NCAA-bound Penn State Behrend forged by Central America trip
College Football Videos
A week without cell-phone use.
It sounds like cruel punishment for any college student.
But for the Penn State Behrend men's basketball players, it laid the groundwork for a second straight NCAA Division III Tournament berth.
In August, the Lions traveled to Costa Rica to play three exhibition games and to explore the Central American country. The trip helped develop on-court chemistry for a team that had lost three starters, but the off-court activities perhaps were equally important. They went zip lining, whitewater rafting and snorkeling — all as a group, and all without the usual interruptions of cellphones since nobody could get a signal.
“The distractions weren't there,” said 20th-year coach Dave Niland, whose Lions (23-4) visit Hope (20-7) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a first-round game in Holland, Mich. “We could really focus on our group for seven days. As a coach, you enjoy that. The kids saw a different side of how to communicate. If you want to be a great team, that's what you got to do.”
And it wasn't just Niland who felt that way. Senior shooting guard Casey Courneen, a Quaker Valley graduate, said he didn't mind giving up texting for a few days.
“It was cool to sit down and talk without everybody looking at their cellphones or trying to get on the computer,” he said. “It was nice to get away from all of that and really bond and connect as a team.”
On the court, things went well until the final exhibition game. Penn State Behrend played a poor first half, and the players started bickering as they went into halftime. Courneen and junior point guard Nick DeLisio said that was a turning point, as the players quickly realized they couldn't self-destruct. Unselfishness has been one of the team's staples since.
The same five players have started every game for the Lions, and they've dominated much of the season, winning their games by an average margin of 15.3 points. DeLisio, a Central Valley graduate, leads the team with 13 points and 3.7 assists per game. He received first-team All-Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference honors.
“He's a really clutch player, one of the most clutch kids I've coached in the 20 years I've been here,” Niland said. “He's hit a ton of big shots.”
Three other players average double digits, including Courneen at 10.2 points per game.
Defensively, Penn State Behrend ranks fifth in D-III in allowing 58.3 points per game. Junior guard Keith Wallace was named AMCC co-Defensive Player of the Year.
A stiff test awaits the Lions on Friday. Hope leads D-III in home attendance with 2,491 fans per game. Penn State Behrend's largest road crowd this season was 376. The Lions, though, said they believe last season's NCAA Tournament game will help. Penn State Behrend traveled to Wooster (Ohio), which ranks second in D-III with an average attendance of 1,717 this season, and lost 62-44.
“It was an awesome environment (last season), but it was kind of intimidating because we weren't used to it at all,” DeLisio said. “It's so different. You've got TV timeouts. You've got cameras all around.
“I was too excited, trying to do too much too early. I think I'll be more relaxed this year.”
Jeff Vella is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Plum grad tabbed as Edinboro offensive coordinator
- Former California teammates may soon be college rivals
- Seton Hill teams honored by PSAC
- College football notebook: Date moved up for Pitt-Penn State game
- Gateway grad Crystol earns All-American nod on Thiel’s line