Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year -- With Emphasis On 'Happy'

If you didn't have a calendar and were referencing only the comments section of this blog since Gannon's loss at Bloomsburg, you'd never know it was the holiday season. It seems like many of us skipped over the Merry part of Christmas and the Happy part of the New Year.

So before we get back to dissecting wins and losses on Jan. 3, let's relax and catch up with some old friends.

First, let me explain the photo accompanying this post. During the holiday break, my 8-year-old daughter Evelyn and I were playing Wii, and she wanted to create a new character (called a "Mii"). With the Gannon men's basketball poster looming over her shoulder, she pointed to Brandon Emmitt and said, "I want to make a Mii of number 4." What you see here is a new character named "Brandon 4" who I think looks pretty similar to the real-life Brandon who wears number 4. And, true to form, he performed exceptionally in the Wii Sports Resort three-point shootout.

Let's check in on some former GU coaches and opponents:
* Former women's coach Cleve Wright is now 4-7 at Division I Miami (Oh.). His wins have come against Chicago State, Northern Kentucky, Cleveland State, and Youngstown State, coached by former Michigan Tech coach John Barnes.

* Jodi Kest, who coached the Gannon women in the BC era (Before Cleve), is 6-5 on the season at Division I Akron, including 3-1 in December. In her 8th season, Kest is the longest tenured coach in the MAC.

* Former men's coach Jerry Slocum finished Youngstown State's independent schedule with a respectable 9-6 mark. Four of his losses have come at nationally ranked UMass, at Kent State, at Pitt, and at St. John's. YSU was ranked 5th in the preseason poll for the 9-team Horizon League, with Penguin guard Kendrick Perry the preseason player of the year.

* LeMoyne, who smothered Gannon 65-62 in the Gary Miller Classic first round, has lost 3 of 5 games since. Wheeling Jesuit entered the GM Classic with a 1-2 mark but hasn't lost since. The Cardinals swept Alderson-Broaddus and LeMoyne in the tournament and then drubbed Urbana and Notre Dame (Oh.). Alderson-Broaddus, the last place finisher in the Miller Classic after a 55-54 loss to the Knights, has gone 4-0 since leaving the Hammermill.

* Shepherd (WV) has not played since victories over Gannon and Winston-Salem (NC) in the Porreco Cup, so they are still 9-1. They are the most impressive team I've seen this season by far and away -- not big but a relentless, well-oiled machine. After observing him from two rows away, I think Shepherd head coach Justin Namolik is destined for the Division I ranks or a long run at the Division II school of his choice. The guy really knows how to effectively communicate with his players. Porreco runner-up Winston-Salem lost its only game since the tournament, so they are now 5-5 on the year. Last place Barton (NC) is now 5-7, winning its lone game since the Cup vs. Virginia State. And I wouldn't be surprised if BC assistant coach Joel Zimmerman personally called each of his players Christmas morning to tell them they deserve lumps of coal and should burn their presents. Zimmerman's sideline antics and insults won't be forgotten anytime soon by the Hammermill faithful.

* I still check out the GLIAC standings from time to time, and no surprise that Grand Valley leads the North and Findlay tops the South four games into league play. Combined, the Lakers and Oilers are 15-1 overall. Findlay is ranked 15th in the latest NABC/Division II rankings.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Ruins Christmas

Perhaps the only silver lining to Gannon's incredibly disappointing 67-64 overtime loss at Bloomsburg is that I can amuse myself by using the above headline. Bloom senior Lorenzo Christmas, who nearly doubled his scoring average by exploding for 23 points on 6-of-9 shooting on threes, sent the Knights into their 12-day break with a big fat lump of coal in their stocking. It probably also didn't help Gannon that on the first day of winter they were facing a team whose head coach's last name is just one letter away from "snow."

As I wrote in my post after Gannon's three consecutive wins last week over mediocre/lousy teams, the Bloomsburg game was a test if the Knights could rack up a lot of wins this season. Of course, one game doesn't make-or-break your year, but this loss -- plus the four other early season stumbles -- put 6-5 Gannon in a precarious position entering 2014.

Here's the way I see it: the Knights are 5-3 at home and 1-2 on the road. If that pace holds steady the remainder of the year, Gannon will be something like 5-2 over their remaining 7 home games and 3-5 over their final 8 road games. The math on that works out to a final regular season record of 14-12. That's ho-hum, not "Ho, ho, ho!"

If GU would turn things around and go 6-1 at home and 5-3 on the road, they'd rally to be 17-9. Am I accurate or pessimistic to say that's the best we can hope for based on what we've seen through 11 games? To get 20 regular season wins, the Knights will have to finish 7-0 at home and 7-1 away against a schedule that features undefeated and nationally ranked IUP (#7) twice and a game at East Stroudsburg (#12) on Jan. 3.

OK -- we can't go into tho holiday break on that depressing note. I should let you know that I'm fired up to see that walk-on Cory Bailey registered his first career basket Saturday vs. Bloom. Every account I've received says Bailey is a quality person and always works his tail off, so it's nice to see him be rewarded for his efforts. Had Gannon prevailed vs. the Huskies, the headline to this post would have been -- and you have to sing it in the tune of the First Day of Christmas -- "... And A First Hoop From Cory Bailey!"

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reality Check

One of my earliest Hammermill Center memories is a non-basketball one. Back in 1984, Jesse Jackson campaigned in Erie as he traveled America hoping to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. I distinctly recall Jackson speaking at a podium on the north end of the Audi. The floor, plush seats, and bleachers were filled with spectators. I can't remember exactly what Jackson said, but I do recall him being interrupted by a man with a deep, booming voice: "Are you for real? Are you for real?"

Wednesday night, after Gannon's third straight convincing victory, a 75-62 thumping of Lock Haven, I thought about interrupting John Reilly's post game interview at the north end of the Audi to ask him if the Knights are for real. They certainly are playing better -- nobody can argue that -- responding to a three-game home losing streak with a trio of double-digit wins over Barton (81-58) in the Porreco consolation and this week vs. Mansfield (83-57) and a respectable LHU squad.

But we could debate all night long if the Golden Knights are a legitimate threat to compete for the PSAC West crown and earn an NCAA bid. The combined records of GU's opponents during this stretch is 9-19, and I guarantee you won't see any of these teams still suiting up when we flip the calendar to March.

So I ask again: is this Gannon team, averaging 79.7 ppg and outrebounding opponents an incredible 117-68 (39-22 avg) during this streak, a quality basketball team or not? I think we'll have our answer before the holiday break with GU traveling to Bloomsburg Saturday.

The Huskies were 6-1 on Monday before they traveled to Erie County and fell victim to both Edinboro (70-61) and Mercyhurst (66-62). BU leads the PSAC East with a 4-0 mark (tied with East Stroudsburg), but what's their best win this season? Millersville is 2-6, Cheyney's 2-8, Shippensburg is 1-7, and Lock Haven is 4-4. Their out of conference loss is to 2-8 Chestnut Hill, notable for being the only team Ship has beaten this season. One independent win is over Penn State-Hazelton; I'm not going to even look up their win-loss record because all the PSU branch campuses (except Behrend) are rinky-dink programs.

Okay I lied. PSU Hazelton is 2-10 on the season, currently mired in a six-game losing streak to Indiana University East, Penn State-DuBois, Penn State-York, Penn State-Mont Alto, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, and Penn State-Worthington Scranton. Their two wins this season are both against Luzerne County Community College. How bad must LCCC be? No, I'm not going to look that up -- we're supposed to be talking Gannon basketball!

Okay I lied again. Luzerne is already 0-14 this season, allowing over 100 points in 9 of those contests. How would you like season tickets for that club? Sorry for the digression ...
 
