Bosnik adjusting to reserve role for IUP

Jesse Bosnik returned to IUP as basketball player after a career in baseball (Ahmad Abusaad/The Penn)

The Indiana University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team is more than halfway through the season, yet one player is just now getting back into basketball mode.

Jesse Bosnik, the Crimson Hawks’ graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in business administration, came into this season as a large question mark for head coach Joe Lombardi’s squad.

When Bosnik’s hoops career started at Elk County Catholic high school in St. Marys, he had the opportunity to become a star college player. Bosnik did go on to St. Bonaventure University and become a star – but on the baseball diamond.

Now the former college shortstop, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010, is slowly regaining his basketball skills.

“I feel good,” Bosnik said. “The game is coming back to me. I’m in the flow; the game isn’t too fast.”

The 25-year-old Bosnik is using his final year of eligibility (he left St. Bonaventure after his junior year) to continue playing basketball, the game he hasn’t played competitively since his senior year of high school in 2007.

“I didn’t really know exactly how [the season] would go,” Bosnik said. “In every season, there are ebbs and flows. It’s going good, but I didn’t have an expectation [for this season].”

A 2,000-point scorer at ECC, Bosnik has yet to have an offensive explosion this season – his season-high is just seven points, and he averages 2.4 points per game – but he has solidified himself in Lombardi’s eight-man rotation of players.

“Taking all that time off, it’s just muscle memory and repetitions,” Bosnik said of his improving jump shot. “I’ve just been trying to get as many shots up as I can.

“It’s not where I’d like it to be, but it’s something you have to work on to get better.”

With only about a month to train for the upcoming season, Bosnik said he understood his game would be rusty.

“I know how to play basketball,” Bosnik said. “I was confident in that. My confidence kept building over time.”

Coming off the bench for the first 12 games before earning three consecu­tive starts, Bosnik has played the role of defensive-specialist while participating for an average of 15.1 minutes per game.

“I knew that coming in that I wasn’t going to come in being a superstar, so that made the transition easy,” Bosnik said.

In the home opener against Notre Dame College, Bosnik’s stat line included one point and an 0-4 effort on 3-pointers in 21 minutes of play. Bosnik’s biggest contribution in that game was the three offensive fouls that he drew on the defensive end in the 87-70 Crimson Hawks win.

“Defense always shows up, no matter how athletic you are or gifted you are,” Bosnik said. “It’s just desire and under­standing schemes.”

With an ever-dwindling number of opportunities to play basketball at a high level, Bosnik has very clear goals in how he wants to end the second chapter of his hoops career.

“Win a PSAC championship, so I can go out winning the ring,” Bosnik said. “[I want to] go as far as we can in the NCAA tournament.

“As far as what I can do personally, I understand my role. I have to play defense and communicate. I have to bring energy.”

Crimson Hawks fans can see Bosnik and the rest of the team in the first home game of the spring semester Saturday against rival Slippery Rock University. Slippery Rock has dropped 23 con­secutive games played in Indiana, dating back to the 1991-92 season.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Bosnik said. “They haven’t won here in a long time, and we don’t want Saturday to be the first time they do.”

Tipoff in the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.