Tre Digugliemo (above, last season) will spend his college years playing for Arcadia. (Photo:Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Tre Diguglielmo and David Leh were hanging out at one of their AAU teammates’ houses last August when they got a text that set them on the college course. The pair of Boyertown seniors had been playing with East Coast Power last summer in a few events that operated during COVID times, on a team coached by Phil Pierfy.
“[Pierfy] texted us and said ‘have you ever thought about playing in college together?’” Diguglielmo said. “And we were like, ‘wow,’ that’s the first thing that came to my mind, [it was] something we’ve never thought about ever in our lives.”
“I was just really excited for the opportunity, honestly,” Leh added.
It’s a question Pierfy was certainly well-qualified to ask. In addition to coaching with East Coast Power during the offseason, he’s also an assistant at D-III Arcadia University (Pa.), for whom he scored nearly 1,200 points and grabbed nearly 500 rebounds as a four-year starter before graduating in 2019; he’s been coaching under Adam Van Zelst in the two seasons since.
Arcadia’s coaching staff had been recruiting Diguglielmo for several months, since he was finishing up his junior season at Boyertown. But they’d also grown interested in Leh, and the chemistry the two displayed on the AAU court. The 6-foot-6, 185-pound Leh and 6-5, 205-pound Diguglielmo would be nice pieces for a lot of D-III frontcourts, and the Knights had an in.
“It probably only took a week or two to really figure it out, just the combination of size and skill that they both had,” Pierfy said. “Getting to see them everyday, how they interact with teammates and how they work, it cemented that they would be a good fit and good college players in general.”
It didn’t take long for two kids who’d known each other since being teammates on a 6th grade travel baseball team to get on board with playing together at the next level. They both had other options, all local D-III programs: Leh was talking to Lebanon Valley, Hood, and Albright; Diguglielmo's group included Hood, Wilkes, Juniata and Gwynedd Mercy.
But none of them were ever able to overcome Arcadia in the pairs' eyes, even though their decision wasn't necessarily a joint one.
“After we went on our visits and saw a practice together, we were just like ‘this is the place,’” Diguglielmo said. “It was so nice, we had great relationships already with the coaches, it’s a beautiful campus in a nice area, it’s close to home for both of us, it’s not three hours away. I feel like we knew right away, it was just the timeline of getting it done.”
The two friends took different paths through their high school years at Boyertown, one of the few District 1 schools located in Berks County.
Diguglielmo, who quit baseball after his freshman year to focus on hoops, was a three-year starter for Mike Ludwig’s Bears, who went 8-14 (1-9 PAC Liberty) his sophomore year. But they were much improved a year ago, going 16-8 (6-4), advancing to the PAC playoffs and even earning the No. 11 seed in the District 1 6A playoffs, though they lost to Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the first round.
David Leh (above) sprouted from 5-10 to 6-6 during his high school years. (Photo: Sue Begany/Boyertown Athletics)
Leh had to watch much of that season from the sidelines, injuring his ankle in practice in January and returning only to play a few minutes in the district playoff loss.
Unlike Diguglielmo, who’s always been able to use his height to his advantage against guards, Leh entered high school below six feet and grew gradually throughout the years to his current frame, necessitating a change in position from guard to the wing, though Pierfy said he’ll be working with Leh on big man skills in college.
“This summer with Phil is really where I started working on my post moves and playing more like a big, in the fall and in the summer,” Leh said. “I think the main thing is they want me to work on is just getting stronger and having a more consistent jump shot [...] learning to play more like a ‘3’ than anything else, I think that’s where I’m most comfortable.”
They both were starters this year as Boyertown went 10-6 (3-5), earning the No. 10 slot in the district playoffs but losing to CB East at the buzzer in the ‘second round’ of the playoffs (neither team had to play a first-round game). Diguglielmo was Boyertown’s leading scorer as a senior (13.3 ppg), leading the PAC in 3-pointers made (33), according to PAPrepLive. Leh, who missed the entire second half of his junior year with an ankle injury suffered in an early January practice, averaged 8.1 ppg, good for third on the team.
“Boyertown isn’t notoriously known for its basketball, and the past two years we’ve been in the top 10 in the district,” Diguglielmo said. “It’s been a huge change and I’m just so proud of my teammates and just our program for just turning it around.”
At Arcadia, they’ll be joining a program that went to the NCAA Division III tournament Round of 32 in 2019 under previous head coach Justin Scott, and has finished at or above .500 in seven of the last nine seasons, finishing in the top three in the nine-team MAC Commonwealth five times and then once in the MAC Freedom after switching over this year.
Van Zelst finished 16-11 (10-6 MACC) his first year and 7-4 (4-4 MACF) this past season, getting in an abbreviated season that at least showed the Boyertown kids what they’d be in for next year.
“I like how they play together,” Leh said. “It’s not many sets and whatnot, they just know how to play basketball and they’re playing together, which really stood out to me
Before getting to the school’s campus in Glenside (Pa.), Diguglielmo and Leh will be playing in a men’s league at Competitive Edge in King of Prussia, getting ready for the physicality of the next level by playing against men twice their age. They’re anticipating a normal beginning to their college careers with classes in August and first practices in October, a far cry from the craziness of their senior years of high school.
No matter what, they’ll have a familiar teammate to lean on.
“I would like to say that I think that they’re the type of people we’re trying to bring into our program in general,” Pierfy said, “and spending every day with them over the summer this past year cemented that.”