I've witnessed. Michael Hammond ripped Gannon's hearts out in 1986 with a 37-point performance including a game-winner at the horn. Gannon's loss to Northern Kentucky in 2000 when Craig Conley went wild from every spot on the floor is also one for the ages.

The Porreco championship that might compete with Friday's classic was Gannon's 54-51 upset of eventual national champion Virginia Union in 1991. Highlights included a 270-degree dunk by Derrick Price to open the game, two last-second baskets to close the first half and give Gannon a halftime lead, a clutch jumper by VUU All-American guard Walter Hurd to tie the game at 51, and Juan Rankin's heave at the buzzer to send the capacity crowd into a frenzy.

I still get chills thinking about that game even though it was -- gulp! -- exactly 20 years ago. Maybe it was fate that McGlade wins the tournament on the same hoop as Rankin did two decades apart. Yes, part of me would have preferred Gannon cruise to an unremarkable 10-point victory and sport a 7-3 record instead of an unimpressive 6-4 mark. The wiser part of me realizes that I had the privilege to witness an incredible game that will never be forgotten by those lucky enough to attend.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Athletic, Scrappy, Unselfish, AND Relentless

I'm not going to say much about Gannon's 94-62 annihilation of Malone in the opening round of the Porreco Cup because we'll have plenty of time to talk after the championship game vs. Seton Hill. Also I don't want to jinx the Knights by gushing about them only to watch them lay an egg in the finals.

So I used the headline of this post to gush. The Knights are a combination of those four attributes: Athletic, Scrappy, Unselfish, AND Relentless. Talented teams usually don't get the dirty work done or don't need to be hard workers. The underdogs are usually the ones diving on the floor and sharing the ball in order to maximize their talent. But the Knights showed against Malone they can do all four.

Adam Blazek was a perfect example of this. He led all scorers with 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting and topped all defenders with 9 steals. His play of the night might have been saving a ball on the sidelines, falling into the Pioneer bench, zipping back onto the floor, immediately picking off a pass, and then going the distance for a layup. Blazek also triggered one of the prettiest fastbreaks in Gannon history. After receiving an outlet from Dmitry Martynenko, he fired a one-handed pass from the opposite foul line to Stephen Battle on the left wing. Battle dropped a quick bounce pass in the lane to Darrell Blanton who sent a touch pass to Oscar Macias on the right block for a layup. (You can watch the play in here on YourErie.com. Kudos to my main man Craig Smylie for solid camerawork.) In 6 seconds, all 5 Knights touched the ball and converted a defensive rebound into a layup.

Knight Knotes:
* I overheard a bizarre conversation at the game. One referee walked over to Malone coach Tim Walker and asked, "Is there anybody on the white team you want me to watch because he (John Reilly) wants me to watch number 32." I've never seen that happen before.
* Tanner Furno and Brandon Belt combined for 31 points off the bench. Furno looked comfortable rolling down the lane rather than posting up against heavier defenders. And Belt looked even more relaxed spotting up for 5 threes. When that kid has time to set his feet, he's almost automatic.
* Gannon has scored 90 or more points in 3 consecutive games and 4 of their last 5. Last year they topped 90 points once in 26 contests. The 2008-09 team which advanced to the Elite 8 scored 90 points just 3 times in 34 games, and they did it against dregs Lock Haven, Urbana, and Daemen.
* It will be fun to watch if Gannon is able to defend two-time Porreco Cup MVP Chris Giles in tonight's championship. Malone was a good matchup for Gannon because they weren't quick penetrators. Giles is one of the best slashers in small college basketball.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Making A List

Our good friend Santa usually does the list writing this time of year, but this time it's your turn. Make your list in the comments section below with your opinion of 3 Knights who you believe rank at the top of these categories:

1. Best pure shooters
2. Best slashers
3. Best ballhandlers
4. Best shot blockers
5. Favorite players

If you'd like some help to jog your memory, click here for a list of Gannon's all-time record holders and click here for the list of all-time letterwinners at GU.

I'll share my favorites with you later; I'd like to hear first what you have to say. Just click the comments link below or (because the Blogger format is far from perfect) just email me at Jim.Roddy@JamesonPublishing.com if that works better for you.

Thanks to Steve Bohen, my former partner in Gannon's radio booth, for this idea to help get us through the near three-week layoff from live hoops at the Audi. If Steve didn't make this suggestion, I was going to start a blog on Mercyhurst basketball called "ManchelMania!"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Look Of A Winner

Quick question for you: Can you name one game from the past two seasons (since the Knights advanced to the Elite 8 in 2009) that was a better performance for Gannon than Saturday's 94-75 drubbing of Shippensburg? Feel free to look at the results from 2009-10 and 2010-11 before answering that question, but I don't think you'll find a decent answer.

Now I'm not going to clear my schedule for the weekend of the Division II Elite 8 (which is March 21-22 & 24 in Northern Kentucky, in case you were wondering) because Cheyney and Ship weren't exactly top-flight teams. But you had to like the offensive firepower and efficiency the Knights displayed this weekend. Against Ship, Gannon shot 56% from the field, 42% on threes, and committed only 5 turnovers while handing out 26 assists. Five players hit double figures ... and whodathunk the center position would lead the way with 30 points and 18 rebounds on 14-of-18 shooting. Dmitry Martynenko broke out with 18 points and 11 boards while Tanner Furno jumped off the bench (literally) for 11 and 7 while making 6-of-7 from the field.

Compare Gannon's offensive numbers for this year vs. last season:
PPG: 85.2 ppg vs. 70.5 ppg (+15.3)
FG%: 51.1% vs. 45.9% (+5.2%)
3FG%: 40.9% vs. 33.9% (+7.0%)
FT%: 75.2% vs. 70.2% (+5.2%)
Assist-to-TO ratio: 1.2-to-1 vs. 0.89-to-1 (+.31)
Offensive rebounds: 14.5 rpg vs. 10.5 rpg (+5.0)
Games scoring 80+ points: 6 of 8 (75%) vs. 5 of 26 (19.2%)
Games scoring 90+ points: 3 of 8 (37.5%) vs. 1 of 26 (3.8%)

So the Knights are shooting 5% better and even when they miss, they're likely to grab the offensive rebound for another scoring opportunity. That will get you a higher scoring total and eventually a higher win percentage that last year's 15-11 mark.

Even with the two lopsided victories this weekend, defense still has to be a concern for John Reilly. Dribble penetration by Ship led to the Raiders being comfortable on the perimeter and connecting on 9-of-16 threes. The defense was the best it's been all year these past two games, but it has to improve even more if the Knights want to make a postseason run.

Knight Knotes:
* Check out the photo galleries from this weekend's games by clicking here (GU vs. Cheyney) and here (GU vs. Ship). Pic #41 of the GU/Ship set is tremendous -- Stephen Battle's soaring dunk in the second half. Kudos to Joe Mattis for his camera work.

* Be sure to weigh in on our effort to give Darrell Blanton a nickname he deserves. Blanton lived up to his billing as the King of Jammermill Saturday with a 20-point, 9-rebound, high-energy effort.

* Though Gannon is off for 18 days until the Porreco Cup, the Gannon Hoops staff will still be working. We'll talk about some Knights of years gone by and would like to hear your thoughts.

UPDATED 12/12/11:
Thanks to Gannon Hoops follower JRD who emailed me this photo of former Knight Kyle Goldcamp on Cleveland Cavaliers media day. Very cool to see him in an NBA uni. I'm saving this photo for my 5-year-old daughter to show her that hard work pays off. For more info on Goldcamp in the NBA, click here to read the press release from Gannon. I think Goldcamp might have a future in The Association because I heard when he transferred from UPJ, he did a live show on their campus radio station and said, "In this fall, I'm going to take my talents to Presque Isle and join the Gannon Knights."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Darrell Blanton Needs A Nickname

Because of the quick turnaround -- Gannon tips off against Shippensburg in less than 16 hours from the moment I'm writing this -- I won't recap the Knights 91-60 shellacking of Cheyney tonight at the Hammermill Center. I'll address a more pressing issue: super junior Darrell Blanton needs a nickname.

Something good like John "Shanghai" Matthews or Gerald "Bad News" Walker. Maybe he could borrow a name from "Dr. Dunkenstein" Darryl Griffith or Herman "The Helicopter" Knowings. Blanton earned special distinction with his spectacularly consistent early season play, including tonight's 25-point, 6-rebound, 5-assist and 4-dunk domination of the Wolves.

I'd like to hear your suggestions for nicknames. Right now I'm thinking the Euclid Rocket or the Peach Street Pogo Stick. Feel free to post your thoughts below or email me at Jim.Roddy@JamesonPublishing.com.

