Friday, August 29, 2014

Gannon Releases Schedule, Porreco Cup Run Is Over

Gannon announced its 2014-15 men's basketball schedule today, and what's most noteworthy is what is not on the list of games. For the first time in 40 seasons, GU will not host a tournament near the Christmas holiday. Eliminating the Porreco Cup gives the Knights more flexibility in their schedule and allows them to open their season against non-PSAC foes. As I wrote in this blog post last year, "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." Instead of moving up the cup to open the season, Gannon eliminated the home tournament altogether and simply renamed the home contest vs. Mercyhurst "The Porreco Game."

I won't get into too much detail in this post about the schedule -- because Gannon SID Dan Teliski's analysis in the press release is superb -- but here are 5 parts of the schedule that have me fired up already:

1. Nov. 8 -- Gannon at Siena (exhibition). The game won't count in the standings, but I'm always thrilled when Gannon gets a shot at a Division I foe. Siena won 20 games a year ago but also lost 18, so this will be a good test for the Knights. I hope it will be more like when they played Dayton close in 2009 (losing by 8) and not the 69-44 drubbing Pitt put on them 10 years ago.

2. Nov. 14-15 -- PSAC/MEC Challenge at Glenville State. I'm actually more nervous than excited for the season-opening games against Mountain East opponents Glenville and Charleston, both who qualified for the NCAAs last season. The pessimist in me says Gannon could be eliminated from hosting the regional tournament just 26 hours into the season. The optimist in me says the Knights could establish themselves as an Atlantic Region heavyweight with a strong showing at this event.

3. Nov. 28 vs. Le Moyne (Gary Miller Classic) and Feb. 18 at Le Moyne. A home-and-home with a former Mideast Collegiate Conference rival? That's tremendous! If Gannon hadn't canned the Porreco Cup, the second game vs. the Dolphins and the Dec. 13 home game vs. Shepherd wouldn't have been possible. Can we figure out a way for both GU and LC to honor their 1987-88 teams during halftime of those games? Le Moyne won the MCC tourney at Gannon that year and returned to the Hammermill the following weekend where Gannon captured the NCAA East Regional title.

4. March 25-28 -- NCAA Elite 8 at Evansville, Ind. When Tom Chapman coached Gannon, he made sure the Elite 8 was always listed on the Gannon schedule. I like the expectation it sets for the program. I'm not reserving a hotel room in Evansville yet, but I'm excited to know Gannon has plans to be there.

5. There are no dregs on the schedule. Every game this season will be against a Division II school. No Penn State-Allegheny or Penn State-DuBois (Edinboro opponents next season) or any other non-conference cupcakes. Gannon's independent schedule includes 2014 NCAA entrants Glenville, Charleston, and Le Moyne, plus 20-game winner Shepherd (last year's Porreco Cup champ), and 24-5 Alderson-Broaddus. If GU makes the NCAAs this year, they will have earned it for sure.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Potential New Knight: Dan Kaigler fr. F 6-6 200

When Gannon signs a freshman big man who starred in high school, the skeptic in me always asks the same questions, "Could he be great for Gannon, too, or was he just a man among boys? How will he fare against players his size or taller? How about guys who weigh 30 pounds or more?" With 6-foot-6 forward Dan Kaigler likely to join the Knights (Syracuse.com says he will), I wonder those same questions, but the optimist in me asks one more after watching his senior year highlight tape: "Could we see the return of the Jammermill?"

I implore you to watch the entire 6-minute, 40-second video of Kaigler in action, but if you can't for some reason, then take 15 seconds to check out the steal and thundering slam at the 5-minute mark. Even Darrell Blanton would have admired that one.

Here's my 6-part assessment of Kaigler after watching his highlight tape:
1. Has a good midrange game, shoots an over-his-head jumper that's hard to defend
2. Can also shoot the three with that same smooth stroke
3. Moves easily and controls his body well for a big man
4. He loves to dunk -- who doesn't? -- and gets above the basket with two hands when he goes to the rim
5. Shares the ball when needed, doesn't panic when doubled
6. Would instantly be the best shot blocker on the Gannon team the moment he steps onto the court

If you think I'm overstating point #6, check out this part of Kaigler's highlight reel. I really feel bad for a kid whose shot gets thrown into the curtain on the stage while attempting a layup over the big man.

