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DESPITE REASONS TO LEAVE, SHAUNA STICKS WITH GRIFFS

Dave Geronzin always knew his daughter would leave their home in Clinton, Iowa. So it wasn't too surprising when Shauna chose to continue her basketball career some 700 miles away in Buffalo.

It's just surprising that she stayed.

The 6-foot sophomore forward had two very respectable reasons to forget about Canisius College and return home.

First, there was the coaching change and the natural misgivings when Kara Rehbaum and her staff, which recruited Geronzin, was replaced by Mike Decillis just before her freshman year.

Then, after an amazing season with the Griffs that ended in her being named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year, Geronzin suffered another setback in the summer when her mother, Ann, was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer.

But each time, Geronzin elected to stay at Canisius, and each time it has proven to be her best recourse.

"Maybe she surprised people the way that she's stuck it out, but that's the way Shauna's gonna be," her father said, sitting in the bleachers of the Koessler Center waiting to watch his first Canisius game of the season.

"I doubt, well, she might come back to Iowa. I don't know. That's a possibility. But I think if there's something that she wants to do because it's someplace else or because it's something new she's not going to be afraid to do it now. And that's a good thing."

Her first challenge in surviving the twists of fate came when Rehbaum and assistant Chris Cunningham left Canisius in May 1998. Cunningham was the coach who recruited Geronzin after seeing her play in an invitation-only camp run by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association in St. Louis and Geronzin quickly grew fond of the assistant coach.

Then the summer phone call came. Both Rehbaum and Cunningham would be leaving the school.

"At first I didn't know what to think," Shauna recalled. "I liked her a lot and I guess I was pretty upset, but it never even entered my mind to not come here. I was upset because I got along with them well and then, I didn't know what to expect (from Decillis)."

But Geronzin flourished under Decillis, averaging 15 points and 7.7 rebounds a game off the bench. She was named third-team All-MAAC and was selected to the All-MAAC Tournament team.

This season, she's averaging 17.7 points and 10.1 rebounds for the 4-5 Griffs, and she earned a MAAC Player of the Week award.

"Actually, Mike is an excellent coach for Shauna," Dave Geronzin said. "Sometimes she can have a tendency to get fancy and flamboyant and that's just the way she is. That's the type of player she is. And Mike, I think, tries to keep her in line and get her back to the basics and Shauna needs that."

More than her time on the court, she appreciates the weekly meetings with Decillis where they discuss everything from increasing her assists to her mother's health.

"I think I had an OK season (last year) but there are lots of things I didn't do. I was pretty predictable and would do the same thing," Shauna said.

"I'm the kind of person who never thinks I have a great game. I'm never satisfied . . . with Mike, he tells me what he wants, what I've done wrong and what I've done right. What I need to work on.

"We'll talk about my mom and he'll say he'll do anything he can to help. I stayed home an extra day at Thanksgiving . . . he's very understanding; he totally understands."

Geronzin's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in May, a week after her parents returned from their 25th anniversary vacation to Mexico. Her disease is an inflammatory form that strikes less than 5 percent of breast cancer patients. Conventional chemotherapy proved ineffective so earlier this month Ann underwent a bone marrow stem cell transplant and began intensive chemotherapy.

She was still at the University of Iowa hospital when her husband, an electrician, flew to Buffalo earlier this month to see Shauna play for the Griffs in home games against Idaho State and Wright State. Both were wins for Canisius.

And while the family's thoughts are with her, clearly Ann Geronzin's thoughts are with Shauna.

"I thought maybe I shouldn't (come to Buffalo) because this period of time is kind of a critical time but there's no way she was going to let me not go," Dave Geronzin said. "It bothers her that Shauna's out here because she thinks Shauna's going to worry about what's going on. She felt strongly that I come and support Shauna. Right now, that's important to her and I made her happier by coming out here and doing this than staying there with her."

Shauna also knows her mother wants her focused on life at Canisius and not on health issues back home.

"It's hard . . . I try not to think about it when I play, but there are days when that's not easy," she said. "I know she wouldn't want me to dwell on it.

"I don't think I was ever homesick . . . this year has been harder and I do sometimes want to go home. You take your family for granted when you're with them every day. Even the situation with my mom, it makes you look at everything so differently. I don't take anything for granted. It's made me grow up and, in a way, maybe the distance has strengthened it."

Shauna knows that in the big scheme of things, basketball is only a game. But that doesn't make any less a competitor when she's on the court.

"I still really hate to lose," she said.

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