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!