The College of Staten Island men’s basketball team will be tipping-off its season this Friday evening in Middletown, Connecticut, as part of the Wesleyan University Tip-Off Tournament, and when it does it will be taking its first steps towards its climb back into the upper echelon of the CUNY Athletic Conference and beyond.  Coming off of its toughest season two years ago at 6-20, the Dolphins have carried the “rebuilding” tag both during that season and since.  In 2010-11, the promise is for that label to be replaced with that of relevance, a contender, one ready to make waves when it takes the court.
For the Dolphins, that means a departure from the inconsistency that plagued CSI over the last two years, and a refinement in the lineup to the tune of nine new faces in time for opening tip, many of whom will see plenty of action in their initial campaigns.
“Some years you get unlucky with recruiting,” said head coach Tony Petosa, who will embark on his 21st year on the sidelines this season.  “We got a little lucky this year.  We landed a handful of recruits that we heavily pursued, and they are complemented by a few who are coming to us from lesser recruiting avenues and the bottom line is they can all make a difference.”
That doesn’t mean the 300-game winner will put everything on the shoulders of his freshmen.  Returning starters Jordan Young (CUNYAC Rookie of the Year in 2008-09 and All-Star a year ago), Dale Taranto, and Liwei Pan will all return having contributed mightily a year ago, and as captains the trio will be looked at in more ways than one in 2010-11.
“They are our leaders and they do it in different ways; quiet leadership, being vocal, and their presence and play on the court,” said Petosa.  “Whether it’s through ball distribution, getting the younger players involved or just being there to guide the youth, we will ask them to step up.”
The trio that logged solid minutes are not without a solid returning supporting cast.  Sophomore Herschel Jenkins was CSI’s sixth-man a year ago and after an improved off-season could factor into the starting rotation while versatile role players Chris Maccarone (Jr., F), Emmanuel Frank (Jr., G), Dan Comperato (So., F), and Jonathan Person (Jr., F) will all jockey for minutes and a chance to shine as they develop into more prominent roles.
With three consistent starters from last year’s squad gone, the battle for playing time and starting roles could make the beginning of the season quite spirited, according to the head coach.
“It doesn’t hurt that there will be competition for roles,” said Petosa.  “I think the kids are figuring out what our normal rotation will be, but nothing is set and stone and we’re not so much looking for starters as we are finishers.”
With finishing strong as the focus, CSI and the coaching staff know they will have plenty of firepower on the bench and a team make-up that has changed from a team that won and lost based on shooting last year, to one that will rely heavily on scoring, sound fundamentals and ball possession, and smothering defensive play.
“Where we changed this year the most is that we have scorers this year rather than shooters.  We have guys who play around the rim, can get to the foul line, and push for points.  I’d rather have that.  I think it will improve our consistency because we don’t have to rely on our players having a hot hand night after night.”
Backing up the coach’s assessment is a host of new talent who could factor into the mix early and provide a foundation for ongoing success.  Players like Thomas Tibbs (Jr., G) and Bloochy Magliore (Fr., G) could very well anchor the CSI backcourt from day one, providing a dynamic scoring touch with exceptional ball control and distribution.  Frontcourt aces Matthew Van Manan (Fr., F), Louis Valdes (Fr.,  F), Frank Husslein (Fr., F) and David Hughes (Fr., F) could all see ample time, making up for the loss of 6-7 Michael Ledbetter, one of the team’s leading scorer’s a year ago.  Patrick Granata (Fr. G) and Kurt Manesy (Fr., F) could also push for time as defensive catalysts and sound fundamental players.
“We haven’t been able to replace the size, but we’re going to offset our offensive losses with a committee that can give us valuable front court presence with a much better look defensively,” the coach added.
That said, the coach knows that to go from mediocre and an eight seed in last year’s CUNYAC postseason to being a team battling for a regular and postseason championship will take more that just numbers and a few changes in style and substance.  The true measure of the team will come with how the team progresses from week to week, day to day, practice to practice.
“In order for us to win or to have any sort of success we will have to control the ball and team rebound,” said Petosa.  “I feel confident we can do that but we have a lot to prove.  We are establishing a solid core of kids.  How quickly we can win is hard to tell until we put ourselves out there and start testing ourselves.  I hope it’s soon enough.”
Never one to make grand predictions or post bulletin-board material, Petosa keeps his optimism guarded.
“It’s a year-to-year thing,” he stated.  “We want to show improvement and show that we are moving in the right direction.  For me to be satisfied, we need to be relevant, and we hope to be on our way.  We’re extremely satisfied with what we brought in, but what’s more important is where we are going as opposed to where we are now.”