The Big Picture: This was supposed to be a year when Canisius pushed into the upper half of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and rated consideration as a sleeper for the conference title. Now there are huge question marks as two starters (guard Dewitt Doss and forward Toby Foster) are sidelined with broken bones in their feet.
Doss should be back in four to six weeks, but Foster might redshirt and play his senior season in 2003-04. Without them, the offense is jumbled and the depth is suddenly slim.
Regardless of the troubles the Griffs may experience during the season, remember this stat nugget: They have six wins in the MAAC Tournament the past three years, more than any team in the conference except Iona.
Last year, Canisius became just the second No. 8 seed to oust No. 1 in the quarterfinals with an 85-84 overtime upset of Rider. The Griffs lost to Niagara in the semifinals.
What's Up: Everything revolves around 6-foot-4 senior point guard Brian Dux, an Orchard Park native who figures to be an All-MAAC player this season. Dux averaged 10.4 points last season and was planning to look to score more anyway as a senior. The injuries to Foster and Doss make that a necessity.
It's a good thing coach Mike MacDonald made increased scoring from Dux one of the Griffs' priorities during their summer tour of Spain.
"That's been a big focal point, me shooting and being more aggressive overall," Dux said. "It's going to be game by game. In the past, that hasn't been my role, but I feel comfortable with that."
Dux could join former Griff star Craig Wise (1991 to '95) as the only players in school history to score at least 1,000 points and dish out at least 350 assists. Dux enters the season with 821 career points and 356 assists. He could finish as high as No. 2 in assists, behind only the 550 passed out by Bam Moore from 1993 to 1997.
"Getting him to score was a big focus going to Europe," MacDonald said. "Without (Doss and Foster), we won't score as much. He has to look to score."
The leading returning scorer is senior swingman Hodari Mallory (11.1 ppg), and some dead-eye three-point shooting will come from 6-3 freshman Kevin Downey, who redshirted last year after an ankle injury.
What's Down: Where else is offense going to come from? Foster and Doss combined to average 19 points per game, and Foster is the school's all-time leader in three-point goals (189). There aren't many replacements.
The frontcourt will rely on 6-6 Richard Jones, who wasn't used much as a freshman, 6-6 junior Jon Ferris and 6-8 junior college transfer Yaku Moton-Spruill to help ease the scoring load from Dux and Mallory.
"We'll miss Toby, and without him we're going to have a different look," Dux said. "We've got Rich (Jones) on the wing to come in there slashing, and that's what we need. We've seen him pick up a lot of loose-ball rebounds and score that way."
The 280-pound Moton-Spruill, from the Detroit area, gives Canisius the bulk it hasn't had since Darren Fenn graduated two years ago, but his weight makes stamina a question. The rest of the frontcourt help is untested.
"We have to discover ourselves," MacDonald said. "We're going to have to count on guys who either are freshmen or, like Jones, are freshman in a lot of ways because they haven't played much. We need to see something from a different guy every night."
Outlook: It's an iffy proposition, especially with a nonleague schedule that includes Saint Joseph's, St. Bonaventure, Notre Dame and Syracuse. Foster has plenty of critics who say he's a defensive liability and nothing but a stand-behind-the-arc-and-fire player. But the fact is Canisius is better when he's on the floor.
The Griffs' four-game slide at midseason last year, which ultimately sentenced them to the MAAC's play-in round, came when Foster was out with foot problems.
Scoring from Jones or Downey is the intangible that would really take pressure off Dux. And better interior play is a must.
Because of the injuries, figure on just 12 or 13 wins in the regular season. But, as MacDonald and Co. have proved in the past, watch out come March.
No. Name Pos Yr Ht
2 Hodari Mallory G/F Sr. 6-3
3 Kevin Downey G Fr. 6-3
11 Dewitt Doss G Jr. 5-10
12 Brian Dux G Sr. 6-4
15 Jon Connelly G Fr. 6-4
21 Luke Hedges C So. 6-10
22 Chris Ravello G So. 6-3
23 Toby Foster F Sr. 6-6
25 Andrew Spitler G Fr. 6-2
31 Richard Jones F So. 6-6
32 Tom Perkovich F Sr. 6-6
34 Ron Wyatt F Fr. 6-8
40 Aaron Hayes F Fr. 6-4
42 Mike Hanley F/C Fr. 6-10
44 Yaku Moton-Spruill F Jr. 6-8
50 Jon Ferris F Jr. 6-6
Head Coach: Mike MacDonald
Assistants: Terry Zeh, Adam Stockwell, Tyrone Thomas