|Brendan Boken||Ross Danzig||Justin Klingman|
|Sean Cummings||Marcus Thomas||John Vitkus|
Veteran University of Scranton men’s basketball coach
Carl Danzig has never shied away from
In fact, he embraces them.
And as he prepares for the 2015 season, he knows it comes with the territory, especially after leading the Royals to five Landmark Conference championships in the league’s seven-year history.
“It’s what we’ve worked for—we want to set the bar high,” says Danzig, now 245-110 (.690) in 13 seasons. “Our players understand that when we lose a conference game and look across the court and see the jubilation from the other team, they certainly understand it. Having high expectations helps us going into every game because we know that we’ve got to be prepared. Our guys look forward to taking everybody’s best punch.”
Which will be magnified this year by the return of senior guard Ross Danzig (20.6 points/7.3 rebounds per game), the 2014 Landmark Conference Player of the Year; senior guardJustin Klingman (11.8 points per game), the Royals’ most improved player last season; and junior forward Brendan Boken (16.5 points/7.2 rebounds per game), a first-team all-conference selection and the most valuable player (MVP) of the conference tournament last season.
And even though Scranton loses two starters—Tommy Morgan, the Royals’ best athlete and the 2014 Landmark Conference Defensive Player of the Year, along with sharp-shooting Michael Barr—from last year’s 24-4 team, there’s still plenty of talent returning.
“Ross, Justin and Brendan have been the anchor of this team over the past 2-3 seasons,” says Danzig. “Certainly everything we do is going to revolve around them. We feel our opponents are going to focus on them, too, but we’re excited about our other players coming back who picked up valuable experience last year.”
Such as junior guard/forward Marcus Thomas, whose playing time increased dramatically as the season progressed and who made key contributions off the bench, including an 8-point effort against Hobart College in the NCAA tournament. Then there’s 6-8 sophomore center John Vitkus, who played 19 games as Boken’s back-up and who has worked diligently on his game, and sophomore Sean Cummings and juniorBrian Farrell. Cummings, who played in 24 games a year ago, comes close to matching Morgan’s athleticism, while Farrell has the potential to step into Barr’s perimeter-shooting role.
Add to the mix senior Michael Fee, junior Justice Perez, and sophomores P.J. Kelly and Pat Calvey in the backcourt and the competition for playing time should be fierce—and that doesn’t even take into account Danzig’s incoming recruiting class, several of whom should see playing time, including his son, Ethan Danzig, a 6-5 forward who will bolster the perimeter game with his 3-point shooting ability.
Danzig will also welcome Kevin Doolan and Chris McCullough, each of whom has the ability to help out immediately at point-guard, while 6-6 forward Brandon Feinberg and 6-7 forward Drew Schankweiler are expected to push Vitkus for playing time in the front court.
More than anything else, it gives Danzig plenty of options.
“We have the ability to go big or small with our lineup, depending on game situations” he says. “We have a lot weapons, more than most. Our success will depend on how quickly we can adapt without Tommy (Morgan) in the lineup. Once we fill that hole, I think we’ll be okay.”
The Royals will be tested early, including games against two, possibly three teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament last year. Scranton will face either John Carroll (18-11) or Alvernia (20-8, NCAAs) in the second game of the season, will host Cabrini College (26-2, NCAAs) on November 25, and faces Husson (Maine, 26-3, NCAAs) in the opening round of the D3hoops.com Classic on December 28 in Las Vegas.
“We always try to play a competitive schedule,” says Danzig. “You’ve got to takes some lumps, and playing good teams exposes your weaknesses. So, as we go into conference play, we know what we need to fix. Obviously we want to win every game, but when we get into conference play, we know exactly where we want to be and that’s why we play the schedule we do.”
News & Notes (Team)
*Royals led Landmark Conference in scoring offense (79.5 points per game), scoring margin (+8.3), field goal percentage (.507), 3-point field goal percentage (.434), blocked shots (4.9 per game), and defensive rebounds per game (26.8) last season. Scranton was also second in field goal percentage defense (.421), rebounding margin (+2.9), and assists (16.0).
*Scranton’s 12 wins in conference play last year were the most for the program since joining the Landmark and the most since the 1991 team went 13-3 in the Middle Atlantic Conference Northeast League under then head coach Bob Bessoir.
*The senior class of Ross Danzig, Justin Klingman and Michael Fee is 66-19 (.776) over the past three seasons, including two Landmark titles (2012, 2014) and two NCAA tournament berth (2012, 2014), including Elite Eight appearance (2012)
*Royals have won at least 10 conference games each of the past six seasons
*Royals were 16-2 (.889) at the Long Center last year
*Royals are 75-32 (.765) all-time in Landmark Conference regular-season games
*Royals are 11-2 (.846) in Landmark Conference tournament games
*Of the 18 teams on this year’s schedule, 10 had winning records last year
News & Notes (Individual)
*Ross Danzig is 94 points shy of becoming one of only 16 players in Scranton history to score at least 1500 in a career. He is 16th in scoring (1406), 24th in rebounding (565), 21st in blocks (74), 17th in field goals made (480), 20th in field goal shooting percentage (.509), sixth in 3-point field goals made (144), 15th in 3-point field goal percentage (.391), 15th in free throws made (302), and 23rd in free throw shooting percentage (.748) all-time in Scranton history
*Brendan Boken is 193 points, 109 rebounds, and 19 blocks shy of becoming one of only eight players in Scranton history to score at least 1000 points, pull down 500 rebounds, and block 100 shots in a career
*Justin Klingman set the Royal single-season record for highest 3-point field goal shooting percentage by making 56.5 percent of his attempts last year, breaking Al Callejas’s former mark of .541 in 1998-1999.