(Photo courtesy Gannon University and Joe Mattis.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Insanity Continues

We're 6 games into the season and I've already gone nuts. Gannon continued its mind-boggling string of close PSAC games with an 83-79 overtime loss at West Chester. With my brain and my emotions ragged, I won't offer much opinion in this post. Instead, I'll just state facts that if proposed for a movie script would be rejected for being unrealistic.

Here are the results for Gannon's last 13 PSAC games when both teams were still playoff eligible, including last season:
vs. California L 72-70
vs. Mercyhurst L 68-64 OT
@ Clarion W 76-67
@ Slippery Rock L 69-67 (SRU field goal at the buzzer)
@ Indiana PA L 73-58
vs. Edinboro L 69-68 (EUP field goal at the buzzer)
@ Mercyhurst W 79-71
@ California L 53-50
vs. Slippery Rock W 62-59
@ East Stroudsburg L 90-89
@ Kutztown W 80-79
@ Millersville W 98-97 OT
@ West Chester L 83-79 OT

An incredible 10 of those 13 games were decided by one possession or in overtime. It gets even crazier when you throw in Gannon's 64-63 independent win vs. Central State on Feb. 7 and their 67-65 loss to Daemen in this year's Gary Miller Classic.

I challenge you to find another basketball program with a string of that many close games. Heck, I challenge you to find a hockey team with a scoring differential greater than what Gannon's experienced.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

America's (Least Boring) Team

At 3-2, Gannon doesn't have a scintillating winning percentage. But you're certainly getting your money's worth as a Golden Knight fan. Gannon's played only 5 games, but emotionally I feel like we're already deep into the NCAA Tournament. The Knights rallied at Millersville Saturday afternoon to claim a 98-97 win in overtime, meaning that 4 of Gannon's 5 games have been decided in the final possession. The difference in all three PSAC games has been 1 point. My heart has been pounding through my chest down the stretch of every game except the Roberts Wesleyan shellacking. At next weekend's home games, the maintenance staff might consider stocking up on defibrillators.

I paid the $7 to watch the Millersville game via the Internet, and it was worth every penny. (I hope they don't charge my credit card extra because the game went into overtime.) Here are some other thoughts on the contest:

* John Reilly said in his postgame radio interview that he wouldn't comment on the officiating. I think that's a nice way of saying it was suspect at best. I didn't have the best angle or video quality with the Internet feed, but it appeared to me the game was called too closely. The 64 fouls listed in the box score -- a whopping 39 against Gannon -- would seem to agree with me. Players would force a shot by throwing themselves into a crowd and get bailed out by a whistle. There was also a big non-call with just over 90 seconds left where a GU player took an obvious charge but with no call it led to open MU three-pointer.

* Gannon played the entire OT with a lineup of players under 6-foot-5. (Made me feel like I was watching the old Erie Wave of the WBL.) Forwards Dmitry Martynenko, Tanner Furno, and Darrell Blanton had all fouled out and Bubby Johnson didn't make the trip due to injury. But the Knights still got it done with a lineup I'm guessing Coach Reilly never intended using down the stretch.

* Reilly talked earlier this week in an interview with Jim LeCorchick about Oscar Macias needing to be more aggressive on offense. Macias responded with 20 points (13 above his average) on 6-of-11 shooting before becoming the 4th of 5 Knights to foul out of the contest. Macias hit a clutch pull-up 3 with 26 seconds left in regulation and two free throws at the 19-second mark to key Gannon's comeback.

* Macias wasn't the only one filling up the basket. Blanton has become ol' reliable on the stat sheet: 21 points, 10 rebounds, 8-of-15 shooting. Stephen Battle (17 points, 7-of-7 from the foul line) took over the game at times. And Adam Blazek plays with incredible confidence. He's always attacking on offense and doesn't hesitate to stick it in your eye if you give him any space. Blazek hit for 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting including 4-of-6 on threes. And he only committed 1 turnover. Not to jinx the kid, but can we give him Gannon's third consecutive PSAC Freshman of the Year award now?

* So, lots of kudos to hand out after this game. But the Knights still gave up 97 points to a team that was averaging 73 a game coming in and had lost 4 games in a row. Gannon's on-ball defense is dreadful. They continue to allow guards penetration all the way to the basket or at least into the paint for pull-up jumpers. Millersville, who looked comfortable all afternoon, shot 53% from the field. Gannon has to shore up this aspect of their game or else they'll be on the wrong end of too many games in the 80s.

* The Millersville video broadcast had no sound and it rarely showed the scoreboard, so you needed Gannon's radio feed through the WERG website to keep track of the score and situation. But someone at WERG cut off the hoops broadcast with a minute to go in regulation and opted instead for some smooth jazz lovey dovey music. Bizarre way to watch a crucial game. If you needed a reminder this isn't the upper echelon of the basketball world, this was it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Adam's Evening

Adam Blazek's college debut in his hometown was, um, less than he had dreamed about. Blazek missed his first 7 shots and committed a team-high 4 turnovers as the Knights shockingly lost to NAIA Daemen. You had to be concerned if that setback would crush the freshman's confidence in home game #2 vs. Roberts Wesleyan. Instead, Blazek torched the Raiders for 23 points -- 14 of them in the first 4 minutes of the game -- and led the Knights to an easy 86-61 win.

Blazek's stat line for the night was eye-popping: he averaged a point per minute (23), made 8-of-11 field goals (5-of-6 on threes), cashed in on both his free throws, and recorded 4 assists. What I liked even more were Blazek's comments in the Erie Times today. He gave credit for his success to senior PG Steve Piotrowicz, the man he supplanted in Gannon's starting lineup.

Other thoughts on the Gary Miller Classic:
* In the comments section of the blog post on the Daemen loss, Walter Ego wrote, and I quote, "Reilly must go. Now. This was Daemen. Daemen." Following that logic, I guess Pitt-Johnstown coach Bob Rukavina has to be fired as well because UPJ lost to Daemen in the Gary Miller championship, 72-65.

* Darrell Blanton deservingly represented Gannon on the all-tourney team after tallying 17 points and 9 boards in 31 minutes vs. Robert Wesleyan. Blanton was easily the most consistent and impressive Knight this weekend. Every time he gets the ball, I lean forward in my seat anticipating a great play by the junior leaper. He reminds me of a cross between former Knights Vince Mosley (2008-09) and Derrick Price (1990-92).

* My (and my wife's) favorite play of the RWC/GU contest came at the start of the second half. Raider Herbert Alexander threw away the inbounds pass to start the period, and Blanton immediately converted it into a three-point play. So Roberts coach Rob McCoy yanked Alexander from the game -- just 6 seconds in! -- and the coach and player engaged in a spirited conversation (i.e. argument) while Blanton cashed in his free throw. On the ensuing RWC possession, Raider William Kemp-Harris, who McCoy subbed into the game for Alexander, fired a wild pass out of bounds. The ball nailed McCoy in the midsection. While I bit my bottom lip, my wife turned to me and said, "Karma."

* Despite the back-to-back games and praising his team's depth during the early season, John Reilly really shortened his bench against Roberts. Three players logged 30 minutes or more (Blanton 37, Stephen Battle 31, and Oscar Macias 31) while Brandon Belt (9 minutes), T.J. Wilson (5), Shameel Carty (3), and Bubby Johnson (2) saw their minutes reduced. In the second half, Macias appeared to be dragging after playing full-court defense for most of the game.

* I was scratching my head both nights over referee Tony Meeks. He looked familiar and his name rang a bell, but I couldn't place him. Rick "Stats" Klapthor talked with Meeks and learned that he was part of the NC State teams in the mid 80s coached by Jim Valvano. Chris Corchianni was the star player for those Wolfpack squads.

* You might not want to relive the Daemen game, but here's a photo gallery from the evening. There's also a photo gallery from the Roberts Wesleyan romp. Major props to Joe Mattis for his photo work. And you thought he was just a great sports writer ...

* And here's a link to postgame interviews from Saturday night. I especially like Blazek being asked if he felt like he was "immortal" during his opening outburst. Of course the Prep alum answered "no."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Twilight Zone

The best word I can use to describe Gannon's 67-65 home opening loss to Daemen is surreal. Even for the opening introductions it was weird to see 4 guys in Gannon uniforms that you've never watched play before. And the only returning starter from last year, Stephen Battle, sported a mowhawk that made him look like a different guy. When the game started, the allegedly high-octane Knights sputtered against Daemen's zone. Instead of penetrating gaps, exploiting the high post, and knocking down threes, Gannon seemed to be on its heels vs. a 3-3 NAIA club who recently lost at home to 2-11 York University of Canada. (York lost an exhibition to Mercyhurst, 88-52, on Oct. 13.) Even more shocking than the outcome was that Gannon led the game for only 25 seconds. They played uphill all night against a team that has rarely threatened them in the past. And UPJ vs. Daemen in the Gary Miller Classic championship while the Knights play the consolation opener? Surreal.

