New heights in the Valley

More news about: Delaware Valley
Tyliek Kimbrough has added to the Aggies' backcourt prowess this season.
Delaware Valley athletics photo

By Rob Knox

It’s a good thing Casey Stitzel didn’t follow his mother’s advice when he was offered the head coaching position at Delaware Valley, a program that hadn’t experienced any sustained success.

“She told me that you can’t take that job because nobody wins there,” Stitzel said. “When you have your own mom tell you not to take a job, then you know the history is bad. I knew it was going to be a rebuilding job for me when I took it. I thought (Del Val) would be a sleeping giant and there were some things to work with. Plus I figured if football can win, why can’t basketball win?”

Stitzel is no miracle worker, but his mother would be proud of the job he has done at turning James Work Gym into a destination for hyped-up hoop-a-holics and a house of horrors for visiting teams. The Aggies (13-3 overall) have won 12 consecutive contests at home and fans are entertained nightly by a talented and tenacious group of exciting playmakers.

“I believed that we could win here if we sold our vision,” Stitzel said. “To come in and take over a program with a losing culture and make it a winning one takes a lot of people to be dedicated. I understand that players win games, but I also know that if you don’t have a good staff then you can’t win. I’ve been fortunate to have a great staff that has brought into everything.”

In the past, the Aggies have enjoyed some shining moments and had some talented players, but they usually finished near the bottom of the conference standings and were an afterthought once the conference tournament rolled around. Not anymore.

All Stitzel has done is lead Delaware Valley to three MAC Freedom championship game appearances, two championships and two NCAA playoff berths in the last five years. It still seems unfathomable that Stitzel could turn around a program used to losing, but he has. This season, the Aggies are threatening the school record for wins, which is 19.

To appreciate Stitzel’s success, one must understand the history.

Before Stitzel’s arrival in 2008-09, the Aggies went 3-22 overall and 0-14 in the Freedom. He overturned the roster with a large recruiting class and the result was a 10-game overall improvement as the '08-09 edition went 13-13 overall and 8-8 in the conference. It was the first winning record in the regular season for the program since 1986-87 and resulted in the first postseason berth since the 1968-69 campaign.

“It just shows you how far the program has come,” Stitzel said. “I grew up in Quakertown and always played pickup basketball at Del Val. It’s great being a local guy and being able to have success here is special.”

Stitzel has been surrounded by great mentors in the business before being hired. He learned under legendary Herb Magee as an assistant coach at Philadelphia University. Stitzel played for current Richmond head coach Chris Mooney at Lansdale Catholic and for current Saint Joseph’s assistant coach and former Widener head coach Dave Duda before transferring to Widener where he played under Chris Carideo.

That’s like an aspiring rapper being mentored by Jay-Z, Drake and Kendrick Lamar.

Under Magee, Stitzel served as Philadelphia’s ace recruiter. Once the Del Val job opened, Magee subtly suggested his understudy apply for the position. Since Magee has been coaching since James Naismith nailed the peach basket to the wall, Stitzel had no option but to test his options.

“I’ve been blessed to have a bunch of mentors in the coaching circle,” Stitzel said. “Under coach Magee, I learned to hold kids accountable, how to run a program and how important discipline is. I picked his brain about shooting.

“It’s been special to coach here. It’s been great to build relationships in Doylestown. We are focused on finishing strong and making it another good year. The tradition we’re building here is exciting. We have great crowds for our games. It’s been a tremendous experience and I hope we keep it going.”

Del Val has the tools to play into March.

The balanced Aggies have six players averaging at least seven points led by 6-4 senior and Freedom Conference Player of the Year candidate Chris Moran, who averages a double-double (18.7 points, 10.4 rebounds). Tyliek Kimbrough, a 6-0 transfer from Mercer County Community College, is a dynamite guard averaging 13.4 points and 4.1 assists per game. Kimbrough dropped nine assists in a recent game against Manhattanville.

A marketing major, Moran has been the engine that has powered the Aggies during his distinguished career. Earlier this season, he became the 20th Delaware Valley player to reach 1,000 career points. He helped the Aggies get featured on ESPN’s Top 10 plays last season following his game-winning 35-foot heave that defeated DeSales. While his eight double-doubles have been impressive, it’s his work away from the floor that has left a lasting mark.

