Nickname: Golden Griffins
Affiliation: Metro Atlantic Athletic
Coach: Terry Zeh
2011-12 record: 12-18, 6-12
Allison Braun is the type of player who doesn’t overwhelm you with a impressive statists. But make no mistake, when she went down with a leg injury midway through the last season, the Golden Griffins were in trouble. What the senior guard brings to the team is difficult to quantify but makes all the difference on the floor.
“We got to early January and we were probably right about where I thought we would be,” coach Terry Zeh said. “We were right around the .500 mark. And then Allison went down and when Allison went down, we went down. People might look at that and say, ‘How can you say that? She’s averaged four points a game.’ Allison is the heart and soul of the team. So we ceased to get better in practice because she wasn’t there to toe the line for everybody. Therefore, along with our other injuries we started to regress and get worse instead of better.”
Braun returns this season healthy and ready to lead a Canisius team that ended last season on a six-game losing streak.
Part of the problem was injuries, not just the season-ender to Braun but a series of nagging ones throughout the lineup. Part of the problem was inexperience. Now it’s a matter of being a year better, not just a year older.
Junior Jamie Ruttle led the team in scoring (11.7 points per game). Also back is senior Ashley Durham, who averaged 9.6 points. Durham spent much of the time last season at point guard, an unnatural position for her. That was evident in her 127 assists to 138 turnovers. This year, Zeh is moving her off the ball, allowing her more freedom to do what she loves — score.
“I felt like I’ve tried for three years to change what she wants to do instead of going with what she wants to do,” Zeh said. “In our system, I can’t always have our point guard wanting to score a lot and that’s what Ashley wants to do. So we moved her to the two, where she can be a little more aggressive with those things.”
Keys to Success
With Durham at the two-guard, the Griffs need to find a point guard. And they may not settle on one until later in the season. Among those who have gotten time at the spot in practice are sophomore Brooke Angelos, redshirt freshman Ashley Gomez, freshman Tiahana Mills and sophomore Kayla Hoohuli.
Hoohuli has the most experience of the group, returning from a steep learning curve of a freshman year.
She averaged 8.6 points a game and had flashes of great play, but she was still recovering from tearing her ACL in March of her senior year of high school. An improved Hoohuli, particularly on defense, is a key for Canisius this year.
While the Griffs had things happen outside of their control last season (injuries), they’ve worked to improve on two key areas they can control — turnovers and effort. The Griffs need to take better care of the basketball and give a more consistent effort throughout the season.
Canisius opens up by hosting Big 4 rival Buffalo on Friday while hitting the road to play at St. Bonaventure on Dec. 16. Other key non-conference games will be at Akron (Dec. 1) and at the Long Beach State Classic. Once MAAC play rolls around, look for key matchups with Marist (Jan. 18) while late-season home games with Manhattan (Feb. 22) and Fairfield (Feb. 24) could be important. Games against Niagara are in Buffalo Jan. 27 and Lewiston March 1.
The Griffs finally have some veterans. If they can cut down on turnovers and show up interested in playing games for 40 minutes, Canisius should finish at .500 and get out of the pre-quarterfinal round of the MAAC tournament.