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Women’s basketball playing with passion under new coach Nusseibeh

By: Adam Gorski

There’s a new energy and all-around vibe within the Canisius women’s basketball program as their 2021-22 season kicks off in the coming days – and it all starts at the top with first-year head coach Sahar Nusseibeh.

Nusseibeh was announced as the Griffs’ new coach back in July after spending the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Miami (OH), and she has already taken notice of the foundation that is being created in her first year at the helm, as have others.

“The energy has been second to none,” Nusseibeh said. “It’s really been neat to hear that everybody that works in this building say that they hear our girls when we’re in practice … To get the feedback from the outside folk that they’re recognizing that energy as well has been tremendous.”

Canisius returns just five players from last year’s roster, but they include their three leading scorers in sophomore Dani Haskell (11.4 PPG), junior Shaunae Brown (9.6 PPG) and senior Erika Joseph (8.6 PPG). Joining that trio are graduate student Ella Vaatanen and senior Kayla Jackson. The rest of the roster consists of seven freshmen, meaning plenty of young players could be expected to play quality minutes.

Joseph is one of the players that will be looked upon not only to lead in the stat sheet but in the huddle as well. With such a young and inexperienced team, that leadership she and her fellow veterans possess could be vital.

“Everyone is here looking to get better and learn,” Joseph said. “I’m just here to guide [the underclassmen] because I have the college experience and keep them on the right path for what we need to achieve this season. Basically, we just need to stick to working hard and doing what we need to do on the court and off the court.”

Nusseibeh expects her side to play a fast and up-tempo style of basketball, featuring plenty of aggressiveness on both sides of the floor. Due to a shorter bench, a full-court press for all forty minutes like one would see from the West Virginia men’s basketball team is out of the question, however, high energy on the defensive end can be expected to be a staple of this team.

While the team does feature some noteworthy size at the guard position, Vaatanen and freshman Rhay Porter are the only two players on the roster that stand over 6-feet tall, meaning post play on the defensive and offensive ends could spell trouble for the Griffs. With a fast-paced playstyle in mind, that could help alleviate their lack of size.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to commit to who we are and who we want to be,” Nusseibeh said. “We’re going to take pride in containing the ball and contesting all shots on the defensive end. Offensively, we’re going to look to score quickly. We’re not going to work the ball to a shot clock situation, we want to go.”

The Griffs will open their season on Nov. 9 when they make the short trek to Alumni Arena, where they’ll take on Buffalo with tipoff set for 7 p.m. The Bulls boast a talented team that features guard Dyaisha Fair, who ranked sixth in the nation in scoring last season at a clip of 24.1 points per game, as well as forward Summer Hemphill.

“Defense by committee (will be key),” Nusseibeh said. “I love our players, but Fair is one of the best guards in the country and Hemphill has a ton of experience … For us, it’s not going to be a one-person assignment, it’s going to be defense by committee and taking pride in the fact that we’re going to hone in on those two.”

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