Alex Matsinye (above) is one of three juniors who return to the Del-Val University starting lineup. (Photo courtesy Del-Val Athletics)
Austin Petolillo (@AustinPSports)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2017-18 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 10. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season, click here.)
Over the past nine years, the Delaware Valley University men’s basketball team has seen its fair share of success.
The Aggies have accumulated 132 wins, six Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Freedom tournament appearances, four berths in the conference title game, three MAC Freedom championships and three trips to the NCAA Division III playoffs during that span.
Much of this success came during the Casey Stitzel era, which spanned from 2008-2016. But after a 16-10 record (11-3 in MAC Freedom) and a MAC Freedom Coach of the Year award all in his first season as head coach, Mark Seidenburg kept has the Aggies in the right direction despite the transition.
Last season, the Aggies were led by the senior duo of Tyliek Kimbrough and Tyrea Williams with sophomore wings Alex Matinsye, Andre Butler and sophomore guard Mike Cianciulli rounding out the starting lineup.
Kimbrough, a Brooklyn native and first team all-MAC Freedom selection, was the team’s leading scorer last season, averaging 16.3 ppg while grabbing an average of 4.6 rebounds a game. Williams was the team’s leading rebounder last year, averaging 10.3 boards a game while contributing 13.0 ppg.
“We definitely want to prove something this year, even losing Tyrea and Tyliek,” Cianciulli said. “I feel like a lot of teams in the league are underestimating us but that’s not the case, we’re just going to pick up where we left off last year.”
The Aggies won 10 of its last 12 games to wrap up their 2016-17 regular season and went on to earn the top seed in the MAC Freedom Conference Tournament, pretty good for a team that was projected to finish sixth in the league and miss the tournament entirely.
Their season was ended in the league semifinals by DeSales.
“With the group of guys that we have, we’re all used to being underdogs,” Matinsye said. “So by them picking us 6th, it was helping us because that just kept us going to the goal that we had.”
This season, the coaches of the MAC Freedom picked Del-Val to finish in 4th place, the last seed in the conference tournament. Above Del-Val is Misericordia, who is projected to finish in 1st and earned all seven first place votes by opposing coaches; Eastern and DeSales were picked 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
By returning all but three of their conference regular-season championship team members, there will be plenty of experience on this Del-Val squad.
The Aggies will be led by their junior trio of Matinsye, who averaged 10.2 ppg and 5.7 rpg and earned a selection as an All-MAC Freedom postseason honorable mention; Cianciulli, who averaged 9.9 ppg and led the team in 3-pointers last season with 49; and Butler, who averaged 9.1 ppg and 5.8 rpg.
Mark Seidenburg (above) guided the Aggies into the MAC Freedom championship game in his first year as head coach. (Photo courtesy Del-Val Athletics)
“I just have so much confidence in these three juniors,” Seidenburg said. “Those guys started all fourteen conference games, those three guys were top 20 in points per game in the conference, Mike led the conference in minutes per game so we think that the growth Mike, Andre and Alex have made from last year can make up for a percentage of what you lose with Tyrea and Tyliek.”
In addition to the three juniors, Del-Val has two seniors, and 6-foot-3 wing Austin Stoeckel (3.3 ppg, 11.2 mpg) and 6-foot-2 wing Ryan Naccarato (1.9 ppg, 11.3 mpg). Sophomore forward Joe Russell (6-6) also returns to the team after missing all but seven games due to injury a year ago; he averaged 4.4 rpg in 12.0 mpg.
Del-Val brings in three freshmen: L.J Robinson, a 6-foot-5 wing from Manchester Township High School in New Jersey, who Seidenburg said is competing for a starting spot; Damian Washington, a 6-foot-6 face-up four from Upper Moreland, who is also competing to be in the lineup; and Craig Rosenberger, a 5-11 point guard from Lansdale Catholic.
To round out the rotation, Del-Val also adds Willie Britton to the squad after he transferred from Manhattanville. Britton, a 5-foot-11 guard from Queens, averaged six points per game in his freshman year at Manhattanville.
“The growth of these three juniors that we talked about, and the growth of our returners and then our new guys that we brought in, we think from a compliment standpoint that we’ll be a better team than we were last year,” Seidenburg said.
Despite all the success the Del-Val program has had over the last decade, there’s still one big achievement that’s noticeably absent.
The Aggies don’t want to just get back to playing in March. They’d like to stay there for a little bit.
“Our goal is not to reach the Conference Championship, Del-Val has done that before,” Seidenburg said. “Our goal is not to win the Conference Championship, Del-Val’s done that before, our goal is not to get to the NCAA Tournament, Coach Stitzel has done that three times.
“Our goal is to push the needle forward and get to the NCAA Tournament and to win an NCAA Tournament game, because that has never happened in the history of Delaware Valley men’s basketball,” he continued.
“From a goal standpoint, if we were to do anything other than that, I feel like we’re setting them short.”