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NCAA: Canaan Out To Top Historic Junior Year
Posted By Yannis Koutroupis On August 30, 2012 @ 12:00 pm In All,Main Page,NCAA | No Comments
As a junior Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan was one of the premier point guards in the nation. He was the catalyst behind a historical season for the Racers, leading them to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and a 31-2 record overall.
This summer Canaan has been a heavy traveler, attending the LeBron James, Deron Wiliams, and Chris Paul camps along with adidas Nations to work on his game in preparation for a senior year that could potentially top his fantastic campaign as a junior.
“We’re going to try and repeat everything we did this year, try to go further in the tournament,” Canaan said in an exclusive interview with HOOPSWORD. “I’ve been in the tournament two years and haven’t gotten past the second round, so one of my personal goals is to get to the sweet sixteen, get to the final four, the elite eight.
“We’re trying to win a championship ring as a team. I won three in my three years, so I’m trying to win four in a row. With all the accolades I got, I just want to win all over and with winning that will come with the individual goals. Without my teammates I probably wouldn’t even been getting all the accolades that I did get.”
With the success that Canaan had he very easily could have justified entering the 2012 NBA Draft, which had a shallow pool of point guards.
“I thought long and hard about it,” Canaan said. “My biggest thing was I just wanted to make the right decision. It wasn’t a fact if I was going to get drafted or if I wasn’t because a lot of people said I was. It was all about should I leave now or should I come back for my senior year and I just wanted to make the right decision. I thought about it long and hard.
“I got great help, great feedback from the NBA and different personnel that deals with the NBA. I don’t regret staying at all like I said we have a great class coming in that’s going to help. The NBA is going to be there so I used all of these camps this summer to try to better myself as a player. If my coach would’ve left that would’ve been different. I would’ve come out because I wouldn’t want to deal with all the coaching changes. With him staying I felt better about my situation and the team.”
While Canaan’s head coach did stay, the Racers said goodbye to a talented senior class that will undoubtedly be missed, especially early on in the year.
“What we had was a great senior class,” Canaan said. “The biggest thing we will probably lose from them are the guys that were here for a long time and didn’t play their first few years. They sat down and learned a lot of the things that the coaches asked and some things that they don’t experience throughout the game and that’s pretty much the biggest thing we’re going to lose.
“They were here and sat out as opposed to being here and playing all four years, they actually sat out and had to wait their turn and once they had their turn they made the best of it. But we have a great group of guys coming back also and we have a great recruiting class coming in that’s going to really help us and we all feel like we’re going to be right back there at the [tournament] next year.”
The Racers’ 2012 recruiting class features five players, highlighted by Erik McCree, Jeffrey Moss, and C.J. Moss. They won’t have the luxury of sitting out a year and learning from the sidelines like the 2007 recruiting class did. They’ll be expected to contribute right away and their play will be vital for the Racers.
“It’s going to be very important,” Canaan said. “Like I said, we have five seniors on the team and the freshman class makes up the majority of our bench, so we’re really going to need them especially when one of the starters goes out or one of the players goes out. We’re going to need them to come in and be ready at all times and they came in hungry, they want to learn, great players, great athleticism and like I said, we have a great recruiting class coming in and we feel like they’re going to help us a lot.”
Changes on the roster won’t be the only difference between last year’s Racers team and this year’s. Going into 2012-13, the Racers are a known commodity. They’re going to be expected to dominate the Ohio Valley Conference and be ranked in the Top 25. Anything other than repeating last year’s accomplishments will be viewed as a disappointment nationally, creating added pressure. However, that doesn’t concern Canaan since he received a crash course on handling pressure last year.
“Not at all,” Canaan said. “We know what we did. We have to do it for ourselves though. Now we just have to go out there and just show it. Show that it can be done again. Show that we’re not going to let all of the exposure or the negatives get to us. We know what we did last year and it has paved the way for school and this team. We just have to go out and do it.
“I’m not going to say [all the attention] was a distraction. We felt like it was motivation for us because [at Murray State] you don’t see that much exposure all the time. We just looked at it as hey, we’re getting looked at let’s keep it going so we used it as a motivation to keep pushing us to keep wanting to go out and win. We didn’t want to lose any games because we said the more we win the more exposure we’re going to get. We just tried to use it as motivation throughout the season and it helped for the best.”
Over the last three years a mid-major guard has been selected in the top 10 of the NBA draft. Canaan, who patterns his game after Clippers point guard Chris Paul, is firmly on the NBA radar and in a position where he can potentially continue that streak if he continues on the path he’s projected to next season.
Ridley Test Himself Against The Best
It’s been over four years since the Texas Longhorns have made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but this could be the year that changes. Sheldon McClellan, Myck Kabongo, Julien Lewis, and Jonathan Holmes are returning from last year’s tournament team and they have one of the nation’s top recruiting classes coming in.
The star of the class is big man Cameron Ridley, who should provide a dominating low post presence that few teams can handle. Ridley participated in adidas Nations, getting experience against other top-ranked big men like Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Pittsburgh’s Steven Adams, Baylor’s Isaiah Austin, and Florida’s Patric Young.
“It’s been pretty good playing against the other top players in college,” Ridley said to HOOPSWORLD. “I just want to come from this and let it help my game when we start to play.
“It’s a great experience because it gives me a thought of how other bigs are at the college level and gives me a feel for the college game.”
The situation at Nations was a little difficult for Ridley because the games are fast paced and there is very little familiarity between teammates. That won’t be the case in Austin, Texas, where his job will be very clear cut.
“[Longhorns head coach Rick Barnes] just wants me to score the ball since last year they didn’t have many bigs,” Ridley said. “They want me to help the team by rebounding, blocking shots, and controlling the paint as much as I can.”
With the opportunity to star for the Longhorns, Ridley should quickly establish himself as a prospect for the NBA Draft. Unlike Dexter Pittman, who he is often compared to, he’s ready to come in and contribute in a major way immediately. He’s not planning to be one-and-done, but the possibility is there.
“No,” Ridley said when asked if he was only expecting to be a Longhorn for a year. “I’m just going to work as hard as I can and at the end of the day if I’m capable of going to the NBA I probably will.”
Ennis Wants To Lead Syracuse Back To The Top
HOOPSWORLD recently spoke to one of the top-ranked players in the 2013 recruiting class: Tyler Ennis of St. Benedict’s Prep and CIA Bounce. The Syracuse commit laid out some high expectations for his goal as an Orange:
“Individually I want to be on the all-conference freshman team, that’s the main thing I want to do because it’s difficult to play in the ACC and be on the all-freshman team,” Ennis said to HOOPSWORLD. “Hopefully Freshman of the Year, anything more than that would be a plus.
“I definitely want to win a championship on the 10th anniversary of them winning a national championship. That and bringing my team together, being a leader playing with guys who are Mcdonalds All-Americans and potential nba player. That’d be good for me as a player and my resume.”
Senior NCAA and NBA analyst Yannis Koutroupis hosts his weekly chat this Friday August 31 at 11 am est. Get your questions in here!
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