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Another Niagara Update

By BOB DICESARE

The mass exodus from the Niagara basketball program continued over the weekend as freshman forward TJ Cline tweeted that he's landed at Richmond of the Atlantic 10. That came on the heels of the anticipated news that all-MAAC guard Juan'ya Green and his lifelong friend and Niagara teammate Ameen Tanksley both are joining former Purple Eagles coach Joe Mihalich at Hofstra. They will sit out next season and be eligible in 2014-15.

Continue reading "Another Niagara Update" »

Source: Cline will transfer to Richmond

By Rodney McKissic

The mass exedous from Niagara in the wake of Joe Mihalich's departure continues with freshman T.J. Cline giving a verbal commitment to attend Richmond according to a source.

Cline, the son of Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, visited Charlotte last week and informed the 49ers staff on Saturday that he would attend Richmond. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Cline was named to the MAAC All-Rookie Team after averaging 7.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 33 games. He also led the Purple Eagles in 3-point shooting percentage with 33.6 percent.

Cline must sit out the 2013-14 season per NCAA transfer rules, but will have three seasons of eligibility remaining. The news comes just days after Juan'ya Green and Ameen Tanksley joined Mihalich at Hofstra.


The Ins and Outs at Niagara

By BOB DICESARE

Niagara coach Chris Casey has landed his first recruit as he strives to stablize a Niagara basketball program that continues to be hit by defections.

Niagara has signed Karonn Davis,  6-2 combo guard from Friends Central near Philly, but sources say the Purple Eagles are losing senior-to-be Malcolm Lemmons, who has elected to transfer. Lemmons, a reserve guard, joins All-MAAC guard Juan'ya Green and rebounding leader Ameen Tanksley on the transfer wagon that's crowding since coach Joe Mihalich was announced as the new head coach at Hofstra. Sources say Green and Tanksley are preparing to visit Hofstra, which was not forbidden when they were granted their transfers by the Purple Eagles.

Could another defection be forthcoming?

Continue reading "The Ins and Outs at Niagara" »

Green, Tanksley Leaving Niagara

By Bob DiCesare

When coach Joe Mihalich left Niagara for Hofstra last month Purple Eagle fans could take comfort in the wealth of talent he was leaving behind.

It’s time to get uncomfortable.

All-conference guard Juan’ya Green and rebounding leader Ameen Tanksley have been granted transfer requests and are leaving the university, athletic department spokesman Derick Thornton confirmed today. The two sophomores are Philadelphia natives and lifelong friends.

Continue reading "Green, Tanksley Leaving Niagara" »

Gregg signs with Bonnies

---St. Bonaventure announced the signing of Denzel Gregg, a 6-foot-7 forward from Syracuse, who played his last two seasons at St. Thomas More Prep School in Connecticut.

Gregg helped St. Thomas to a 24-8 record and a spot in the National Prep School Tournament semifinals this past season. Gregg averaged 12 points and six rebounds a game for a balanced team that featured 10 players who received college scholarships.

“We’re most excited about Denzel's tremendous upside,” Schmidt said in a statement released by the school about the 17-year-old Gregg. “He's a long, athletic forward whose versatility will allow him to guard multiple positions at the defensive end and create mismatches on the offensive side of the ball.”

ESPN College Basketball analysts graded Gregg as one the top-125 class of 2013 forwards in the nation, and the New England Basketball Recruiting Report ranked him as the No. 22 overall prospect in his class.

An ESPN analyst had the following to say about the 195-pound senior:

“Gregg is an explosive athlete with incredible leaping ability. He's as quick off his feet as he is high above the rim, a terrific lob catcher and the type of finisher who can instantly change the momentum of a game.”

Gregg is St. Bonaventure’s first commitment this year.

---Rodney McKissic

Niagara hires Casey

Niagara named Chris Casey its new men’s basketball coach Monday, ending a 12-day search to replace Joe Mihalich, who departed for Hofstra after 15 seasons.