I'm usually glass-half-full kind of guy, but it's hard to be anything but resoundingly disappointed with what happened at the Hammermill. I was surprised Gannon wasn't more effective against the zone. I believe Dmitry Martynenko is a good mid-range shooter, so why not put him at the high post where he could score or, at 6-foot-9, look over the defense for the open man? That could have allowed Darrell Blanton -- whose two-hand dunk at the 15:48 mark of the second half nearly dislodged an Audi rafter -- to work in the low post where he's an absolute beast. I'm also surprised that Brandon Belt, who seems to be the club's best outside shooter, got only 15 minutes and 3 field goal attempts vs. a zone.

But strategies aside, Gannon's offensive intensity wouldn't have effectively executed any gameplan. Coach Reilly said it best that the Knights didn't play with a sense of desperation until about 8 minutes to go in the game when they rallied from 12 points down. The defense worked hard all night, but I was shocked how often Gannon was beaten off the dribble. Daemen would patiently work the ball side-to-side for 25 seconds, drive by their man, get help from Gannon defenders, and then kick out to a teammate for an open jumper. If you can't stay between your man and the basket, you're going to allow your opponent to shoot 57% in the second half like the Wildcats did.

Sigh. I shouldn't be this crabby after one game. I guess there is one good thing about the loss. A 5:30 game won't end past my daughter's bedtime.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wonderful Win Caps Wacky Weekend

If you believe in preseason polls, this was a strong start to the season for the Knights. Gannon went 1-1 on its opening weekend, winning an 80-79 thriller today at Kutztown, ranked #1 in PSAC East preseason poll. Combine that with yesterday's 1-point heartbreaker at preseason #2 East Stroudsburg, and you have to feel the Knights have a great chance to improve on last season's disappointing 6-8 conference mark.

Did you realize that 9 of Gannon's last 14 games have been decided by 1 possession or less or in overtime? Take away the 2010-11 season finale where Clarion mailed it in, and Gannon's last 4 PSAC games have been decided by 3, 3, 1 and 1 points. Should we just show up for games about 90 minutes after they begin and then get down to business?

If you didn't listen to the game on the radio, check out the play-by-play of the game's exasperating final 20 seconds after Kutztown hit two free throws to pull within a point:
00:17 FOUL by FRACTION,MICAH
00:17 MISS FT by BLAZEK,ADAM; REBOUND OFF by BLANTON,DARRELL
00:15 TIMEOUT 30SEC by GANNON
00:13 FOUL by MCBRIDE,DEVON
00:13 MISS FT by BLANTON,DARRELL; REBOUND OFF by BLANTON,DARRELL
00:10 FOUL by BROOKS,TYLER
00:10 MISS FT by BATTLE,STEPHEN; REBOUND OFF by TEAM (GANNON)
00:08 FOUL by MCBRIDE,DEVON
00:08 MISS FT by BLANTON,DARRELL
00:08 MISS FT by BLANTON,DARRELL; REBOUND DEF by TEAM (KUTZ)
00:00 MISS 3PTR by EDWARDS,NATE

Despite that incredibly unclutch clang-fest at the foul line, I'm very excited about the upcoming Gary Miller Classic. Gannon has posted 90 and 80 points in their first two contests after surpassing the 80-point plateau only 5 times (in 26 games) a year ago. Darrell Blanton should be fun to watch, too. He exploded for 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting with 9 rebounds to help take down the Golden Bears today. And once this team learns to play John Reilly defense, they'll rack up wins with more comfortable margins.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

One Helluva Season Opener

I won't offer a personal analysis of Gannon's 90-89 season-opening loss at East Stroudsburg this afternoon. Instead, I'll share with you the dialogue between the Devil on my left shoulder and the Angel on my right. (Just FYI: The Angel wears bright gold while the Devil sports deep maroon.)

Angel: What an incredible game! Back-and-forth with points galore! Gannon has had offensive struggles in past seasons, but to register 89 with a team that still doesn't know each other well bodes well for the rest of the season.

Devil: I waited 9 months for that -- to have my guts ripped out with a heartbreaking loss? It especially hurts me because I don't have much of a heart. How can you give up 90 points to a team who finished in last place at the Shippensburg Tip-Off Tournament when you're supposed to specialize in defense? This could be a long year if we can't get stops.

Angel: It would be great to win every game, but what really matters is getting into the playoffs and then playing your best in March. I like what John Reilly said in his postgame interview. He talked how this was a good lesson that every possession counts, every rebound counts, every free throw counts. I could see him saying that to the guys the rest of the year when they're not focused at practice or in games. This loss could be a trade for a few more (and more important) wins down the road.

Devil: Here's what I heard when you were talking: "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We're 0-1." There are no moral victories in college basketball. Gannon's gonna have to get rid of either the Gary Miller Classic or the Porreco Cup and play a cupcake to open the season so they're ready for PSAC play.

Angel: What in the devil are you talking about? Those tournaments are a Gannon tradition ... a community tradition ... a family tradition. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Knights get to go right back at it again Sunday against Kutztown. They'll win that game and we'll go right back to dreaming about this team making the playoffs.

Devil: When Gannon played at Kutztown two years ago, the Knights lost by 16. And the time before that in 1992, the team bus broke down after the game and the players and coaches were stranded on the highway for over 12 hours. I'm anticipating a repeat performance.

Angel: But Gannon won that game, right?

Devil: Whatever. Mercyhurst won today. I'm going to go celebrate.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Knights Announce Starters

When I received the official game notes for Saturday's season opener at East Stroudsburg, I immediately scrolled to page 3 for Gannon's starting lineup. I half expected it to tell me nothing. In some past years John Reilly has simply listed the 5 guys who played the most the previous year.

So I was kind of shocked when I saw this starting 5: PG Adam Blazek, SG Oscar Macias, SF Stephen Battle, PF Darrell Blanton, and C Dmitry Martynenko. Of course Battle was a lock to be in the first 5, and GU insiders have told me that Macias could emerge as the best all-around Knight by season's end.

But Blazek's start shows me two things: first, Steve Piotrowicz's hip injury is more debilitating than some Gannon fans expected; second, that Blazek is adapting quickly to Reilly's system. I originally thought Blanton might be a spot player, but after seeing his supreme athleticism on display at the Maroon/Gold scrimmage, I could see why he couldn't be kept out of the starting lineup.

I'm curious to see how many minutes Martynenko gets with Tanner Furno and Bubby Johnson right behind him on the depth chart. And how will senior Shameel Carty feel coming off the bench? And will who starts really not be that big of a deal because Reilly divvys up the minutes evenly while playing a more up-tempo style? Lots of our questions will be answered in less than 48 hours.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy New Year!

Boy, was it nice to be back at the Hammermill to see live basketball on Thursday! Despite watching the Knights -- sans sophomore Stephen Battle (death in the family) and senior Shameel Carty (injury) -- for two 10-minute periods, I still don't know how good they are. In intrasquad scrimmages, especially with so many new players, everything is relative. I thought Bubby Johnson scored better in the post than I expected, but maybe that's because Gannon's post defenders aren't that strong. We'll learn after a few regular season games how good this team is.

Notice that I said "how good." I believe this team will be good. Specifically, here's what I liked from the scrimmage:

* I didn't see any stiffs on the GU roster. Everyone is an athlete, with the only skinny guys being Tanner Furno and Alvin Tucker. Time will tell if these athletes are also basketball players, but the Knights won't be lacking in speed, quickness, strength, and scrappiness.

* Tying in with the athleticism, I liked that the Knights were extending their defense more than in years past (when they weren't as athletic). A couple sources have told me that with Gannon's combination of athleticism and depth, John Reilly plans to implement a full-court press instead of just the stifling halfcourt man defense we're accustomed to. Instead of just protecting the lane, Gannon could try to force some more turnovers in the backcourt. Because of that, Reilly could rotate most if not all of the 12 active roster members during games.

* Who is the best dunker in Gannon history? I ask that because in the pregame warmups Darrell Blanton threw down some big-time jams. My favorite GU dunkers were Mitchell Smith, John "Shanghai" Matthews, Derrick Price, and Shannon Grant. You might not remember Grant, but I played with him one year at Gannon, and he could really fly.

* The offensive abilities of Johnson and Dmitry Martynenko in the post give me hope that Gannon's offense will be much improved this year. If they can score one-on-one on the block like we saw Thursday, then opponents will have to double-down. That will result in more open three-point attempts for the Knights and a less painful halfcourt offense compared with previous seasons.

