Canisius Basketball Preview
2003-04 Season: 10-20 overall, 5-14 MAAC
sub-par season that was capped by a first-round loss to Iona in the MAAC
Tournament, the Canisius College Golden Griffins hit the court in the
2004-05 season looking to improve on many areas of their play and
possibly take the team back to the conference tournament. This March,
the HSBC Arena in Buffalo will await eight teams vying for a trip to the
Big Dance, and the Griffs know that a chance to win the conference title
in front of their hometown crowd will be worth it.
this season will be different. Of course, the usual crop of seniors
have departed, namely star Toby Foster, perennial sixth-man Jon Ferris,
Australian import Luke Hedges, and junior college transfer Yaku
Moton-Spruill. What makes this season different, though, is that it all
pales in comparison to the loss of forward Richard Jones, who passed
away on May 5th of this year due to complications of an
enlarged heart. With all of those factors put together, a number of
players need to step up in order for the Griffs to have a successful
season. Here’s a breakdown of the team, position by position:
Coaching Staff: Head Coach—Mike McDonald (8th year);
Assistant Coaches—Michael Wernicki (2nd year), Brian Miller
(4th year), Clive Bentick (1st year)
assistant coach Terry Zeh departed in the offseason to become the head
coach of Canisius’s women’s team, head coach Mike McDonald had some
holes to fill. He didn’t have to look far, as Brian Miller returns to
Canisius after five successful seasons as the head men’s basketball
coach at D’Youville. Miller held the administrative assistant post
under John Beilein in 1996-97, and was made an assistant when McDonald
took over the program in 1997. Along with Miller, former Griff Clive
Bentick, who served a year as one of Miller’s assistants at D’Youville
and played for McDonald from 1997-2001, will now assist McDonald on the
sidelines. This could be a make or break season for McDonald; if the
Griffs don’t pick up a winning season this year, then it could be the
end of the line for “Coach Mac”.
guard position being emptied by the outgoing Foster, this is now
redshirt junior Kevin Downey and redshirt senior Dewitt Doss’s team.
Doss, who averaged 11 points per game before sitting out late in the
season due to a torn ACL, has the added responsibility of preparing the
way for the player that will fill his spot in the starting lineup after
he graduates. Both players are viable three-point shooting threats; in
fact, Downey, who averaged just over 13 points a game last year, led the
MAAC in three-point percentage with .451. The bench at this position is
very deep, as freshmen Jess Poe and Anthony Byrd, junior transfer Jon
Popofski, and senior Andrew Spitler could all possibly fill the
“sixth-man” spot vacated by Jon Ferris. No doubt the better player out
of that group will join Downey as the starting guard in 2005-06.
season that saw him pick up All-Rookie team honors last season,
sophomore Darnell Wilson will be looked upon to continue in his starter
role. Wilson averaged 6.6 PPG and 4.2 rebounds a game, and those
numbers need to go up significantly if the Griffs are to make a viable
title run. The other forward position is wide open; freshmen Rigoberto
Sargeant and Marcus Vanderheide are natural forwards, while fellow
freshman Steve McLean and junior Mike Hanley, the team’s big men, can
play both center and forward. In the end, look for Sargeant, who has a
bigger physical presence than Vanderheide, to be penciled in as the
team’s other forward.
of the team has little depth, because only McLean and Hanley are able to
play the center position. Hanley will certainly be the starter at this
position as he was for the bulk of the season last year, and should
provide McLean valuable training for a starting role in a couple of
years. Hanley will need to have a breakout season this year; he only
averaged 2.7 points and 1.8 rebounds in just over 12 minutes a game last
year. Due to the lack of depth, it is imperative that both of these
players try to avoid getting injured; losing either Hanley or McLean
leaves the Griffs with few options.
With those factors put
together, the Griffs need to score big points just about every night.
They lost many close ones last year (including a nail-biter at
Marquette), and cannot continue that trend this year. Many strong
non-conference opponents will face the Griffs this year, including St.
John’s, Brown, and College of Charleston. Throw in the usual mix of
conference opponents (Manhattan, Niagara, and Marist, to name a few) and
this should make for an interesting season for the Griffs. A ten- to
twelve-win season should be expected from this team; thirteen or
fourteen is a possibility, but is probably too much of a stretch.