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Canisius hockey to move downtown

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

Word on the street has been that Canisius College would strike a deal to move its hockey team out of Buffalo State and into the new facilities being built in downtown Buffalo.

Seems that the word becomes official tomorrow -- the Griffs have an agreement with the Buffalo Sabres to make HarborCenter its home rink beginning with the 2014-15 season.

Canisius is coming off its first NCAA tournament appearance after winning the Atlantic Hockey tournament and the conference's automatic bid into the field.

The Griffs have played every regular season home game since the 2009-10 season at Buffalo State's Ice Arena as Canisius does not have an on-campus rink. The program has also spent home game time at the former Pepsi Center and at Nichols.

The HarborCenter will house two NHL-size rinks and is scheduled to open in September 2014.

More details of the arrangement are expected to be announced at a press conference on Tuesday.

New York emphasized in this year's UB football uniforms

 

Jerseystogether
Photos courtesy of Jason Arkley/The Athens Messenger -- The UB Bulls' 2013-14 jerseys are pictured above. The jerseys are the same as last year's aside from the addition of a patch above the numbers.
 

By Aaron Mansfield

The Mid-American Conference hosted its annual football media day in Detroit, Mich., Tuesday, and the University at Buffalo Bulls showed off a new look. This year's uniforms will have a new patch on the chest that reads "State University of New York Buffalo." The 'New York' section jumps off as the clear emphasis with the other words in smaller font.

The uniforms are the same in all other aspects, which is why UB's athletic department did not hold a press conference or release photographs of the new look.

The @ubfootball Twitter account tweeted a photo of new helmets July 16. The helmets are flat blue, a color adjustment from the metallic helmets worn since 2006 (both are pictured below).

 

6a00d83451b85a69e20192ac2bc072970d
2013-14 helmet

2006-12 helmet
2006-12 helmet

 

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Today's Buffalo News story about MAC Media Day: UB thinks it's ready to turn the corner in MAC football.

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Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.

 

Peel named Buffalo softball coach

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz 

Trena Peel will take over the University at Buffalo softball program.

Peel comes to the Bulls program after a three-year stint as the head coach at Hampton University. Last season, she led Hampton to its first MEAC Championship and NCAA Tournament berth since 1996.

She also has elite playing experience. The 2003 graduate of LSU played professionally in the National Pro Fastpich League from 2004-09. In 2009, Peel participated in the MLB Celebrity All-Star Game during MLB All-Star Weekend in St. Louis.

At LSU, she set the program record for triples (27) which ranks in the Top 20 in NCAA history. She batted .323 with 268 hits and 45 doubles and was the SEC Player of the Year in 2002.

In 1999, she was amember of the USA Junior Olympic Softball team and was selected for the USA Elite Team in 2002 and 2003.

UB's Najja Johnson honored among best d-backs in country

 

Najja Johnson
Photo by Louise Fish/Athens Messenger -- University at Buffalo senior corner Najja Johnson (22) led the Mid-American Conference with five interceptions last season.

 

By Aaron Mansfield

Najja Johnson didn't make any all-conference team after last season. Not first, second or third.

It was a bit of a disappointment for the University at Buffalo defensive back, who led the Mid-American Conference in interceptions (ranking 13th nationally with five), led his team with 11 pass break-ups and added 43 tackles. He also routinely battled the opposing team's best receiver.

His season did not go unnoticed, though. Friday, he was named to the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which includes 48 of the best defensive backs in the country.

"It provides a lit bit of motivation because I felt like I played to the best of my ability last season and the fact that I wasn't recognized for anything, it hurt a little bit," Johnson said via telephone Tuesday evening. "But at the end of the day, all you can do is play to the best of your ability and hope you get recognized. If not, you've just got to keep on playing."

Johnson, a 6-foot, 182-pound senior with a propensity for picking it off, is one of four UB football players to make a watch list this summer, joining three classmates -- linebacker Khalil Mack (who is on the Butkus, Rotary Lombardi, Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik watch lists), running back Branden Oliver (Maxwell Award) and wide receiver Alex Neutz (Biletnikoff Award).

Johnson is one of three MAC players on the list, joining Dayonne Nunley (Miami Ohio) and Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois).

"It was an honor," said Johnson, who hails from Atlanta, Ga. "Coming from where I came from, walking on the team and no one having any expectations for me, and then to be named to a prestigious list like that is definitely an honor and I couldn't be prouder, but it's still preseason."

Johnson made national airwaves in the Bulls' Nov. 23 loss at Bowling Green when he intercepted a pass on the ground with his knees, earning the No. 2 spot in SportsCenter's Top Plays.

The Doak Walker (running backs) and Walter Camp (best overall player) watch lists will be announced Thursday and Friday, respectively. Once those watch lists have been announced, The News will publish an article with a full recap of those with Western New York ties who have received recognition.

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Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.


UB wide out Neutz named to Biletnikoff watch list

 

Alex Neutz
Photo by Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News -- University at Buffalo wide receiver Alex Neutz (19) had 65 catches, 11 touchdowns and 1,015 yards in a breakout junior campaign.