* I really liked Johnson's overall game. Here are the notes I took on him during the scrimmage: "Finishes with either hand, has post-up ability -- not too skinny, makes his free throws, cuts off drives, can wall-up on defense, super enthusiasm." Oh, and he's 6-foot-9.

* Best quote from a Gannon fan: "There are more people here than you get at a Mercyhurst game." The Maroon/Gold scrimmage drew about 300 fans. Thought I don't know if we can call it the "Maroon/Gold game" this year because neither team wore maroon or gold, as this photo gallery shows.

My biggest concern about Gannon ties in with my compliment earlier about their athleticism. With everyone being such a good athlete, it appears they don't have a go-to pure shooter and they don't seem to set many good screens. My second biggest concern is lack of depth at point guard. Veteran PG Steve Piotrowicz is still hobbled by a hip injury and Adam Blazek is a freshman PG.

If you want to see some video highlights of the scrimmage, including an interview with Reilly, just click here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Maroon/Gold Scrimmage Memories Come Rushing Back

I just received a flyer in the mail from the Gannon Golden Knight Booster Club saying that the annual Maroon/Gold scrimmage will be held Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Hammermill. The men tip off at 7:15 with the women following at 8:15. This is "invite only" to booster club members and season ticket holders, but I'll make a deal with you if you don't fit into either of those categories. I'm inviting you to attend as long as you show up with minimum $25 in cash or a $25 check payable to the Gannon Booster Club. That will get you a membership -- and it will help out Gannon Athletics. And it will help you get a sneak peak at the 2011-12 Knights.

The one thing I watch for every Maroon/Gold game is to see if everyone who is healthy plays. I think I'm still the only human ever to be healthy for a 40-minute, full game-length intrasquad scrimmage and not see a second of playing time ... in my senior year no less! In 1991, Bob Dukiet divided us into two teams of seven with John Reilly, his top assistant at the time, and new assistant Rick Binder coaching each team. I was on Binder's squad and he was eager to prove to Duke he knew how to win games. So he rotated the other six guys on our team while I rotted on the bench. I recall after not playing the first half being surprised but thinking to myself he just wanted to see how some combination of players worked together. I'd at least get a few minutes in the second half, even just to give a guy a rest. But it never happened. I recall my chest pounding and stomach churning as the game wound down and I realized the only game all year I could actually expect to play was going to pass by with me sitting on the bench (and my entire family watching from the stands).

In the lockerroom I was borderline distraught. What I thought was my one-and-only chance of playing extended minutes in a Gannon uniform in front of real people with real referees at the Audi was dashed. Do you know what a dreadful feeling that is? I fought back tears while Dukiet gave his postgame speech, and then my teammates expressed in whispers how I was wronged big-time.

I never complained, but I think someone (I'd bet Coach Reilly) said something to Dukiet between the Maroon/Gold game and our exhibition the following week against some Gannon alumni. I subbed into that game with several minutes left on the clock and played with reckless abandon. What did I have to lose? I recall a 2-on-1 with Mike Runski on defense and Derrick Vinyard on my left. I looked right and flicked the ball underhand to Vinyard in the lane. First no-look pass of my college career -- practice drills included. A couple minutes later, Chad Spurgeon fired a long outlet pass to me near mid court on the East side of the Hammermill floor in front of Murderer's Row. I let the ball bounce once, took a right-handed dribble and drained a left-wing three just 5 seconds into the shot clock. Former Gannon SID Bob Shreve was on the PA microphone that night and shouted, "Threeeeeee for Jimmy Roddyyyyyyyy!" I have the video footage of that event (courtesy of the late Mike Warchol) and must have watched that stretch of action 200 times. OK, maybe 500 times.

Sorry if my personal story there bored you at all. It's just kind of cathartic for me to think back to my Maroon/Gold experience, how heartbroken I was at the time, and how thrilled I was to get playing time in the alumni exhibition the next week. I hope the Maroon/Gold game this year is filled with nothing but good memories for the Knights and us Gannon fans.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Knights End Canadian Tour 3-1

So, if Gannon goes 15-0 at home and then wins 75% of its road games, they'll end the regular season 24-3. I'd take that ... or maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Here are some random thoughts after Gannon's week in the great white north:

* First, here's info on the Knights' final two games north of the border:
Saturday: Gannon 88, Ontario Revolution 82
Sunday: Gannon 76, Niagara College 53
Brandon Belt was the leading scorer both games, hitting for 14 points Saturday and 16 Sunday. Dtanya "Bubby" Johnson also reached double digits both games, tallying 13 and 12.

* It's hard to draw accurate conclusions about games you didn't see and opponents you know nothing about, but looking at just the scoring numbers I think it's safe to say that John Reilly recruited a bunch of guys who can put the ball in the basket. That's something this team hasn't had since the Elite 8 run a few years back. In fact, it's a rarity for most Gannon teams. I recall when Tom Chapman described his team that featured high scoring Butch Warner, Mike Runski, and a bunch of no-names as, "Butch, Ski, and three guys named Bob."

* To build on that last point, Coach Reilly has proven repeatedly that he can take anybody and mold them into a gritty team that hustles for loose balls, rebounds, and defends. He did that with some relatively unskilled teams, so you'd think he could do that with what appears to be a talented bunch of ballplayers this year.

* I wonder if Reilly is comfortable enough with his depth that he'll use a rotation system this year instead of his usual pattern of going with his gut and riding a handful of guys who he thinks can get the job done. Or maybe it's just an early season/preseason thing.

* What the heck do we do now? The Knights don't open the season for another month after teasing us with these exhibition game. I guess we'll do lots of research on opponent #1 East Stroudsburg. Did you know the Warriors drew 1,200 fans for their first practice this season? That's more than they drew for any home game last season.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Knights Win, Technology Loses

When basketball teams take international tours, you can expect some technology shortcomings. The hardware and infrastructure in Mexico or Lichtenstein isn't as strong as the good ol' USA. But for Gannon's exhibition tour in Canada, I expected the access to technology to be at least as good as when Gannon travels to Lock Haven. (Actually, the Bald Eagles produce a live streaming video of their home games which is tremendous for diehards like us.)

I've been let down techwise for Gannon's second and third games of their north-of-the-border tour. Game #2 vs. the Hamilton Hoop-La All-Stars was downgraded to a scrimmage due to a clock malfunction. I've played in some dilapidated gymnasiums over the years (one was an unheated garage that was converted to a gymnasium) and they all had functioning clocks. For Gannon game #3 last night, a 78-56 thumping of Algoma University, there were no live stats. Heck, there weren't even dead stats. All that Algoma kept track of for the game was points scored. I felt like I was back coaching at Sacred Heart grade school where the only stats were kept in a green Mark V basketball scorebook.

All we know is that the leading scorers for Gannon were Shameel Carty (16 points) and Adam Blazek (10), and the only Knight not to score was redshirt junior Darrell Blanton. Blanton didn't play in the first exhibition either, so I'm not sure what his deal is. I'm curious to see if he'll make the scorebook for this afternoon's exhibition vs. the Ontario Revolution, who Baylor trounced by 35 points in an exhibition two months ago. Actually I'm curious to see if there will be a scorebook at all.

In other news, as Corey pointed out in the comments section in this post, the Knights retook their team picture without John Eisenman, who has apparently left the team. The photo shows that Gannon will have new uniforms this season. They're not a dramatic change from last year, but I think the arched block lettering with gold trim is an upgrade. The shorts appear to be identical.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oh Canada! Knights Drop Exhibition Opener

Gannon lost the first game of its preseason Canadian tour yesterday, a 78-72 decision at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. The McMaster website doesn't offer many details except Tanner Furno led all scorers with 19 and Oscar Macias (pictured in this game action photo) hit for 13. I'll dig around to see if I can find a box score.

I know we don't like seeing Gannon lose, but don't panic because (1) they lost and (2) lost to a Canadian team. First, they've only had 10 days of practice. And the point of this tour is to work out the kinks and get the Knights some game experience together. We'll see if they get better over the final four games of the tour.

UPDATE 10/13/11 (5:30 PM): As promised, here's some more info on the Gannon/McMaster game:
* Click here for a box score and click here for Gannon SID Dan Teliski's writeup on the game.
* From looking at the box score, it appears John Reilly treated this as a true exhibition to test players, not using a regular rotation. He played 10, with Piotrowicz playing on 16 minutes. I don't think he played that few minutes in any game last season, and I don't think he'll play under 20 minutes in a game this season unless he has a compound fracture.
* It was good to see that Teliski is treating the exhibition like a real game. In midseason form he began his press release saying, "McMaster University used a 41-18 difference in free throws attempted ..." Maybe the refs are still bitter at the U.S. for the Bruins edging Vancouver in the Stanley Cup.
* The only two Knights who didn't player were Darrell Blanton and Brandon Belt. I'm not sure why.
* Regrettably, I'm not in Canada for these game. I'm just checking out just the stats, so I can't offer much more insight than this.
* Gannon continues its five-game Canadian exhibition schedule today against the Hamilton Hoop-La All-Stars. The game tips off in a little over an hour, so if you want to watch the video of the All-Stars practicing, hurry up and click here. They've got some players.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Does _____ Have An Attrition Problem?

