That's one of my favorite quotes, and it's especially applicable to at least three members of the Gannon basketball program. Think about where Tyler Stoczynski, Cory Knight, and coach John Reilly were just a few years ago -- when a league championship and top seed in the Division II national tournament were someone else's achievable dream.
Both Stosh and Cory had stellar scholastic careers, but something went wrong at their first college choices. Tyler left UMass-Lowell after less than one year while Cory bolted Pfeiffer (N.C.) after just one season. When they made the move to Gannon, both probably had their doubts if this school was going to work out. Their first year in a Golden Knight uniform produced a painful 9-17 campaign, the fewest wins and most losses in school history since, well, before each player was born. They were getting more playing time, but they had to be questioning their abilities to be good players for a winning Division II team.
Reilly was probably having the same doubts if he made the right move back to Gannon from Brescia (Ky.). Not only were his new GU teams losing, his program had more turnover than Sontheimer's Bakery. Plus, the Hammermill Center crowds weren't the near-3,000 he recalled when he was an assistant at Gannon; at times they were just one quarter the size of the glory days attendance.
And if Reilly wasn't doubting his abilities to coach on the Division II level, several Gannon fans certainly were. Before last season the question I fielded most often wasn't, "How will Gannon be this year?" It was, "Do you think your coach is going to make it another season?" Those same folks are now asking questions like, "Isn't this exciting?" and "Do you think they can go to the Final Four?"
I'm sure that Pierre Howard, Joe Lindsey, Kyle Goldcamp and the rest of the Knights are enjoying this highly successful 27-3 season and the PSAC tournament championship. But it has to be even sweeter for Stoczynski, Knight, and Reilly because of the obstacles they've overcome along the way.
- The D-II field of 64 will be announced tonight at 9 -- you can watch it live at http://all-access.cbssports.com/player.html?code=ncaa&media=106756&elinkdata=29828 -- but let's take a stab now at how the Atlantic's matchups will look. #1 Gannon vs. #8 UPJ is a certainty. I would also predict #2 Va. Union vs. #7 Slippery Rock, #3 Kutztown vs. #6 West Va. State, and #4 JC Smith vs. #5 Alderson-Broaddus.
- UPJ, the #4 seed in the WVIAC and nowhere on the radar in the regional rankings, shocked Alderson-Broaddus in the double-OT finals yesterday. That's bad news for IUP, Slippery Rock, and Elizabeth City State, whose NCAA tournament hopes were on life support already.
You can flip a three-way coin (do they make those?) to determine which of those teams should get the #7 spot:
- Elizabeth City State (20-7 in the region) -- key wins vs. JC Smith (back in Nov.) and Va. Union (to end the regular season); key losses to Chowan, St. Paul's, Bowie State, and Va. State (twice, including in the CIAA quarterfinals).
- IUP (19-6) -- key win vs. Slippery Rock; key losses to Slippery Rock (twice, including the in PSAC quarterfinals)
- Slippery Rock (17-8) -- key wins vs. IUP (twice), Gannon; key losses to Shippensburg, Millersville, and IUP.