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."