Casey spent the last three seasons at Long Island University Post, where he took the Pioneers to two Division II NCAA Tournaments in 2012 and 2013, finishing with a 62-25 record.  In 2011-12, Casey was named East Coast Conference coach of the year and the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Division II coach of the year.

This season, LIU Post finished with an 18-9 record and finished tied for second in the conference with a 13-5 ECC record, which was a determining factor Niagara, which returns its core group after claiming the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season championship.

All of Niagara’s players attended Monday’s press conference to announce Casey’s hiring and Casey has three scholarships to fill. The Purple Eagles last NCAA appearance was in 2007.

---Rodney McKissic

Big 4 players honored by NABC

Niagara's Juan'ya Green and Antoine Mason, Canisius' Billy Barron and UB's Javon McCrea were all named to the NABC Division I All-District teams which were announced today.

Green and Baron were named to the District 1 first team with Iona's Lamont Jones, Siena's O.D. Anosike and Stony Brook's Tommy Brenton. Mason was on the second team with Loyola's Erik Etherly, Boston University's D.J. Irving, Fairfield's Derek Needham and Stony Brook's Jameel Warney.

McCrea was on the District 14 first team along with Ohio's D.J. Cooper, Akron's Zeke Marshall, Toledo's Rian Pearson and Kent State's Chris Evans.

---Rodney McKissic

Canisius-Elon Game Wrap

CIT
First Round
Canisius 69, Elon 53

How Canisius Won: The Griffs are the more seasoned team and it played out that way. The Griffs forced 19 turnovers and came up with 11 steals and more than doubled the Phoenix in points scored off turnovers, 20-8. Elon placed third in the SoCon, the 27th-ranked conference in the country. They can be dangerous if they're hitting from three. But they weren't.

Player of the Game: Senior guard Harold Washington had that gleam in his eye from the opening tip. He went for 19 points, hitting 7 of 10 from the field.

Best Supporting Role: The Phoenix have some versatile big men but 6-10 Jordan Heath put them in their place. He scored 13 points, stepped outside for a pair of threes and swatted away five shots.

Best Player (Losing Effort): Elon has a nice player in 6-7 junior Ryley Beaumont, one of those versatile bigs. He had a 20 points and 12 boards -- both game highs. He also commited a game-high six turnovers, a reflection of how much he handles the ball.

What It Means: A postseason win for Canisius, its first since 1995. Elon finished 21-12.

Stat Check: Canisius was outrebounded 48-37 but it wasn't to fret about. When the opponent goes 9 of 34 from behind the arc there's going to be long rebounds difficult to chase down.

Stat Check II: Elon's 29.4 shooting percentage was the worst of the season by a Canisius opponent.

They Said It

Canisius coach Jim Baron on the effectiveness of the Griffs press: "We wanted to make them turn it over and I thought we did a great job forcing 19 turnovers. Again, I've always been a big believer of up-tempo, and we really stepped it up and I think it really got us going."

Baron on Washington: "It's amazing when you continue to play, guys that love to play the game, it doesn't matter, you know what I mean? You're still playing. You're career's still going. I told them, this is what, the first time in 18 years. You're part of Canisius history."

Washington on the press: "Just switching it up defensively threw them off guard. I think that's something we should do a lot more of, just throwing different things at teams, make them change up their strategy."

Jordan Heath on Baron's birthday: "We sang to him in the locker room."

Washington: "Where was I?"

-- Bob DiCesare

Postseason Hoops Honors

Catching up on some postseason honors that have been doled out while awaiting the start of the UB women's second-round MAC Tournament game against Miami here in Cleveland:

Ohio senior guard D.J. Cooper was named MAC Player of the Year today and Akron's Keith Dambrot was named Coach of the Year. I voted for both of them.

I was extremely high on UB's Javon McCrea but when the Bulls failed to finish .500 in conference I couldn't bring myself to cast the vote. And Cooper won me over with that go-ahead 3 he hit from Getzville in Ohio's 72-69 win at Alumni on March 5. Plus, Cooper will go down as one of the best guards in MAC history. It seemed kind of crazy he might leave never having won the award. So I'll admit it. Career achievement factored into my vote.

