Just a season removed from the national spotlight and a Division II championship run, IUP returns five players from its 2014-15 team, which ranks seventh in the country, according to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Preseason Top 25 poll.
After a 31-7 record last season, a second place D-II finish and the losses of backcourt standouts Devante Chance and Shawn Dyer, IUP will look for Brandon Norfleet (senior, communications media) to take control of the team, although several newcomers could have significant roles early and often in the season.
Last season, the Crimson Hawks were second in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference with a 1.16 assist-to-turnover ratio while also shooting a PSAC-high 48.2 percent from the floor.
Down low, IUP’s corps will have returning veteran Daddy Ugbede (senior, communications media), who shot 65.3 percent from the floor, the second best single-season mark in IUP history.
As a whole, IUP boasts a balance of both returning players and fresh talent across the floor:
Brandon Norfleet: Already a 1,000-point scorer, he had a career year in 2014-15, averaging 11.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. The production of Chance and Dyer, who combined to average 30.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game last year, might be hard to replace. But Norfleet enters his final IUP campaign with high expectations. He played all 40 minutes of the team’s exhibition game against D-I’s Siena College and anticipates a hefty role when the Crimson Hawks open their regular season Friday against Urbana University.
Brandon Spain (junior, communications media): A transfer from Harford Community College, Spain struggled shooting from the floor against Siena, making two of 10 shots for four points, but he added six rebounds and three steals and could play an immediate role alongside Norfleet.
IUP head coach Joe Lombardi, who’s been at the helm of the Crimson Hawks since 2006, called Spain “one of the most underrated players in the conference.”
Anthony Glover (sophomore, marketing): Another transfer, Glover rounds out IUP’s corps of first-team guards. Transferring from Chicago State, where he averaged seven points per game in 13 starts as a freshman, Glover could factor into the team’s long-term plans if he’s able to contribute behind the likes of Norfleet and Spain this year. In his first Crimson Hawks action, the 6-foot-1 St. John’s Jesuit product scored eight points, hitting on two 3-point shots, against Siena. has a chance to solidify a strong role for years to come.
Dante Lombardi (freshman): Son of coach Joe Lombardi, Dante had four turnovers in his true-freshman debut vs. Siena but also scored seven points, hitting on his lone attempt from beyond the arc.
Lombardi hopes to earn himself playing time as a true-freshmen for the Crimson Hawks. Ranked seventh in his class out of The Kiski School by the Pittsburgh Basketball Report, Lombardi is expected to serve a rotational role to kick off the season.
Freshmen Greg Bearer, Jeremy Bonifacio and Chris McConnell (management), as well as senior Anthony Rocco (communications media), round out the guard position for IUP.
Daddy Ugbede: Last season, the 6-foot-6 Ugbede served as one of the Crimson Hawks’ primary options in the post, averaging 4.8 rebounds per game for a unit that finished as the PSAC’s third-best defense in terms of points allowed. An 81.6-percent free-throw shooter, the former Drake University transfer started 14 of the Crimson Hawks’ 38 games in 2014-15 but figures to start more this season.
Tevin Hanner (senior, sociology): The 6-foot-5 Hanner, known for his dunks and aggressive post play, could see starting time alongside Ugbede. A 56.4-percent shooter from the field, Hanner only trailed Ugbede in that category last season. He averaged 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 16.7 minutes off the bench last season.
Devon Cottrell (senior, communications media): Cottrell is IUP’s second-leading shot blocker in school history. With 144 blocks, he only trails IUP alumnus Darryl Webb, who finished his career with 162 blocks. Cottrell stands at 6-foot-7 and could be IUP’s first man off the bench, not to mention an anchor of the defensive unit. He averaged four rebounds per contest in 2014-15.
Jacobo Diaz (freshman): An overseas player from Spain, Diaz was dubbed a “tall forward” by Lombardi, who touched on the potential of his bench. At 6-foot-8, he played 21 minutes in the exhibition loss to Siena, recording six points and seven rebounds.
Blake Danielak (junior): Like Ugbede and recent graduate Jeremy Jeffers, Danielak is another Drake transfer. A 6-foot-7 addition, he scored a career-high 18 points against Iowa Wesleyan University during his time at Drake, where he started four games as a freshman before appearing in seven games the following year.
The forwards also include CJ Rudis III (freshman, marketing) who transferred from Shenandoah University.
IUP’s Friday night opener against Urbana will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.