Sunday, December 8, 2013

Preview: Canisius Men Succeeding Despite Changes

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 11-7 in MAAC play, 20-14 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Guards Harold Washington (13.8, 2.6), Isaac Sosa (11.6, 2.0), Alshwan Hymes (7.1, 2.1).

KEY NEWCOMES: 6-3 senior guard Chris Perez, transfer from Stetson; 6-7 redshirt freshman forward Phil Valenti, 6-3 freshman guard Zach Lewis, 5-11 junior guard Jeremiah Williams, transfer from Vincennes Junior College, 6-4 sophomore guard Dominique Raney, transfer from Navarro College.

EARLY STARTERS: 6-2 senior guard Billy Baron (17.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.0 assists last season), 6-2 senior guard Chris Perez, 6-10 senior center Jordan Heath (9.2, 5.9), 6-6 senior forward Chris Manhertz (7.6, 8.7), 6-4 sophomore guard Dominique Raney.

NOTABLE: Off to a 4-3 start thus far. Last season's 20 wins marked a 15-victory improvement over the previous year, the greatest one-season jump in program history and third-best nationally over the previous season. It was also the first time the program won 20 games since the 2000-01 season ... Probably no coincidence that well-respected veteran coach Jim Baron came aboard last season, and brought his son, Billy, along as a transfer from Rhode Island ... Since then, there have been considerable losses, almost all on the perimeter where double-digit scorers Washington and Sosa both graduated. They were the team's top long-range threats, with Sosa hitting 96 treys and Washington 59. Hymes, an effective reserve guard, also opted to leave the program early ... Replacements came in the form of senior Chris Perez, a transfer from Stetson, who is averaging 11.9 ppg. and 3.3 rebound so far and sophomore transfer Dominique Raney (6.6, 2.1). True freshman Zach Lewis (6.4) has been the first perimeter sub so far, while junior Jeremiah Williams, a JC transfer (2.9) has been getting minutes as the back-up point guard ... The one perimeter returnee, though, is a good one in senior Billy Baron, who is averaging 19.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 points per game. He was picked as the league's preseason Player of the Year and has done nothing to discourage that sentiment. His scoring is up 2.5 ppg. over a year ago, while his assists are down ... Canisius did return two good front-court players in 6-10 senior Jordan Heath and 6-6, 235-pounder Christ Manhertz. Heath is averaging 10.9/5.1, and recently had a 28-point, 10-rebound game against Saint Peter's in the league opener for both teams. Manhertz (7.4, 5.0) was inch-for-inch the league best rebounder last season (8.7) but his rebound stats are down this season ... Phil Valenti, a 6-7 redshirt freshman who sat out last season to add some strength, is off to a good start off the bench (4.1, 3.9) ... This year's roster has 14 players and 10 of them did not play a minute last season; few MAAC programs have had such turnover ... Only 10 players have seen court action this year. Baron traditionally finds a playing group early and sticks to it.

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: League coaches, in their preseason poll, predicted a third-place finish for Canisius, as did your blogger. The MAAC, thus far, looks like a two-team race for the top between Manhattan and Iona. After that, Canisius, Rider, Fairfield and Quinnipiac look bunched in the next group. The guess here is Canisius will finish somewhere as high as third and as low as sixth.

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