There were times on Sunday that it appeared that MAAC Player of the Year Billy Baron was fighting to keep Canisius afloat and his NCAA tournament hopes alive against Iona, and it appeared that the senior would not let them go away.
After losing to the Gaels in the quarterfinals of last season’s tournament, Baron said he felt “lost” because he considered anything but an NCAA tournament berth a failure. This season he said he would trade a million individual awards for a bid to the big dance, and once his 30-foot heave from the right wing landed short the senior bent down as he realized those chances narrowly slipped away.
“I knew that it was short right away, just didn’t put enough legs into it,” Baron said. “Just had pulled up from a little deeper than I wanted to.”
“Those are just the things that you want to live with, that’s got to make you better, that’s got to push you. That’s going to push me this summer to elevate my game and that’s how you have to look at it. You never want to miss and if you miss, you never want to miss short and to miss that short is extremely tough to live with.”
When the Golden Griffins made a 10-0 run to nod the game up at 70, it was nine of Baron’s points and a picking of A.J. English’s pocket that helped get them there. However, after David Laury’s put back put Iona up two, Baron rushed a three-pointer at the top of the key and worst of all he knew it.
“I’m not sure if that was a box and one or what, I just had to flip on a switch and just be more aggressive because they were playing a matchup zone or whatever that was,” Baron said of how Iona defended him late. “I missed some big shots there, not that last one, but there were a couple of three balls there that I should have hit and I missed those. That’s basketball for you, you’re not going to hit everything.”
For everything Baron did for a program that won 20 games combined the two years before he and his father Jim took over the program, back to back 20-win seasons and a Player of the Year award are special; they just don’t feel like enough. After all, Baron dominated the conference in his two seasons. When he eyed up a defender at the top of the key, you could tell he was preparing to pull on a three-pointer that he could make with ease. He had the skill to drive by almost everyone in the league and demonstrated that over the last two games in Springfield as teams threw almost everything at him.
All they did to turn around this program, it seemed that during this game justice would be that Canisius would win and enter the MAAC championship game. After all, the school had been 4,388 days and three head coaches between semifinal appearances: a span of 12 years while during that time every other MAAC school except for the two newcomers had appeared in the semifinals at least twice.
“To win 41 games in two years, I don’t think anybody thought we were capable of doing that,” head coach Jim Baron said.
As a Player of the Year to not make a championship game in his career, he shares that distinct disappointment with Marist’s Jared Jordan as the only two in a decade not to make the title game. Though there may be a silver lining in joining Jordan in that slight, he was drafted 45th overall to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2007 and has used that and built a solid pro career overseas.
Billy said that he would give a million individual awards just to make the NCAA tournament, a place he had to realize on Sunday that he would never get to after this loss.
“It’s extremely hard, just trying to figure out how to deal with this one,” Baron said. “I stand by that, I take one MAAC trophy for a million of those Player of the Year things because that honestly doesn’t mean anything to me. Player of the Year that’s cool all that, but that’s more of a team award.”
“I’m honored in the trust that these guys have had in me since I stepped on campus at Buffalo. I’m thankful for the opportunity. I had one goal in make the NCAA Tournament, me and the three seniors we wanted to leave Buffalo with that. It’s really tough to come up short, but you have to let this push you and you have to move forward.”
Billy Baron has not played his last game and that’s probably the best thing to know at this point. He will have plenty of pro teams from overseas lining up to beg him to join their squad and he will have a shot to be taken in the NBA draft. Either way, there is plenty of basketball ahead for the Canisius senior and the fire that lights under him to improve from today will be on display at pre-Draft camps and beyond as he builds into a pro career.
There is no doubt in my mind that you haven’t heard the last from Billy Baron yet and there’s a chance you haven’t seen the last of him in a Canisius uniform. The CIT will likely come calling for a star like Baron, as will other accolades, but one thing is for sure: he has the will to control his own future and build a very lucrative career in the game.
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and America East conference for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.
2 thoughts on “An Ode to Canisius’ Billy Baron”
He is no Jimmer Fredette !
And what do the Barons have on the NCAA Eligibility Committee that Billy Boy never had to sit out a year the two times he transferred?
To answer the second question: Baron was following/going to his father both times. The NCAA typically makes allowances for that sort of thing.