2016-2017 Season Review
Grand Canyon completed year four of a four year transition period to the D1 level last season, so they were ineligible for the postseason. The Antelopes were coming off a 27-7 season and were able to get another 20+ win season. Dan Majerle's squad played Louisville to a 9 point game and Arizona to a 10 point game. They also beat San Diego State and split with New Mexico State and ended the season on a 7 game winning streak. Their final record was 22-9 (11-3, 2nd in WAC). Had they been eligible for the postseason, they would've had a great chance to win the WAC Conference Tournament and make the NCAA Tournament.
Grand Canyon loses just two players from last season's team, but they were both guys who started. Guard Dewayne Russell graduated after scoring a team high 21.2 PPG, dishing out a team best 5.4 APG, grabbing 3.8 RPG and hitting 52 threes. He was an All-WAC First Team selection. Russell played 38.3 MPG. Forward Darion Clark started 17 of the 20 games he played in, averaging 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Clark was a graduate transfer from USC.
The Antelopes return 8 of their top 10 scorers from last season. Joshua Braun, a 6'4 senior, averaged 17.5/4.6/1.4 and hit a team best 64 threes (in just 22 games played) at a 41.9% clip. He was an All-WAC First Team selection for the second straight year. 6'6, 240 pound senior Keonta Vernon averaged 9.3 PPG and grabbed a team high 7.0 RPG. He started 25 games. 6'6 sophomore Oscar Frayer started 25 games as well, averaging 7.9 points and 4.5 boards per game. 6'6 junior Gerard Martin started 24 games for the Antelopes. He was an All-WAC Defensive Team selection while also averaging 5.1/4.1/2.5 and 1.4 SPG. Shaq Carr is a 6'2 senior that played 18.4 MPG, averaging 4.7/2.2/2.4. 6'2 sophomore Fifi Aidoo played 16.0 MPG and averaged 4.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. Kerwin Smith, a 6'9 junior, averaged 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in 14.5 MPG. Kenzo Nudo, a 6'4 sophomore, played 13.0 MPG in 9 games, averaging 3.9 PPG in those games. The Antelopes will also get 6'8 junior Matt Jackson back, who missed last season with an injury. In 2015-2016 he averaged 6.2 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 19.4 MPG. 6'11 sophomore Boubacar Toure also missed last season with an injury and should give GCU some size down low. (NOTE: GCU's site is unclear whether or not Jackson and Toure got medical redshirts last season, so what grades they are may be off)
Coach Majerle's biggest newcomer is by far Oregon graduate transfer Casey Benson. The 6'3 guard played 20.9 MPG for the Ducks last season, averaging 4.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG and 1.9 APG. He also shot 40.5% from three. His sophomore numbers were actually better, as he played 28.7 MPG and averaged 6.0/2.3/3.1. He'll take over the open guard spot that Russell's graduation left. Majerle also brings in three recruits for his 2017 class. Damari Milstead, a 6'2 three star point guard, is a high IQ player that can score and distribute the ball. Roberts Blumbergs is a 6'9 big man from Latvia. He's a stretch four that is an excellent shooter. Rounding out the group of newcomers is Alessandro Lever, a 6'10 big man from Italy. He's a tough player that can finish well around the rim.
Grand Canyon has quickly become one of the hottest mid-major programs in the country. They have an energetic coach, an awesome fan base, an electric home court and are in a great location in Phoenix. They're finally postseason eligible and they have a great chance to be a factor in March right away. The back court should be dynamite with Braun and Benson. Their lack of size is concerning, but a healthy Jackson and Toure and the additions of Blumbergs and Lever should help. The Antelopes will go head to head with New Mexico State for the WAC title, and if they can get win the conference tournament they'll be a tough out in the Big Dance. It's going to be awfully exciting to see what Dan Majerle's crew can accomplish.