2010-11 Men’s Basketball Season Preview
ERIE, PA – The Penn State Behrend men’s basketball team is fresh off an eye-opening summertime trip to Brazil and is heading into the 2010-11 season with one goal in mind, hoisting the 2010-11 Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) championship trophy.
Under the helm of head coach Dave Niland, the Lions have had an unprecedented 14 post-season appearances which includes three AMCC Championships, four NCAA Tournament bids and most recently boasting a 2009-10 Southern Division ECAC Championship. In Niland’s 16 seasons he has accumulated more than 300 career wins along with a remarkable 72.4 winning percentage, which ranks the program among the nation’s Top 20 teams.
Two familiar faces will guide the Behrend program this year. Senior Justin Kovac was a second team All-AMCC player and was recognized as Penn State Behrend’s Male Student Athlete of the Year in 2009-10. The starting point guard led the country in assists-to-turnover ratio to go along with a career high 9.3 ppg and 51 steals last season. Chris Saltzman, an All-AMCC first team honoree a year ago, accounted for 14.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game to lead Behrend in both categories. Kovac and Saltzman look to step in and become vocal leaders after losing three graduating seniors. “We lost three tremendous leaders in Adam Kaiser, Adam Potter and DeShawn Haynes, but we believe that Justin Kovac and Chris Saltzman are ready to fill the void,” said head coach Dave Niland.
There are two juniors on this year’s team, Nick Thorsen and Dan Simpson. The duo has seen time in a combined 44 games over the past two seasons. Their defensive ability and off-the-bench scoring made a huge impact on the ECAC Championship team a year ago. This past season, Thorsen averaged 4.8 ppg while Simpson shot 40 percent from the field to contribute to the Behrend backcourt.
The sophomore class is loaded with talent, starting with the Lions third leading scorer from last season, Russ Conley. The 6-9 center returns after a successful freshmen campaign where he led Behrend in field goal percentage, offensive rebounding and 3-point shooting percentage. Accompanying Conley in the front court will be second-year players Nick Dvorsky and Adam Palcic. The two players logged time in over 20 games respectively their freshmen year and spent most their time locking down the league’s most prolific scorers. Dvorsky and Palcic are tabbed as the Lions finest one-on-one defenders. Chris Tamasy will look to step it up from a year ago. His shooting ability, soft touch and presence in the post will be needed to back up Behrend’s explosive front court. Pat St. Andrews will be returning to the line-up after sitting out last season due to injury. In 2008-09 the guard started 11 games and was considered one of the programs most deadly beyond the arc shooters. The newest addition to the sophomore class is forward Shane Quigley. Quigley, a transfer from Geneva, is multi-position player who adds to the depth of the program.
What makes the Behrend men’s basketball program so great every year, is Dave Niland’s ability to recruit the areas best high school seniors. The 2010-11 freshmen class features a 6-8 center in Shane Skelly and a pair of guards, Mason Marion, Steve Starkey. “I like the freshmen class and hopefully they can contribute to the program as they learn the college game,” said Niland.
Behrend looks to capture the AMCC title for the fourth time in school history and their first since the 2007-08 season. The road will not be easy, but the coaching staff which includes Rand Garrity, Pat Swick and first time assistant coach Corey McAdam, believe this team has what it takes. “I Hope we can send our seniors out on a great note,” said Niland. “We believe that with our returning players and incoming freshmen, we can make this year very memorable.”
The Lions will begin their season away at Fredonia St. before returning home to host the Behrend Tip-off Tournament on November 19, against Muskingum. The men will then open conference play on the defending champion Medaille’s home court. Last year, the men lost both games by a combined three points to the Mavericks. During the holiday season, the Lions are scheduled to compete in the St. John Fisher Tournament on December 29-30. The regular season will conclude with the men taking on Mt. Aloysius February 19.