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Griffs' top recruit wavers after MacDonald firing

The firing of Mike MacDonald could cost Canisius its top recruit.

Fairport High School center Cory Magee signed with Canisius in November but says he's in a wait-and-see mode after MacDonald's dismissal.

The Canisius coach called Magee to inform him of his firing minutes after Fairport advanced to the Class AA Far West Regionals on Wednesday night by beating Greece Athena.

"It stinks," the 6-foot-8 Magee said Saturday after Fairport's loss to Niagara Falls in the Far West Regionals at Buffalo State. "I guess they wanted to make a move because of their record, but I went from one emotional high of our win to an emotional low in a pretty short period."

Magee had 12 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday's 68-59 defeat, showcasing his ferocious, elbows-out rebounding style that made him attractive to many schools. Magee and Rush-Henrietta guard Calvin Betts, a University at Buffalo signee, are two of the top players in the Rochester area. Magee is generally considered the best big man in Section V.

Canisius, Siena and St. Bonaventure were his final three college choices. But if Magee asks for his release from Canisius, the school likely will not allow him to pursue Bona, UB or any rival in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference such as Siena.

"We definitely want to meet the new coach," said Fairport coach Scott Fitch. "Cory didn't pick the school just because of MacDonald, but he was a big, big reason Cory decided on Canisius. If we feel it's a good fit with their new coach, he'll probably stay. Otherwise, we're back to the drawing board a little bit."

"I'm close to coach MacDonald, and he became more of a friend than anything," Magee said. "I'm going to take a few days to clear my head and evaluate my options. When they get a new coach, I'll see what his plan is."

Canisius senior Kevin Downey, whose brother Kyle plays for Fairport, talked often with Magee during the recruiting process and the season.

"I want to see what Cory is thinking," said Downey, who attended Saturday's game. "We'll talk some more."

Magee said he has already developed close bonds with returning Canisius players Darnell Wilson, Joe Young and Bret Wackerly. But Young and Wackerly, who just completed their freshman seasons, are known to be disturbed by MacDonald's dismissal and might transfer.

"It would be cool to get a Canisius alum in there as coach," Magee said. "It's such a tight-knit place. The alumni love the school so much, and it would be a good thing for them. That might make the whole thing more attractive to me."

Another signee, 6-3 guard Jovan Robinson of Boston, is also unsure of what he might do. But David Johnson, a 6-4 guard from Detroit, is expected to honor his letter of intent and come to Canisius. He had a huge senior year for Bishop Foley, getting named to Michigan's Class C All-State team.

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Penn State-Behrend coach Dave Niland, one of the prominent names mentioned in the coaching search, says he will not be a candidate.

Niland, a former Golden Griffins assistant under John Beilein and the son of ex-Canisius coach Joe Niland, is staying at the Erie, Pa., school where he has won 219 games in 12 seasons.

"I love the level I'm at. I'm in a great situation here at a progressive institution," Niland said by phone. "I love Canisius but I have a lot of young players here and I've made a commitment to them."

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Downey on MacDonald's firing: "Guys blame themselves for the season. We had a lot of expectations and put pressure on ourselves and didn't live up to it. We all had a hand in it. Coach Mac was our leader, and he took the heat for it. It's sad."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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