2008-2009 Penn State Behrend Men's Basketball Season Preview
After capturing the AMCC regular season and conference tournament championship, the Behrend Lions finished the 2007-08 season with a top-notch 24-5 record and their fourth NCAA Tournament berth under Coach Dave Niland.
The blue and white will rely on seven returning players from
last year's AMCC Championship squad to lead the blue and white into
the new season. "Our program's goal this season is to win the
AMCC," said Niland. "The league will once again be very tough and
should be more balanced than ever."
However, the Behrend Lions will be hard pressed to replace five graduating seniors who posted the most successful four-year record in the history of Behrend men's basketball and etched an 84-29 record. The group also managed to earn a pair of NCAA and ECAC appearances. On top of losing the accomplished senior class from last season, junior point guard Justin Kovac will miss the entire season with an injury.
"We have a decent mix of experience," said Head Coach Dave Niland, the all-time leader in Behrend basketball coaching victories. "Some of our returning players will be playing different spots this year, and how quickly we adapt will be a big issue for our team."
A pair of battled tested seniors will anchor the blue and white
this year. Tom Newman (Girard/Northwestern) and Drew Seker
(Ellicott, MD/Centennial) will bring guard experience and lead the
team as captains. "Tom and Drew are tremendous senior
leaders," Niland said. "They have accomplished a great deal." Last
year, Newman averaged nine points and four rebounds per game a year
ago, and nightly guarded the opposition's top offensive player.
Newman also connected on 50 of his three-pointer, while shooting
42% from long distance. Seker ranks among the team leaders in
steals and provided clutch minutes off the bench last season after
starting 28 games the year before. His versatility is a huge
plus for Behrend since he can play four different positions on the
The blue and white also have Adam Kaiser (Erie/Cathedral Prep), DeSahwn Haynes (Pittsburgh/Perry), and forward Adam Potter (Pittsburgh/Mt. Lebanon) back for their junior seasons. Kaiser had a breakout year for the blue and white shooting 44% from behind the arc and made the fifth most three-pointers in a single season with 69. Haynes will be pushing for more court time at the guard positions, while Potter's inside and outside versatility makes him tough to defend. Potter will improve on his 6.6 ppg and 3.2 rpg averages this upcoming season.
A pair of sophomores also return for Coach Niland. Forward Chris Saltzman (Jefferson Hills/Central Catholic) and David Holland (Pottsville/Nativity B.V.M.). Holland could see improved court time in 2008-09 as he continues to gain experience. Saltzman will add to the frontcourt presence, while his strength is his ability to get to the rim.
The Behrend Lions welcome nine newcomers to the team. Guards Jarrad Barbarino (New Kensington/Plum), Nick Colella (New Castle/New Castle), Pat Mahany (Fredonia, NY/Fredonia), Steve Piotrowicz (Erie/Cathedral Prep), Dan Simpson (Pittsburgh/Upper St. Clair), Zach Spronatti (Erie/McDowell), Pat St. Andrews (State College/State College), and Nick Thorsen (Bethel Park/Bethel Park) will all be competing for minutes in the Behrend back court along with forward Anthony Capizzi (Allison Park/Pittsburgh Central Catholic).
The 2008-09 Penn State Behrend schedule begins with a home game against Westminster on Saturday, November 15, at 7:00 p.m. The following weekend the annual Behrend Tip-Off Tournament is on November 21 and 22, in the Junker Center. The tournament features Nazareth against St. Marys on Friday at 6:00 p.m., while Behrend will entertain Bethany (WV) at 8:00 p.m. Saturday's championship game is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. preceded by the 1:00 p.m. consolation contest. Under the friendly roof of the Junker Center the Behrend Lions have been able to win a gaudy eighty-five percent of their games since its opening in 2000-01 season. Last year the blue and white were perfect on their home court earning a 15-0 record, while going 9-0 in AMCC play.
The AMCC begins on December 3 when they take on Mt. Aloysius at 8:00 p.m. in the Junker Center. This will be the first of two televised games for the blue and white. A pair of AMCC road games follow, before the December 13 match-up with Pitt-Greensburg closes out the first semester of play. Also highlighting the schedule is a New Year's trip to Eastern Pennsylvania for the York College Tournament. Behrend will open against a perennial power in Alvernia. Ten road games and seven league home games paint the rest of the Behrend men's basketball calendar in January and February. The AMCC conference tournament will begin on February 24, with the championship game set for February 28.
Joining Niland on the bench will be assistants Jimmy Sutton and Rand Garrity. The team has always been a prepared and aggressive group in the past, and will look to continue pressuring opponents on defense. Once again the backbone of the Behrend Lions success will be the top notch team defense that gets played every night for a full forty minutes. Last season, Behrend led Division III in scoring defense at 54.6 points per game, after ranking fourth overall the year before. This was the second time in four years the basketball program has led the country in this crucial statistical category.
With the start of the 2008-09 season around the corner, some opponents are unclear exactly how the Behrend season will go. The team needs several guys to step up and fill the big shoes vacated by the winningist graduating class in men's basketball history and the loss of the league's top point guard due to injury. But, one thing is very clear. Coach Niland and the men's program have advanced to the extended postseason in eleven of the past twelve years and they would like to continue that trend.