Point #6 made me think if I was going to say he could be the best shot blocker in a Gannon uniform since ____, whose name would I fill that blank with? The last time a GU player blocked 80 or more shots in a season, MC Hammer was recording his debut album. Kyle Goldcamp had 79 blocks in 2007-08, but I don't think any of us regard him as a big-time shot blocker. John "Shanghai" Matthews (123 blocks in 1985-86, 101 in 1986-87) and Craig Dixon (91 in 1983-84) may be the only Knights I regard as true shot blockers. All that said, I'd like to see someone in maroon and gold who can clean up inside when guards get beat off the dribble.

Here's more info on Kaigler:
* I'll start with the most important fact for longtime GU fans: Former LeMoyne standout Len Rauch was his AAU coach and Jack Rauch, Len's son, was Kaigler's teammate, according to this article. The gist of the article is that Kaigler led his team to an AAU national championship but to me that pales in comparison to knowing that he has connections to my all-time favorite Gannon opponent.(Side note: The resemblance between the senior Rauch and the junior Rauch is uncanny.)
* Averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks as a senior.
* Kaigler's Bishop Ludden (N.Y.) teams enjoyed unparalled success during his four varsity seasons. Ludden won three straight section championships, two regional championships, and the New York Class A state title in 2012.
* Was an all-Central New York selection for three years.
* Was voted Central New York Player of the Year in a Syracuse.com fan poll. I like that the writer points out the poll attracted 6,000 more voters than the most recent Syracuse mayoral election.
* Led his team with 14 points in his final high school game, a loss in the Class A state tournament regional finals.
* In his team's last win of the season at regionals, he led the way with 19 points and 12 rebounds.the
* Allegedly, this is a video of him scoring his 1,000th career point about halfway through his senior campaign. I couldn't watch the video because it's asking for me to sign in with my Time Warner Cable ID or to order Time Warner cable. That's the opposite of convenient.
* This article does a nice job -- at least a better job than Time Warner -- of giving insight into Kaigler's 1,000th pont.
* Was named All-Central New York player of the year as a junior after averaging 14.5 ppg, 10 rpg, 4 apg, and 2.5 bpg.
* In this early season game from his junior year between "megapowers" Ludden and Jamesville-Dewitt, he led his squad to victory with 21 points.
* Scored 9 points as Bishop Ludden claimed the the sectional championship his junior year.
* Scored 20 points during a loss in the state semifinals as a junior.
* This article from his junior year said Kaigler was being recruited by schools from the DI Patriot League and MAAC. 
* In the sectional title game as a sophomore, he led the Gaelic Knights with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots.
* This article talks about Kaigler and a teammate competing to see who had the most dunks their sophomore season. I did that same thing with a teammate when I was in high school. It was a tie. In fact, I could have that same competition with Danny Devito over the span or our entire lives, and we'd tie at zero.
* There are some great quotes about Kaigler in this 2012 article and video from cnycentral.com. Just a sophomore, it was great to hear his coach say, "He just won an Ace leadership award through the school, so Dan has it in perspective of getting the academics first and athletics second."
* Geez -- the state legislature can really make winning a state championship seem boring.
* This link takes to you a MaxPreps page on Kaigler. It includes lots of photos and lists him as the #23 prospect in New York.
* For even more photos of Kaigler in action, follow this Syracuse.com link.
* Here's a quick 2013 TV studio interview with Kaigler, his coach and his teammates.

Bonus material for fans who read this entire post: I came across some recent rec league footage of Darrell Blanton. He's turning roller rinks and playgrounds into the Jammermill!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Potential New Knight: Tony Boykins jr. G 6-2 180

I thought I was on top of every potential new Knight this off season. I've already featured St. Bonaventure transfer Jean Yves Toupane plus freshmen Marc Fabricius and Adam Holm-Weber. I'd heard from more than one source that Gannon was going to land a player from Sweden and a 6-foot-7 freshman from the D.C. area, and because I couldn't find information on them, I was just waiting for the official release from the school. While trying to find the names of those last two players, I Googled "gannon basketball signing" and was surprised by the third result on the first page.

It said "Boykins Signs With NCAA Division II Gannon University." When you follow that link, you learn that on April 30 Tony Boykins, a guard from Owens Community College in Perrysburg, Oh., signed to play for the Knights next season. Why haven't I heard this rumor yet? Was he not accepted to the school? Was there a change of heart? Or are Gannon fans (and me) asleep at the switch of the rumor train for nearly 4 months?