I'm guessing you filled in the blank in the headline above with "Gannon" since the Knights' roster changes have been much discussed on Gannon Hoops. But check out this article from CBS Sports with the headline "Does Gonzaga Have An Attrition Problem?" And the first line of the article says, "Really, the headline could replace 'Gonzaga' with 'college basketball' and be a fair and timely blog post."

The article goes on to detail that in today's world it seems that every college with a demanding head coach has more roster turnover than days gone by. Here are some excerpts from the article you might find interesting:

* There seems to be a disturbing trend within the (Gonzaga) program. Too many players aren't staying four years, and this isn't an NBA-tinged issue. There are defects -- transfers -- who have perhaps undone a bit of the rosiness that so many saw Gonzaga for in the past 12 years.

* Coach Mark Few maintained earlier this summer that the attrition is common to all programs nowadays, and that a get-it-fast mentality in sports explains much of it. "I think it happens pretty much in every program," he told The Seattle Times. "It's certainly happened in ours. In all the years I've been here, I don't think there have been very many when we didn't have a player or two that wasn't playing as much as they wanted to. Sometimes, it's hard to convince everybody that by the time they're a junior or senior, they've got a real shot to be a contributor. I really don't think this generation does that. If it isn't working, they switch AAU teams. If it isn't working, they might switch high schools."

* And a lot of players don't fit in Few's scheme. They don't know that until they experience it. Few and his coaches may not realize it, either. In the WCC, Gonzaga has the flexibility to experiment with different types of players and take chances on guys, even with the risk of transfer, because they still run game on the rest of the conference. Gonzaga's won the WCC regular-season title every since since 1998 except once (2000). When Demetri Goodson, who transferred last year to play football at Baylor, was asked by the Seattle Times if he and Few got along, he responded, "Nah, not really. He treated it like a business. He's an excellent coach. It's just the way he coaches wasn't for me, I don't think."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Projecting Gannon's Prime Time Players

The Gannon roster is set. But what will be the playing rotation? Only John Reilly knows. Well, actually he doesn't even know yet, but we can speculate. One certainty is that the key players will be different from a year ago. Regulars Kelvin Agee (14.9 ppg, 37 threes), Travis Brannen (11.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Danard Crouch (7.1 ppg), Kareem Brown (5.6 ppg), Anthony Clagett (5.2 ppg, 49 assists), and Clinton Springer-Williams (1.9 ppg in 23 games) are gone.

Who will share playing time with F Stephen Battle (12.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg), PG Steve Piotrowicz (7.1 ppg, 68 assists), and Tanner Furno (6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg), if the lanky junior has recovered from a reported shoulder injury? We know it won't be Urbana transfer Robert Wilson who will redshirt this year after his former school wouldn't grant him a release and the NCAA denied Gannon's appeal.

Here's my WAG at Gannon's depth chart for this upcoming campaign. I'll take the rampant speculation a step further by predicting how many minutes each will get. Because I haven't seen 7 of these guys play, this analysis is for entertainment purposes only.
http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
PG: Piotrowicz (32 min)
SG: Shameel Carty (25), Oscar Macias (15)
SF: Battle (32), Alvin Tucker (8)
PF: Dmitry Martynenko (24), Darrell Blanton (10)
C: Bubby Johnson (28), Furno (12)
Left Out: Brandon Belt, Adam Blazek, Eisenman, T.J. Wilson, Robert Wilson (redshirt)

Comments:
* I feel like I need to apologize to the Left Out crew. They could be reading this and think, "What do you know about me, Howdy Doody? I'm a player!" Sorry, guys, maybe you will get tons of playing time, but right now I have to put somebody on the bench. Reilly has never rotated 13 players before and he's not about to start this season. Those in my rotation are either returnees, redshirts who practiced with the team last year, or newcomers with very impressive DI, DII or juco resumes.

* You can see I'm missing 8 minutes from the rotation. That's because I have no clue who will back up Piotrowicz at the PG position. The scholarship guards on the GU roster (Macias, Belt, and Tucker) don't seem to be PGs judging by their stats (low assists). I'm not too worried about those 8 minutes because I think Piotrowicz will be logging nearly all the PG duties; 32 mpg may be understated.

* I would imagine that 2 SGs or SFs will need to redshirt to avoid a logjam at those positions. Tucker and Eisenman redshirted last year, so I don't think they'll do that again. Carty is a senior, plus he sat out last year after three super seasons at Clarion, so I'm doubting he'd stay on the sidelines again. That leaves Macias, Belt, Blazek, and T.J. Wilson as redshirt candidates.

* I think there's an outside chance of one PF or C redshirting. If Furno's shoulder isn't 100% -- and he'd like to stay at Gannon for grad school -- he'd be the most likely candidate in my opinion. Blanton redshirted last year which leaves him out of the running. I've heard nothing but rave reviews about Johnson, so I don't think Reilly would put him on the shelf this year as the Knights scramble to get back to the posteason. That leaves Martynenko, but do you want a productive (15.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg at his juco) big man who stands 6-foot-8 serving as Gannon's biggest cheerleader? So back to what I said at the outset: a PF or C redshirting is an outside chance.

* A couple Gannon fans have commented to me on the lack of freshmen in the recruiting class (one -- preferred walk-on Blazek). Since I'm speculating on playing time, let me speculate on why Reilly may be shying away from high schoolers. At my company (Jameson Publishing), we almost never hire kids just out of college though they are the majority of applicants for our jobs. We've learned this equation the hard way: college does not equal work. College requires you to attend 15-18 hours of class a week; work requires at least 40 hours of attendance. In college, 8 AM is early; at my company, 8AM means you're a half hour late. Nearly 100% of the college kids we've hired don't make the adjustment to the professional world. You just don't know how they'll handle work. I think Riles has learned the same lesson. In high school, playing time is guaranteed, the competition is easy, mom tucks you into bed every night, and you rule your basketball program. It's a whole new game in college, and you have no idea how a kid will adjust -- especially when his coach won't ever let you take a possession off. In practice. I think Reilly will still sign the occasional Battle or Furno, both exceptional in terms ability and work ethic, but the days of an unproven freshman "class" may be behind us.

Click here for the team photo of the 2011-12 Gannon Golden Knights: Front row (L-R) -- Shameel Carty, Anthony "T.J." Wilson, John Eisenman, Steve Piotrowicz, Adam Blazek, Alvin Tucker, and Brandon Belt. Back row (L-R) -- Darrell Blanton, Robert Wilson, Dmitry Martynenko, Dytanya "Bubby" Johnson, Tanner Furno, Stephen Battle, and Oscar Macias.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Knight: Robert Wilson jr. F 6-3


Robert Wilson's feature is the last of eight -- count 'em, EIGHT -- new Knight profiles for the 2011-12 season. How in depth do we go? Well, here's a photo from Wilson's high school prom. Let's hope he looks as good in a white Gannon uniform as he does in a white tux.

I'm thrilled Wilson is joining the Knights from Urbana (Oh.) University not just because he's a proven scorer, but also because it assures Gannon won't have to play against him anymore. Here are his stat lines from last season's GU/UU contests:
12/4/10 -- URBANA 79, Gannon 70: 37 minutes, 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3-for-5 on threes, 10-for-10 at the foul line, 6 steals, and 3 assists.
12/18/10 -- GANNON 70, Urbana 68: 35 minutes, 24 points, 10 rebounds, 6-for-10 on threes. Photo evidence here.

I'm not sure why Wilson bolted Urbana for Gannon, unless it's because there's only 11,000 people in the town of Urbana or because the Blue Knights were an abysmal 9-17 last year. It couldn't be because of a lack or playing time or because he didn't get enough looks. During his two seasons at Urbana, Wilson started in all 53 games he played and saw 34 minutes of action per contest. He totaled 803 points (15.2 ppg), 468 rebounds (8.8 rpg), 18 double-doubles, 93 assists, 77 steals, and 40 blocks and for the Blue Knights. Wilson hit 45% of his field goal attempts, 40% on threes (65-for-139), and a stellar 80% of his free throws. I'm really curious to see if he has the opportunity to maintain those numbers as a Golden Knight, where it's not a given that he'll be "the man" every night.