By Aaron Mansfield

Alex Neutz, the former Grand Island Viking and current University at Buffalo wide receiver, has been recognized as one of the nation’s best at his position.

Following a dominant 2012 in which Neutz finished with 65 catches for 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns, the senior has been named to the 2013 Biletnikoff Award Preseason Watch List, which recognizes the top receivers in college football.

He is the fourth UB player to make a preseason watch list this year, joining three fellow seniors – linebacker Khalil Mack, running back Branden Oliver and corner Najja Johnson.

“It’s awesome,” he said outside the Bulls’ locker room Tuesday. “I was taken in shock. I saw it on someone’s Twitter earlier today. It’s kind of surreal because you play the NCAA video game growing up, and then to relive your childhood dream, basically.”

The Biletnikoff list, which is named in honor of legendary receiver Fred Biletnikoff, was released Tuesday morning.

Neutz was named the Bulls’ 2012 offensive MVP and made second-team All-Mid-American Conference.

It is the first watch list of Neutz’s career.

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Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.

 

St. Bonaventure mourns death of baseball player

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

The news spread quickly on Twitter last night and was confirmed this afternoon in a press release from St. Bonaventure -- redshirt junior Andrew Revello died on Wednesday as a result of injuries he suffered in a car accident on June 1 in Butler Township, Pa.

The 22-year old was a startng pitcher for the Bona baseball team. A native of Highland Heights, Ohio, he was an accounting major at the school.

This past season, Revello emerged as a leader in the Bonnies rotation and led the team in wins (five), innings pitched (77 1/3), and strike outs (57).

"Andrew Revello -- Dice to his teammates -- was a tireless worker, a good student and a joy to be around," Bona baseball coach Larry Sudbrook said. "He was always willing to share his opinion on anything sports-related and enjoyed the give-and-take as much as his teammates. Dice loved St. Bonaventure baseball and it loved him back."

"Andrew Revello — Dice, to his teammates — was a tireless worker, good student and a joy to be around," said Larry Sudbrook, SBU's baseball coach. "He was always willing to share his opinion on anything sports related and enjoyed the give-and-take as much as his teammates. Dice loved St. Bonaventure baseball and it loved him back."

"We are profoundly saddened to hear of Andrew's passing," said Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., university president. "He was a tremendous representative of this university. We extend our deepest condolences to his family, as well as to his teammates and members of the St. Bonaventure community with whom he developed such a strong and lasting bond."

UB's Oliver, Mack named to national award watch lists

 

Branden Oliver (top) and Khalil MackTop photo by Mark Mulville, Buffalo News / Bottom by John Hickey, Buffalo News --University at Buffalo football players Branden Oliver (top) and Khalil Mack (bottom, 46) were named to national award watch lists Tuesday.


By Aaron Mansfield

Two University at Buffalo football players are making national noise. 

The pair of Florida natives who have cemented their careers as some of the finest in UB history were named to national award watch lists Tuesday – running back Branden Oliver to the Maxwell Award (which recognizes the nation’s top college football player) and linebacker Khalil Mack to the Chuck Bednarik Award (the top defensive player).

They were both named to their respective watch lists in 2012, as well.

Mack and Oliver, roommates their junior year and training partners, are entering their senior year. Mack, a Sports Illustrated honorable mention All-American last season, had 94 tackles, including 21 for loss, eight sacks and four forced fumbles in 2012. He played 11 of the squad's 12 games. Oliver battled injuries last year and played just seven of the team's 12 games, but he averaged 117.3 rushing yards per game. He set UB's single-season rushing record (surpassing James Starks) with 1,395 yards his sophomore year.

Oliver is the first player in program history to be named to the Maxwell Award watch list. Seven Mid-American Conference players made this year's Maxwell watch list and two made the Bednarik.

The Bulls, who finished 4-8 last season, the third under head coach Jeff Quinn, will open their 2013 campaign Aug. 31 at Ohio State, ranked No. 5 in Sporting News' preseason NCAA rankings.

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Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.

 

Niagara players head to NHL camps

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

Yesterday we heard about Canisius goalie Tony Capobianco heading to the Minnesota Wild's Development Camp.

Today, it's Niagara's Dan Kolenda. The forward who just completed his freshman year for the Purple Eagles was invited to the Florida Panthers Development Camp. He played in 35 games for Niagara last season, as the team earned an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. Kolenda scored five goals with eight assists.

Goaltender Carsen Chubak is attending the Philadelphia Flyers Development Camp, but as one of the organization's young prospects, not a college player. Chubak signed an American Hockey League contract with the Adirondack Phantoms, the top affiliate of the Flyers, in May. That means Chubak will forgo his senior year of eligibility at Niagara.

 

Capobianco headed to Wild Development Camp

by Amy Moritz
@amymoritz

When he begins his senior year at Canisius, Tony Capobianco will have a great answer to the question, "What did you do on your summer vacation?"

The goaltender was invited to participate in the Minnesota Wild Development camp this week.

