Billy Baron Looks for MAAC Title In Senior Season

Towards the end of last season Canisius set the bar high, as Billy Baron declared that anything short of the NCAA tournament would be a disappointment.

However, he had to watch his season end prematurely in the MAAC quarterfinals to eventual champion Iona. Playing a career-high 34 games, after playing 37 in his first two seasons, Baron said he wore down late in the year.

“I learned a lot from that, standing at that podium after the game,” Baron said. “It was just devastating losing that because everything we had worked for, we had goals set out and we knew we could have accomplished them, we ran into a good Iona team.”

Reflecting back on that game, Baron said that allowing the Gaels to shoot 59% from the field in the second half was Canisius’ downfall and that the team has been focused on improving defensively from the start of preseason.

“We didn’t get stops down the stretch and now we know right off the bat the first few practices that is what we’ve been really stressing is defensive principles and getting stops,” Baron said. “We know working on that now in October that’s going to eventually put us over that hump if we can get those stops in March.”

“It was devastating. I learned a lot about myself a lot about leadership even taking over games, I put a lot of accountability on that loss on myself because I feel like I didn’t fully take over the game when I should have. I should have been more assertive whether it’s making a play, making a pass, taking a shot, but it was for sure a big learning experience.”

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Canisius senior Billy Baron is Big Apple Buckets’ pick for MAAC Preseason Player of the Year (photo courtesy Canisius Athletics)

Baron led the Golden Griffins with 17.2 points per game last season and expectations are again high for a team picked third in the MAAC’s preseason rankings. They add a solid recruiting class as well as graduate transfer Chris Perez, who was picked to the first team All-Atlantic Sun last season and will likely complement Baron as the opposite guard.

“I think the best thing with us is when we get out in transition, I think that’s where you’re going to see me and him really gel,” Baron said of working with Perez. “We’re working on the half court as well that’s going to take time to get that down. It took time with me to get that down with Harold [Washington] and Isaac [Sosa] and a few other guys, but I’m really looking forward to playing with him.”

“He’s a body. He can really take it off the dribble which is huge. He can shoot the ball from outside, take it off the dribble he’s got a nice little floater to him and then he can defend. I’m really looking forward to playing with him this year.”

Canisius’ ranked sixth in defensive efficiency last season in conference play and suffered in close games. The Golden Griffins lost six games last season by four points or fewer and Baron said finishing out games could be the difference in their season.

“I think closing out games is going to be where you’re going to see the biggest improvement with us,” Baron said. “We failed to do that a lot last year it wasn’t one or two games it was several times, including Rider on our senior night, where we could have grabbed the two seed. We let that one slip out of our hands and that’s not the only time. I think that’s where you’re going to see the improvement because we have the experience now. I’ll put it on myself that we’re going to close out games a lot better.”

It’s hard to think how much the league’s third-leading scorer last season could improve but Baron said he believes he has been focused on getting quicker and building up his repertoire offensively to become an even more lethal scorer.

“I came up with a lot of counter moves because I know this year is going to be tougher because the league is going to know what to expect,” Baron said. “It’s up to me to do different things get to the hoop, floor, midrange. I worked a lot on my midrange, the best part of my game I feel like I didn’t use it at all last year. Being able to come up with different types of shots, making tough shots is something my father always stresses.”

After winning the most games in school history since 2001, their goal in the NCAA tournament, something Billy said he stresses to his father and head coach that this is his final chance to make it.

“I just stress to him, getting to the NCAA tournament is something I really want to do, something my brother failed to do and I know that this is my last year to do it,” Baron said. “I guess it means all or nothing.”

Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.

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