Cannon driving Terriers toward NEC title
Senior Forward Peaking as SFC Pursues Elusive NEC Crown
They came, they saw, and most of them didn’t even think enough of what they witnessed to make the young man an offer.
When Jalen Cannon was being scouted out of his native William Allen High School in Allentown, Pa., he wasn’t exactly burning up the national recruiting circuit despite being named Lehigh Valley Co-Player of the Year and leading his Canaries to the District II Class 4A Championship.
“Coaches would come to see me play, and they’d come back a couple of times,” Cannon recalled. “But St. Francis was the only one that offered [a scholarship]. They made me feel like they really wanted me.”
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound senior juggernaut has paid back head coach Glenn Braica’s faith in his skills by becoming one of the most accomplished players in the history of the Remsen Street school’s men’s basketball program.
Last Saturday at Wagner College’s Spiro Center in Staten Island, Cannon not only scored a game-high 29 points, but also became the leading rebounder in the history of the Northeast Conference by snaring 11 caroms on the afternoon.
The performance earned Cannon his fourth NEC Player of the Week award as well as the same honor from the Metropolitan Basketball Writers and the prestigious Lou Henson weekly award.
Most importantly, St. Francis’ 66-51 victory over the Seahawks thrust the Terriers (16-9 overall, 10-2 NEC) into a two-game lead over both Robert Morris and Bryant for first place in the league standings and the top overall seed in next month’s NEC Tournament.
With the Terriers still in search of their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth, Cannon has emerged as the driving force behind their push toward that goal.
In fact, over his last two games, Cannon is averaging an unfathomable 32.0 points and 12.0 rebounds per game.
In other words, the kid from Allentown who nobody else but SFC offered a scholarship to is saving his best for last.
“We have a lot to prove to ourselves that we’re one of the top teams,” Cannon noted earlier this season after the Terriers were touted as the No. 1 team in the NEC by the league’s coaches.
“We have to prove to ourselves that we’re one of the best teams in the conference. Watch out for St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers.”
Those who didn’t heed Cannon’s early-season warning have learned the hard way that the greatest rebounder in the history of the league – he had 1,039 boards entering Thursday night’s visit to the Pope Center by Wagner – is also likely to be tabbed the NEC Player of the Year next month.
Braica, a Brooklyn native who is eager to end SFC’s run of March futility, has watched first-hand how Cannon forged his way from nondescript recruit to the best player in the conference.
“Jalen really worked at developing his game,” said Braica. “Now he can step on the floor and make perimeter shots, and he can handle the ball some. He’s become a very good player.”
A very good player who remains focused on completing his legacy here by leading the Terriers past the rest of the NEC and into March Madness over the next several weeks.
“I think we’re very hungry,” Cannon noted. “Last year, that [first-round NEC Tournament] playoff loss we had left a bitter taste in our stomachs. I think we’re going to get the job done.”
Thinking it and doing it are two entirely different things.
But as he has demonstrated throughout his brilliant career at SFC, Cannon is very capable of accomplishing virtually everything he puts his mind to on the hardwood.
The Blackbirds of LIU-Brooklyn, who won three straight NEC titles before missing the league’s annual tournament last year, scored a key win over St. Francis (Pa.), 66-60, last Saturday at the Steinberg Wellness Center.
Redshirt freshman Nura Zanna scored 15 points, including two big buckets down the stretch, and grabbed nine boards and senior Landon Atterberry added 10 points for the Blackbirds (10-13, 6-6 NEC), who won their second straight and improved to 4-1 over their last five contests.
LIU, which will kick off a three-game road trip at Robert Morris on Thursday night, is tied for sixth in the NEC with Wagner.
Brooklyn College, which is ranked fourth nationally in its region among all Division III programs, cruised to a wire-to-wire 85-71 triumph at Hunter College last Friday night, improving to 18-5 overall and 10-4 in CUNYAC action.
Junior Egzon Gjonbalaj led all scorers with 27 points, including 19 in the second half), to go with seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals.
Fellow junior Jamel Gist added 16 points, while senior Jai Kellman finished with 11 points for BC, which will look to improve to a perfect 10-0 at home this season when it hosts Medgar Evers at the West Quad Center on Friday night.
The BC women got 24 points and nine rebounds from Vannessa D’Ambrosi en route to Wednesday’s 67-46 rout of St. Joseph’s College (Brooklyn).
D’Ambrosi hit eight 3-pointers and put up 18 of her points after intermission as the Lady Bulldogs (17-5) extended their season-high winning streak to nine games.
“Tonight we gave a strong effort and were able to put away the game in the second half,” said BC head coach Alex Lang. “Vanessa was on fire and put on some shooting display. She has really hit her stride over the last six or seven games and is playing with a ton of confidence.”
The ladies will also host Medgar Evers Friday evening.
The SFC Brooklyn women suffered a 61-43 loss at Central Connecticut State on Monday despite 14 points from senior forward Jaymee Veney.
At 7-17 overall and 4-8 in the NEC, the Terriers have dropped two straight and are in danger of falling out of the NEC Tournament picture.
SFC and LIU-Brooklyn are currently tied for the final two spots in the playoffs, with Wagner just one game back.
The Blackbirds got a career-high 20 points from sophomore Shanovia Dove last Saturday night but were unable to beat Robert Morris at the Wellness Center, suffering a 77-58 setback.
While the Terriers try to get back on track Saturday at home against Sacred Heart, the Blackbirds will spend the afternoon of Valentine’s Day in Loretto, Pa., facing St. Francis University.