UPDATE 9/20/11: I just received confirmation that Wilson will be redshirting this season and will still have two years of eligibility remaining. He'll play for Gannon in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. He was not given a release by Urbana and Gannon's appeal to the NCAA was denied.

Here's some more info on Wilson that you might find interesting. I promise there won't be any more prom photos:
* Last season he led UU in seemingly every statistical category -- points (15.5), rebounds (8.9), steals (42), free throw percentage (88.1%, 96-for-109) and minutes played (888).
* Ranked 22nd among all NCAA Division II players in free throw percentage and 33rd in rebounding.
* He killed more teams than just Gannon, surpassing the 20-point mark 10 times. In a 94-71 loss to Division I Kent State, Wilson registered a game high 21 points and 6 rebounds. Kent (25-12) was just two points and 12.8 seconds away from qualifying for the NCAA tournament, falling to Akron in the MAC tournament championship.
* Wilson lit up the host Pfeiffer (NC) Falcons for 27 points and 11 boards.
* Had 19 points and 6 boards at nationally-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan.
* Just weeks after the University of Indianapolis won an exhibition at Division I Tennessee, Wilson led Urbana to an upset win over the Greyhounds with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists.
* Tallied a game-high 20 points and 9 rebounds in a 75-71 home loss to Mercyhurst. Let's hope he never loses to the Lakers again.
* Notched 25 points and 8 rebounds -- plus an 11-for-11 performance from the foul line -- in a 109-105 OT loss at Central State.
* Exacted revenge on the Marauders less than two weeks later, with a 16-point, 16-rebound, 8-assist winning effort. That victory started a 5-game win streak to end UU's season.
* In a win over the GLIAC's Saginaw Valley, Wilson racked up 21 points, 11 rebounds and 4 threes.
* Wilson's hot shooting led the way to a 106-94 win over Salem International. He made 9-of-15 field goals and 8-of-9 free throws, finishing with game-highs of 27 points and 11 boards.
* In his final game in an Urbana uniform, Wilson led the way over Lourdes College with 23 points and 7 rebounds on 8-of-15 shooting from the field. In case you're wondering, Lourdes is a small NAIA school in Sylvania, OH. And if you can guess Lourdes' mascot before clicking here, I'll give you a one-arm man hug at Gannon's season opener.
* Perhaps the strangest box score from Wilson's sophomore year was this: 40 minutes, 7 points on 2-for-7 shooting in an 82-78 OT win vs. Lake Erie. Ethan Bradshaw came off the bench to lead LEC with 40 points, including a 22-for-25 chart from the foul line. I was surprised the game report didn't list three guys with the last name "Bradshaw" as the game officials.
* The biggest trend I noticed from looking at every boxscore from Wilson's 2010-11 campaign is that he's not a consistent scorer. It seemed like he was either right around 20 points or single digits.
* He did log nine double-doubles, two of them against GU.
* Was a two-time NCAA Division II All-Independent first-team selection as well as DII Independent Freshman of the Year. Those honors are nice but kind of lose some luster when three guys from 10-18 Washington Adventist (the artist formerly known as Columbia Union), are listed among the 15 best indy players in DII hoops.
* Now this honor can't be chided by even the harshest skeptic. Wilson was a member of the Urbana Athletic Director's Honor Roll and Dean's List.
* After his freshman year at UU, the Gateway News penned a nice article on Wilson, where he talks about his pro basketball aspirations.
* Took time last summer to return to his hometown to volunteer at the Streetsboro (Oh.) Youth Basketball Camp. Streetsboro is 20 miles northeast of Akron.
* Was an All-Ohio selection as a senior at Streetsboro HS.
* Twice honored as Portage Trail Conference Player of the Year and District Player of the Year.
* Holds 5 Streetsboro school records: career points (1,693), single-season points (586), career rebounds (963), single-season rebounds and single-game rebounds (17).
* This newspaper article from his high school days is highly complimentary of Wilson, using phrases like "eye-popping", "nearly unstoppable", and "prolific scorer." What I like best about the article is this quote from his high school coach: "Robert's biggest asset is how well he understands the game. He has quality players around him, and he understands how much better he can be when he utilizes the players around him."
* The only videos I could find of Wilson are pretty dated. This one from 2008 shows him dunking at the first-half buzzer. And this jittery video goes all the way back to his sophomore year of high school. The commentator says Wilson exploded for 30 points that game.
* I felt kind of weird sharing one of Wilson's prom pics earlier. I feel even weirder sharing one of his senior photos. But this LeBron-ish pose is too cool to pass up.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Knight: Oscar Macias jr. G 6-3


I'm assuming you don't know much (if anything) about new Golden Knight Oscar Macias, but I'm going to give you a quick quiz on him anyway. Which Macias-related number is my favorite:
A. 44
B. 31
C. 14
D. 3.0

The answer is D. Macias earned a 3.0 GPA during the spring 2011 semester at Triton College, a community college just outside of Chicago. Transfers from two-year schools are often branded as underachievers academically, so it's nice to see that Macias takes his studies seriously.

So what's the deal with the first three numbers? Macias racked up 44 points in a win against NJCAA Division II top-ranked Cincinnati State last season, making 15-of-18 shots from two-point range and 8-of-10 from the free throw line. Triton was 31-6 last year, winning the NJCAA Region IV championship, advancing to the NJCAA Division II national semifinals, and claiming the NJCAA national third-place game. Macias averaged 14 ppg for the Trojans, plus 4 rebounds and 2 assists a contest.

Those individual stats aren't overwhelming, but Macias is a borderline Division I talent. According to a couple sources including ChicagoHoops.com, he verbally committed to DI Chicago State in February before enrolling at Gannon. Here's how Chicago Hoops (love the name, by the way) described him: "Macias brings size, versatility, and an ability to score the basketball to the table. Macias scores the ball in a variety of ways. Macias is a player who will be able to come in and provide an immediate offensive boost. He was also being recruited by the likes of Arkansas-Little Rock, Tennessee-Martin and Texas Christian."

Here's more info you need to know on this new Knight:
* He was all-conference first team, all-region second team and selected to the NJCAA Region IV all-tournament team as a sophomore
* Triton named him team MVP and the school's Male Athlete of the Year in 2010-11
* While Gannon is saying he's 6-foot-3, the Triton roster lists Macias at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds
* He made 57% of his field goals attempts, 30% of his threes (20-of-66), and 77% of his free throws over 33 regular-season games. For a game-by-game recap of his sophomore year, click here.
* As a freshman, he averaged 8.5 ppg and shot 43% from the field, 30% on three-pointers (17-of-56), and 76% from the foul line over 28 games
* This article from Mlive.com shows that Macias led Triton to a win over eventual NJCAA runner-up Mott Community College in Lansing, MI. The article doesn't provide a lot of insight on Macias, but I love how cranky the Mott coach is. Apparently his tirade worked. Mott won its next 30 games before falling in the national championship game.
* At Morton (Ill.) HS, Macias was a two-time all-conference selection
* As a senior he earned all-area and all-city honorable-mention accolades while leading the Mustangs to a a regional championship and #18 state ranking according to the Chicago Tribune
* Here's a Chicago Tribune article where Macias leads Morton to victory with 20 points and provides the paper with some postgame comments. I'm such John Reilly likes the headline: "Tough 'D' sparks Mustangs"
* Here's another Trib article with good news: Morton posts a narrow victory (40-38) over a state power, Macias wins the game by sinking both ends of a 1-and-1 with 1.5 seconds left, and we learn that Evanston High School's nickname is the "Wildkits." That's a tremendous trifecta.
* Here's a photo of a very lean Macias taking it to the rack for Morton.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Knight: Shameel Carty sr. G/F 6-4


When Gannon announces a new recruit, the #1 question is usually, "Can he play on this level? Can he compete in Division II and the PSAC West?" With Shameel Carty we already know the answer is a resounding yes. Carty comes to Gannon after three successful seasons at PSAC rival Clarion, where over 66 games (35 of them starts) he totalled 757 points (11.5 ppg), 356 rebounds (5.4 rpg), 92 assists, and 66 steals.

So we know he can play. But Golden Knight fans still have these questions about Carty:
* Why did he sit out last season after three quality years of play?
* Why would Gannon sign a senior transfer?
* What happened April 15 of last year when Carty and several other Clarion students were charged with riot, obstructing administration of the law, failure to disperse upon official order, plus hazardous and disorderly conduct?

Let's talk about the legal matters first. Carty was issued the litany of charges above, but he pled guilty only to hazardous disorderly conduct and was placed on six months probation. According to the Clarion Call newspaper article and police reports, a brawl erupted during the championship of an intramural basketball game involving a team of Clarion football players vs. Clarion basketball players. After a foul, a shoving match ensued between opponents, and spectators ran onto the court causing a riot.

