Grand Canyon showed off its new logo, new court, new uniform, collected WAC tournament championship rings, unveiled a new banner, and a renewed Tyon Grant-Foster.
These Antelopes, with seven transfers, showed the electric crowd of 7,093 at GCU Arena on Wednesday night in its 104-46 exhibition rout of NAIA Embry-Riddle (Arizona) that they might be the most athletic team in Bryce Drew’s fourth year leading the program.
After a sluggish first eight minutes, during which the Lopes trailed most of the time, they got after it. Mainly, Tyon Grant-Foster got going.
It’s been a long journey back to the court for the 6-foot-7 senior due to a medical issue. He’s one of seven transfers, and has the most riveting story. After playing in 22 games for Kansas in 2020-21, he transferred to DePaul but had to be rushed to the hospital at halftime of the season-opener in the 2021-22 season. He didn’t play the rest of the season, and didn’t play last season.
After being cleared, he worked his way back into shape. He looked in midseason form in GCU’s exhibition, scoring 23 points with 16 minutes still remaining in the game. He was scoring off the break, colliding with defenders and finishing around the rim, and draining 3-pointers.
In 20 minutes of work, Grant-Foster made 8 of 12 shots, 3 of 6 3-pointers, 4 of 6 free throws, had three assists, no turnovers and a steal.
Not bad for not playing in a game in nearly two years.
“I felt a little nerves,” Grant-Foster said. “But once I got back into my rhythm, it was like I didn’t miss a day really. It was muscle memory.”
Drew was happy to see Grant-Foster have a performance like this in front of a loud crowd.
“He hasn’t been able to show it in the last two years,” Drew said. “But for him to come out his first time in front of fans, and play like he did, really speaks to his maturity and confidence, and, all in all, his talent. He’s a really good basketball player.”
A concern coming into this season is who will knock down 3s for the Antelopes, who last year counted on Walter Ellis, Chance McMillian and Noah Baumann down the stretch to be clutch beyond the arc on their way to the dance.
Not only Grant-Foster answered that, but Isaiah Shaw, who missed most of last season with an injury, did, as well. Shaw had 12 points, making 2 of 3 3-pointers.
“We don’t have like those specific shooters like we had last year,” said forward Gabe McGlothan, a returning starter. “But we have a quantity of players who can get it done.”
GCU’s defense appears to be better. The Lopes forced 15 first-half turnovers to build a 51-16 lead. This was the most points scored in the first half of 11 exhibition games since becoming a D1 program.
The Lopes shot 60% in the half and kept that up most of the second half as Drew substituted freely.
Caleb Shaw, a Northern Colorado transfer, showed he might be too valuable for his uncle to redshirt him. He had 10 points, making tough shots and showing his great hops. He made 4 of 5 shots and had five rebounds and two assists.
Guard Ray Harrison, the star in GCU’s run through the WAC tournament to get to the NCAA tournament last season, had nine points, along with McGlothan, Arizona State-transfer Duke Brennan and Georgia State-transfer Collin Moore.
Brennan led GCU with nine rebounds.
All 13 players scored for GCU.
Drew has his deepest roster, and he’ll have a lot of option as he tries to trim the rotation to eight to nine players.
Defense is going to ignite this team and make it a strong team in transition.
“I think that’s something our team needs to take pride in,” Drew said. “We’ve got length on defense. We’ve got guys with good instincts to get their hands on basketballs. The more we can do that, we can get out on transition.”
GCU had 24 points off of turnovers in the first half.
“That’s going to be key for us all year,” Drew said.
And Drew still is waiting for two of his top players to come back from injuries.
Jovan Blacksher Jr., and Josh Baker did not play for the Lopes, as they continue to rehab to get ready for the start of the season, which is Monday at home against Southeast Missouri.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: GCU basketball shows off new logo, new court, and new players in rout