Let's assume this was a wake-up call and that Boykins will be a future Golden Knight. Here's some background on the 6-foot-2 guard:

* Played his first two years of college ball at Owens, an NJCAA Division II squad.
* This link will connect you to an interview with Boykins and OCC coach Keith Raine discussing the Gannon signing. Raine says, "He exemplifies everything that we try to preach. He got it done in the classroom -- he'll have over a 3.3 GPA when he graduates."
* As a sophomore team captain, averaged 8.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 1 apg while starting all 31 games.
* Shot 47% from the field including 26.4% on threes (19-for-72) while playing 25 minutes a game.
* Connected on just 54.5% of his free throws (42-for-77).
* Scored a season-high 20 points in a 117-109 loss vs. Kalamazoo Valley CC. Made 7-of-14 field goals and all 5 of his free throw attempts.
* Exploded for 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting during an 84-76 win at Columbus State CC.
* He only scored 8 points during a Jan. 10 victory vs. the University of Akron Club team, but you've got to check out the box score from this 104-36 whipping. The score at halftime was 56-13, and Akron shot 5.3% from behind the arc.
* Was held to single digits for scoring in 19 games.
* His team finished 25-6 overall and tied for the OCCAC (Ohio Community College Athletic Conference) championship with an 11-1 record.
* Five players from Owens' team last year have signed to play at four-year colleges including Bikramjit Gill at Division I Ball State.
* Prior to his sophomore season, he was selected to play in the Mullens Junior College Showcase in St. Louis.
* As a freshman, averaged 9.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg and 1.1 apg and was named honorable mention All-OCCAC.
* The Express posted a 26-10 mark, advancing to the NJCAA Final Four.
* This workout tape of Boykins I found on YouTube offers interesting stats: a 6-foot-7 wingspan and a 36-inch vertical jump. 
* Starred at Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo, Mich.
* Was a first team all-Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference guard as a senior.
* This link says he scored 357 points as a high school senior, but it doesn't say over how many games. If we assume 25, that's about a 14 ppg average.
* This web page from MaxPreps says Boykins averaged 15.4 ppg and 8.1 rpg over 23 games as a senior.
* This article about Loy Norrix's division-clinching victory shows Boykins has passion for the game. It also features this paragraph: "The Blue Devils buried 8 of 14 shots in the third quarter to wipe out a 30-28 halftime deficit and take a 49-41 lead into the final frame. But Boykins & Co. weren't done yet. The 6-2 Boykins outscored Gull Lake by himself, 8-7, in the fourth."
* And you know John Reilly will adore this quote from that same article: "Boykins said that the Knights' ability to get stops reversed their fortunes. 'Defense, (taking) charges and discipline,' he said."
* This video from that same game shows Boykins scoring the game's final point before the crowd storms the floor.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Potential New Knight: Jean Yves Toupane jr. F 6-7 185

For years I've heard Gannon basketball rumors from a variety of sources including friends, family, former GU players, co-workers, blog commenters, and anonymous emailers. Now I have one to add to the list: ESPN.

According to ESPN college basketball writer Jeff Goodman, junior forward Jean Yves Toupane (pronounced jawn two-PAIN) has transferred from Division I St. Bonaventure to Gannon. That rumor has been floating around for a while including on a Bonaventure message board and in the Olean Times Herald.

Toupane's stats during his two years of Division I play are rather pedestrian (18 total points scored), but his bio is anything but boring. A native of Senegal, he was first discovered by U.S. scouts while participating in the Sports for Education and Economic Development (SEEDS) program in Africa. He went on to earn MVP honors of both the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program in Africa and the Jordan Brand international game in 2010. His final year of high school play, he was named one of the top 100 small forward college prospects in the U.S. by Gannon-rumor-starter ESPN.

Before we talk more about Toupane's basketball ability, let's look at a little Gannon history. I believe only one other player who hailed from Africa has suited up for the Knights. Akol Tong, a 7-foot-3 reserve center and native of the Sudan, played for Gannon from 1987-91. "Footer" was a Hammermill fan favorite despite limited playing time. Now back to Toupane:

