Canisius freshman Takal Molson has been named MAAC Rookie of the Year, the first Golden Griffin player to take home the award since Frank Turner shared the honor with Siena’s Edwin Ubiles in the 2006-07 season.
Molson’s immediate impact as a freshman has been a major factor in Canisius’ rise to the top of the MAAC this season. The Griffs’ 21 total wins ties the school record for wins in a regular season, while their 15 MAAC victories set a new program record.
Canisius finished the regular season tied with Rider for the top spot in the league at 15-3, marking the first time since the 1993-94 season the Golden Griffins have earned a share of the regular-season title.
Molson finished the regular season third on the team in scoring with 12.6 ppg. The Buffalo native also added 4.9 rebounds per game, 2.6 assists per game, and 1.1 steals per game while connecting on 44.8% of his field goal attempts and shooting 38.6% from behind the arc. His 392 total points this season are the most for a Canisius freshman since Ray Hall had 454 during the 1981-82 campaign.
Molson finished second among all MAAC rookies in scoring, trailing only Rider’s Jordan Allen who capped the season with 13.6 ppg. However, it was clear Molson’s well-rounded game pushed him over the top, as he led Allen in both rebounds and assists.
“We ask him to do a lot and he embraces it,” head coach Reggie Witherspoon said of Molson. “He hasn’t run from it and he doesn’t back down from it…He’s another one of those guys that can impact the game in a number of different ways.”
Molson won MAAC Rookie of the Week honors four times over the course of the season, including the final award last week. In the Griffs’ season-finale against Marist, Molson poured in a game-high 24 points with six rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocked shots while connecting on all four of his three-point attempts.
The Griffs’ rookie bookended his inaugural campaign with tremendous efforts. Molson’s career-high 25 points at Buffalo in his debut marked the most points for a Canisius true freshman in his first game since Canisius Hall of Famer Darrell Barley scored 17 against Duke on Dec. 1, 1992.
Before being named Rookie of the Year, Molson also became the second Golden Griffin in a row to be names to the All-MAAC Rookie Team. Sophomore Malik Johnson was named to the squad last year with a 4.4 apg average. Fellow sophomore Isaiah Reese missed out on the Rookie team last season, but more than made up for it this year as he was named to the All-MAAC First Team with a 16.8 ppg average.
Both Johnson and Reese have been guideposts for Molson throughout his rookie campaign, continually helping him along to this point.
“They make sure I’m keeping my head on straight,” Molson said of his teammates. “They’ve been through the ropes as freshmen. They tell me certain things during games, so I kind of expect what’s going to happen.”
“He kind of doesn’t really need help,” Reese said of Molson. “He kind of understands the game of basketball and even though he’s a freshman he plays at a very high level.”
Although most freshmen might take a while to get acclimated to the college game as well as a locker room full of older players, Molson’s focus has helped shape even his most experienced teammates.
“He brings this type of demeanor to the game, like this type of attitude,” Reese added. “It fans out when we’re in practice or even in the games and it just motivates you to be better. He definitely doesn’t play like a freshman.”
When asked in the middle of the year if he had his eyes set on eventually winning Rookie of the Year, Molson had the perfect response.
“That was my goal coming in, but at the same time if we’re winning that’s all that matters to me.”
With Canisius enjoying one of its most successful seasons in program history and Molson bringing the Rookie of the Year crown back to his native Buffalo, he can officially enjoy both.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.