Bloom's only quality win came at home over a month ago in double OT against now 7-2 Lincoln (Pa.). What do good teams do against clubs that have played a weak schedule, have lost to mediocre DII clubs, and have just one decent win all season long? They handle 'em -- by double figures -- like Gannon has done twice this week.

I know John Reilly will have his team ready to play. He doesn't just coach every possession like it's his last, he coaches every second of every possession as if it's do-or-die. This team was struggling just days ago but Reilly refused to let them show a losing attitude. He keeps the team so busy and focused, they don't even consider sulking. Conversely, Mansfield unraveled quickly on Tuesday and stopped fighting through screens during the second half. On Wednesday, Lock Haven wilted over the final 10 minutes, succumbing to Gannon's relentless, thousand-screen offense and harassing defense.

If Gannon executes Saturday and handles Bloomsburg on the road, I'll be a believer this team can win a ton of games this season. For real.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Run Gannon Run, Win Gannon Win

A few themes emerged this weekend during the Porreco Cup as the Knights were schooled in the opener by Shepherd (WV), 85-75, before rebounding against discombobulated Barton (NC), 81-58:

1. When the Knights decide to be aggressive with the ball -- pushing it down the court in transition and attacking off the dribble -- they can indeed put up some points. Entering the tournament, GU was averaging a measly 58 ppg but during the Porreco Cup they averaged 78 ppg, a whopping 20 ppg improvement. Now part of the credit/blame goes to the Rams and Bulldogs who shot quickly and didn't defend well, especially in the paint. Either way, the Knights proved in back-to-back games they can put the ball in the basket and we are not required to endure a 7-minute dry spell each game.

Tee Talley proved he can be a handful, riddling Barton for 20 points (on 8-of-15 shooting) and 11 rebounds. I heard Bulldog coach Ron Lievense challenge one of his players who was guarding Talley: "That tall kid is killing us! Are you telling me that a 6-foot-7 kid is quicker than you? Hang on him and do not let him get the ball!" The player didn't answer Lievense's question, but Talley scored a layup on the ensuing inbounds play, proving once again that actions speak louder than words. (More on the Barton coaching staff's loud words later.)

2. We need to Move Up The Cup. I don't see who it's serving keeping the Porreco Cup in December. With home tournaments in late November and December, the Knights force themselves to play league games right off the bat, so it doesn't benefit the players or coaches. And I have photo evidence to prove the Porreco Cup in mid-December isn't a fan favorite.
I snapped this picture of the east seats right after tip-off of the Barton game. Moments before that I counted the fans in attendance and came up with a number somewhere around 140. There were fewer than 10 souls in the west bleachers when the game started. I know a consolation game would draw fewer fans than the championship had Gannon won Friday night, but that first round game drew an announced crowd of 745. I don't know who to directly make the request to (or ask the question why this shouldn't be considered) but for the love of Tom Chapman, Move Up The Cup! Keep the Gary Miller Classic on Thanksgiving weekend and start the Porreco Cup Tip-Off Tournament next year if possible.

3. I know Gannon is a Catholic university, but the Knights need to be a little sneakier if they want to win consistently. I sat one row behind the opponents' benches for both Porreco Cup games, and both clubs (especially Shepherd) knew exactly what they were getting. Every possession I've seen this year live and via streaming video, Gannon has played man defense. I'm not suggesting Gannon sag in a 2-3 zone -- that's not John Reilly's style to sit back on defense -- but you have to get inside the other team's head occasionally. Even Bob Dukiet, who was a man-first, ask-questions-later defensive genius, would go 1-2-2 on occasion, sometimes even trapping on the baseline or wing. Every play the opposing coaches drew up in their huddle this weekend was designed for a man defense; and every time they were able to run that play because Gannon was playing man. 

One of my favorite memories as a Gannon player was when we switched defenses with a one-point lead in the final seconds at the University of Buffalo in 1990. With the shot clock off, UB called its final timeout. Coach Reilly, then an assistant, suggested Dukiet switch to a box-and-one on the Bulls leading scorer, which is what we did. Confused and with his teammates and coaching staff panicking, a Buffalo player picked up his dribble at the top of the key and called a timeout, resulting in a technical foul. We won that game not just with our heart and feet but with our heads. I'm not asking Gannon to change its defensive philosophy. Just don't telegraph what you're going to do every possession.

On offense, the Knights were well-scouted by Shepherd. With their defense in front of their bench in the first half, the Rams coaches were like NBA 2K14 gamers, instructing their players exactly what Gannon was going to do next. Picture this: the Knights would cross midcourt and set up their offense. Coach Reilly would yell, "Hey!" and the Shepherd staff would look right at him. Reilly would yell something like "Box!" and an SU assistant would shout to his players something to the effect of, "Kevin, watch out for two cross screens ... Marcus they're going to backscreen you" or "Box! Box! They want to go high-low on this. Help out in the post." Again, I'm not saying Gannon needs to shred its current playbook, but I'm thinking it would be helpful if they created some codes or read options on offense to give them a better chance at scoring.

I know all analogies break down at some point, but I think a good one for this is baseball pitching. The pitcher is at an advantage if they can keep the batter off balance, wondering if he's going to see a fastball, change-up, or breaking ball. On the other hand, if the catcher yells, "Curveball up and on the outer half of the plate," the pitcher will be less effective.

On the other hand, what do I know? I coach my daughter's 7-8 year old MYAA basketball team, and Saturday afternoon we gave up 50 points during a 32-minute game with a running clock. I'm sure the "coaches" in the stands have several suggestions for me, too.

I'll add an update to this post later with some more anecdotes from behind the opponents' bench that I think you'll find interesting. In a span of 24 hours, I saw I think one of the best coaches and one of the most abusive coaches in the history of the Audi.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Problems Clear, Solution Not

Before I sit down to write each post, including this one after a cataclysmic 58-54 home loss to an unremarkable Mercyhurst team, I check out the comments section to see how my fellow Gannon fans reacted immediately after the contest. I usually try to share a different perspective or more detailed insight to spark further conversation. But Golden89 and Ewensel have nailed what ails the Knights and my feelings after this devastating defeat.

Golden89 wrote: When (A'Darius) Porter finished his and-one to put GU ahead, 40-28, I thought ... "We're coming off a great road win, now the offense is clicking ... maybe we've turned things around." Um ... nope. What followed was a sordid stretch of offensive basketball that we're sadly growing accustomed to. Let's see here. Turning to my trusty play-by-play, below are the results of the GU possessions since Porter made the free-throw for the 40-28 lead:

Turnover, turnover, missed shot, Three-pointer by Talley, turnover, turnover, missed shot, missed shot, turnover, turnover, turnover, turnover, turnover, Newby jumper (after two offensive rebounds), missed shot, turnover, turnover, missed shot.

Voila. A 40-28 lead becomes a 52-45 deficit. If you're scoring at home, that's 2 for 10 from the field with 11 turnovers over the course of 14 minutes and 21 seconds of unwatchable basketball.


Ewensel said (please note I made some edits/corrections because my parents were English teachers): I feel this deja...deja...deja vu. This team CAN BE a dangerous team if they score more than 60 points...but with how awful this offense is at times...they are a very average team. It is just so frustrating...at 40-28 I thought GU was going to have a double digit win. Awful offense for the last 15 minutes of the game. 

Those observations are factual, and the feelings mirrored exactly what Jim LeCorchick and I said during the broadcast.

So what now? How does Gannon get out of this rut? The coaches are going to watch this game film -- do you think they're going to see something radically different than what's written above? A couple weeks ago after the conclusion of the Gary Miller Classic, I half jokingly wrote a "script" for each Gannon game going forward. Take a moment to read that script right now and tell me that isn't exactly what happened vs. Mercyhurst.

