BUFFALO, N.Y.-Canisius has a rare opportunity this year. The Crusaders will be trying to win their third straight Manhattan Cup Championship.
The Crusaders beat St. Mary's last March to become the first team to win back to back Manhattan Cup titles since Turner/ Carroll in 1999 and 2000.
While Matt Hart and Gordon Lyons have graduated the Crusaders return three of their top players from last year. Adam Weir who will play college basketball for Canisius and was the MVP of last year's Manhattan Cup championship game returns for his senior season along with fellow seniors Matt MacDonald and Aaron White. The return of that trio has expectations sky high at Canisius. Head coach Kyle Husband told Two On Your Side's Stu Boyar "everyone's telling them how good they are and how good they're supposed to be but if we don't put the work in and we don't get better each and every day we're going to come short of those expectations and its going to be really disappointing. Its such a good group of kids I know they're not going to let that happen."
Players understand that the kind of success they've had means they're going to get the best their opponents have to offer. Weir told Stu "We definitely thrive off of that. We've lived with that for awhile now so we're kind of used to it and we like to take that challenge every day." MacDonald adds "we know that because we're Canisius we expect to take everyone's best shot every single night. I think we've learned to play with that. Some of the older guys, the seniors, and its definitely something we want to pass onto the younger guys. Every single night you have to learn to be ready to go and expect every team's best shot."
When the Crusaders are at their best its their defense that's driving the engine. Husband told Stu "we want to defend, we want to be really tough at that end of the floor. We work hard at it every day. Hopefully we can get out and transition. If we can get out and get stops and transition we'll be tough." Weir said ""when we're at our best we like to get ball pressure on the dribbler. Everyone else is in gaps and then our ball pressure turns into steals which turns into our transition points which we all like to play that way."
Aaron White told Stu another key to the Crusaders success. "Sharing the ball that's what I would probably say. With Adam, a Division I recruit, then Matt and myself I think when we share the ball and play as a team we can beat anyone."
While the Crusaders are trying to win their third straight Manhattan Cup they are also shooting for a state championship. "Our goal is the state championship. We talk about it every day so that would be our expectations said Weir. MacDonald adds there's only one way for Canisius to have a chance at realizing all its goals for this season. "I think the first thing is we want to get better every single day. Coach Husband talks about that probably every day, to get better every day. That will help us in the long run achieving our goals in the end."
The Crusaders open the season Tuesday December 11 against Olean in the ECIC Challenge at St. Mary's. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm.