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Bean, Gilbo day-to-day with injuries

By Rodney McKissic

Junior inside linebacker Blake Bean is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury as is backup inside linebacker Nick Gilbo, a sophomore.

Bean, who missed last Saturday’s game at Western Michigan is not listed on this week’s depth chart for the game Saturday at UMass but Gilbo will backup junior Lee Skinner. Junior Jake Stockman is listed as the starter at inside linebacker in place of Bean.

Stockman, who tied for third on the team in tackles last Saturday against Western Michigan with five, will be backed up by sophomore Travis Pitzonka, the Lancaster product. Pitzonka has appeared in all six games and has assisted on two tackles.

On offense, redshirt freshman Dan Collura will back up senior Jasen Carlson (Southwestern) at left guard in place of redshirt freshman Todd Therrien (Williamsville East) who has been moved to center. Therrien, a former defensive lineman who was converted to the offensive line in training camp, is now ahead of redshirt freshman Andrew Borruso as the backup to Trevor Sales at center.       

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Video: UB coach Bobby Hurley discusses upcoming basketball season

Like father, like son?

By Rodney McKissic

When first-year UB coach Bobby Hurley is out recruiting he’s often asked if his coaching touch is similar to the relentless, no-nonsense approach of his father’s. The answer is no.

Some recruits have seen the 2010 documentary “The Street Stops Here” which features Bobby Hurley, Sr.’s 2007-08 St. Anthony’s High School championship team in which Hurley, Sr.’s in-your-face style with his players is on full display.

There’s yelling, lots of yelling, and players ran sprints while wiping the floor with towels. No one is bigger than the program as Mike Rosario learned when Hurley benched him on the day he learned he was named to the McDonald’s All-American team. Rosario’s offense was bad body language.

Hurley, who played for his father in the late 80s, remembers feeling his father’s wrath.

“I came in with the wrong body language that he didn’t like and I ran around the court for an entire practice,” Hurley said. “I think I ran a mini-marathon.”

But Hurley, Sr. is one of a handful of high school coaches enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame because he gets the most out of his players including Bobby, one of five St. Anthony’s players who were drafted in the first round of the NBA.

“It made you tougher,” Hurley said. “It made you stronger.”

Notes from Big 4 Media Day: Women's Basketball

by Amy Moritz

With only a few weeks until the start of the college basketball season, the Big 4 held its second annual media day at First Niagara Center.

On the women's side, expectations are high for the University at Buffalo, Niagara is moving to a new tempo of play, Canisius is looking for its seniors to step up and St. Bonaventure hopes to grow the experience of its sophomore class.

Highlights from the day's interview sessions:

University at Buffalo: Last year at this time, coach Felisha Legette-Jack was happy she had learned the names of her players. And last year at this time, those players were trying to figure out the craziness of their passionate new head coach.

After a year together which included a win over Miami (Ohio) in the Mid-American Conference tournament and a near upset of Akron, the Bulls are experienced and poised to make a run in the MAC. Among the leaders will be sophomore Mackenzie Loesing, who was named the Preseason Big 4 Player of the Year.

"She's relaxed a little more," Legette-Jack said. "She's working hard at trying to get better, trying to understand the system a little bit more but it's not nerve-wracking. She's not wondering, 'Where is coach coming from?' She's really in a great place. I think they all are.

"Last year, we played every game like it was our first kiss. We were like WOW. This year they’ve already been through it. They already understand the trenches. They already understand their crazy coach. They already know the passion that’s necessary for us to make our team relevant. That kind of nervousness isn’t going to be part of our game plan anymore." 

Niagara: Get ready to swivel your head when watching a Purple Eagles' game this season. Coach Kendra Faustin said her team is changing styles to take advantage of the newly added 10-second backcourt violation in the women's game. Niagara is moving to a more uptempo game with more full-court pressing and less structure in the half-court offensive set. 

Playing a key role in that change will be junior guard Meghan McGuinness. She averaged 9.6 points last year but 11.3 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference games as she settled into her confidence later in the season. Faustin sees a change in McGuinness, a readiness to start the season mentally strong.

"Always works hard. Always has a great summer. Always in shape," Faustin said of McGuinness. "I think she’s learned a lot over the last two years. Her freshman year she didn’t play very much early. She got herself together mentally and performed really well at the end of the season. Same thing last year. She was not approaching the game in the right way mentally. She was worried about her playing time, worried about the points she was supposed to score, and really struggled until the end of the year. I think she’s ready to make that change and come at it from the beginning of the year."

Canisius: The Golden Griffins have fielded plenty of talent in recent years, but their record hasn't reflected that fact. Coach Terry Zeh challenged his senior class, which hasn't reached .500 overall or in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, to change that legacy.

The sense of urgency is high with seniors Jen Morabito, Jamie Ruttle and Jen Lennox along with Courtney VandeBovenkamp, a member of that class but a redshirt junior after missing last season with a knee injury.

"We sat down at the end of last year and I said when we recruited you, we thought this was a pretty good recruiting class," Zeh said. "All of you are great students, great people. You’re community service is through the roof. But yet we haven’t had the success on the court that we would like to have with your group. So you’ve got to make a decision. Do you want to be the group of great girls who are really good students and good people and that’s what you graduate with or do you want to make a difference on the court? And they were very confident they wanted to make a difference."

St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies are coming off a difficult season where upperclassmen leadership was lacking, resulting in releasing Doris Ortega and CeCe Dixon from the program, and where a talented freshman class had to find a way to play together, quickly.

The Bonnies are still looking to accelerate the learning process for its sophomore class and while they may take some lumps again this season, are looking to take another step forward. Senior Chelsea Bowker returns after redshirting last season with an ankle injury. The forward is seventh on the school's career three-point list with 146.

Expectations are also high for sophomore forward Katie Healy (Lancaster) who started in 16 of the 29 games she played, averaging 8.6 points and 5.6 rebounds a game.

"Katie had a terrific summer," Bona coach Jim Crowley said. "She could be one of the best players we’ve had in our program and you’re not supposed to say that. She’s struggling with that expectation at times. When she just kind of goes and lets her competitiveness take over and lets her skill take over, she can do a lot of things. ... She’s got a lot of talent. She’s just got to keep growing as a player... She needs to have a big year. We as coaches have to be able to help her handle that. Her teammates have full faith in her and she'll get there."

Predictions don't bother Bonnies

By Rodney McKissic

Preseason annual magazines haven’t been kind to St. Bonaventure with many picking the Bonnies to finish in the basement of the 13-team Atlantic 10. Mark Schmidt’s response: What else is new?

“It’s typical, it’s always been like that,” the Bonnies coach said. “We’re not going to get the respect and we understand that and we’re not going to worry about the polls. All the magazine and media stuff is for the media, it’s for the alumni to sell magazines. We don’t go into game against someone who was picked eighth and say, ‘Oh my God, they’re picked eighth, we’re going to lose.’ The game is played between the lines.”

Besides, they still have players who played complimentary roles on the 2012 A-10 Tournament championship team like guards Matthew Wright, Charlon Kloof, Jordan Gathers and center Youssou Ndoye. Also, sixth-year senior Marquise Simmons suffered a season-ending Achilles tear that year.

“We have a number of guys who have been there, they weren’t man guys, they were role players,” Schmidt said. “Those role players have to become go-to guys and that’s going to be the challenge for this year. But they’ve been there and you can’t beat experience.”  

Niagara newcomers expected to make an impact

By Rodney McKissic

After several players transferred from Niagara following the departure of Joe Mihalich to Hofstra, first-year coach Chris Casey had to hit the recruiting trail to replenish the roster, and his primary selling point was immediate playing time.

“They’re going to have to play a significant role, maybe more quickly than in a normal situation but that’s fine,” Casey said. “That’s why we recruited them to play.”

Casey has been most pleased with 6-5 freshman forward Ramone Snowden, 6-2 guard Wesley Myers, 6-0 redshirt freshman guard Cameron Fowler, a transfer from Iowa State and 6-8 senior Marcus Ware, who graduated from Monmouth and has one season of eligibility remaining.

