Rejuvenated Griffs set high expectations for the new season: The new look Griffs look to find chemistry as the season begins

By Canio Marasco

Sports Reporter

The new look Griffs, comprised of several new freshmen and transfers, are attempting to find consistency and familiarity as the season begins.  

The Griffs finished last season 11-9, which placed them fifth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Their season ended with a loss to the Monmouth Hawks in the MAAC playoffs. Although last season went well, the Griffs have made numerous additions to the team, to ensure they build upon their recent success. Possibly the two largest additions to the team are Chris Atkinson and Malcolm McMillan. Atkinson, a freshman, who attended Long Island Lutheran last year, is expected to play a pivotal role this year in the defensive end. Malcolm McMillan, a senior transfer, played 91 career games at Central Connecticut State. He scored, on average, seven points a game and pulled down three rebounds. Expectations are that he will be integral to the team and its success.  

Atkinson, on why he chose to play for the Griffs this season, stated, “It’s a great school. I really like the style of play and Coach Baron is a very good coach. Playing with my teammates now, I know I made the right decision.” Coach Baron is notorious for playing a very up-tempo game, with many points coming in transition. This style of play is something that Atkinson saw himself thriving in under Coach Baron. Atkinson added, “It’s a small school, but it’s a lot like my high school; it’s small and I can keep with myself. The players and the coaches make me feel like home – I like the school a lot.”

McMillan, on why he chose to transfer to Canisius, stated, “First off, they needed a point guard and I am also able to complete my master’s degree in one year.” Although the Griffs have eight guards, the team was lacking a true point guard. McMillan will help fill a need while also providing veteran leadership. McMillan, on the team so far, stated, “I’m glad I picked this school. They’ve been great to me, both the coaches and the players. Also, the school and the atmosphere are both great.”

Atkinson has many hopes and expectations for the season. He stated, “The expectations for the season are to come out with a MAAC championship, making the tournament and doing what I can do on the court and in the classroom. Working together as a team is the only way that will happen.” The last time the Griffs made the NCAA Tournament was in 1996, however they failed to win a game. The Griffs have only made four appearances in the tournament in school history, meaning these are very lofty expectations for the team.

McMillan, like Atkinson, also has several expectations for the season. He stated, “I want the team to make it to the NCAA Tournament. That’s my number one goal for us as a team.” McMillan also has very lofty expectations, much like Atkinson. Although they may seem unrealistic to some, one has to be encouraged that the team, especially newcomers, have such great confidence in the basketball program and its direction.

Having played high school basketball at Long Island Lutheran last season, Atkinson will have to adjust to the college game as the season progresses. On this impending tough adjustment, he stated, “This is a lot different. The pace is different, it’s very up and down and Coach Baron is always pushing you to do your best. But the pace is actually really different and you always have to give 110 percent. But, it’s great and I like it a lot.” Playing for Coach Baron, who uses an up tempo system, makes this transition to a pacier game more difficult.

McMillan’s past collegiate experience has acclimated him to the pace of the college game, however, he will have to learn and adapt to a new system under Coach Baron. McMillan stated, “I don’t really like to talk about the past, but it’s no comparison, this is the place I want to be and I love it here. I expect to be a leader on the floor, like an extension of the coach.” McMillan is very confident that his experience will allow him to grasp the system quickly and act as a “floor manager” for the Griffs this season.

Being a freshman, Atkinson could play a variety of roles for the team throughout the season, on his expected role, he stated, “I don’t really know what my expected role is going to be. But, I know that I’m expected to come in and lock-up on defense, hit open shots, make passes and lead the team.” Atkinson is considered a pass first point guard, who can also help out in the defensive end. Coach Baron has had a large influence on the freshman’s game thus far, Atkinson stated, “He’s influenced my play a lot because he is showing me different things on the court and what I can do, many of the things I didn’t think I could do in the past. I also have my teammates helping and telling me things… it’s a great overall effort.”

McMillan is expected to have a large role with the team. However, being in a different system than he is used to, McMillan has looked to Coach Baron for help, stating, “Coach Baron has been very helpful. Stepping into a new role and playing very fast, I wasn’t really used to that, but he’s helped me adjust.”

Coach Baron, on the new look team stated, “It’s tremendous, it’s always a great time of the year, especially with so many newcomers that we have. We’re really excited to get started after having three really solid years.”

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