Posted on: December 19, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 4:13 pm

Juan'ya Green filling it up for Niagara

Jeff Borzello

Two years ago, if someone had said Juan’ya Green would be averaging nearly 20 points per game for Niagara as a freshman, it would have sounded pretty surprising.

Not that he was averaging 20 a night, but the university.

During Green’s junior year of high school at Archbishop Carroll (Pa.), he had offers from Temple, Maryland, Villanova and others, with interest coming from plenty more ACC, Big East and Big Ten programs.

Then Green got injured and schools slowly began backing off.

“It was kind of frustrating,” Green said by phone. “After I got hurt, I tried to work my way back up.”

Niagara continued to go after the prolific Philadelphia guard, and it paid off in a major way. Green chose the Purple Eagles over Temple and VCU.

Green and fellow Philadelphia product Ameen Tanksley wanted to play together, which was perfect for Niagara.

“I just went with what my gut was telling me,” he said.

Green, a powerful 6-foot-3 guard, ranks second in the country in scoring among freshmen. He’s averaging 19.9 points, while also dishing out 3.2 assists and grabbing 3.3 rebounds.

Everyone knew a player of Green’s talent would be a huge asset right off the bat for head coach Joe Mihalich, but this start surprised everyone.

“I just expected to get a lot of time and play hard all the time,” Green said. “I think I’m playing good, but I could get better at things.”

The most impressive part of Green’s season so far is his minutes played. He has played at least 34 minutes in every game, reaching 39 or more minutes on five occasions. Not surprisingly, he leads the nation’s freshmen in minutes, with 37.6 per game.

That would be great for any player, but it’s even more eye opening for a newcomer.

“I’m not sure [how I do it]. It’s very tiring,” Green said with a laugh. “I got used to it. I go as hard as I can in practice. It gets me prepared for games.”

Green is obviously making the most of his time at Niagara so far, and also sending a message to some of the schools that stopped pursuing him in high school. He totaled 60 points and eight assists against the two best teams in the MAAC, Iona and Fairfield.

He said he does have a bit of a chip on his shoulder when playing against BCS-conference teams. Niagara faced Missouri earlier this year, in a game where Green struggled offensively.

“I think it’s a little motivation playing against these schools,” Green said. “You backed off of me. I’m going to show you why you should have taken me.”

Niagara has gotten off to a rocky start so far this season. The Purple Eagles are 4-7 after a home loss to Drexel last week, but did hang tight with Fairfield, Buffalo and South Dakota State before falling.

In Green, Niagara has the type of player who could put the team on his back for a stretch.

“I just want to get a couple more wins,” Green said. “We need to come out with energy.”

Can he keep up his current scoring and stamina?

“I hope so.”

So does Niagara.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: May 14, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: May 14, 2011 1:35 pm

Recruiting Notebook: Griffin is a two-sport star

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Watching Derrick Griffin run the floor and grab alley-oops – over and over and over – you would think he doesn’t even hesitate when going up for a dunk.

Interestingly, the 6-foot-6 forward from Terry (Tex.) does have second thoughts the split-second before he skies over defenders.

“Sometimes, I do get nerves,” Griffin said.

Of course, those thoughts quickly dissipate, turning into a confidence where he knows he can out-leap nearly any opponent.

“Then I just jump,” Griffin said. “If it’s there, I’m going to get it.”

Teamed with two top-10 prospects in twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Griffin was the one who stole the show at last weekend’s Nike Baltimore Elite Invitational. He wowed the crowd with one-handed finishes, alley-oops when he rose high above the rim and big-time blocks on the defensive end.

Although he can certainly make an impact at the next level in basketball, Griffin is also a stud football player. As a wide receiver, Griffin reportedly caught 18 touchdown passes, proving to be an impossible match-up with his athleticism and strength.

Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, Oregon, Kansas and USC have already reached out to the sophomore for both sports.

He has not made up his mind as to which sport he will play in the future, but Griffin knows his development might be better suited for the hardwood.

“If I get taller, I’m going to play basketball,” he said.

Lee to take it to the next level

Britton Lee understands.

The Roman Catholic (Pa.) sophomore knows he’s 5-foot-10 and isn’t yet a pure point guard or a big-time shooter. He knows he has room to improve and has a lot of work to do in order to reach his goals.

“I need to work on my jump shot, need to work on my handle,” Lee said.

With that said, Lee also envisions himself as a major conference player.

“I think I can go high-major,” he said.

For now, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Xavier and Niagara are showing varying levels of interest.

Other Notes:

- The U-16 group of the Team Final AAU program is one of the top groups in the country, although they also play up an age group in a few tournaments. In addition to Lee and high-major prospects Austin Colbert, Rondae Jefferson and Davon Reed, head coach Rob Brown also has plenty of other players at his disposal.

Yosef Yacob, a 6-foot point guard from Archbishop Carroll (Pa.), is hearing from Canisius, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s and Drexel. Yacob is long and an effective facilitator.

Johnnie Davis might be undersized at 6-foot-4, but the Neumann-Goretti (Pa.) forward is productive. Davis is hearing from schools like Niagara and George Mason, but also has high-majors like Pittsburgh tracking him.

- At the Nike Baltimore Elite Invitational last weekend, the New Jersey Playaz should have run roughshod over Threat 220. One player wouldn’t let that happen, though: Junius Thomas.

Thomas, a 6-foot-5 forward from Anacostia (D.C.), was outstanding. He blocked shots, finished above the rim, dominated the glass and single-handedly kept an undermanned Threat team in the game. While they eventually lost, Thomas might have been the most impressive player all game.

If he can get his academics in order, he has the potential to be at least a mid-level player. Thomas did mention hearing from St. Bonaventure and Clemson

Photo: iHigh.com 

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