Niagara adds to hoops roster and coaching staff | Sports

The offseason makeover continues for Niagara University men’s basketball.

Niagara announced the hiring of Antone Gray to fill one of two assistant coach vacancies Wednesday afternoon, hours before Braxton Bayless, a junior college goaltender, announced his verbal commitment.

Gray, a native of Providence, Rhode Island, has spent the past four seasons as an assistant at Brown University, where he helped the Bears to a 20-win season in 2018-19.

“We are delighted to have Antone join our coaching staff,” NU head coach Greg Paulus said in a statement. “Antone came highly recommended and brings tremendous energy to those around him. His connections, high-level recruiting and knowledge of the game will help our student-athletes grow on and off the court.”

Gray played collegiately at Rhode Island College from 2007-2011 and was inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017. He worked as a basketball coach while coaching in high school and at the AAU of 2011 to 2014 before taking his first college job as an assistant at the University of Maine.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to have the opportunity to work with Coach Paulus, the staff and the student-athletes at Niagara University,” said Gray. “I’m very lucky, blessed and excited to get started. I look forward to helping these young men become better students, players and members of the community. The energy is contagious. Go Purple Eagles!”

Niagara still has a vacant assistant coaching position after losing Brett Ervin and Bryan Smothers last season.

Bayless, a 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 9.0 points and 4.1 assists as a sophomore this winter at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. A native of Ankeny, Iowa, Niagara first offered him a scholarship on April 5. He received offers from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Southeast Missouri State soon after before settling on Niagara.

Bayless, who will have three seasons of eligibility, is the second junior college product to join Niagara this offseason, along with 6-6 forward Keith Kiner III. Paulus said he wanted to add experience while losing eight players from last season to graduate or transfer.

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One of those transfers, star guard Marcus Hammond, is making visits this week. After averaging 18.1 points, 4.7 assists and 2.9 assists as a senior, Hammond announced he would take advantage of his extra COVID-19 season and enter the transfer gate on March 22, leaving the door open for a return to NU.

Hammond visited Georgetown over the weekend, posting photos of himself with Hoyas coach Patrick Ewing on social media. He was to visit Notre-Dame, according to various media.

On Wednesday, graduate striker Nicholas Kratholm also announced he would enter the portal. He averaged just 5.1 minutes in 15 appearances last season off the bench.