Capobianco was named the most valuable player for the Golden Griffins after leading the team to the Atlantic Hockey Tournament Championship and the program's first ever NCAA tournament bid. He set four school records during the season -- saves (1,256), save percentage (.929), wins (18) and shutouts (four).

Capobianco is one of seven collegiate players invited to the Wild's development camp at the Xcel Energy Center. The camp, which includes 36 players, focuses on developing the organization's top prospect.

Back in 2008, Canisius forward Vincent Scarsella participated in development camp with the Buffalo Sabres.

 

UB's Watson signs to play pro basketball in Germany

Reggie Witherspoon (left) coached guard Tony Watson for four years.
          Reggie Witherspoon (left) coached guard Tony Watson for four years.                      Mark Mulville/Buffalo News

By Aaron Mansfield

Tony Watson was never known as the athlete who wanted to play professional basketball overseas. Sure, the University at Buffalo guard had moments he envisioned actualizing his hoop dreams, but he never seriously considered bouncing between continents a feasible career.

Something changed last winter when Mid-American Conference play started. Watson heated up and started taking over games. The smooth-stroking lefty averaged 26.3 points per game over a three-game stretch. Asked about his performance, then-head coach Reggie Witherspoon could only say, “holy smokes.” Scouts took notice, too. 

Watson has signed with the German basketball team Bayer Giants to play Pro A basketball this season. Watson, who played four years with the Bulls and was a key contributor his final three, will leave for Germany Sept. 1.

“I talked to my coaches about it, and they all said I have the skills to play over there,” Watson, 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, said via phone from Florida Wednesday afternoon. “Physically, I’m big enough to play, fast enough to play … After the season, a few agents hit me up right away and I was able to sign one who is a real professional, real honest guy. So I took the opportunity to go ahead and pursue my dreams.”

Steve James of SDJ Sports, Watson's agent, had three German teams interested in Watson, and he signed with the first one that offered a contract.

Watson averaged 11.3 points per game last year, second on UB only to first-team All-MAC forward Javon McCrea, and led his squad in minutes per game (34.9). The senior, one of two on the team and the only who received serious playing time, was called on to provide the leadership, and he answered the plea. Watson, known as the team's motivator with a tendency for slapping the floor on defense, averaged 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game while shooting a sizzling 42 percent from three-point range.

The Bulls’ season ended fittingly, with Watson weaving through traffic and driving coast-to-coast to lay in the final two points of his college career as the buzzer sounded on an 83-81 overtime loss to Kent State in the MAC Quarterfinals.

Watson played the 2 at UB, but he will go back to his original position of point guard for the duration of his professional career.

“My leadership is going to be magnified now because not only am I the point guard, but I’m one of the American basketball players on a European team,” Watson said. “They don’t necessarily look up to Americans, but they do kind of put those guys on a pedestal and expect certain things out of Americans. My leadership that I was able to acquire at UB, I’m going to take that over there with me.”

Watson is a coach-on-the-court type player with a high basketball IQ and the ability to catch fire at any time. Once he hits one three-pointer, the southpaw from West Palm Beach, Fla., has a propensity to pull up from 30 feet – and often knock it down.

At what turned out to be Witherspoon's final press conference as UB's head coach (first-year Athletic Director Danny White fired Witherspoon and hired Bobby Hurley in March), Witherspoon said of Watson: "He was really, really big for our team to have a chance to beat the teams in the top of the conference."

“This summer, I’m keeping my tools sharpened,” Watson said. “It’s all about what I can bring to that team ... I’ve been known to shoot the ball, so I’m keeping that sharp and working on my physical fitness, becoming stronger and more athletic.”

Signing with a professional team overseas is a daunting venture for any college athlete. Watson was thankful to have a mentor in the process: former UB assistant coach Turner Battle (now in the same position at Chattanooga), who played in Estonia and France before joining the NBDL and eventually the Buffalo Rapids of the American Basketball Association.

Watson also contacted several former UB teammates who play overseas now, including Titus Robinson (Australia) and Mitchell Watt (Israel), and said, “they gave me great advice.”

Several Bayer players have already reached out to Watson. The red-and-white Giants are considered among the most successful teams in German basketball history. They won the league championship last season.

Watson expects to start and he already knows who his backcourt mate will be: former Northern Iowa shooting guard Marc Sonnen, who averaged 10.5 points for the Panthers last season.

Watson missed time in his college career with ankle injuries, but he is hoping to have a lengthy pro career. 

“As long as my body lasts and it’s worth it as far as bringing in enough money and isn’t causing too much wear and tear on my body, I’m going to continue to play,” Watson said. “The average professional basketball career is only three years, but I would like to play more than that. As long as it’s worth it, I’m going to continue pursuing my dream of playing professional basketball.”

Watson graduated with his management degree in May and interned his senior year in UB’s athletic department.

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Click here to read Rodney McKissic's Feb. 22 article about Watson's hot streak. 

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Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.

 

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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare | bdicesare@buffnews.com


Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic began his journalism career in 1989 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati and has worked for The Buffalo News since 2001. A proud father of four children, he enjoys reading in his spare time.

@RodneyMcKissic | rmckissic@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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