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Big 4 Hoops: Youth movement in full force for Golden Griffins


Where the Program Stands: Canisius is rebuilding under second-year coach Reggie Witherspoon after losing three starters and 56 percent of its scoring.

2016-17 Record: 18-16, 10-10 (7th Metro Atlantic).

Players lost: G Kassius Robertson (16.1 ppg), F Phil Valenti (14.0), G Kiefer Douse (10.9), G Martin Dixon-Green (2.4), G Chris Atkinson (2.3).

Outlook: Canisius will have one of the youngest teams in the country, with four freshmen and four sophomores, and all of them figure to see playing time. The leader is senior forward Jermaine Crumpton, a third-team all-MAAC pick. Sophomore point guard Malik Johnson made the all-freshman team. He knows how to run Witherspoon’s offense. Sophomore wing Isaiah Reese, who scored 19 in the MAAC Tournament loss to St. Peter’s, becomes a starter with the transfer of Robertson to Missouri.

Robertson’s departure as a graduate student was a blow. But Canisius was going young this year no matter what. In the big picture, his departure speeds the development of Reese and others. Spencer Foley is a dead-eye who will play more as he develops more strength. The Griffs last week got a commitment from junior-college transfer Jonathan Sanks, a 6-4 shooting guard from Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist College. He shot 44.9 percent on threes. Witherspoon's offense can't have too many shooters to space the floor.

Freshmen: Two key freshmen who will get the chance to contribute a lot immediately are D.J. Heath and Takal Molson. Canisius may well play two point guards at the same time a bunch because Witherspoon scored a recruiting coup in landing D.J. Heath, rated the No. 27 point guard in the nation by Heath helped his Alabama high school team to three straight state titles. Witherspoon had been on Heath’s recruiting trail two years ago when he was an aide at Alabama. Heath excels in transition. So should Molson, the 6-5 wing who was a star at St. Mary’s of Lancaster and spent last year at a prep school in Tampa, Fla.

The hope is that Reese, Heath and Molson bring the kind of athleticism that eventually allows Canisius to better compete with MAAC power Iona. Two other freshman have promising size. Scott Hitchon of Whitby, Ont., is 6-8 and plays a rugged style. He held offers from Iona and Siena. Jelanni White, a 6-7 wing from New Haven, Conn., is an athlete who can play above the rim. Patience will be needed with the freshman, especially with White and Hitchon.

Low post: What Canisius can expect inside from sophomore Dantai St. Louis and senior Selvedin Planincic is a mystery.

Big 4 Hoops: Two new veterans could put UB in hunt again

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