I don't know what to think about all that. Obviously it's not good. But I recall back in 1990 when I played at Gannon, we engaged in a full-scale brawl after our game vs. the University of Buffalo at the Hammermill Center. Did that make Gregg Blair, Dave Callahan, Andy Adams, and me bad people? I don't think so. I'm willing to give the kid the benefit of the doubt. I'll judge him based on the behavior I see with my own eyes. I'm not going prejudge a kid based on one night. I hope other Gannon fans can do the same.

Let's talk about Carty the player. Wait, how about we have our good friend Gary Manchel talk about Carty first. Here's an excerpt from the Erie Times in 2010 prior to Mercyhurst's PSAC West playoff game at Clarion:
"They're very good," Manchel said of the Eagles, who were led by junior guard/forward Shameel Carty's 24 points and 10 rebounds in the 77-75 victory over the 'Hurst in Clarion. "They have the Harrisons (junior transfers, point guard Lloyd and swingman Jamar, who are not related), but the guy that really hurt us the first time was Carty. We shut him down the second time (a 76-64 home win), but they didn't have their shooting guard (Mike) Sherry, and with him in there it creates matchup problems for us. He is supposed to play (tonight). So again, the guy we have to control is Carty, or we are going to have a lot of problems."

Here's some more bio info on Carty:
* Played with former Knights Josh Yanke and Ron Hollis at Clarion. They must not have badmouthed their Gannon experience too much (or Carty didn't place much stock in it) if he's now coming to play for John Reilly.
* Suited up for the Golden Eagles from 2007-10.
* For his career, shot 44% from the field, 33% on threes (46-for-139), and 75% from the foul line.
* I was surprised how frequently he got to the foul line. In the 2009-10 season, he attempted 170 free throws, hitting 125. That placed on 7th on Clarion's all-time single season list for free throws attempted and 6th in makes.
* His junior season was highly productive: 28 games, 17 starts, 14.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg. He led Clarion in scoring 8 times as a junior, including 3 times in the final 4 games, and led them in rebounds 11 games. He poured in a season-high 24 points against both California (Pa.) and Mercyhurst.
* He was named PSAC West Co-Player of the Week in early Feb. 2010 after averaging 18 points and 9 rebounds in two wins vs. Mercyhurst and Edinboro. Heck, maybe Reilly recruited Carty to Gannon for that week alone. Couldn't blame him if he did.
* For the complete stats on Carty's junior year, just click here.
* In limited playing time as a sophomore and freshman he still produced. In 08-09, he played in 27 games with 16 starts, averaging 9.2 ppg and 4.6 rpg. In 11 games in 07-08, he averaged 4.9 ppg and 1.8 rpg.
* His bio on the Clarion website doesn't provide a ton of info, but it does show comments on Carty from CU coach Dr. Ron Righter: "Plays #3 & #4 spots. Excellent conditioned athlete. Slasher. Very gifted. Strong defensive player. Runs the floor well. Can score both inside and outside. Very good in transition. Rebounds well. Quality free throw shooter. From tough high school league."
* Hails from Queens, NY where he played for Holy Cross HS.
* Here's a photo of Carty from his high school days. The caption is actually what impressed me -- Carty's team lost by only 4 points in a playoff game vs. national power Rice, a frequent competitor in the McDonald's Classic.
* Here are two photos from his college days. The first shows Carty getting an up-close look at a dunk by Patrick Patterson, then of the University of Kentucky and now of the Houston Rockets. Clarion played an exhibition game vs. UK that year, losing 117-52, with Carty scoring 10 points. Did you notice all the people in the stands in that UK photo? Well, you won't see many in this one, a PSAC West matchup between Clarion and Lock Haven. And is it standard protocol for everyone at Clarion games to rest their chins on their fist? I know Lock Haven is tough to watch, but at least sit up straight!
* The only online video I can find of Carty is him dunking during a shootaround at Rupp Arena. I was the 20th person to watch it. Join the club.
* If I still did Gannon games on radio, I'm sure I'd slip up at some point and call him "Rico Carty," the former major leaguer.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Knights Finalize Recruiting Class

Just announced: here's the link to the second part of Gannon's recruiting class for this year.

* Dytanya "Bubby" Johnson (Waldorf, Md./Thomas Stone) 6-9, F, Soph.
* Shameel Carty (Queens, N.Y./Holy Cross) 6-4, G/F, Sr.
* Oscar Macias (Cicero, Ill./Morton) 6-3, G, Jr.
* Robert Wilson (Streetsboro, Ohio/Streetsboro) 6-3, F, Jr.

We've already published info on Bubby Johnson, though it looks like he grew two inches from his freshman to his sophomore season. I'll do some more digging on the rest of the recruits and share the info with you over the next few days.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

New Knight: Dytanya "Bubby" Johnson soph. F/C 6-7


Dytanya "Bubby" Johnson hasn't been officially announced as a member of the Gannon basketball team, but I'm jumping the gun on publishing his player profile because I've heard from many reliable sources that he's transferred to GU from Division I New Jersey Tech. Another reason I'm profiling Johnson so soon is that while researching him I became ecstatic that he'll suit up for the Knights this winter. Yes, his physical ability should help Gannon but I love his intangibles more. Heck, just looking at these pictures of the kid makes me wish tomorrow was the Maroon/Gold scrimmage:
* He takes charges.
* He gets after loose balls on the floor.
* He obviously has a passion for the game.
* He mixes it up inside, despite weighing maybe 200 pounds.
* Did I mention he has a passion for the game?
* And for those of you who like slam dunks, he does that, too.

I'm also thrilled about Johnson joining the Knights because he was a frontcourt teammate of super Knight Stephen Battle at Thomas Stone HS in Waldorf, MD. Battle, the PSAC West Freshman of the Year last season and Gannon's best all-around player, looks like he's in it for the long haul at GU if he's recruiting his former high school teammate here.

Here's some more info on Johnson:
* The NJIT website describes him as "a post player noted for his on-court toughness, particularly in the areas of defense and rebounding." That's a consistent theme in all the reports about Johnson -- and you know John Reilly loves those qualities in a player.
* Played in 25 games for 15-15 NJIT, including 11 starts. Averaged 2.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 10.1 minutes of play per game.
* Shot 44% from the field (21-for-48, 0-for-1 on threes) and 58% (15-of-26) from the foul line. Scored a career-high nine points twice including in a 12-point loss at Rutgers.
* Finished third on the team in blocks with 10.
* This article from the Southern Maryland News announcing Johnson's signing with NJIT starts with this line: "Heart, passion, determination, hard work and the love of the game is what separates Thomas Stone senior big man Dytanya 'Bubby' Johnson from most players on the hardwood."
* The article also says, "With his physical stature and ability to cause havoc inside for opposing offenses, his rebounding, block shots and weak side defense, should help Johnson make an immediate impact and earn him a lot of playing time for the Highlanders program next winter as a freshman."
* An all-conference defensive/tight end in high school -- check out this photo of him about to devour a miniature quarterback -- Johnson was recruited by several I-AA gridiron teams.
* As a senior at Stone HS, he averaged 10.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and nearly 3 blocks per game, making 60 percent of his shots from field and 70 percent at the foul line. The Cougars finished 23-2 that year, advancing to the Maryland 3A state championship game.
* In that state final, he recorded 12 rebounds and a season-high 5 blocked shots. In the state semi he tallied a season-high 18 points.
* In 24 games, he produced double-figure rebound totals 23 times, with a high of 19. He also posted two 18-rebound games and one of 17.
* According to MaxPreps.com, he ranked second in the state of Maryland in rebounds and 12th in blocked shots.
* Johnson and Battle reached the Maryland 4A Final Four their sophomore and junior seasons and then the 3A state championship game after the school switched classes.
* This article after Stone's 3A semifinal win features quotes from Johnson.
* Stone expected to win the state championship that year but was upset by smaller Milford Mill (who was not coached by Gil Thorp, by the way).
* Here's how the I95 Ballerz website describes Johnson: "The team’s spiritual leader, Johnson plays hard all the time, manning the paint and directing teammates. Being willing to battle inside should not be a surprise for this two-sport performer, who on the gridiron plays both defensive end and receiver. Though basketball is his true love -- he has been tendered an offer to hoop at NJ Tech -- Johnson is reviewing all options for college.
* And, no, I haven't figured out why he's called "Bubby." I'm guessing it has nothing to do with the former Steelers quarterback.

Video highlights:
* These highlights from a state playoff game focus more on Battle, but that's okay.
* You have to like Johnson's persistence in the paint at the 55-second mark of this video. And his rejection at the 1:39 mark is bone-rattling.
* I'm a basketball fan, but I'm not going to search through this 2-hour, 12-minute video of NJIT at Utah Valley from earlier this year to see Johnson's one minute of play.
* But you only have to wait 6 seconds in this video to watch Johnson jump center vs. Vermont in what appears initially to be the rattiest gymnasium in Division I.

