When the College of Staten Island men’s basketball team takes to the floor for the first time to open the season tomorrow evening, they will do so with a different outlook in mind. For the team that has advanced to four-straight CUNYAC Finals, the charge this year will be to seek new avenues to achieve the same result. The team graduated four starters from its incredible 28-3 campaign a year ago, and newcomers will be tasked to step into new roles. For the Dolphins that means they’ll be seeing things through the eyes of a new animal, a marked underdog.
CSI will open its season in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, participating in the UMass-Dartmouth 2014 Hampton Inn Classic, where they will open against Salem State University at 4:30pm, before they duel against the hosts on Sunday at 4:30pm. The tough competition will get tougher throughout the year, and this year, CSI will not feature the championship pedigree and swagger it has earned in year’s past. This year’s squad features eight new faces on a roster of 14. Only one CSI player, junior Kevin Swanberg, has played for CSI over two years.
The consistency will come from CSI head coach Tony Petosa, who will enter his 25th season as CSI’s all-time winningest, boasting a 400-260 record. The Dolphins will look to do what they do best, play suffocating defense while looking to distribute offensively to garner their long-distance shooters open looks and their interior threats open lanes.
Sophomore Frank Schettino is the team’s lone returning starter. The lightning fast guard may be tasked to shoulder more of the scoring after serving as one of the NCAA Division III leaders in assists a year ago, breaking the school’s all-time single season record. Junior Will Fonseca’s inaugural season with the Dolphins boasted starter-like numbers, and the power forward will likely advance his role from a season ago as the centerpiece of the scoring and rebounding machine. Fonseca averaged 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest in 19.6 minutes per contest.
“They’re going to be our go-to guys and with good reason,” tells Petosa. “We are going to look for them to start and end plays. The ball will go through them and they will have to step up into bigger roles and I think they expect and are ready for that.”
For the rest of the Dolphins’ returners, the focus will be on earning a rightful place in the starting lineup and as a key factor in the rotation. Interior threat Thomas Delahanty showed flashes last season, as did Swanberg and fellow backcourt mate Mohamed Marie. After missing the 2013-14 season, junior Khari Rollock joins the team after what was a promising 2012-13 freshman campaign, built off of intense defensive play. For Petosa, all of his returning stars will have a lot to prove.
“We always look for players who can fill roles, and those will be the ones that step up and make the most of their time in practice and play,” Petosa said. “I am looking for all of our guys to develop and be hungry to become bigger parts of the operation.”
The Dolphins can’t do it on their returning talent alone. For the team to have any sort of progressive success, the newcomers, eight in total, will have to be key factors. Petosa is anxious to see how the learning curve plays out, but for some of the new crew, it will be a serious case of trial by fire. Look for players like Jasin Cobovic and Edin Bracic to hit the ground early, but Petosa is excited about the whole bunch.
“I like all of our new guys,” he said. “I’m very anxious to see how they do. You’d like to give your younger players more time to develop but we have the make-up of a team that will get our young guys in early and we will do that and hope we have players that can emerge. We have a group that is eager to do that.”
Always insistent on playing some of the region and nation’s toughest opponents, Petosa won’t get many breaks in the schedule, and the coach contends his team’s win-loss record might suffer even if the team plays well. With hope, however, the team will get better as the season goes on, and if recent history is any indication, once the postseason comes into focus, the conference title will be completely up for grabs.
After starting the 2013-14 season with their first 9 games on the road, CSI will open with six of their first 10 at home this season. That stretch includes the 13th Annual CSI Tournament of Heroes, which welcomes in Misericordia University, William Paterson University and PSU-Behrend, on December 28-29.
The Dolphins were picked to finish third in the annual CUNYAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, behind both York College and Baruch College. CSI will play both squads twice this season, including home tilts on December 9 (vs. Baruch), and January 14 (vs. York). CSI men’s Basketball Alumni Day is scheduled for Saturday, January 17.
“I don’t care if we’re an underdog or an overdog,” said Petosa. “I just want us to be good. We won’t know until we play it out, so here we go.”
All CSI home games are FREE and PG CLUE Certified for all students. All of CSI’s games will be broadcast by CSI SportsNet at www.csidolphins.com/watch and home games are also available on WSIA, 88.9FM.