The 2012-13 SU men’s basketball campaign begins this evening as the Crusaders host Penn College at 8 p.m. in the 24th annual Pepsi Tip-Off Tournament.
Entering his 24th season on the sidelines at
Susquehanna, head men’s basketball coach Frank
Marcinek and his staff return a deep team with plenty of
playing experience and talent that will look to make a deep push
into the postseason.
This group, which includes four returning starters, led the Crusaders to a 15-10 record last year and a No. 2 seed in the Landmark Conference playoffs
Despite losing First-Team All-Conference guard and SU’s third all-time leading scorer in Spenser Spencer, Marcinek believes his squad possesses the pieces to make up for that scoring threat.
“You can’t replace Spencer with one player,” Marcinek said. “But this year we don’t need the stars to align and depend on only a few players to score.
“We have a balanced attack with multiple options and a deeper bench than last season,” he continued. “The margin for error is a little bigger this year. This group has a different personality and our depth will provide consistency for us.”
The Crusaders will depend on a high-pressure, aggressive defense that looks to translate turnovers into easy scoring opportunities; subsequently, SU is hoping to rely on these turnovers to win on the road in tough games.
Leading the balanced attack is senior forward J.T. Wilson (Sparta, N.J. / Pope John XXIII Regional), who enters the season only 182 points away from 1,000 for his career.
Classmate Harvey Pannell (Bloomfield, Conn. / St. Thomas More) is recovering from a knee injury which caused him to miss the entirety of last year. A former All-Conference performer and Rookie of the Year, Pannell is expected to bounce back for the stretch run in the second half of league play and become the player he was prior to his injury.
Senior guard Brendan Rezny (Sparta, N.J. / Sparta) brings strong defense and E.J. Duncan (East Stroudsburg, Pa. / Pope John XXIII Regional) and Scott Marcinek (Coal Township, Pa. / Shamokin Area) provide solid backcourt play which is critical in road contests.
“We’re counting on our seniors to provide leadership on the road since they’ve been there before,” Marcinek said.
SU has a strong junior class with point guard Mike Perillo (Holmdel, N.J. / Holmdel), forward Wally Rutecki (Springfield, Pa. / Springfield), guard Jake Eskin (Germantown, Md. / Churchill) and center Harley Sellinger (Mill Hall, Pa. / Central Mountain) all battling for playing time as all four contributed last season. Perillo led the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio and Sellinger was near the top in the league in field goal percentage and rebounding.
Sellinger is studying abroad this fall as part of the GO (Global Opportunities) Program and will rejoin the team for the second semester for the stretch run.
“The return of Harvey and Harley will hopefully give us a shot in the arm in the second half of the season,” Marcinek said.
Sophomore Tony Seldon (Bloomfield, Conn. / Northwest Catholic) was one player that stood out to Marcinek and his coaching staff during the preseason and he will be given a much bigger role this season.
“He’s really turned the corner since last year,” Marcinek said. “His athleticism is at a different level and he will be a fabulous defender every game for us this season.”
Seldon’s classmate, guard Matt McGugan (Silver Spring, Md. / Blake), will give Marcinek another scoring threat off the bench, as he appeared in 22 games as a freshman.
Marcinek hopes to see five or six players averaging close to double figures and knows his talented freshman class will provide this opportunity as most are competing for playing time.
The incoming members are highlighted by Tre Dean (Dallas, Texas / Greenhill School), a 6-7 center. Dean brings a great shot blocking presence and is a versatile athlete who can play inside and outside.
“Once he gets some confidence, he will be hard to stop,” Marcinek said.
Six-foot-six center Spencer Ortmyer (York, Pa. / Central York) is another big man with a solid post-scoring ability and a back-to-the-basket skill set who is also competing for a starting position.
Back-up point guard Mark Kukoda (Spotswood, N.J. / St. Rose) is a poised player and posses scoring ability. Josh Miller (Strasburg, Pa. / Lampeter-Strasburg) is listed at 6-3 but plays much longer than that on the wing and Brandon Hedley (Silver Spring, Md. / Salisbury Prep.) can be a serious offensive threat in the mold of Spenser Spencer.
The Crusaders began their 2012-13 season with an exhibition at Division I Binghamton University, which pitted SU against former Crusader and current Bear Cat head coach Tommy Dempsey ’97.
“Tommy played for me and coached under me at SU,” Marcinek said. “He’s a great friend and we were excited for the opportunity to play against Division I talent.”
SU opens league play on Dec. 3 at the University of Scranton, a team that advanced to the Elite Eight last year. The Crusaders split with the Royals in 2011-12 and are ready for the challenge of opening up the conference schedule on the road.
The non-conference schedule includes Misericordia, an NCAA-qualifying team from a year ago, and two solid tests in Lycoming and Penn State Harrisburg.
“I want to do more than survive this part of our schedule,” Marcinek said. “We want to show that we will be a force to be reckoned with.”
SU posted a 10-2 record inside the friendly confines of O.W. Houts Gymnasium in 2011-12 but went 3-8 on the road, something that Marcinek preached to his team.
“We want to be a better team on the road. There are lofty expectations from this group,” he said. “There are no easy games in the Landmark. This is a great league from top to bottom, maybe the best since its inception in 2007.”