The question is what to do about it. As everyone I've interacted with at the Audi has said at some point this season, if this team can sustain their defensive intensity and be just halfway decent on offense, they are a borderline NCAA team. But right now the Knights are 2-2 in conference play and a meager 3-3 with two of those Ls coming at home. They haven't made the adjustment or improvement yet, and a quarter of the 26-game season is nearly behind us.

I'd say the good news is that GU's next four games are at home, but the Knights have already suffered two home losses. I said that already, didn't I? Maybe that's a sign we've put everything we can on the table at this point.

UPDATED 12/8/13: Apparently there is much more to say about this game. My co-workers who graduated from Mercyhurst are sending me emails like this: 
I think Jim Roddy should be the play by play guy for all future Mercyhurst/Gannon games. Thanks for the good luck charm. Carpe Diem!!! Go Lakers! P.S. I think the Knights just turned it over again just now...

It's going to be a long week.
 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Past Performance Is Not Necessarily Indicative Of Future Results

Every financial organization uses that phrase in its marketing -- "past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results" -- and holy smokes is that principle true in college athletics, especially tonight. The Knights, who were a possession away from finishing dead last in their own holiday tournament just days ago, handled host Slippery Rock, who entered the contest on a six-game winning streak, 68-61.

The game wasn't as close as the final score indicated. Gannon led by 16 (59-43) with just over 4 minutes to play and then held on while Erieites watching the Internet video feed held their breath. Add your own "Slippery Rock got rocked" cliche here; the Golden Knights made a red-hot team look worse than ordinary for much of the evening.

I feel bad essentially overlooking Adam Blazek's 26-point, 8-for-12 outing, but the guy who really stood out to me -- and I'm assuming SRU coach Kevin Reynolds -- was Roger Livramento, who entered the game with this unintimidating stat line: 4 games, 11 minutes, 4 points.

John Reilly is a disciple of the late Bob Dukiet, and I know firsthand Duke would preach to his players the importance of readiness. "Sooner or later," he'd say in his raspy voice, an index finger extended. "Sooner .... or later!" Tonight was Livramento's sooner/later, as he torched Slippery Rock with 17 points in 17 minutes, cashing in on all 6 of his field goal attempts and 5-of-6 free throws. During Gannon's extended 47-18 run, I texted to my brother, "Who are these guys?" The SRU coaching staff had to be asking the same about Livramento.

Isn't it strange that three years ago something similar happened -- Gannon has guys emerge from absolutely nowhere to have giant games in a win at Slippery Rock? On Jan. 20, 2010, a Gannon team around .500 stunned an SRU team with a near-.800 winning percentage behind breakout performances from freshman Tanner Furno (27 points in 25 minutes on 12-of-15 shooting) and Larry Swann (24 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-4 on three-pointers).

Maybe past performance can predict future results. We just don't know when in the heck it will be, but we're glad it happened tonight.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sticking To The Script

Just like you, I'm busy with work, family, holidays, and basketball, so I need to develop a time-saving plan that allows me to engage in all my activities and still blog about Gannon hoops. I think I have a solution.

I've created a template which I should be able to use for the rest of the season. After four games, the most recent a 55-54 nail-biter over Alderson-Broaddus in the Gary Miller Classic consolation game, Gannon has established a script from which they rarely deviate. For each game I'll use this template and simply strikethrough the words that don't apply to this particular game. I'll add a handful of Knight Knotes at the end for extra details about the contest. Here we go ...

Once again, Gannon scored in the 50s, and that led to another mind-numbing, frustrating loss which will most certainly tick off the GU faithful who are still paying attention but managed to pull out a pulsating win because of their ultra-aggressive, man-to-man defense. The Knights suffered through another stretch where the offense bogged down, this time scoring just zero one two three four five six points during a seven eight nine twelve fifteen thirty-nine minute stretch. It seems like Gannon has decent individual players who should be able score, but every so often today tonight they handled the ball like it was on fire, and lost their aggressiveness and settled for 40 passes or 100 dribbles each possession, drop-kicked the ball into the concession stand and forced themselves into low-percentage attempts as the shot clock wound down.

Yes, I'm happy with a win, of course I'm ready to jump into the bay after another narrow loss. As former coach Tom Chapman was fond of saying, "I'd rather have an ugly win than a pretty loss. Don't fire howitzers at the backboard, Roddy. Get off the floor!" I'm not sure how many more of these games I can take. It's kind of sad when I was elated that Gannon didn't mistakenly puncture the ball on their opening possession scored 32 points in the first half, but that's the state of the team this year. This club is special on defense, which hopefully will carry them to more wins in low-scoring contests keep future teams in the 40s so we can win a game by double-digits for a change.

Knight Knotes:
* Of course I root for every Gannon player, but it was especially gratifying to see Matt Dogan hit all 4 of his field goal attempts. He entered the game just 4-for-18 from the field, but helped bust the A-B zone with a trio of long-distance shots in the first half. Watching Dogan's grandmother pump her fist after every make made my Thanksgiving weekend.

* Gannon was more prepared for the Battlers' zone Saturday than they were LeMoyne's extended 2-3 Friday night. Against the Dolphins, GU basically swung the ball wing-to-wing until the shot clock ran out. Gannon gave A-B several different looks -- including dribble penetration -- which led to relaxed, open shots for the Knights.

* The next time Alderson-Broaddus plays at Gannon, maybe they should just turn the ball over on their final possession. Against the Knights in the 2009 Atlantic Region Semifinals, A-B's Terrell Eargle missed a last-second three on the Hammermill Center's north hoop as Gannon advanced, 67-65. Saturday, Stuart Clark missed a three-point attempt on that same basket as GU survived by a point. No wonder moments after the game A-B head coach Greg Zimmerman looked as if he heard the Grinch actually did steal Christmas.

* The announced crowd for the game was 502, not anywhere close to what Gannon officials were hoping for, but you couldn't expect much more for a 5:30 consolation game. I had to race from my daughter's basketball practice to the Hammermill and still arrived several minutes into the contest. If you're wondering what the Audi looked like when I walked in, here you go:


Friday, November 29, 2013

Operation Desperation?

I'll save most of my comments for after Saturday's Gary Miller Classic consolation game vs. a good Alderson-Broaddus team. After Friday's 65-62 home loss to LeMoyne I'm vexed about exactly how to feel. I'm certainly not thrilled, but I'm not despondent yet.

In the final 8 minutes of the game, the Knights played with a sense of desperation, cranked up their aggressiveness, and started making plays against the Dolphins' 2-3 matchup zone. The angel/Knight on my shoulder says signs of life on offense is a positive. The devil/Laker on my other shoulder is imploring me to scream, "Gaaaa! Why didn't Gannon play that way for the first 32 minutes?"

Talking with Jim LeCorchick on the JET Radio 1400 broadcast, we both saw early on that Gannon was content moving the ball side-to-side without even considering penetrating the zone's gaps. The end result were forced or rushed three-pointers, Gannon making only 5-of-28 attempts.

As John Reilly said in the post-game show, he's glad the Knights only have to wait a day to get back at it and right their wrongs. But if a quick and talented Alderson-Broaddus team sends GU to a third consecutive loss, Gannon fans will be at a different level of desperation before the December schedule even starts.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Getting To The Point(s)

The clear trend after two Gannon games this season is a lack of scoring. After tallying just 59 in their season-opening win over Cal, the Knights managed only 52 today in a 56-52 loss at Seton Hill. I'd like to share some earth-shattering insights with you, but the press release from the Gannon sports information department said pretty much everything in the opening sentence:

The Seton Hill men's basketball team held Gannon scoreless for the final 4:02 and without a field goal for the final 8:31 en route to a 56-52 victory Saturday night in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division action at the McKenna Center.