“Those guys are a little bit ahead more than others at this point, but they’ve all done a good job and I see them all helping us at points during the year,” Casey said.    

Perez gives Canisius experience

By Rodney McKissic

The most impressive and experienced newcomer at Canisius is senior guard Chris Perez, who graduated from Stetson and will use his final season of eligibility with the Golden Griffins.

The 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Santiago, Dominican Republic, who turns 23 on Wednesday, was an All-Atlantic Sun second team selection last season after averaging 15.1 points and 4.1 rebounds.

He ranked eighth in the A-Sun in scoring, 12th in field-goal percentage (.486), and 13th in steals (1.1).

Perez is expected to take on the role vacated by the graduation of Isaac Sosa, the Griffs third leading scorer behind Baron and Harold Washington and second behind Washington in 3-point shooting percentage (.409)

“He’s very physical and very aggressive,” said Canisius coach Jim Baron on Perez, who was also 13th in the A-Sun in offensive rebounds (1.9). “I think he’ll compliment the guys that we have because he works so hard. He’s a guy who’s a proven scorer. … When you graduate Harold Washington, Isaac Sosa, Alshwan Hymes and Reggie Groves you going to have to fill that void and that’s what we’re looking forward to doing.”

Loesing, Baron named Big 4 Presesaon Players of the Year

by Amy Moritz

Mackenzie Loesing of the University at Buffalo and Billy Baron of Canisius were named the Presesaon All-Big 4 Players of the Year this morning.

Loesing played in all 32 games for the Bulls last year including 25 starts as a freshman. She led Buffalo in scoring with her 11.6 points per game average the best by a Buffalo freshman since 1988-89. Loesing scored in double figures in eight of the Bulls last nine games, including a career-high 24 points in a Mid-American Conference tournament win over Miami (Ohio).

Baron averaged 17.2 points a game leading Canisius to a 20-win season and a CIT quarterfinal appearance. His 5.0 assists per game led the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Baron became the first Golden Griffin in more than 25 seasons to score 30-plus points in three different games.

Joining Loesing on the All-Big 4 women's preseason first team were Rachel Gregory (Buffalo), Jamie Ruttle (Canisius), Meghan McGuinness (Niagara) and Katie Healy (St. Bonaventure).

Second team selections were Cherridy Thornton (Buffalo), Kayla Hoohuili (Canisius), Jen Morabito (Canisius), Kelly Van Leeuwen (Niagara) and Chelsea Bowker (St. Bonaventure).

Joining Baron on the All-Big 4 men's preseason first team were Javon McCrea (Buffalo), Will Regan (Buffalo), Chris Manhertz (Canisius) and Antoine Mason (Niagara).

Second team selections were Jarod Oldham (Buffalo), Jordan Heath (Canisius), Marvin Jordan (Niagara), Matthew Wright (St. Bonaventure) and Youssou Ndoye (St. Bonaventure).

The teams were voted on by media members and athletic communications staff who cover Buffalo, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure. 

NCAA Tournament tickets go on sale Saturday

By Rodney McKissic

Tickets for the second and third rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at First Niagara Center will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Saturday said Rich Ensor, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference commissioner.

First Niagara Center is one of eight sites hosting second and third round games which will be played with a Thursday-Saturday format on March 20 and 22.

According to the Niagara Center website, a ticket for all three sessions costs between $198 and $252 before fees.

“We’re always excited to be involved in the NCAA and it allows us to show to the NCAA the great facility we have here in Buffalo,” said Ensor on Monday during the Big 4 Basketball Media Day at the First Niagara Center. “It’s something that excites the fans.”

Buffalo was a huge winner the last time the Tournament was held here in 2010.

Of the eight venues that held games in the first and second rounds, Buffalo had the highest attendance, with a total of 56,535 fans for an average of 18,845. The local average was higher than Salt Lake City's, which held West Regional semifinal and finals games in front of an average of 17,420. The other regionals were held in high-capacity domes, including Reliant Stadium in Houston, which seats more than 71,000 for football.

“As in the past, we want to sell out this building,” Ensor said. “It’s important for our fans moving forward that this arena be filled and be exciting.”

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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 |

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 |