* Played 6 games as a sophomore, registering 4 points (0.7 ppg) and 1 rebound in 11 minutes of play.
* Saw action in 7 games his freshman year, scoring 14 points (2.0 ppg). In 30 minutes of action, he grabbed 4 rebounds and made 3-of-8 three-pointers.
* Scored a career-high of 7 during a 92-73 loss at NC State on Dec. 22, 2012. Hit on a pair of three-pointers and a free throw vs. the Wolfpack.
* If you really want to break down his stats, this web page from DraftExpress will do that for you.
* This is the press release from his signing with Bona back in 2011. Bonnie head coach Mark Schmidt said, "Jean is a long, athletic player with great skills. He can really score the ball from the wing and we're excited to have him join us."
* This string from a Bonaventure message board is an interesting read for a few reasons, most notably a nugget that he was being recruited by Georgia, USC, and Bradley before committing to SBU.
* Before Bonaventure, Toupane played at Lee Academy, a prep school in Lee, ME. This web page gives some background on the Lee program and lists alums playing collegiately. I didn't recognize any of the players, but the schools include Oregon State, Colorado, UMass, SMU, Texas A&M, LaSalle, Fordham, and PSAC foe Millersville. (Side note: That list made me think of this Sesame Street song.)
* This article in the New England Recruiting Report says, "Jean Yves Toupane is a long and athletic swingman who knows how to put the ball in the basket." Another NERR article describes him this way: "Toupane is a long and skilled perimeter forward with a soft shooting touch from long range and a knack for scoring the basketball. His jumper comes complete with a high release that allows him to get it off with very little separation from his defender."
* NERR named him one of the Top 20 players in the New England Region in 2012. I didn't think that meant much -- Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, and New Hamphire aren't exactly basketball factories -- until I saw other names on that list included recent NBA first round draft picks and NCAA finalists Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas, current Detroit Piston Andre Drummond, and University of Arizona big man Kaleb Tarczewski.
* I couldn't find any revealing video on Toupane. This YouTube snippet is from his days at Lee Academy; he is #44 in blue.
* This second clip from some Lee game action offers little value besides Toupane's three-pointer at the 4:15 mark and that Lee's offensive strategy gave me a skull-splitting headache. Pass the ball! Move the ball! Swing the ball!
* OK -- I can't end on that note. Let's conclude with my citing NBA journeyman Ronny Turiaf's personal website that mentions Toupane. I predict we will never do that again.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Potential New Knight: Adam Holm-Weber fr. PG 6-1 170

I know highlight tapes can be misleading, but I'm ready to gush over soon-to-be Gannon freshman guard Adam Holm-Weber after watching just the first play on his highlight tape. Check it out here -- Holm-Weber's crossover followed by a finish in traffic is terrific.I don't know who the defender is, but I guarantee this clip isn't showing up on his highlight tape.

Watching the rest of the film, Holm-Weber, who hails from Denmark, appears to be a complete guard. He has size, ballhandling skills, a nice stroke, penetrates defenses, and passes from all angles with confidence. He will certainly keep his defender off balance with his array of moves and change of pace dribbling. Again, I may be jumping the gun here to make predictions based on highlights, but Holm-Weber has the makings of being a very productive Division II guard.

If you want to see an extended version of his AAU highlights -- and you want to see some really interesting gymnasiums -- watch this nearly 6-minute YouTube video of Holm-Weber.

Here's more information on Holm-Weber:
* OK, let's get this trivia out of the way right now. He's only the fifth Knight with a hyphenated last name. The others include Zaid Al-Khas (1998-2001), Mikael Ibanez-Lavesson (1995-96), Clinton Springer-Williams (2011-12), and current Knight Raphell Thomas-Edwards (2013-present). All five of the hyphenated Knights were born outside the United States.
* Will join fellow Dane and Alexander Basketball Academy (Md.) product Marc Fabricius at Gannon. Both suited up for Alexander's "Global Squad" which appears to be a collection of international players who compete against elite AAU programs here in the U.S.
* Holm-Weber's coach at Alexander, Kevin Breslin, said this about the 6-foot-1 guard: "Adam is a true floor general who runs a team like a point guard should. He’s a phenomenal passer and one of the smartest basketball players to ever wear a Global Squad uniform. When he’s on the court it makes my job significantly easier."
* Established the Global Squad all-time career record for assists per game (5.4 apg) while committing just 2.3 turnovers per contest
* His 23 steals in 18 games (1.3 spg) ranked second on the club
* Finished third on the team in scoring with an 8.2 ppg average
* Averaged 4.0 rebounds per game
* Shot 41.3% from the field, making 35% of his three-point attempts. Connected on 66.7% of his free throw attempts.
* Tallied 10 points and 10 assists during a 27-point comeback victory over Cuse Select at the Hoop Group Summer Jam Fest.
* During that same tournament, registered 17 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds vs. the New Jersey Cyclones.
* Alexander finished its season with a 12-6 record
* According to the Alexander website, he was recruited by UMass, the University of Maine, Long Island University, Ithaca College, and the University of Vermont
* For more video of Holm-Weber and his Alexander team, follow this link then click on the "Video/Media" tab