“I challenged him with at the start of the season,” Stitzel said. “The talent has always been there for him, but my thing to him was can you make everyone else better and he’s beginning to make that step. He has taken his game to another level.”

Alex Matiyne (10.3 points per game) and Barry Brockington (10.2) also average double figures for Delaware Valley. Zach Sly, who was named Freedom Conference Rookie of the Year following the 2012-13 season contributes 9.2 points per contest while Andre Butler is a 7.3 point per game scorer.

Here’s another view of how things have changed in the MAC Freedom.

Delaware Valley dropped a 60-57 road decision to Wilkes last Saturday, prompting a huge celebration in Wilkes-Barre. Ten years ago, a win over Delaware Valley was expected and nothing to get excited about.

“That kinds of put things into perspective of how far our program has come and all the hard work we’ve put in,” Stitzel said. “Nobody likes losing, but every team needs a loss to re-focus. Sometimes, kids don’t realize what they are doing wrong until they catch a L. I will say that we had some of our best practices of the year this week.”

The effort showed as the Aggies didn’t trail past the opening basket in a 72-60 victory at FDU-Florham on Wednesday night. The Aggies won the rebounding battle, 44-35. Moran finished with a game-high 19 points followed by Brockington (16), Kimbrough (13) and Sly (11). Williams grabbed nine rebounds and Kimbrough totaled eight. Moran and Sly brought down six boards apiece. Kimbrough also dished six assists while Sly added four steals.

Casey Stitzel and his crew could cut down another net when conference tournament time rolls around.
Delaware Valley athietlcs file photo

Now comes the fun part, the Aggies host DeSales in a showdown for first place on Saturday afternoon. Before Stitzel’s arrival, such games were foreign on the Aggies campus. Now, they are expected and routine. Stitzel gave lots of credit to his assistant coaches Nyere Miller, Nate Hodge, Jon Wessel and Jeremy Beckett for the program’s success.

“We are actually ahead of where I thought we’d be at this point of the season,” Stitzel said. “We had four new guys join our rotation so I figured it would take this group longer to come together. The seniors on this team have been phenomenal. It’s been a great group to coach. They have great chemistry and they play for each other. I don’t think we’ve hit our ceiling yet. There’s another notch that I believe we can get to once we get all of our pistols firing.”

While the basketball success has been great for Stitzel and his staff, his greatest triumphs occur during commencement when his players receive their degrees.

“A lot of people have been complimentary of the job we’ve done here,” Stitzel said. “However, the most important thing for me is getting my athletes ready to get a job after they earn their degree here. My brother was a little skeptical of me getting in this profession, but you love what you love. I have it pretty well and to get paid for it is a blessing. With coaching there’s a lot of luck involved. I am thankful to get this opportunity here at Del Val.”

Bell leading St. Vincent

Jaylon Bell dropped 27 points to lead St. Vincent to an 85-80 victory over Thiel on Wednesday night. The Bearcats remained perfect in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. They are 9-0 in the PAC and 13-3 overall. For Bell, it was his second 27-point performance in the Bearcats’ last four games.

Bell has been a human highlight throughout the season for St. Vincent. He leads the team in scoring with a 16.5 point per game average. He’s also averaging 4.5 assists per outing. One of his best performances this season was a 31-point effort against Marietta. Bell has scored in double figures 12 times this season.

Pat Jones (14.8) and CJ Howard (9.7) have also contributed to St. Vincent’s strong start. The Bearcats visit Bethany on Saturday afternoon.

New Face in Top 25

Seeing Lancaster Bible in the Top 25 poll isn’t a typo. Members of the NEAC, Lancaster Bible has barely broken a sweat in its 12-0 start, which includes a 28-point win over Franklin & Marshall. Eleven of the Chargers’ 12 wins have been by double figures. It’s Lancaster Bible’s first-ever Top 25 national ranking. In addition, Lancaster Bible is also the first NEAC men’s basketball squad to earn an in-season ranking. 

