|According to his coach, Brandon Federici is the rare volume shooter who can make the rest of his team better.
Franklin and Marshall athletics photo
Glenn Robinson’s long, luminous record at Franklin & Marshall would not be what it is without the talented individuals he has coached. His 935 wins and five Final Four appearances are a tribute to a long list of great scorers.
His latest, Brandon Federici, is poised to blow by all of them.
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Federici entered the season eighth in school history with 1,512 points, needing just 421 to break Georgio Milligan’s career record. He has racked up 110 in five games. The senior has already passed Brandon Smith, Alex Kraft and Will Lasky. The latter two were two-time All-Americans, as was Milligan.
Federici has all but clinched a better points-per-game average than any Diplomat of the past 60 years, thanks to offensive explosions he has displayed since the first week of his freshman season, when he scored 47 points in his second and third games for F&M.
None of this has come as a surprise to Robinson or his assistants, including Nick Nichay, who helped recruit Federici out of New Jersey.
“When he got here his freshman year, Nick Nichay said, ‘If they don’t guard him – if they don’t do something special – he’ll go for 30,’” Robinson said. “They have to totally focus on the job of guarding him, and if they do that, they’re probably not doing much in the way of guarding other players.
“He may still go for 30; but if they don’t do that, he’s definitely going to.”
Federici took little time proving Nichay right. He scored 30 against Immaculata in his 10th game as a collegian and finished the year with three 30-point games and three more with 28 or 29, on his way to an average of 19.3.
All that was possible because Federici saw no need to subjugate his offense when offense was what earned him a starting job as a freshman.
“We weren’t recruited as freshmen,” Federici said. “We were recruited as basketball players. Sometimes freshmen (say), ‘I don’t know whether I should defer (to other players). Should I defer because of my age?’ No. You can’t do that. The coaches tell you, ‘I’ve seen you do it in practice. There’s no reason not to do it in a game.’”
If Robinson said as much to Federici, he has been true to his word. The 47th-year leader of the Diplomats is often quick out of his seat to sub for a player who has done something foolish on the court, such as taking a shot out of his range. That hook never snags Federici, for whom no reasonable shot is out of range.
“I don’t care who shoots, or how many times he shoots,” Robinson said, “as long as it’s a good shot. For some, a 20-footer might not be a good shot. For others it is. Once (Federici) feels it, he can come out tremendous distances and still have a high rate of accuracy.”
As for opponents following Nichay’s script for holding him to a more pedestrian total, F&M’s Nov. 18 game with Alvernia is a case in point. The Golden Wolves (no longer the Crusaders) went out of their way, Robinson said, to deny Federici the ball or, barring that, a clean look at the basket. No matter. Four other Diplomats reached double-digit points, Ignas Slyka scored 14 in the first half, and F&M rolled to an easy win. Federici settled for 15 points, his lowest total of the young season.
On the rare occasions Federici is not scoring, he is more than just a double-team-drawing decoy. He arrived in Lancaster as a pure shooter, but has rounded into a more complete scorer and player, according to Robinson.
“Everything else has improved dramatically,” Robinson said. “He went from being not a very talented defensive player to a very good defensive player. He went to where he’s arguably our best screener. He does a tremendous job of setting screens and getting teammates open. His passing has improved tremendously.
“To me, the way you judge a player is how does he make the other players on the team better. Sometimes, when you get a volume shooter, they don’t make the other players better, they detract from them. With Brandon, that’s not the case at all. If someone’s open, he’s going to get him the ball.”
Making other players better figures to be especially important this season. F&M has nine freshmen on the roster. One, Matt Groll, is a starter, and three others are getting meaningful minutes.
“He’s helped these freshmen a lot,” said Matt Tate, who has started alongside Federici for most of their four years together. “He’s a great teacher and leader. This year that’s especially important because we’re so young. He really took on that role, running the captains’ practices.”
Federici gave his team a scare Sunday against Lebanon Valley. With about six minutes left in the second half, he fell to the floor, writhing in pain and reaching toward his lower right leg. He stayed down while trainers massaged a cramp in his calf. He did not return until the final seconds, but finished the game, a double-overtime win.
“I saw that,” Tate said, “and the first thing I hoped was it was nothing serious. But then, just seeing him get up, I knew he’d come back in the game. It was just a matter of when.”
Tate and Federici combined for a paltry 11-42 shooting night. Slyka, in foul trouble all game, didn’t score a point. The freshman Groll made like Federici from three years ago; he deferred to no one and scored 28.
Federici finished with 20 – one more giant leap toward the top of a storied program’s record book.
Widener opened some eyes last Tuesday with an 82-75 over then-No. 24 Scranton, the preseason favorite in the Landmark Conference. Tyler Drews led all scorers with 29 points. The Pride went just 3-for-17 from beyond the arc, but inside it they were 27-for-39, or 69.2 percent. They also outrebounded the Royals, 36-30.
HOT START FOR THE KNIGHTS
Southern Virginia got off to a 4-0 start, with a lot of help from freshman Katie Garrish. She earned CAC player-of-the-week honors with averages of 19.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and three blocks in the Knights’ wins over Randolph and Penn State-Harrisburg.
HOWES SETS CUA MARK
Catholic’s Steve Howes became the Cardinals’ all-time leader in coaching wins with CUA’s 100-82 win at Hood in the consolation game of the Rotary Tip-off Tournament. His 252nd win moved him ahead of Mike Lonergan, under whom Howes played during his two years as a CUA student. The previous day the Cardinals gave No. 14 Christopher Newport a scare before bowing, 80-78.