Men’s basketball opens season this weekend against Marist

Jalanni White is one player that the Griffs are looking at to take a step up this season. (Tom Wolf, Canisius Athletics/GoGriffs)

After a fall of pauses, Canisius men’s basketball is looking to get into a rhythm of practice and games before opening up the season this weekend.

They kick off the season on Friday night against Marist at the Koessler Athletic Center.

“We’re hoping to have a good week of testing. Typically, you say we’re looking to have a good week of practice, we are hoping for that too, but we got to have a good week of testing before we can get to the rest of it,” head coach Reggie Witherspoon said Monday.

It’s a scenario that the team knows all too well, having paused twice due to positive tests, and Witherspoon himself had tested positive for the virus in October.

“The only thing we really can do is talk to our guys as much as we can about controlling what we can control and that’s very limited,” Witherspoon said. “But you can do everything you can do and still test positive and what I’ve talked to them about is even though that’s true, I still want (them) to do everything (they) can do.”

As for the basketball standpoint, Witherspoon said that it makes it tough to evaluate teams they are scheduled to play.

“When you see one team play against another team you might think you can look at the score and tell whether they’re down, or good, or bad, whatever. You cannot do that now because there’s so many things you don’t know when you don’t know who’s missing,” he said.

Meanwhile, he is getting his team ready for the season-opening weekend against Marist on Friday and Saturday. The loss of Malik Johnson to graduation leans heavy but they are looking to other players such as Majesty Brandon and Ahamadou Fofana, a junior college transfer out of Erie Community College, to fill that void. In the 2019-20 season at ECC, Fofana averaged 20.3 points per game and shot 41% from three-point range in 28 games played.

He also had praise for Jalanni White, who he thinks will take a big step up in his senior season.

“He’s more assertive than he has been, he’s been helpful with the new guys, half our team is new, he’s been more responsible academically and he’s always been a pleasure to be around and a pleasure to coach. We’re really happy for his presence on our team,” Witherspoon said. He also added that White has gained weight this offseason.

He also gave an update on Scott Hitchon, who is recovering from a stab wound suffered in early September. Hitchon has not practiced yet, but the team is hoping to have him practice in a limited capacity on Monday and throughout the week.

Marist, the Griffs’ opponent this weekend, comes in with a 2-0 record with a home-and-home sweep against Binghamton on Saturday and Sunday. Michael Cubbage is the Red Foxes’ leading scorer through the first two games, with 18 in the first game and nine in the second. Last year, the Griffs swept the season series.

“I would believe that Reggie will stick to what he’s pretty much done in the past. I’m pretty much what I am, he’s pretty much what he is. But I will say this: they’re not easy to guard, they’re very well-coached,” Marist head coach John Dunne said Monday. “They’ve kind of had a mishmash of a fall and haven’t had any games. They won’t be as good next weekend as they will be later on in the season like most of us but I’m sure he’s got enough returning guys that know the system so I’m sure they’ll be ready to play.”

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