What else do you need to know? If the Knights would have registered just two measly field goals in the final 8 1/2 minutes, they'd have a road win under their belt. Gannon is clearly special defensively, but you've got to get out of the 50s to win consistently in the shot-clock era.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy At The Hammermill

I know Wednesday night's season-opening 59-51 win over California (Pa.) was a ragged affair lacking many style points, but I was thrilled just to be back at the Hammermill Center for Gannon hoops. No matter how much the roster (or uniforms) changed, there were several things that made us Gannon fans feel right at home:
- Adam Blazek setting the pace (20 points) with twisting moves, hesitation dribbles, quick-release threes, and how'd-he-do-that steals
- Gannon assistant Chris Viscuso in the game's closing minutes, veins popping on his head, while screaming "RELAX!" to his troops
- official scorer Rick Klapthor correcting an overzealous opposing assistant coach, continuing Stats' decades-long streak of infallibility
- another John Reilly team that scraps, scrambles, and battles on defense and drubs its opponents on the boards (37-22).

Getting my first look at this Gannon team, I was impressed with them offensively despite 21 turnovers (12 in the first half). As Golden89 pointed out in the comments section, GU shot 49% from the field when they were able to get a shot off. The Knights were out of sync on offense -- it's November basketball, remember -- and I 'd rather have an athletic team with good-looking shooting strokes needing to gel together than the reverse of that.

Other thoughts and observations from the game:
* It was evident to everyone in downtown Erie that freshman starter Matthew Dogan was pressing in his first collegiate game. A can't-miss shooter in high school, Dogan misfired on his first 5 attempts as a Golden Knight and was scoreless at halftime. When he drained a three-pointer with 5 1/2 minutes to play, giving Gannon a 48-42 cushion, you could hear all of West Middlesex, Pa. exhale. From what I saw and what I've heard, when Dogan is able to relax, he will be an outstanding player. As former National Player of the Year Danny Ferry said back in the day, at the start of your freshman year the game seems to be moving 100 mph. As you mature, everything seems to slow down.

* One more observation of Dogan: despite his cold shooting night, he demanded the ball when Cal was fouling in the final minute and hit on five consecutive free throw attempts.

* And before anybody starts to panic about Dogan's first game, remember Adam Blazek's debut in 2011. The Prep grad missed his first 7 field goal attempts and committed a team-high 4 turnovers as the Knights lost at home to Daemen.

* I really love the contribution junior starter A'Darius Porter makes when he's on the floor (36 minutes vs. Cal). Porter, a muscular post player who is built like The Thing from the Fantastic Four, fought his way to 13 rebounds and demanded the ball when posting up. He's a legitimate post threat that will open up GU's perimeter game.

* Junior transfer Raphell Thomas-Edwards is a much different post player than Porter, but I'm a fan of his game as well. He's high energy, super athletic and relentless on both ends of the floor. In just 13 minutes vs. the Vulcans, the University at Buffalo transfer produced 5 points and 7 rebounds.

* As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see if Jabs Newby and C.J. Oldham have expanded their offensive games. Newby can accelerate like a Porsche when he has the ball, but we didn't see him attempt any long jumpers Wednesday. Oldham scored 9 points, all of them from close range. Those two will see plenty of playing time this year, and if they can produce on offense, that will take some pressure off the Gannon defense to keep opponents in the 50s.

* One of the Cal assistant coaches was wearing a bowling shirt and corduroy slacks. My prediction is we won't see that again this year at the Hammermill.

* Speaking of fashion, the Knights debuted their gold uniforms last night. Not to put pressure on anybody, but the last season Gannon introduced gold unis was 1989-90, and that team won the region and advanced to the Elite 8.

UPDATED 11/21/13 7:30 PM: Here's the link to the video highlights and John Reilly post-game interview from last night. I think I saw something pretty cool at the 2:45 mark. Porter has the ball in the post and is feeling the pressure from the Cal defense. Look in the background and you'll see sitting on the end of the Gannon bench is walk-on Cory Bailey. Watch him stand up and point to an open Dogan at the top of the key. I swear Bailey shouts "kick it out" to Porter who does just that, leading to a key three-pointer. If that's what happened, major kudos to Bailey for being a great teammate. He's showing how important every member of the team can be.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Counting Down The Days

As I write this, we are just 23 days away from Gannon's 2013-14 season opener vs. California (Pa.). I can still recall driving home March 5 from last season's crushing PSAC quarterfinals overtime loss to Slippery Rock and counting on my fingers 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-plus months until we see the Knights in action again. And now the months have melted to weeks and finally to days.

As we draw closer to tip-off, more information about Gannon Hoops is bubbling to the surface. Some of it comes from this in-depth interview with John Reilly on SportsRadio 1330 The FAN with Jim LeCorchick and Sean Amicucci. I recommend you listen to the entire conversation, but here are some of the points that jumped out at me:
* Coach Reilly confirmed four players will redshirt this season: senior transfer Rich Austin along with freshmen Brandon Domenick, Nolan Woodward, and Marcus Jones.
* I didn't have any word on how Gannon performed, but Reilly mentioned the Knights opened their preseason schedule last Saturday at Findlay, preseason #9 in the NABC Division II poll.
* Pitt-Johnstown head coach Bob Rukavina is still a friend of John Reilly's despite (1) Kyle Goldcamp transferring to Gannon and (2) UPJ winning too many Gary Miller Classics.

Here are some other Knight Knotes that will interest you. If they don't, you're on the wrong website and should maybe switch to this one:
* The team photo is now online and included at the bottom of this post. For a complete roster, click here.
* The annual Maroon/Gold Scrimmage will be held Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the Hammermill Center. Details will be announced in the near future on the official Gannon basketball website. I'll share one detail with you now: you'll have to tell me how the scrimmage goes, because I won't be able to attend. I'll be holding my first practice of the season for my daughter's MYAA 2nd-3rd grade basketball team. I'm thinking about this being our first drill. Not ambitious enough?
* UPDATED 10/30/13: According the the PSAC preseason coaches poll, the Gannon men have been picked to finish second in the newly expanded 9-team Western Division. Click here for Gannon's press release which also links to the official PSAC press release. IUP was tabbed first followed by Gannon, Slippery Rock, Cal, UPJ, Mercyhurst, Seton Hill, Edinboro, and Clarion. The biggest shocker in the PSAC East isn't that West Chester is number one but Lock Haven is sixth out of nine teams! This may be the first time in a decade the Bald Eagles haven't been preseason last place. No reports of revelers in the streets and overturned cars on the LHU campus ... yet.

Front row (L-R): #15 Matthew Dogan, #10 Cory Bailey, #1 Jabs Newby, #4 Brandon Emmitt, #5 Adam Blazek, #21 Marcus Jones, and #33 Brandon Domenick. Back row: #25 Girbran Smith, #42 Nolan Woodward, #32 A'Darius Porter, #0 Raphell Thomas-Edwards, #3 C.J. Oldham, #12 Aleksandar Malinic, #24 Roger Livramento, #23 Rich Austin, and #2 Tee Talley.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why Wilson Left

As we told you on Sept. 21 in the comments section of this post, Robert Wilson has left the Gannon basketball program to pursue a career in criminal justice. As I wrote back then, "My understanding of the situation is that Wilson will not play for the Knights this season because he has enrolled in the police academy which will conflict with basketball activities. I believe the redshirt senior has already earned his degree during his 4 years of school (2 at Urbana, 2 at Gannon) and, according to a Gannon press release this summer, had a 3.60 cumulative grade point average as a criminal justice major. So good for him that he's moving on in his career field, but bad for us Gannon fans to lose such a contributor."

