Talented transfers help St. Vincent men continue winning ways
St. Vincent isn't a traditionally put-together college basketball team. But that hasn't stopped this year's group from keeping up with tradition just the same.
• Five of the top six scorers are transfers.
• Four players came from Division II schools.
• There's only one senior on the roster.
Yet these unconventional Bearcats are primed to win their fourth Presidents' Athletic Conference regular-season title in five years and fifth consecutive PAC playoff tournament championship.
“I'm never surprised,” coach D.P. Harris said. “We have a certain standard here where you're expected to win, and we strive to live up to that.”
But a 17-4 record?
A 13-1 mark and first place in the PAC?
And a nine-game winning streak?
“We're all new,” junior guard Matt D'Amico said. “It took us some time to adjust to one another, but we're clicking well and playing together as a unit.”
The Bearcats visit Bethany (12-9, 7-7), the team responsible for their only conference loss, on Wednesday night. Each game is a new proving ground for St. Vincent, even though the team is 21 games into the season.
All five starters graduated from last year's NCAA Division III Tournament team, and eight players departed overall.
“We lost eight seniors and brought in several transfers, but we have jelled really quickly,” said junior forward Tom Kromka, who played at Carnegie Mellon and attended CCAC before coming to St. Vincent this season. He is averaging 11.9 points and 7.5 rebounds. “I think we came together quicker than some people expected.”
Senior 6-foot-7 forward Austin Ford (11 ppg/7.3 rpg) began his college career at Kutztown. Junior guard Jason Capco left Cal (Pa.) to join the Bearcats. D'Amico (13 ppg) transferred from Clarion. Sophomore Malique McLaren started out at Iona, and junior guard Coy Patterson (9.6 ppg/2.6 assists) played at Indian River State College.
Harris said getting the outsiders to buy into the program and accept their roles has been a key to this group picking up where last year's left off.
“Our kids never seem to get nervous and have learned how to play together,” Harris said. “They stick to their ABC's: — academics, basketball and character. They stay with it and get after it.”
One difference that sets this team apart from previous ones, however: a strong local presence. Eight of the 12 players have WPIAL ties.
Junior 6-6 forward Austin Dedert (47 blocks) hails from Plum, sophomore guard Mike Simmons (7.8 ppg, 30 3-pointers) is from Kiski Area, Kromka is from Gateway and D'Amico is a Fox Chapel graduate. They recall their Quad-A battles.
“It helps that we all played against each other,” D'Amico said. “We played in Section 2 and had some great games. And some of us played AAU together, too. That helps with our chemistry.”