The Canisius men’s basketball team announced its postseason awards at the program’s annual end of the year banquet, which was held April 12 at Pearl Street Grill and Brewery in downtown Buffalo. The 2013-14 Golden Griffins players and coaching staff were joined by approximately 85 guests as the team celebrated its 21-win season and second consecutive trip the national postseason.
Senior guard Billy Baron was named the team’s Most Valuable Player for the second-straight season. The fourth Associated Press All-American in school history, the 2014 Pepsi MAAC Player of the Year finished his senior ranked fourth nationally in scoring average with 24.1 points per game, the highest single-season scoring average for a Canisius player in 39 seasons. His 821 total points in 2013-14 are the most for a senior in school history and he also set a school record with 107 makes from 3-point range in his senior campaign. He closed out his career at Canisius as just the fourth Griff in the program’s 110-year history to score more than 1,400 career points while dishing out 350-plus career assists. A two-time All-MAAC First Team honoree, Baron ended his career as a Griff ranked 11th in career scoring (1,405 points), fourth in career scoring average (20.7 points per game), fourth in career 3-point field goals (173), first in career free-throw percentage (85.9 percent) and ninth in career assists (351).
Senior center Jordan Heath was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year after he led the Blue and Gold with 72 blocked shots in 2013-14, and his 2.1 blocks per game ranked him third in the MAAC and 55th in the nation. In the team’s double-overtime win at home over Rider Jan. 10, the Rochester, N.Y. native set a Canisius single-game record with nine blocks. His 72 blocked shots in his senior season ranks fourth-best on the school’s single-season blocks chart, and his 1.9 blocks per game through 65 career contests is third all-time in school history. Additionally, Heath had 128 defensive rebounds and he ranked third on the team with 35 steals in 34 games played. He also ranked third on the team by drawing 10 offensive charges.
The team’s coaching staff voted two players to be honored as the program’s Most Improved Player for the 2013-14 campaign. Canisius freshman Zach Lewis was named one of the Griffs’ most improved, as the rookie from Windsor, Conn., ended his first year in a Canisius uniform ranked fourth on the team with his 9.5 points per game. The first “true” freshman to play at Canisius under second-year head coach Jim Baron, Lewis was named the MAAC All-Rookie Team after he played in 32 games, where he made 19 starts. His 303 total points scored rank as the sixth most for a Canisius freshman since 1973, highlighted by his career-high 25 points in a win over Monmouth at home Jan. 12. In that game, Lewis knocked down seven 3-pointers, a new program record for a freshman, and he closed out his first year as a Griff hitting multiple treys in 20 games.
Redshirt-freshman Phil Valenti was also named one of the team’s Most Improved Players. Valenti, who sat out all of the 2012-13 season, played in all 34 games, making three starts in 2013-14. He averaged 5.0 points per game and his career-high 10 rebounds against South Dakota in the season opener Nov. 11 made him just the second Canisius player since 1984 to record 10 or more rebounds in their first game in a Griff uniform. He scored a career-high 16 points off the bench at Monmouth Jan. 19 and closed out the season by shooting 50.8 percent from the field while knocking down 16 3-point field goals.
Senior Chris Manhertz was presented with the Charles Eppolito Award, given to the Griffs’ unsung hero. A four-year letterwinner and just the third three-time captain in school history, Manhertz ended his career ranked fourth all-time in career rebounds with 789. The Bronx, N.Y. native averaged 8.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in 2013-14 and he became just the second player in school history to record back-to-back double-double efforts in the MAAC Tournament after he had 10 points and 11 rebounds against Siena before posting 15 points and 13 boards against Iona in the conference’s semifinal round. He had five double-doubles in 2013-14 and ended his career with 14 double-double efforts overall and he led the 2013-14 squad by drawing 12 offensive charges.The Father Demske Academic Award was presented to senior Chris Perez, who holds a 3.8 grade point average while working toward his master’s degree at the College. Perez, who earned his undergraduate degree from Stetson in May 2013, took classes in the school’s sport administration program during the season. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Perez ranked second on the team with his 12.9 points per game and he was also good for 2.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per outing. He scored in double-figures 23 times, highlighted by his season-high 30-point effort in the team’s loss to VMI in the first round of the 2014 CIT. Often assigned to cover the opposing team’s top offensive guard, Perez collected 26 steals on the year and 61 percent of his total rebounds came off the offensive glass.