Finally here are some miscellaneous photos of Johnson -- I'm sure Gannon fans won't be able to get enough of Bubby's dreads:
* With his coach during the state finals. I wonder if he'll wear that one long sleeve at Gannon.
* Again with Stephen Battle.
* Could Johnson and Battle bring a celebration like this to the Hammermill?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Man Of His Word

Back in July when Gannon announced the first portion of its 2011-12 recruiting class, GU SID Dan Teliski wrote in the press release, "Additional recruits are expected to be announced following the start of classes in early September." I followed up with Teliski today to ask if info was available yet on the rest of the recruiting class. Dan let me know that we should expect some info in -- guess when? -- early September. He did confirm that there's no way in the world Javaris Crittendon suit up for the Knights this season.

Some folks might be counting down the days 'til the NFL season opener. I'll be holding my breath for Teliski's press release.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Garritys Make This Gannon Alum Proud

We cheer like crazy each winter when the Knights are hooping it up on the Hammermill hardwood, but we don't often get a chance to sing their praises post-graduation. So I'm taking advantage of that rare opportunity to heap kudos at two Gannon grads, one of them a former Knight ballplayer.

My 5-year-old daughter participated this summer at the Penn State-Behrend Little Dribblers basketball camp. I was apprehensive if she'd feel pressure to fill the basketball shoes of her ultra-successful father. OK, that's not completely true. I was apprehensive but it was because she'd never played the game before outside of us dribbling in the driveway and launching a few shots on her 6-foot hoop. I knew she'd be nervous with 100 energy-filled kids screaming inside a strange gymnasium. Plus what if her coach was too serious, overly emotional, pushy, insensitive, inattentive, or all of the above?

Fortunately for her and the about 40 other kids in the 4-5 age division, brothers Rand and Aaron Garrity were the lead counselors. I didn't take long to see that basketball is the Garritys' passion and teaching school kids is their full-time profession. For all four days of the camp, the Garritys showed patience and enthusiasm. Knowing that Rand is an assistant coach at Behrend and Aaron has coached at Fairview, I thought to myself, "How many basketball camps have these guys worked in their life?" I bet they've spent hundreds if not thousands of hours in unair-conditioned gymnasiums throughout Erie County. But each day for every drill Rand and Aaron greeted the kids like the 30-somethings were the ones who couldn't wait to play games.

Plus, the Garritys were wildly entertaining -- like a blend of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and basketball. When Rand would teach the kids their defensive stance, Aaron would stand on his toes with his hands stretched to the ceiling and cry out, "Is this right, coach?" Rand would correct him that your knees should be bent, your butt down, and your hands in front of you. Then Rand would show the kids how to keep their feet a little more than shoulder width apart. Aaron would nearly do a split and call out again, "Is this right, coach?" with his brother correcting him.

If the Garritys had been paid by the high five, the smile, or every time they said "good job" or "way to go," they'd be millionaries. And they were really getting through to the kids, too. My daughter was eager to show up early every day to run through the drills. And though the camp ended nearly a month ago, she still knows the right form for a chest pass. When I say "Behrend!", she slaps the ground and shouts, "I love defense!" just as the Garritys taught her at camp. (She also screams out, "I love daylillies!" every time she sees that flower, but I don't blame Rand and Aaron for that.)

You know that Aaron is a Gannon alum because he played for several successful Gannon teams from 1996-2001, but you might not know that Rand also attended GU in the 1990s. And now you know that both of them deserve the loudest of cheers from the Gannon faithful.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Knights Announce Recruits & Returnees

Gannon officially announced the first portion of its 2011-12 recruiting class Wednesday via a press release from the school. Faithful readers of Gannon Hoops weren't surprised to read the names of newcomers Adam Blazek, Brandon Belt, Dmitry Martynenko, and Anthony "T.J." Wilson. Just click on any of those links of you want the skinny on those four new Knights.

What was most interesting in the press release is that it clarified Gannon's 8 returnees for this year: senior Steve Piotrowicz, senior Malcolm Woodbury, junior Tanner Furno, junior Clinton Springer-Williams, redshirt junior Darrell Blanton, redshirt junior Alvin Tucker, sophomore Stephen Battle and redshirt freshman John Eisenman. Notably absent from that list, thus confirming their leaving the Gannon program, are Kelvin Agee, Anthony Clagett, Dennis Rumph, and Ramon Smith. Add them to the depressing and expanding list of one-year wonders at GU. Personal note: You can add Smith (10 points) and Rumph (2) to another list -- Knights who actually scored fewer points than me (14) during their Gannon career. Hey, there is a silver lining to the dark cloud of player turnover hanging over the program!

So if I'm doing this right, here's Gannon's current depth chart based on incredibly thin data:
PG: Piotrowicz, Blazek
SG: Belt, Tucker
SF: Blanton, Wilson
PF: Battle, Springer-Williams
C: Furno, Martynenko

So what else do the Knights need? That's John Reilly's call ultimately, but I'd be looking out for potential superstar freshmen (the GU roster already has 2 seniors and 5 juniors) who could redshirt or a superstar Division I transfer at any position. I also don't see an obvious backup for Battle at the power forward either. I threw the 6-foot-4 Springer-Williams there because that's mostly where he played for GU last year, but he produced only 2 ppg from that spot. Then again, Battle averaged about 35 minutes a game during the second half of the season, so a backup PF isn't really Gannon's biggest need.

The press release also said, "Additional recruits are expected to be announced following the start of classes in early September," so we'll have to rely on rumors and scoops for the next couple months.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Reading List

I've never exactly understood summer reading lists. If it's nice outside, I'm going to do some activity in the sunshine, not plop myself in a chair to read a book. I can do that anytime. But if you are one of those folks who insists upon summer reading, here's some material to help you out:

1. "Some coaches in the PSAC are worlds apart" Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
You've got to love when a newspaper article starts like this: "When Indiana University of Pennsylvania men's basketball coach Joe Lombardi steps on the court for his team's game against Mansfield next season, he will be making nearly $65,000 more than his counterpart, Rich Miller." I mean, how crummy does Rich Miller feel? And how geeked up will he be if Mansfield knocks off IUP next year? When the coaches would shake hands after the game, I'm sure Miller wouldn't say anything, but you know he'd be thinking it.

You also have to love this passage from the article: "Asked about the pay difference and about being the highest-paid coach ($136,837) in the league, (Cal football coach Joe) Luckhardt laughed and said, 'My wife's not disappointed.'" We're still talking about money, right coach?

2. "Fired Bethune-Cookman coach refused to aid in rape case involving son" Daytona Beach News Journal
While reading the Erie Times this morning, I saw in the transaction section that Bethune-Cookman fired its basketball coach yesterday. I thought to myself, "Why would a coach get fired 3-4 months after the season ended?" Well, you can read the headline, and if you want more details you can click on the story. It gave me some perspective that we shouldn't get too exorcised when Gannon's biggest problems are missing the playoffs and roster turnover.

3. "Univ. of New Orleans to introduce Mark Slessinger as men's basketball coach" NOLA.com
Who in Erie gives a rip about the University of New Orleans hiring a basketball coach? I don't either. But what's interesting about this is that New Orleans is the first school I can recall that's stepping down from Division I to compete on the Division II level. According to the UNO athletics Wikipedia page, lingering effects from Hurricane Katrina sparked the decision. Side note: the Wikipedia page lists the UNO school song as, "Let's Hear It For UNO." With them dropping a division, I wonder if they'll rewrite the lyrics that say, "Our Privateers will march on to fame."

4. "Terry Smith new Finlandia Men's Hoop Coach" Upper Michigan's Source
I'm not sure who else besides Steve Bohen (sorry, Steve -- that was the only photo of you I could find online) and me will read this article, but Terry Smith was a big deal in the GLIAC when he coached Grand Valley from 1997-2004. He left GVSU under unusual circumstances in May 2004 and then coached at Hart High School (Mich.) from 04-07. In 2005, he was named associate head coach at GLIAC rival Northern Michigan, but never followed through on that commitment for family reasons I believe. This guy is like the Larry Brown of small college basketball.

5. "5 Things You Need to Know About Matt Tobin Day" Hopatcong Patch
You need oxygen. You need water. You need food. You don't need to know anything about a day dedicated to an East Stroudsburg basketball recruit. But I do recommend you read this article also from the Hopatcong Patch titled "5 Things: Large Pizza, Extra Jesus." Tremendous. You can tell by the photo they're having a rollicking good time, and things are about to get completely out of control.