Shortly after posting that information, I received an email from Diana Woolf, Robert's mother. I asked her if I could share what she wrote to me, and she obliged. The following includes excerpts from her two emails to me. I think they're revealing about the "why" behind Wilson's move and how he and his family feel about the Gannon program.

I just wanted to give you the correct information about Robert before the rumors get started. Robert had fully intended on playing this season. Unfortunately the Chesterfield Police Department (VA) bumped their police academy up from June 2014 to Feb 2014. This is an opportunity for Robert to be on a great department with a ton of potential for career growth.

He is bummed about not being able to play but feels this is not an opportunity he can pass up. He has really enjoyed being with his teammates and his time at Gannon University. I personally can't thank Gannon enough for a great education. It was a difficult decision.


I don't want anyone to think Robert just left the team on bad terms or left his teammates hanging. Honestly when he took the police entrance exam it was supposed to be for practice. We then realized it was for the June 2014 academy and after researching the department we suggested to him that he follows the process thinking AWESOME, final year of basketball and then a job right after the school year. 

It was a dark cloud over all of us when they called and told him the academy was being bumped up to February. UGH!

Thank you for the kind comments. He loved the fans and playing at Gannon. He will finish out the semester at Gannon. Go Knights!

So, clearly this is not an angry student-athlete bolting a team and telling the coach "take your scholarship and shove it!" Wilson is leaving on what seems to be excellent terms, and Gannon fans should be thrilled that he used his basketball skills to obtain his degree so he could seek his dream job.

We'll talk more later about how Wilson's absence impacts Gannon's lineup, but for now we should celebrate the success of a student-athlete with a Gannon degree. Just like his mom said, "Go Knights!", I think we should all say, "Go Robert!" This is what college athletics should be all about.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

New Knight: Rich Austin F 6-6 210 Sr.

Thanks to the PSAC Letters of Intent web page and the heads up from faithful Gannon Hoops fans, we knew 9 of the 10 recruits Gannon announced Friday afternoon. But the one player that sneaked up on us (or at least sneaked up on me) was Rich Austin, a senior transfer from Lake Erie College.

Here's some biographical information on Austin, much of it from Gannon's press release on the recruits plus additional info I discovered online, including the Lake Erie College website:
* As a junior, ranked third on Lake Erie in scoring (10.4 ppg) and first in rebounding (5.9 rpg) despite missing 7 games, including a stretch of 6 in the middle of the season.
* Shot 44% from the field (67-for-153), just 5-for-28 on three-pointers (18%). Made 76% of his foul shots (50-for-66). Ranked second on the team with 10 blocked shots.
* Hit for a season-high 20 points twice vs. Notre Dame (Oh.) and Lake Superior State.
* Registered 13 points and 6 rebounds in an 80-73 win over NCAA tournament participant Slippery Rock. You remember them, right?
* In the season opener at Division I Bowling Green, Austin posted 7 points and 7 rebounds
* The Storm finished the season 8-18 overall and just 5-17 in the GLIAC, which may answer why Austin wanted to transfer to Gannon. That's just my suspicion; I have no inside information why he made the move after three years at the Painesville school.
* Or maybe he left because Lake Erie averages just 245 fans for home games, which I think is fewer than Blessed Sacrament attracts for J.V. girls games.
* Or maybe he left because when fans do attend the games, they do annoying stuff like this and participate in dreadful in-game contests like this. Can somebody please tell me what that is and how it makes the game highlight film?

* As a sophomore, led 10-16 Lake Erie in scoring (12.2 ppg), rebounding (6.2 ppg), blocked shots (13), minutes played, and free throw attempts.
* Stunningly that same season he had only 9 assists (vs. 49 turnovers) in 794 minutes of action.
* Shot 45% from the field (123-for-273), 26% on threes (15-of-57), and 71% (55-of-78) from the foul line. Reached double figures 17 times as a sophomore.
* Registered team highs of 21 points and 5 rebounds at Division I Detroit Mercy.
* Scored a season-high 24 points plus snared 9 rebounds in a win at Rollins (Fla.), who had been ranked in the Division II top 10 that season. Earned all-tournament team honors at the Rollins tournament.
* Tallied 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting in a 62-60 win at Northwood (Mich.).
* Dominated Ohio Dominican with 17 points and 14 rebounds.

* As a freshman, earned 12 starts for the 7-19 Storm, averaging 6 ppg (4th best on the team) and 3.9 rpg (3rd best).
* Shot 46% from the field, 21% on threes (4-for-19), and 69% at the foul line. Led Lake Erie in rebounding 3 times.
* This has nothing to do with Austin, but check out the stat line of LEC teammate Ethan Bradshaw in an 82-78 win at Urbana: 40 points, 7-of-15 FG, 4-of-8 3FG and 22-of-25 FT. Austin had 6 points that game, none from the foul line.

* As a senior at Cleveland St. Ignatius HS, averaged 9 points and 7 rebounds per game for a district championship team.
* I don't have Austin's stats from this game, but St. Ignatius beat Prep his senior season, 53-36
* Austin's postseason accolades included a Greater Cleveland Basketball Coaches Association All-Star selection (he scored 12 points in that all-star game) and being awarded the team's Coaches Cup. I hope that trophy doesn't look like this.
* And if you're wondering if he can play above the rim, the answer is yes. Evidence here.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Knights Reveal 2013-14 Recruiting Class

I'll have more to say later but wanted to post the official press release now. Most of the names we are already familiar with, but there is at least one surprise at first glance -- Rich Austin, a senior transfer from Lake Erie. Here's the complete list in alphabetical order:

1. Rich Austin (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius)
2. Matthew Dogan (West Middlesex, Pa./West Middlesex)
3. Brandon Domenick (New Castle, Pa./New Castle)
4. Marcus Jones (Brantford, Ontario/Orangeville District Secondary School)
5. Aleksandar Malinic (Belgrade, Serbia/Morgan County, Ky.)
6. A'Darius Porter (Stockbridge, Ga./Woodland)
7. Girbran Smith (Nassau, Bahamas/Seton Academy, Ill.)
8. Tee Talley (Frederick, Md./Tuscarora)
9. Raphell Thomas-Edwards (Leicester, England/The Gateway School)
10. Nolan Woodward (Lasalle, Quebec/Champlain Saint-Lambert)

No surprises among the returnees: redshirt senior Robert Wilson, senior Rogerio Livramento, senior Brandon Emmitt, senior C.J. Oldham, senior Jabs Newby, junior Adam Blazek and sophomore Cory Bailey.

You can read the complete release here:
Gannon Men's Basketball Program Announces 2013-14 Recruiting Class

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Knight Knotes ... Including A Clinton Springer-Williams Sighting

What was your reaction when you learned back in 2011 that Clinton Springer-Williams decided to not return to Gannon? I'm guessing you don't remember and, even if you do recall, your pulse didn't raise one blip. Me, too. Springer-Williams played one unremarkable season for the Knights, averaging 1.9 points and 1.2 rebounds a game for a 15-11 squad, before deciding to return to Canada for his final two seasons of eligibility.

So didn't I want to fall off my couch Friday night when I stumbled across an exhibition game between Syracuse and Carleton (Canada) and watched Springer-Williams light up the Orange for 10 first-half points. The Ravens extended their lead to 15 before the Cuse, just five months removed from the Final Four, rallied to win in overtime, 69-65. Springer-Williams (wearing #5 in the background of this photo) is a starting guard for Carleton, who is a legit basketball club -- and I'm not saying that just because of their near-miss vs. Jim Boeheim's team. In their previous three exhibition games, the Ravens obliterated Division I's Towson State (67-41), TCU (77-51), and Big 10 heavyweight Wisconsin (95-82). Springer-Williams recorded 8 points on 3-of-5 shooting against the Badgers.

