At times it’s as if Billy Baron is a taboo subject in Jim Baron’s postgame news conferences. The Canisius coach will cite the contributions of just about every other member of his team in his opening remarks before he gets to Billy the Kid, if he gets to him at all. When the Griffs beat Rider in double overtime earlier this year the coach plowed through the roster before throwing a $3 afterthought bouquet at his son, who happened to score 38 points and hit the winning shot at the buzzer.
Baron the Coach does this quite intentionally. He knows his son is an elite player, one of the best ever to wear a Canisius uniform. He knows that Billy is receiving all kinds of accolades from the national media and is popping up on the SportsCenter Top 10.
The coach also recognizes that to praise Billy at a level commensurate with his abilities is to risk dividing a team capable of winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title. So, unless pressed, Jim mentions the guy who pulled down two boards in seven minutes and leaves the Billy ballyhoo to outside entities, such as Jimmy Patsos, the Siena coach who had this to say after Baron poured a career-high 40 on the Saints in Sunday’s triple-overtime victory:
“He’s an NBA second-round pick, that’s my opinion,” Patsos said. “If you don’t think that guy can play as a second-round pick I disagree with you.”
Like father like son. Billy the Kid is exactly the same way. To Billy it’s all about winning the MAAC Conference Tournament and making the NCAAs. He tweeted as much at the start of the year. And he knows he can’t get there all by himself, which is why he uses his postgame pulpit to deflect praise toward his teammates. He’d much rather talk about the defensive work Chris Perez did against Antoine Mason than the fact he himself just threw down 34 at Niagara in the Griffs’ first season sweep of the rivalry in 20 years.
But now more than ever it’s appropriate to take a look at the individual and what he’s meant to Canisius and Big 4 basketball in his two short years as a Griff. Because a career that’s passing by in a blink comes to a close on the local front this week as the Griffs play their final two home games, Thursday night against Quinnipiac and then Saturday afternoon’s Senior Day finale against Fairfield.
• Averaging 24.6 points, third in the country, with seven games of 30 points or more this season.
• Averaging 39.2 minutes with a season high of 55 against Siena Sunday.
• Free throw percentage of .895, 20th nationally.
• Ranks 16th on Canisius all-time scoring list with 1,249 points and is 20 points from 15th.
• Current career average of 20.5 points ranks fourth all-time at Canisius. No player has had a career average of 20 since Ron Peaks (1977-79).
• Forty-point game against Siena Sunday was a career high and the first 40-point game by a Canisius player since Peaks in 1978.
It’s been quite the show.
With the two wins over the weekend, Canisius (18-9, 12-4) remained in a three-way tie for second with Quinnipiac (17-8, 12-4) and Manhattan (19-6, 12-4). They’re all three games up on fifth-place Rider.
Niagara (6-21, 3-13) gets the flip side of the schedule, hosting Fairfield on Thursday night and Quinnipiac on Saturday. Purple Eagles guard Antoine Mason has slipped to second in the country in scoring behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott, 25.9-25.6.
Time to strike
UB (14-8, 8-4) will face another short-handed Mid-American Conference East opponent when first-place Akron (17-8, 9-3) pays its annual visit to Alumni Arena at 7 Wednesday night. The Zips went 1-1 the last two games without senior forward Nick Harney, who was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. No word if he’ll be reinstated for this one. Meanwhile, sophomore forward Reggie McAdams missed Saturday’s win over Northern Illinois and has been diagnosed with mononucleosis. A win over Akron would draw UB into a first-play tie in the East.
The Bulls finish the week Saturday at Kent State, where they’ve never won. The Golden Flashes (14-11, 5-7) are just 4-3 at home in MAC play this season and fell, 71-60, at UB on Jan. 18.
St. Bonaventure (15-10, 5-6) has climbed to eighth in the Atlantic 10, a half-game out of seventh, after two road wins last week. They have an opportunity to continue their ascent this week with home games on Wednesday against Duquesne (11-13, 3-8) and Saturday against Rhode Island (11-15, 2-9). The Bonnies close out the season with road games at La Salle and VCU bracketing a home game against Saint Joseph’s.
A strong finish could get the Bonnies in the NIT mix given the A-10’s strong standing with eight teams in the top 80 in RPI.
How interesting that Billy Baron’s final game at Canisius comes the same day that Rhode Island visits his father’s alma mater, St. Bonaventure. Jim Baron was fired after 11 seasons at Rhode Island when the Rams dipped to 7-24 after winning 90 games the previous four seasons. When Canisius hired Jim, Billy transferred in from Rhode Island.
We know how that worked out.
Meanwhile, Danny Hurley took over the Rams and is 11-15, 2-9 this year and 19-36, 5-22 for his tenure. But you won’t find that on the bio of RI AD Thorr Bjorn, although you will find the 26-win season and NIT semifinal berth the Rams had under Baron.
Always interesting how some ADs spin their resumes.
St. Bona. 73, Canisius 95, UB 134, Niagara 287