Mens Basketball ready to bounce back
By Colin Richey, Assistant Sports Editor
After a heartbreaking 67–66 overtime loss in the MAAC playoffs last year, Canisius men’s basketball is ready to get back on the court. Head coach Reggie Witherspoon will see the core of his team return for this season, as expectations are high for the Golden Griffins.
The team hasn’t forgotten the close loss to Mount St. Mary’s in last year’s opening round of the playoffs. Coach Witherspoon hopes it can turn into a learning experience, saying, ”It’s not on my mind everyday, but you never forget games like that. So, it’ll be something I can remember for a long time to come. My hope is that we have enough guys who learn from it.”
Sophomore guard Tahj Staveskie added, ”We think about it just because it was a close game, a game we should have won, honestly.”
Over the summer, the team participated in various workouts and scrimmages, even traveling to Canada to face off against teams across the border. Coach Witherspoon described the offseason as an important step towards success: “We worked out all summer, took a trip to Canada and played some games. We’re trying to just stack good days of practice and workouts and scrimmages, and bring our team closer together.” Witherspoon continued, “For us to be in a situation here, where we have this many guys that return, that chose to return in this day and age of college basketball, it’s very rare to have just one guy to be in the transfer portal and he be a guy that graduated. These guys love each other, and they’re very committed to what we’re asking them to do. So we’ve tried to build on that commitment everyday.”
Junior forward Xzavier Long explained, ”We’ve been really focusing heavily on defense, standing locked in together as a team. Our offense is pretty solid, but we’ve been focusing on that too.”
The players notice a difference in behavior in the locker room. Staveskie said, ”Practice is way more competitive this year than it was last year. I feel like people have ‘bought in’ more to what we have going on here.”
Long echoed this point, saying, “The overall spirit is better. We’ve never had a spirit like this, an energy like this. The preseason rankings had us as third, and that probably hasn’t happened in a while, so it feels good to get recognition. But we’re still pushing and still focused.”
Witherspoon is focusing on the short term goals for the team. “Our expectations are very short term, in terms of what we need to accomplish on a daily basis. If we can meet those expectations, the big things will take care of themselves.”
Long, meanwhile, opted to look at long-term goals. ”We’re looking to win it. We’re trying to make history here. That’s really all I can say.”
Senior guard Siem Uijtendaal has high expectations for the team. “We’re trying to win the conference this year — period.”
Canisius travels to Syracuse on Wednesday for their first game of the season, a 7 p.m. tipoff against the Orange.