How does Springer-Williams go from unproductive in the PSAC to contributing mightily against schools from the Big 12, Big 10, and ACC? I thought my basketball mind wouldn't get blown again until maybe February, but here we are in the dog days of summer and I'm wondering what just happened.

* * * * * *

An ardent Gannon fan emailed me that the Mercyhurst Coll -- er, University -- men's basketball program announced its recruiting class online. The fan also wrote in his email: "It still sticks in my head from a few years ago Gary Manchel saying in the paper that he doesn’t and wouldn’t ever recruit one-year players like Gannon when Vince Mosley was killing the Hurst. I read his recruits today -- two one-year players and a grad student signed. He is hilarious!"

The emailer has a pretty good memory about Manchel's comments. Here's an excerpt from an Erie Times article in 2008 announcing the Lakers' recruiting class: "A season ago, Gannon brought in nine newcomers, won 26 games and returned to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year hiatus. In its two previous seasons, Gannon won 21 games total under coach John Reilly. The nationally-ranked Knights are favored to win the PSAC West in their first season in the league. So Manchel hit the road and found a slew of talented players after a 15-13 season, but won't compare his recruiting haul to Gannon's. 'Last time I checked, we didn't bring in any one-year guys,' Manchel said, referring to Vince Mosley, who played his senior season at Gannon, led the Knights in scoring and departed."

Mercyhurst's class features a three-year player at George Mason, a two-year player at Toledo, and Anthony Lytle, who has also suited up for Edinboro and Cal. That's right -- the kid is on his third PSAC West school. I think the only other person who has accomplished that feat is current Edinboro Sports Information Director Bob Shreve, who has been employed at Mercyhurst, Gannon, and the Boro. Shreve made his moves over decades, while Lytle appears to be taking the one-year-wonder approach at each institution. 

* * * * * *

It's not official yet, but sources tell me that former Gannon point guard Steve Piotrowicz will be named the number two assistant at IUP soon. Piotrowicz, one of my all-time favorite Knights because of his local ties and his unsurpassed determination, served as a grad assistant for the Crimson Hawks last year. The Indiana staff was shaken up this year when top assistant Chris Fite left for the Shippensburg head coaching job and Matt Hahn was lured away from Division I Robert Morris to replace him. Again, this isn't official, but Piotrowicz is listed as an assistant coach on the IUP athletic staff directory.

* * * * * *

UPDATED 8/28/13: Don't ask me how I found this (it's a long story), but former Knights Stephan Battle and Dtanya "Bubby" Johnson are both on this year's roster at Division II power Florida Southern. Florida Southern, who advanced to the DII Elite Eight last season, is coached my former Ashland assistant Linc Darner. He's assisted by former AU Eagle Richard Davis and ex-General McLane/Edinboro guard Ben Swank. Who knew a team in Lakeland, FL would have so many local connections?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New Knight: Aleksandar Malinic F 6-8 205 fr.

Before we talk about intriguing new Knight Aleksandar Malinic, I wanted to alert you this may be one of my final in-summer posts -- not just for this year but going forward as well. The PSAC has finally wised up and made its National Letters of Intent web page password protected. I'm sure the move was greeted with open arms by the league coaches and sports information directors.That info shouldn't have been floating around the public domain anyway, because NLIs are signed before the student-athlete is accepted (or rejected) by the school.

But word on Malinic leaked out before the password wall was built, so here we go. I struggled to find statistics on Malinic, so this profile of him will seem less than complete. (No photos either.) I think the lack of info is a combination of (1) Malinic living in Serbia until moving to the U.S. as a high school senior and (2) him playing high school ball in West Liberty, Ky., population 3,435. The only media outlet serving downtown West Liberty and the surrounding area is -- and don't snicker -- the Licking Valley Courier, which is such an old school newspaper they don't have their own website. Or at least one I couldn't find. They only have a Facebook page which is updated occasionally with classic small town local news items like this, this, and this.

So here's what I found on Malinic:
* He's the fourth non-American in what's expected to be John Reilly's 2013 recruiting class, joining Girbran Smith (Bahamas), Raphell Thomas-Edwards (United Kingdom), Marcus Jones (Brantford, Ont.), and Nolan Woodward (Montreal).
* Malinic averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds per game at Morgan County High School in West Liberty, according to a web site known only as "Recruiting Central." I couldn't find any game articles where he scored near 20 points, so maybe that figure isn't accurate.
* For four full minutes of highlights from his senior season, check out this YouTube video. He's a 6-foot-8 lefty who appears to have a combination of attributes rarely seen in bigs -- he's doesn't shy away from contact inside and he can step outside the paint and knock down perimeter shots. He looks to be skilled as both a passer and ballhandler, especially on the move. He's aggressive, but not a high flyer. He can certainly abuse smaller players in the post but will need to learn how to get shots and rebounds vs. physical PSAC post men. When you watch the clips, it's evident he's got passion for the game, which I'm sure Coach Reilly adores.

* I'm sure that video is of the soon-to-be-freshman Malinic, but I'm not certain these clips are. Same name and left-handed, so I'm leaning towards "yes." But the video quality isn't very high or shot close to the action, so it's hard for me to tell. Even if this isn't video of a future Golden Knight, you have to love the box of a gym in the opening part of the first game, with benches in opposing corners and fans pinned against the wall like they're prepping for a mug shot. Furthermore, I'm not even sure these are "highlights." It just appears to be a 15-minute compilation of every play Malinic was involved in during his club games. You have to at least watch the coach's reaction to his team's poor defense at the 1:58 mark. At least I think it's the coach. Heck, it could be a fan who couldn't find a seat and was just really into the game.
* Want more video? You can watch the entire broadcast Morgan County vs. Raceland-Worthington here.
Listen to announcer for 10 seconds and you know for certain the game's being played in Kentucky.
* According to this newspaper account, Malinic knows how to play through adversity. Despite flu-like symptoms, he registered 11 points and 14 rebounds in a three-point win. Both coaches' quotes praise Malinic.
* Scored 16 points in this win, despite being a focus of the opposing defense.
* Morgan County ended the season with a 22-8 mark, winning their district before falling in the regional semis. In the finale, Malinic totaled 10 points and 13 rebounds.
* For his efforts as a senior, Malinic was named honorable mention all-Mountain.

I would expect in the next couple weeks Gannon will officially announce its recruiting class. Last year the press release was issued Aug. 23. If none of the seven players I've profiled during the off season are included on the official list, I'll be so frustrated I might become a Mercyhur ... no, I won't do that. I'll just toss my laptop onto the floor. Opening night is just three months and six days away!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

New Knight: A'Darius Porter F 6-6 235 jr.

According to a few sources, including the PSAC National Letters of Intent web page, power forward A'Darius Porter will be a member of the Gannon program this fall. And according to this You Tube highlight video, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Porter can do it all.

The reality is Porter is a beast on the boards and tenacious defender, not a giant scorer. Last year as a sophomore at John Wood Community College in Quincy (Ill.), an NCJAA Division II school, Porter averaged 10.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He was in single digits for scoring the final four games of the season, but did average nearly 8 rebounds per game in those contests.

Before we get to his playing background, let's talk trivia. Porter will the first player in Gannon history with an apostrophe in his name -- first or last name. I figured at some point a guy named O'Neil, O'Brien, or D'Angelo would have worn maroon and gold, but I couldn't find one on the all-time roster. How 'bout that?"

