IUP BASKETBALL: Seniors aim to go out on top
February 21, 2014 10:30 AM
by TONY COCCAGNA

In basketball terms, the positions are numbered 1 through 5: 1 being the point guard, 2 the shooting guard, 3 the small forward, 4 the power forward and 5 the center.

Marcel Souberbielle, at 6-foot-7, always wanted to be a 2-guard, and he let IUP coach Joe Lombardi know as much when he was being recruited.

“Marcel had the inclination that he was a guard from the get-go, and that’s what he wanted to hear,” Lombardi said. “So at the time I told him, ‘Yeah. We run a four-guard offense and you’re going to be the fourth guard and guard the biggest guy on the other team, and then we’ll have a center.’ It wasn’t necessarily lying; it’s just semantics. He’s played the 4-spot, or the power forward, ever since.”

Souberbielle remembers those moments from four years ago when he left his native Uruguay to attend a basketball camp with the hopes of drawing some attention from college coaches in the United States.

“The first phone call from Coach Lombardi, I asked him how many minutes I was going to play,” Souberbielle said. “He probably didn’t have any idea and probably said something just to get me going. He said 20, and that’s what I ended up playing my first year, so it ended up working out.”

Things have worked out rather nicely for Souberbielle and the Crimson Hawks since he arrived on campus as a freshman four years ago. IUP has won 96 games and two Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championships, and a potential third title hangs in the balance during a senior season in which Souberbielle became the 28th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points. He leads the team in scoring this season at 15.7 points per game and is tied for the team lead in rebounding at 5.5.

Souberbielle, along with fellow senior Mathis Keita and graduate student Jesse Bosnik will be recognized on senior night prior to IUP’s last regular-season home game against Edinboro at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex on Saturday night.

“The players we’ve recruited, they’ve all been different,” Lombardi said, “but the majority all have something in common, and that’s a big heart, an understanding of being a leader, an appreciation of the opportunity given to them and the important part they play in trying to make an impact on other people.”

Only Scooter Renkin, Danny Ayebo and Chris Edwards have been a part of three conference championship teams at IUP, that distinction coming last season when the Crimson Hawks won the crown for the third time in four seasons. Souberbielle, the lone fourth-year player in the program this season, has the chance to join that exclusive group after making steady progress in each year in the program.

“That would definitely be super-special,” he said. “That’s what we want, what we’re looking for. It’s not going to be easy, and it’s going to be a challenge … but I’m confident that we will. Of course, you don’t want to get ahead of stuff. We’ll see.”

Keita, a 6-5 small forward from France, was the most valuable player in last year’s PSAC tournament in his first season at IUP after transferring from Division I Gonzaga. He has been an even bigger factor this season, averaging 15.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. He has scored 786 points in two seasons.

“Mathis has been terrific over two years,” Lombardi said. “As a transfer coming in, it’s a tough adjustment to a new program, and it’s almost like starting over as a freshman. He did a terrific job last year fitting in with the guys and taking the role he had. His role changed a little bit this year, and he’s been really good at being subservient to the system and the role he needs to play. He scores on nights when the opportunities present themselves and is terrific at passing the ball. He’s had games with five or six assists, and for a wing player, that’s not very common. He’s also made a conscious effort to improve defensively, and he’s our most improved defensive player from last year. He’s really a jack of all trades because he contributes in so many different facets from his position.”

Souberbielle and Keita probably will have opportunities to play professionally in their native countries. Bosnik, a 6-3 guard who comes off the bench, has no such designs. He played professional baseball for three years in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, following three seasons of college ball at St. Bonaventure, and joined IUP’s program for this season as a 25-year-old graduate student. This is his last hurrah as an athlete on a competitive level.

“I just try to take in every moment knowing that this is the only opportunity I have left,” Bosnik said. “I just try to take it all in and enjoy it as much as possible and try to slow it down a little bit. Just enjoy it is all you can do.”

Bosnik was a member of state championship basketball team at Elk County Catholic. He hasn’t been a part of a championship team since.

“You always want to win a championship, you want that ring,” he said. “To end it like that would pretty neat.”

Bosnik plans to return to his hometown of St. Marys, join the workforce and “look forward to the next challenge.”

“Jesse is the type of guy that someday might hire some of these other guys that are bigger stars than him,” Lombardi said. “He has great leadership skills and a lot of ambition. I think he’ll use all those intangibles to be successful in whatever occupation he pursues.”

Bosnik also plans to coach. He helped coach baseball at Elk County last spring and was planning to coach basketball this season before Lombardi called.

“I’d love to coach,” he said. “I put so much time into baseball and basketball that I feel like I want to give some of that knowledge back to other people.”

“He’s the type of young man that values working with young people and wants to give back because of all that’s been given to him,” Lombardi said. “I can see him helping out his high school or AAU program and not only help develop players but help young kids develop into young men.”

Senior night is a celebration of all the players have brought to the program, and all the program has done for them. It also is a signal that one door is closing while another is about to spring open.

“I’m kind of sad,” Keita said. “I feel like there’s still a long way to go — the PSAC tournament, the NCAA tournament — and we want to make a run, so I don’t feel like it’s coming to and end. But I know I only have a couple months left to enjoy it. It’s definitely been two great years, and I’m excited for the rest coming up, too.”

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