As for Dambrot, when you win the conference and put together a 19-game winning streak you don't leave much room for debate. Plus, I admired the way he responded to the Alex Abreu arrest that's probably going to cost the Zips an at-large if they don't win it all here.

The All-MAC first team consists of McCrea, Cooper, Akron center Zeke Marshall, Kent State forward Chris Evans and Toledo guard Rian Pearson. I believe that's exactly how I had it on my preseason ballot although ultimately Evans didn't make the preseason first-team.

UB's Jarryn Skeete was on the all-freshman team.

On the women's side, UB had two players receive honorable mention: freshman Mackenzie Loesing and sophomore Christa Baccas. Loesing also mad the all-freshman team.

* * * * *

In the MAAC, Coach of the Year Joe Mihalich is one of 20 finalists for the Skip Prosser Award given by collegeinsider.com. The award was initiated in 2008 and goes to a coach who achieves success on the court and demonstrates moral integrity off the court.
Western New York native and former ECC and Canisius coach John Beilein of Michigan also is a finalist.

Also from collegeinsider.com, Niagara's Juan'ya Green and Billy Baron of Canisius were tabbed as MAAC co-MVPs.

-- Bob DiCesare

Niagara-Iona Game Wrap (MAAC semis)

MAAC Semifinals
Iona 79, Niagara 72

How Iona Won: The Gaels dominated the inside, making it imperative for Niagara to shoot it well from the outside. That didn't happen. The Purple Eagles launched 33 shots from behind the arc and made just seven. They were 21 of 36 on two-pointers. What's more, Niagara scored just 12 points off 14 Iona turnovers.

Player of the Game: David Laury, Iona's 6-8 sophomore forward, was sensational. He had 20 points and 17 rebounds, giving him 44 points and 33 rebounds in two games against the Purple Eagles.

Best Supporting Role: Taaj Ridley, Laury's front-court mate, is benefiting from the room that opens because of Laury's presence. His 16 points were two off his season high.

Best Player (Losing Effort): With Tahjere McCall out injured, Marvin Jordan played all but a few seconds, scored 11 points and handed out six assists. And no turnovers.

Ellis Island: The Gaels don't develop freshman. They scour the country for players looking to transfer. Momo Jones came from Arizona. Tavon Sledge from Iowa State. Ridley, Laury and Tre Bowman were juco players. The only Gaels who came straight from high school: freshman A.J. English and junior Sean Armand.

Stat Check: Iona shot just five second-half threes to Niagara's 15. They both made two.

What It Means: Iona, an NCAA at-large team last year, looks to secure a second straight trip to The Dance with a win in Monday night's MAAC title game against Manhattan. The Jaspers are only the second No. 6 seed to tourney history to make the final. Niagara will play in the NIT, its prize for winning the conference regular-season crown.

They Said It

Niagara's Antoine Mason picked up his third foul when Momo Jones drew a charge with 6:17 remaining. Here's Jones:

"I've known him since I was a young kid. He's a power player. I knew he wanted to go right and I kept telling coach, 'Coach, all he wants to do is go right. All he wants to do is go right.' That was just the mindset. Make him go right. Take a charge. I think he had maybe two or three at that time and I knew if I could get that charge he would slow down and not be as aggressive as he was. I think that charge really set him back and he wasn't as aggressive as he was early on."

Iona coach Tim Cluess: "When we have four of five guys giving us good contributions and other guys coming off our bench and helping us in different roles then we're a pretty good basketball team. And right now we're a pretty good team."

Niagara coach Joe Mihalich: "Our hearts our broken. At the same time, as I said to the guys, at the same time there's a lot of guys whose hearts are broken and they've turned their uniforms in. We're not doing that."

Mason on Niagara's second-half shooting woes: "We just didn't hit them in the second half. The first half everything was going in. We got to make sure if it's not going in we got to mix it up."

-- Bob DiCesare

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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