Each year a senior at Canisius High School earns the distinction of being called “Mister Canisius.” It’s an honor bestowed upon the soon-to-be graduate who epitomizes what is best about their school. ¶ If “Mister Canisius” was simply a basketball award, Stafford Trueheart would be the obvious winner because he not only epitomizes what is best about the Crusaders but also what is great about scholastic basketball in Western New York. ¶ It is for that reason Trueheart has been selected as the 2016 Allen Wilson Player of the Year. The two-time All-Western New York first-team selection becomes the third student-athlete from Canisius to earn boys basketball player of the year honors from The News. Trueheart joins a list that includes Crusaders alumni Adam Weir (2013) and Darren Fenn (1997). ¶ “I think anyone that follows high school basketball and reads the newspaper … the basketball part speaks for itself,” said Canisius coach Kyle Husband of Trueheart. “He was our leader on both ends of the floor whether we were funneling things to him because he was such a great rim protector or getting him the ball in the post (to score and rebound). But also the great job he did off the floor in the locker room on road trips, the leadership he instilled in this basketball program will not be forgotten.” ¶ The All-Western New York team and Player of the Year are selected by The News in consultation with area coaches. ¶ The 6-foot-7 Trueheart averaged 20.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.5 blocks per contest in helping Canisius win a program-record 26 games, a second straight state Catholic Class A championship and second straight Manhattan Cup.
“It’s an honor to always be recognized by The Buffalo News and the coaches,” Trueheart said. “It shows that hard work paid off. I’m happy to be on the list with all the other great players.”
During a season in which many expected the defending state Class A Federation champions to take a step back due to the graduation losses of seniors LaTerrance Reed, Josh Huffman and TJ Wheatley, Trueheart became the backbone of a team that not only maintained its status as the News’ No. 1 large school but also came within two wins of becoming just the third Western New York program to capture back-to-back state Federation titles.
While Trueheart is an incredible athlete who has wowed fans and foes with his ability to play above the rim, he’s more than just a great dunker. He’s a fiery competitor willing to do whatever it takes to win – from adding the three-point shot to his offensive game to becoming a more confident and vocal team leader.
Trueheart’s best moments:
• In the Manhattan Cup Class A final – a 60-58 overtime win by the Crusaders over last year’s Federation Class B champion Park – Trueheart not only converted the game-tying basket to force overtime but also prevented the Pioneers from scoring potential game-winning baskets twice in the final seconds. He preserved a 55-55 tie in regulation by coming out of nowhere to swat away 6-8 Joe Jones’ short jumper just before the buzzer. With the Crusaders leading, 59-58, in the waning seconds of overtime, he denied Hunter Anderson’s driving layup bid. In between those blocks, he scored four of Canisius’ final five points.
• That’s not the only time he frustrated a very good Park team that suffered three of its four losses on the season to Canisius. In the teams’ much-ballyhooed first meeting, Park – then ranked first in the state ahead of the Crusaders – raced out to a 13-point first-half lead. Trueheart scored 17 of his game-high 28 points during the second half and also grabbed 18 rebounds as Canisius fashioned a 56-53 comeback triumph.
• Trueheart also had a big hand in dealing state public schools’ Class AA champion Aquinas half of its four losses. In the teams’ last meeting, Trueheart scored the game-winning basket with four seconds left in a 56-55 victory. In the teams’ first meeting, Trueheart went off for 25 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks en route to securing Keenan Tournament MVP honors in a 54-49 win.
Trueheart, who is expected to announce his college choice later this spring, finished as Canisius’ third all-time leading scorer with 1,345 points. He ranks as the Crusaders’ all-time leader in games played (96) and wins (83). In 51 games against Monsignor Martin competition, Trueheart helped Canisius win 50 times.
Including one season of varsity basketball as an eighth-grader at Christian Central, Trueheart scored 1,525 points in four-plus varsity seasons.
“That’s not by accident,” said Husband of Trueheart’s career numbers. “When it came time for him to produce, he was the man.”
That’s “Mister Canisius” to you.