DOLPHINS MEN HAVE CHAMPIONSHIP HOPES IN 2015-16; TIP-OFF TUESDAY

The College of Staten Island men’s basketball unit has had a terrific run of success, and the unit is hoping it translates into a CUNYAC Championship and beyond in 2015-16. The back-to-back defending ECAC Metro Champions are looking to more advanced postseason targets, namely a CUNYAC Championship and another feverish run into the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament. The Dolphins were selected along with Baruch College as the top team in the conference in the conference’s annual Preseason Coaches’ Poll. CSI will get it all started on Tuesday, travelling to Stockton University in Pomona, NJ, for its season tip-off, at 7pm.

One need only look at CSI’s top two players to determine their chances in the new basketball year. Decorated senior Will Fonseca torched the CSI record books for 732 points last season, good for a 26.1 per game clip, adding 12.5 rebounds per game. The DIII News and BennetRank All-America was named a 1st-team D3hoops.com All-American, and the CUNYAC Preseason Player of the Year. He joins fellow HeroSports.com All-America junior Frank Schettino to make up one of the top one-two punches in the nation. Schettino posted 228 assists a year ago, good for 7.9 per game, along with 17.0 points per contest. For Head Coach Tony Petosa, entering his 26th season, it’s all pretty simple: If you want to stop CSI, you have to stop them.

“It’s obvious that they are two of our most successful players and they provide a great deal of impetus into whether or not we will be a good team this year,” Petosa said. “Between Will’s ability to get to the basket and play above the rim and Frank’s ability to distribute and make others better, most everything we do funnels through them.”

While Fonseca and Schettino are the mastheads, Petosa knows that the key to consistent basketball and winning games will depend on the supporting cast, and with the likes of frontcourt returners like centerpiece Thomas Delahanty and forward Kevon Murphy, and backcourt dynamos like Khari Rollock, Vincent Dacunto, Edin Bracic, Kevin Swanberg and Mark Fiorello, the coach feels he has a nice bedrock. The supporting cast not only have valuable on-court experience that seasoned teams require, but a nice leadership mix essential for the long season ahead.

“I feel a lot of our returning guys, what I would like to call our supporting guys, have really improved in the off-season,” the coach said. “They have raised their level to the point where they can do more on the floor than just support. They can be a real factor for us this season.”

Petosa understands that the key to having a successful program with pedigree is the ability to win in the offseason, and true to form, the recruiting effort has yielded dividends for the coach and his staff. Look for players like Wesley Smith and Khaleeq Baum to hit the ground running, and the coach is hopeful that the entire lot of his incoming recruits will add depth, something he feels is essential, especially come playoff time, when every second on the floor counts.

“Our newcomers have the ability to give us a lot in terms of minutes and what they can give us defensively and up the floor,” Petosa noted. “I think for all of them it will be about transferring that play on the practice floor to the in-game situations. The sooner we can do that, the better we will be.”

Despite the successes that CSI has had, the team has fallen short of a CUNYAC Championship in each of the last two seasons. A heavily competitive in and out of conference schedule and opponent lineup are a huge reason why, but the coach knows that if CSI is to win, they can’t beat themselves and there are certain things his unit must do well, among them are the ability to stop the opposition, a calling card to Petosa’s successful teams.

“First and foremost, we want to be one of the region’s best defensive teams,” the coach stated. “We like to target holding our opponents under 40-percent shooting. What has always made us good is our ability to stop people. When you’re putting up the ball fast it’s sometimes hard to do that, but that’s what we will target. Without a defense’s ability to get stops, great teams become very average.”

CSI’s schedule will provide plenty of resistance. The Dolphins will spend the first five games of their season on the road, including a Staten Island showdown with NCAA Division I Wagner College at Wagner’s campus on November 28 at 4pm. A week later, CSI will open up at home against Stevens Institute of Technology, before a pair of road CUNYAC contests against defending-champion Baruch College (12/8) and John Jay College (12/10). As always, one of the highlights of the season will be CSI’s Annual Tournament of Heroes on December 29-30. The Dolphins will welcome in Westminster College, Connecticut College and Canton College. After that, 13 of their final 15 games will be against CUNYAC competition, with seven of the final 9 at home. Petosa never shies away from playing the region’s top teams, something he hopes benefits the team down the road.

“The CUNY Conference has gotten better so we need to compete every minute and work hard to win games this year,” Petosa exacted. “For us, our goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament. Whether it’s through an automatic bid or through an at-large bid we will find out, but that’s the goal. You never know what is going to happen with injuries and such but if all goes well we can be a competitive team and I hope we can build on the positive momentum we’ve created.”

All of CSI’s home games will be broadcast this season on CSI SportsNet. The video streaming service offers free SD viewing with an upgrade to HD viewing at $5 per contest. Tickets to CSI Basketball games in 2015-16 is $5 for general admission and free for students, CSI faculty and staff, and children aged 12 and under. PG-CLUE certification is offered for all CSI students.

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