So by my count, here is Gannon's incoming recruiting class:
* Matthew Dogan G 6-6 fr.
* Brandon Domenick G 5-9 fr.
* Marcus Jones G 6-1 fr.
* A'Darius Porter F 6-6 jr.
* Girbran Smith G 6-5 jr.
* Arthur "Tee" Talley G/F 6-6 jr.
* Raphell Thomas-Edwards F 6-6 jr.
* Nolan Woodward F 6-5 fr.

I'm intentionally profiling Jones and Woodward last because they are both Canadian students. It's not that I have anything against our friends from the north, it's just that it's harder to get admitted to an American school when you've been educated only in Canada. Jones and Woodward have signed letters of intent, but that step occurs before the school considers admitting the young man.

Here are some more details on Porter:

* As a sophomore, helped John Wood to a 22-10 record and Region XIV championship.
* In addition to averaging 10.1 ppg and 7.2 rpg, he shot 48.5% from the field, attempting only two three-pointers, and 69.4% from the foul line (118-for-170).
* Hit double figures in rebounds 7 times, including 13 boards vs. Danville Community College in the regional title game.
* Posted a season-high 23 points vs. Rock Valley College, sinking 10-of-12 field goals.
* Scored 17 points at Lincoln Land CC despite making just one field goal; hit 15-of-18 free throws. (Clearly fans of alliteration and childhood toys, the Springfield (Ill.) school's nickname is "Loggers.")
* Earned second-team all-Midwest Athletic Conference honors. League player of the year Chris Whitehead is headed to Division I Fordham. Porter helped limit Whitehead to just 10 points in the regional championship game. As this photo shows, Porter was ecstatic about the victory.
* This photo shows how John Wood won the game -- with guys like Porter hitting the floor to get a loose ball.
* Porter's John Wood bio from last year offers gems such as he doesn't like people touching his right hand on game days. I'll keep that in mind.
* A native of Stockbridge, Ga., which is just south of Atlanta, Porter is featured in this story about attending a school over 700 miles away from home. Erie's a bit farther away -- 827 miles to be exact.
* As a freshman at John Wood, averaged 8.9 ppg and 7.8 rpg. Connected on 49% of his field goals and 53% of his foul shots.
* This slideshow includes a few photos of Porter in action for the Blazers.
* I couldn't find a ton on his high school career at Woodland (Ga.) HS, but this writeup on a playoff game includes a quote from Porter and a nice stat line: 12 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists.
* Played AAU ball for the FCI Warriors, an Atlanta-area basketball team.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Whoa Brunelli! Lady Knights Find Their Man

Jim Brunelli was named Gannon's head women's basketball coach this morning at a university press conference. Here is the official press release from Gannon and also Brunelli's Twitter account so you can get some insight into his interests and personality.

I know the initial reaction is that Brunelli is under immense pressure to win the PSAC, the region, and the national championship here in Erie next March. I don't see it that way and I'm guessing Brunelli, because he's a mature coach (don't let his boyish looks fool you), doesn't share the view of many fans.

From a strictly basketball perspective, Job #1 for Brunelli in the 2013-14 season is to get to know this team, its many strengths and few weaknesses. Job #2 is to make sure they get better every day. He's got to get his program to dream about the Elite 8 but not dwell on it. The focus has to be on individuals working hard, playing smart, and improving their game. They don't hand out trophies in practice, but that's usually where they're earned. The Lady Knights have to think "Cheyney" before they think "championship." If Brunelli can make this team better, the wins will take care of themselves.

Personally, I'm excited Gannon lured a quality coach like Brunelli to Erie. Forget all his basketball background and NCAA history. He's a western PA native, and those area roots could result in a stable Lady Knight program that could experience a long run of success. Fans are thinking mostly about next year because the team is so loaded. But I think the university also wanted a person with the character and local connections who can be the foundation for year-in, year-out success in academics and athletics for the next decade or more.

Monday, May 27, 2013

New Knight: Arthur Talley G/F 6-6 175 jr.

After researching Arthur Talley, can I suggest we bring Steve Bohen back as Gannon's public address announcer? Bohen, who first called "Three for three!" when sharpshooter Chris Hollan (#3) would connect from downtown, would have a field day with Talley. His nickname is "Tee" and he's "Arthur Talley III," so Bohen could say "Tee for three!", "III for three!", and even "Tee III for three!" We could all have our minds blown if C.J. Oldham gives up uniform #3 to Talley.

Talley, one of five new Knights listed on the PSAC Letters of Intent web page, is more evidence of a theme developing in this year's recruiting class. John Reilly seems to be going after hard working, high energy scorers in the 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-7 range, and he'll teach them to defend and rebound relentlessly. I haven't seen any Dmitry Martynenko or Tanner Furno-like post players in this year's class. To date, I have these seven players scheduled to attend Gannon. I'm sure at least a couple of them will redshirt:

* Matthew Dogan G 6-6 fr.
* Brandon Domenick G 5-9 fr.
* Marcus Jones G 6-1 fr.
* Girbran Smith G 6-5 jr.
* Arthur "Tee" Talley G/F 6-6 jr.
* Raphell Thomas-Edwards F 6-6 jr.
* Nolan Woodward F 6-5 fr.

 Here's background info on Talley:
* Gannon will be Talley's third school in three years. He played juco ball at NJCAA Division III Montgomery-Germantown (Md.) before transferring to Division I Frederick (Md.) Community College. 
* Helped Frederick to a 21-10 record, ranking second on the team in scoring (16.3 ppg) and first in rebounding (8.6 rpg). 
* Connected on 41% of his three-point attempts (44-of-108) and 46% of his field goals overall. Shot well at the free throw line (78%, 86-for-111).
* Also registered 30 blocks, 20 steals, 30 assists, and 47 turnovers in 28 games.
* He ranked 2,004th in NJCAA play in total fouls with 50. That stat is completely meaningless, but I rarely get a chance to say someone's ranked 2,004th in anything.
* Exploded for several big games at FCC, including 28 points on 10-for-16 shooting vs. Globe Institute of Technology and 27 vs. Prince George's Community College. (Side note: Much to my chagrin, Globe's nickname is the Knights, not the Trotters. Probably a copyright infringement thing. But check out Globe's home gym in this photo. Old school for sure!)
* Scored 20+ points in 11 games.
* Scored in double figures the last 13 games of his juco career, including 24 in FCC's season finale loss to Hagerstown Community College in the NJCAA Region XX semifinal. 
* This game writeup says that Talley scored 17 points, but the real reason I'm sharing it is for Chesapeake College's nickname: the Skipjacks.
* FCC teammate Markee Mazyck, a 6-foot-5 forward who averaged 22.5 ppg, will play at Austin Peay next year.
* At Montgomery, Talley averaged 14.9 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2.1 assists, and an outrageous 3.8 blocks per game.
* Hit on 46% of his field goals, 33% of his threes (18-for-55), and made 66% of his free throws (66-for-100).
* The only stat of his at Montgomery that will make Gannon fans frown is 3.2 turnovers a game.
* At Tuscarora (Md.) High School, Talley was named first-team all-area by the Frederick News-Post and first-team all-Chespeake Conference. He was also MVP of the Frederick County Roundball Classic.
* This game article from 2008 references Talley as a "backup center" who hit the game-winning free throws as a sophomore. 
* According to this web page, he was also as wide receiver/defensive back on the Tuscarora football team.
* This compilation of video highlights from his high school and AAU days shows he's not afraid to go after the basketball. You have to watch the whole video to see a thundering slam dunk by Talley.
* You only have to wait 7 seconds to see a putback slam by Talley in this video.
* If you want to see complete games of Talley at Frederick, click here for the videos. We don't have another Gannon game for six months, so you have plenty of time to watch them between now and late November.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Knight: Girbran Smith G 6-4 175 jr.

