CURBSTONE Penguinsyoung this year
The YSU women's basketball team will try to win its second straight game Wednesday at Akron.
By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- Since discipling two players during a road trip when he started coaching the Youngstown State University women's basketball team over 18 years ago, Ed DiGregorio hasn't had many problems.
He hopes that's the case on the court against opponents the remainder of the 2001-2002 season.
That season is still very young.
Very young is also what the Penguins are this season.
"We had three freshmen and two sophomores on the floor at one time against Kent State on Saturday," DiGregorio said of the 79-64 win at Beeghly Center.
It was Youngstown State's first victory after a season-opening loss to another Mid-American Conference opponent, Bowling Green.
Akron next: The women play at Akron on Wednesday, while the men take a 1-2 record into Valparaiso, Ind., on Thursday.
"This may be a democracy, but I'm the dictator of democracy," DiGregorio said of his coaching demands.
The Kent game was a reversal of the loss to BGSU in that YSU's shooting was much better. "We couldn't throw it in the ocean against Bowling Green. In our Kent pre-game talk, I told the girls to shoot when you come open," DiGregorio said. "If they came open and didn't shoot the ball, they were sitting next to me and I don't need another assistant coach sitting on the bench.
"I think the message got through because we started with a 22-2 lead," he said. "Our perimeter did such a great job on their guards. We gambled. We went right after them."
DiGregorio gently exaggerated the situation facing freshmen.
"When you have a group of young kids, you never know how well they're going to play," he said. "For five days, my freshmen couldn't find the gym. They're totally lost. These kids are all-state, but when they go into Division I basketball, the game is so different.
"First, it's so fast that they don't understand the running part of the game and, second, they don't know how to play man-to-man defense at all."
Pure shooter: On the other hand, DiGregorio said that Devin Novak is "probably the greatest shooter I've ever seen. From 3-point or anywhere else on the court, I've never seen anyone throw it in like that. Now we've got to get her to learn the other facets of the game."
Of this season's young players, DiGregorio said, "I just hope I last long enough to see them through, but I probably won't."
He was referring to one more year left on his contract and the time he needs to care for his ill wife.
During the early signing period from Nov. 14-21, the Penguins signed three players, including Ashlee Russo of Boardman. Also signed to play for YSU are 6-2 Nicole Neila from Manchester and Aliyah Sabree a 5-8 point guard from Detroit.
He said he still has hopes of getting another player from Michigan, a 6-2 girl who can be an enforcer.
Youngstown State still has two talented freshmen yet to join the lineup, including injured Barbara Fabianova, who will join the squad for practice soon.
Recruiting tough: DiGregorio said that recruiting is getting more difficult because fathers are getting in the act.
"Until five years ago, we had to go into a home and convince a mother that Youngstown was the place to send their daughter," he said. "Now, fathers who never played any kind of game, including marbles, are in charge of their daughters. Now, they're riding the coattails and everyone thinks their daughters should play at Tennessee and Connecticut and they can't. They have delusions of grandeur and they're tough to deal with."
Because of the Penguins' new affiliation with the Horizon League, DiGregorio has finally reached into Michigan and Canada for talent.
"We've never been able to get a young lady out of the state of Michigan," he said. "Now they know about us and, overall, I think it's going to help us down the line. The real untapped resource is Canada."
YSU men's coach John Robic was unable to attend Monday's Curbstone Coaches luncheon at the Lockwood House after arriving from Chicago early Monday morning after playing DePaul University on Sunday.