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Welcome back to the Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog. Yes, we're still alive, and with the 2015-16 season rapidly approaching, it's time to fire up the old blog for another season. Check back here throughout the year for updates on all things Rider and Princeton, including coverage of both the MAAC and Ivy League. Feel free to drop me a line on twitter @kj_franko ( or email

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

MAAC notebook: Billy Baron doing it all for Canisius

Jim Baron, left, instructs son Billy during a practice. Billy Baron is likely going to win MAAC Player of the Year. AP Photo.

Canisius guard Billy Baron has the battle scars to prove how tough he is. Stitches in his face. Stitches in his arm.

Yet the Golden Griffins senior guard keeps on coming.

"He's like the Energizer Bunny," said his coach and father Jim Baron. "He just keeps going and going and going. Physically they just keep coming after him and he's so resilient. He's just unbelievable."

Baron is second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and third nationally in scoring, averaging 24.6 points per game. He was just named one of 20 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the best point guard in the country.

He has at least one vote from an opposing coach for Player of the Year.

"Billy Baron continues to be, I think, the best player in the league," said Siena coach Jimmy Patsos, who saw Baron go for 40 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a triple-overtime victory over his Saints. "There are a lot of good players, but I really believe Billy Baron is Player of the Year and a second-round NBA Draft pick."

Jim Baron couldn't help but marvel at his son's impact on the Canisius program, having helped lift the Griffs to their first postseason appearance in 17 years when they went 20-14 and a season ago and reached the quarterfinals of the CIT.

The Griffs are 18-9 and 12-4 in the league with four games to play.

"I've been around the block, been a head coach for 27 years and I've been around a lot of great players and this kid ... he gets everybody's best every single night," Baron said. "They put a different guy on him and do everything in the world to stop him and he still comes out ahead."

Baron's far from the only standout performer from the MAAC.

The conference boast two of the nation's top three scorers -- Niagara's Antoine Mason ranks just ahead of Baron at 25.6 points per game -- and Quinnipiac leads the country in rebounding at 45.9 per contest.

Bobcats forward Ike Azotam is averaging 16.9 points and 11 rebounds per game while Manhattan guard George Beamon is also likely to join the Player of the Year debate.

"You have the individual scoring -- with Baron and Mason -- but you also have four teams that are going to have 20 wins," Marist coach Jeff Bower said. " (It's a) great story for our league and a great accomplishment for our league."


With the MAAC boasting 11 teams, the top five finishers get a first-round bye when the schools reach Springfield, Mass. Those that finish 6-11 have to play an opening-round game and would have to win four in four days to claim the automatic NCAA berth.

The top four seeds -- Iona (14-2), Manhattan, Canisius and Quinnipiac (all 12-4) -- are seemingly decided but the race for fifth is on.

Rider is in the driver's seat at 9-7 but Marist is one game back at 8-8 and Siena is two off that pace. The Broncs and Saints play Sunday in Lawrenceville.

"We certainly want to stay out of the play-in game because that's just another game you have to play," Rider coach Kevin Baggett said. "I'm not really looking at it as trying to stay in the fifth position. I'm looking at it as trying to climb the ladder. We're just trying to build some momentum really."

Bower said he's not bothered by playing the opening night if his club finishes sixth.

"It gives you a game to play," the Red Foxes' first-year coach said. "If you are fortunate enough to win, you will have time to prepare and be ready. We're going to take whatever positioning we get. Having said that, I'd be lying if I didn't say finishing in fifth is so much more attractive to us than finishing in sixth."


While Baron is the frontrunner for Player of the Year, the Rookie of the Year race is tight with four players all vying for the award.

Rider's Jimmie Taylor (11.4 ppg), Marist's Khallid Hart (14.5 ppg) and the Siena duo of Marquis Wright (8.8 ppg, 5.6 apg) and Lavon Long (9.4 ppg).

For the Broncs' sake, Taylor has bounced back well from a mid-season slump. He scored 19 points in their win over Fairfield and has hit double figures in the last six games.

I said to (Taylor) from Day 1 when he got here I was going to live and die with some of his mistakes being a freshman," Baggett said. "Now, when I talk to him, I talk to him not about being a freshman, but being a player. He's played enough games here at this level to understand what it takes to succeed at this level and play well."


Of the two newcomers to the league, Quinnipiac has fared far better than Monmouth.

The Bobcats are 17-8 overall and 12-4 in the league, putting them in a three-way tie for second with four games to play despite being ravaged by injury.

Coach Tom Moore said he's concerned with the minutes he's had to play his two massive forwards -- Azotam and Ousmane Drame -- especially since Drame picked up a slight knee injury earlier that forced him to miss two games.

Meanwhile, King Rice is still trying to get the ship on course in West Long Branch. The Hawks have lost seven in a row since hitting the .500 mark at 10-10.

"It is really really frustrating to lose this many games in a row," Rice said. "This is why they brought me here, to try and get it right. I'm a big boy. I'm a still plugging."


On the women's side, Iona coach Billie Godsey was still marveling at junior guard Damika Martinez's 46-point performance in the win over Rider.

"Unreal," Godsey said.

"On days like that, you just have to make sure you give her the ball," the rookie coach continued. "Her teammates did a great job of finding her in several different spots on the floor. She wanted it. She wanted the plays run for her. She wanted to knock down some big shots. Once we saw she was hot in the first half, there was no choice but to go to her. She plays with such confidence and knows how to get herself into the right spot and is very crafty in her offensive game so she can score for us whenever we need her to."

The Gaels are 22-3 overall and 15-1 in the league with that lone loss coming at Rider and Godsey believes her club is putting together a resume worthy of an at-large bid should it slip up in the conference tourney.

"I would hope so," Godsey said. "We had a tough loss to Rider and I think that hurts it a little bit just the way the selection committee has gone in the past. I would hope the rest of our wins and the accomplishments we've had shines some light on us to get an at-large bid should we not get the win in the MAAC championship."


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