Hemer will fit in just well at Canisius

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Scott Hemer is introduced as the new women’s basketball head coach at Canisius College on Wednesday. (Tess Pszonak/The Griffin)

By Marshall Haim

Sports Editor

Going from a Division III school to a Division I school may seem like a crazy jump for a head coach, but for Scott Hemer the move feels right.

Hemer, the newly hired women’s basketball head coach, was formally introduced to the media Wednesday afternoon in the Griffin Team Room in the Koessler Athletic Center.

The North Collins native had spent the previous 11 seasons at SUNY Geneseo, establishing a powerhouse within the Division III ranks. Hemer was named the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Coach of the Year for the past four seasons.

Canisius athletic director Bill Maher opened the press conference saying that there was a deep candidate pool for the position, like any Division I job. He added that in looking for the new head coach he looks for some “defining qualities” in candidates.

“Someone who is focused on academics and the development of student-athletes,” said Maher on one of the qualities. “I always search for someone who’s had previous head coaching experience and recruiting in the Northeast and throughout New York State in proximity to our campus. Someone who has demonstrated the ability to recruit and develop young women to help us lead a program that our alumni and friends can be proud of.”

All of the aspects that Maher stated, Hemer emulates.

“Canisius College has such a proud tradition of both academics as well as athletics and that’s ultimately what made this opening so appealing to me,” Hemer stated in his opening remarks. “Balance is a big part of what makes a school and its athletic programs successful.

“I’ve always felt that if you’re going to be an effective recruiter at this level you have to have something of value to sell. I certainly think, as you mentioned Geneseo — the name academically, especially as a SUNY institution — had value and I saw a lot of similar values in what I would be able to promote here at Canisius.”

After the 12-minute press conference, the main takeaway was that both Canisius and Geneseo have glaring similarities, which will make the transition for Hemer that much easier.

“I had the opportunity to meet with a few of the players that are here today when I was on campus,” Hemer said, “and having some conversations with administration and I found a lot of similarities in them with the players that I’m used to at Geneseo. Ultimately seeing that they have some interest in creating a little bit of different culture here and feeling that it was something that I could work with.”

People may question hiring a Division III head coach to take over a mid-major Division I program, but that is not even remotely close to an issue with me.

Hemer has earned 365 career wins in 17 collegiate seasons. He knows the game well and that has aided his teams to seven 20-win seasons in the last eight seasons.

“I think it’s important to understand that the basketball is the same size and the court is the same size and it’s still spacing and matchups and fundamentals, nothing changes in terms of that,” Hemer said regarding the move from Division III to Division I. “Is there a difference in size, length, athleticism? Certainly and we will make adjustments that are necessary.

“I believe the way we play has ultimately put my teams in the past in positions to be competitive and win games and that’s not going to change moving forward. Recruiting is recruiting. It is something that you’re either effective at or you’re not and it doesn’t change because someone is taller, faster or stronger.”

He also has a solid group of returning players to next year’s roster as of right now, including soon-to-be senior Sara Hinriksdóttir who led the team in scoring (14.9), rebounds (5.6) and assists (2.3) this past season, earning third team honors from the MAAC.

Maria Welch, Anna Sweny and Olivia Vernon will most likely make up the Griffs’ frontcourt. Tiana Pugh and Danielle Sanderlin could have breakout years at the forward positions after strong finishes in their sophomore and freshman years, respectively.

Hemer said that his teams are pretty efficient and are not out of control. They look for high-percentage shots and trust one another with the extra pass. All of those aspects appear to be something that the players on the current roster can thrive under.

“You try to play with what your strengths are and that can change from year-to-year based on what the talent level is and skill set of the players that you have,” Hemer said. “I think the one thing that we’ve done really well is create a culture in our program where the players trust each other. It’s not ever about one player.”

With the players that Hemer is currently being inherited with, this could make for an extremely exciting year ahead for the Canisius women’s basketball.

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