Penn State Behrend junior guard Nick DeLisio discussed the Lions’ 69-57 AMCC victory over Pitt-Bradford Thursday at the Junker Center, where the Lions executed very well in the final minutes. While it was about 10 degrees outside, DeLisio recalled the seven-day team excursion to Costa Rica in August that has helped Behrend heat up and win 9 games in a row.
“We went to Costa Rica during the summer and developed a little chemistry with each other, and when we practice, we practice hard and run the offense all the time and execute,” said DeLisio, the team’s leading scorer from Aliquippa.
“It was the best time of my life, and it was so nice there,” DeLisio said with a laugh because of the frigid January weather. “This is the time of the year you have to stay healthy. There was a kid from Pitt-Bradford who didn’t play because he was sick.”
The Costa Rica trip was the fourth for Dave Niland’s program as he is already guaranteed a 20th straight winning season.
“We’ve been to Germany, Spain and Brazil. The NCAA allows you to travel every 3 years, so we try to go every 3 years,” Niland said. “It has helped with this group, because of who we lost, and you obviously count Russ (6-foot 9-inch four-year center Russ Conley) and the other two guys were on the floor for four years (forward Adam Palcic and guard Pat St. Andrews) and played almost every minute every game. The stuff that happens on the floor that needed to be taken care of, those guys did it.
“So, by going to Costa Rica, that gave us an opportunity for two seniors that never started (center Shane Skelly, guard Casey Courneen), who had been good players for us, to really help learn how to lead, and figure out what this team is going to be like. In that sense, that trip was huge. Casey and Shane did a great job, but also Keith Wallace (junior guard) and Nick and Mike Knoll (redshirt-sophomore forward) who have played a lot of ball for us. Chris Dudzenski (junior forward) too.”
The Lions played three games, winning two, and ran clinics, but also enjoyed the experience of being in a foreign country.
“It just shapes your team. And obviously, there’s the educational experience, plus the basketball,” Niland said. ”It’s something where we first did it, I said, ‘Hey, we’re going to keep doing this for obviously the educational reasons.’ I think it matures the guys to be out of the country, a different place. But also, from a basketball standpoint, that allows us to look and work on some things, and we’ve taken some things from that trip that we really liked, and we changed our style of play a little bit.”
– Bob Jarzomski