A turnaround came quickly for Canisius in their first season under head coach Jim Baron. For a school that won a combined 20 games the two years before his arrival, Baron’s team won 20 games – the most for the school since 2001.
“We’re building and we’re trying to build continuity,” Baron said. “To try to maintain that is going to be a challenge.”
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the up and down style Baron adopted in his first season was Chris Manhertz. Manhertz improved to a 55% shooter from the field and blocked more shots (32) than he had in his previous two seasons combined. “He just elevated as we elevated,” Baron said of Manhertz’s junior season, where he grabbed 297 rebounds, the most in program history for a single player since 2000. Beside him will be leading shot blocker Jordan Heath who Baron would like to see become more aggressive.
“I love the way he plays,” Baron said of Heath. “I just want him to continue to be more aggressive. Be a shot blocker, run the floor, step out stretch the defense because he can shoot the three. I love guys that can score, especially bigs.”
Over the offseason the school added Stetson graduate transfer Chris Perez to go with a strong class of newcomers. Perez was named to the second team All-Atlantic Sun team after averaging 15.1 points per game in 30 starts. He and junior college transfer Jeremiah Williams who Baron called “quick as lightning” will look to take the pressure off of Billy Baron at the guard spot. The Golden Griffs also have front court depth in Josiah Heath and two redshirts from last year, Kevin Bleeker and Phil Valenti.
“I think we definitely have a lot more quality depth,” Baron said will be the difference in this team compared to last year. “I think that getting the ball inside because of Manhertz. He’s such a specimen inside and really working through him at times.”
For a team that ranked 154th nationally in adjusted tempo and fifth in conference play, Baron sees a chance for the 2014 team to be even more physical and aggressive in their up and down style.
Their expectations are as high as ever, as they aim to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996 and have back to back 20-win seasons for the first time since doing it in 1994 and 1995.
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.