Last week in a pair of wins over Cazenovia and Morrisville State, junior Bryce Williams after averaged 25 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while sinking 12 3-pointers to give him a conference-most 45 3-pointers on the season. Williams leads the NEAC in scoring (20.3). Dondre Perry has 989 points for his career and will look to become the 22nd person in program history to eclipse 1,000 points when the Chargers host Keuka on Friday night.

While Williams leads the team in scoring, the Chargers get contributions from all corners of their talented roster. They have six players averaging double figures. In addition to Williams, C.J. Dunston (15.7), Perry (14.0), Jordan Mellinger (11.6), Kurt Keltner (11.3) and Herbie Brown (10.9) are also double digit scorers for the Chargers.

Blue Streaking through the OAC

Fifth-ranked John Carroll (16-0, 3-0) took care of crosstown rival Baldwin-Wallace, 102-89, to complete a perfect run through the first half of the OAC. It is the first time in the OAC era (1989-present) that JCU has defeated all conference opponents through the first round-robin.

Making history with each victory, the Blue Streaks have surpassed the previous program record for wins to start off the season. The program’s mark for consecutive wins, 21, was set by the 2008-09 squad.

In the win over Baldwin-Wallace, the Blue Streaks received 49 points from their bench mob. They had six players reach double figures: David Linane (16 points), Danny Wallack (13), Will Starks (11), Antonio Vuyancih (14), Ryan Farragher (13) and John Cirillo (12). For the season, the Blue Streaks are averaging 96.1 points per outing.

Farragher was recognized as the Ohio Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Week for the first time in his career after scoring 33 points in two games last week. Against conference co-leader and nationally ranked Mount Union, Farragher led JCU with 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting from the field. He was 2-for-2 from 3-point range and made his only free throw.

Ronaghan running roughshod

UMass-Dartmouth’s Megan Ronaghan had a game to remember Wednesday night as she bullied Rhode Island College for 37 points and 20 rebounds in an 81-53 victory. The junior registered on 16-of-27 from the field, posting the second-highest single-game scoring mark in program history. Her previous career-high was set last season, as she dropped 33 points on Salve Regina on Nov. 25, 2014. Ronaghan's 20 boards also marks a career-best, as UMass Dartmouth (11-5, 2-4 Little East Conference) turned in a dominating performance on the boards, out-rebounding RIC 57-31 on the night.

For the season, she’s averaging 18.5 points per game. Ronaghan has scored in double figures 13 times this season and has hit for 20 or more points nine times. UMD is 11-5 overall on the season and host Keene State on Saturday afternoon in Little East action.

The unbeatens

As January draws to a close, let’s look at who’s still hasn’t lost in 2015-16.

There are four perfect teams remaining on the men’s side. They are Whitworth, John Carroll, Benedictine and Lancaster Bible. On the women’s side there are six squads with unblemished marks: George Fox, Bluffton, Amherst, Hope, Scranton and Thomas More.

Your help

I am serving as the national columnist this season for for a second season. To help with telling the best stories, delivering fun and insightful nuggets while providing teams the recognition they deserve, please add me to your email list for press releases and postgame releases at Don’t worry about flooding my inbox. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter @knoxrob1.

Around the Nation was writen by Rob Knox during the 2015-16 season. A former Division III Sports Information Director at Lincoln University, Rob Knox also worked at Coppin State, ESPN, Kutztown and at the Delaware County (Pa.) Daily Times. He was inducted into the Lincoln University Athletics Hall of Fame, named the CoSIDA Rising Star Award College Division winner and won three writing awards for various game stories including the 2007 D-III sectional triple-OT game between Guilford and Lincoln. In the past, he has also written articles for SLAM magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan, a graduate of Lincoln and is from Chester, Pa.

Ryan Scot

Ryan Scott serves as the lead columnist for and previously wrote the Mid-Atlantic Around the Region column in 2015 and 2016. He's a long-time D-III basketball supporter and former player currently residing in Middletown, Del., where he serves as a work-at-home dad, doing freelance writing and editing projects. He has written for multiple publications across a wide spectrum of topics. Ryan is a graduate of Eastern Nazarene College.
Previous columnists:
2014-16: Rob Knox
2010-13: Brian Falzarano
2010: Marcus Fitzsimmons
2008-2010: Evans Clinchy
Before 2008: Mark Simon