Gannon is going international. The PSAC Letters of Intent web page confirms that Girbran Smith, a 6-foot-4 guard from Nassau, The Bahamas, will be a member of the GU program this fall. Among the other non-American newcomers he'll join at Gannon will be Raphell Thomas-Edwards (United Kingdom), Marcus Jones (Brantford, Ont.), and Nolan Woodward (Montreal).

But it's not like John Reilly grabbed a bottle of sunscreen and a pair of sunglasses to recruit Smith. The soon-to-be junior starred last year at Kankakee Community College in Illinois and played scholastically at Seton Academy near Chicago. Here's all the info I could dig up on Smith:

* Named second team all-region at Kankakee after leading the club in scoring (14.2 ppg), three-pointers made (59), and steals (2 spg).
* Was second on the team in rebounding (5.5 ppg) and in blocks (1 bpg) while shooting 46.7% from the field (158-of-338), 41.8% on threes (59-for-141), and 65.7% from the foul line (65-of-99).
* Played in 31 games, starting 30, and posted a decent 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio (78 assists, 50 turnovers).
* So statistically speaking he seems to be an all-around player offensively. He can shoot the three, but fewer than 50% of his field goal attempts were from beyond the arc. And he made it to the free throw line about 3 or 4 times a game.
* Erupted for 29 points in back-to-back games in early December, making 22-of-37 field goals and 12-of-23 three-pointers. Partway down this web page from South Suburban College, Smith's exploits vs. the Bulldogs on Dec. 6 are detailed. I'm amused that all field goals behind the arc are described as "3" point shots. Never seen the number in quote marks before.
* Eclipsed the 20-point mark six times during his sophomore season at KCC.
* In the Region IV championship game, a 91-81 loss to Malcom X College, he led the Cavaliers with 17 points.
* Kankakee finished the season a deceptive 14-18. On the court they won 20 games, but had to forfeit 6 or 7 victories because of an ineligible player.
* And if you still can't get enough of Kankakee Community College basketball, this will link you to their 2012-13 media guide that includes a few photos of Smith. The quote from his coach describes the kind of guy I like seeing in a Golden Knight uniform: "Girbran has a smooth game. He can do everything on the floor and works really hard both on and off the court."
* Gannon will be Smith's third college in three years. After his freshman year at Rock Valley College, Smith and three of his teammates followed coach Julian Springer to Kankakee. (Let's hope that story doesn't motivate any players on the Gannon women's basketball team to follow suit.)
* Was a highly productive frosh, averaging 11.5 ppg and 4.1 rpg. Made 37% of his three-point attempts (28-of-76), 51% of his overall field goals (132-for-260), and 75% of his foul shots (64-for-85). He recorded 42 steals (1.3 pg) and 63 turnovers in 31 games for the Golden Eagles.
* Smith scored 25 points in a win over Harper College (Ill.) according to this web page. To be honest with you, the main reason I'm sharing this link is because I think I'm the only human in Erie who owns a long-sleeved T-shirt, hooded sweatshirt, pennant, and bumper sticker from Harper College. It's a long story as you might imagine.
* I searched every corner of the internet for data on Smith at Seton Academy High School but couldn't find anything. So here's a link to the school. That's the best I could do. Sorry. Let me know if you'd like a full refund.
* As far as photos, here's a head-and-shoulders shot of Smith and a picture of him defending during a Kankakee game at Danville (Ill.).

Saturday, May 11, 2013

New Knight: Raphell Thomas-Edwards F 6-6 240 jr.

When Duke legend Bobby Hurley was named head men's basketball coach at the University of Buffalo in late March, it never crossed my mind that his hiring could benefit the Gannon hoops program. But according to CBSSports.com, 6-foot-6 forward Raphell Thomas-Edwards is transferring from Division I UB to GU.

Thomas-Edwards, a native of Leicester, England, will be the answer to several Gannon basketball trivia questions:
* He's only the fourth Knight with a hyphenated last name. The others include Zaid Al-Khas (1998-2001), Mikael Ibanez-Lavesson (1995-96), and Clinton Springer-Williams (2011-12).
* I believe he's Gannon's first-ever player from the United Kingdom. The Knights have had their fair share of international players -- Al-Khas (Jordan), Ibanez-Lavesson (Sweden), Yoav Kadman (Israel), Akol Tong (Sudan), and Nick Rovis (Croatia) -- but never one from England as far as I know.
* But he is not the first University of Buffalo player to transfer to GU. Big man Kris Roets was Street & Smith's MAC preseason player of the year for the 1993-94 season, but ended up at Gannon for two campaigns (1994-1996) where he recorded 243 points. Updated 5/12/13: An astute Gannon fan just shot me an email saying that Al-Khas transferred from UB as well, which is 100% correct. So half of all Gannon players with a hyphenated last name are Buffalo transfers.

I'm guessing Thomas-Edwards will compete for playing time on Gannon's front line with the Knights graduating all-everything Darrell Blanton, T.J. Wilson, and Tanner Furno. Here's all the info I could dig up on Thomas-Edwards:

* Played in 30 games for 14-20 Buffalo last year, starting one game and logging just over 11 minutes per contest. Averaged 1.8 ppg and 2.4 rpg, making 34.7% of his field goals (17-of-49), 31% of his threes (9-for-29) and 11-of-16 free throws (68.8%).
* Tallied a season high 10 points in UB's MAC first round tournament win over Central Michigan, drilling 4-of-5 field goals including a pair of threes in the first half. You can see the box score here and watch highlights of the game here. The postgame writeup said, "Struggling to get into an offensive groove, the Bulls got an unlikely spark from Raphell Thomas-Edwards. The sophomore swingman scored all of his career-high 10 points in the first half. His second three-pointer of the half gave UB a 28-24 lead."
* Followed that up with 8 points in 31 minutes of action during UB's upset of Ball State in the MAC tourney second round at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Complete game writeup here.
* UB and Gannon had two common opponents last year: Notre Dame College and Mansfield. During the Bulls' 20-point win vs. NDC, Thomas-Edwards had 3 points and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes of action. In a 19-point rout of the Mounties, he played 19 minutes, totaling 5 points and 3 rebounds.
* For a complete statistical recap of his sophomore season, check out this page from CBSsports.com.
* As a freshman, played just 29 minutes over 8 games, registering 5 points and 4 rebounds.
* The only valuable info in this two-year old press release on Thomas-Edwards signing with Buffalo is former coach Reggie Witherspoon's comments: "Raphell is a very versatile player who has the potential to help us in a number of different ways. He has quick feet and is explosive. His international experience will accelerate his development."
* This article from HoopsFix.com provides some more info on his signing with Buffalo. The comments section is vastly different from what we're used to. Almost all the fans are encouraging! (Side note: HoopsFix touts itself as "The #1 British Basketball Community." Is there a second British basketball community?)
* This article from the Leicester Mercury newspaper quotes Thomas-Edwards extensively about his journey to the U.S. to play basketball. He talks about hard work, which you know John Reilly has to love.
* I'm not sure how the academic/athletic scene works in England, but his UB bio says he "attended The Gateway School and played for the Leicester Warriors," averaging 25 points and 14 rebounds per game. His Gateway College bio says he also attended Barking Abbey and St. Paul's. I'm not sure what any of that means, but any time I have the chance to say "Barking Abbey" I go for it.
* Was the leading scorer (10.0 ppg) and rebounder (7.9 rpg) for England in the under-18 European Championships in 2011. Exploded for 20 points and 13 rebounds against Luxembourg and 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting in 36 minutes vs. Switzerland. He didn't score in 17 minutes vs. Denmark or in 11 minutes vs. Georgia, so I'm not sure what England's substitution pattern was for that event.