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Standing tall on his own two feet

Stenglein worked extra hard to get to this point, and the Golden Flyers are the beneficiaries of his hard work, talent, and leadership. 
Nazareth Athletics photo
 

The play appeared innocent enough.

Tyler Stenglein, playing in the final preseason scrimmage before the start of his senior season at Irondequoit High School in the suburbs of Rochester, N.Y., received a pass from a teammate on the wing, drove baseline, and followed a clear path to the hoop.

"There was no one really even close to me," Stenglein said.

Just one layup attempt out of thousands by Stenglein since the time he first picked up a basketball as a child. It's the only one Stenglein will never forget.

Stenglein's right leg, upon landing on the hardwood after the shot attempt, gave out on him. His tibia and fibula, the two bones that run from below the knee to above the ankle, had both fractured.

"My foot was just completely pointing a way it shouldn't," Stenglein said. "I always tell people it wasn't the pain that was the hardest part. It was just the realization that I knew I couldn't play that year."

A few months prior, Stenglein had watched, along with a large portion of America, as then-Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered a gruesome compound leg fracture in the 2013 Division I NCAA tournament. Stenglein's injury was similar, though the fracture did not break the skin.

While the physical pain of such a catastrophic injury was considerable, Stenglein's concerns quickly shifted to his future. He was coming off a superb junior season in which he had emerged as one of the top players in the greater Rochester area and was hoping to parlay an even better senior season into a Division I offer. Stenglein, a versatile guard, was also being recruited by a number of Division III schools, including Nazareth, which is located about 20 minutes away in Pittsford, N.Y.

Instead, mere days before the start of his senior season, Stenglein found himself hospitalized with a titanium rod and four screws stabilizing his leg. He spent the next three months off the leg completely before transitioning to a walking boot, which he used for another month. After that, he was cleared to walk without additional aid. But regaining his form on the basketball court would prove tricky.

After exploring all of his options, including the possibility of repeating his senior year at Irondequoit, Stenglein eventually decided to enroll at Nazareth. Kevin Broderick, now in his eighth season as the head coach of Nazareth's men's basketball, was one of Stenglein's most frequent and dedicated recruiters. The injury did nothing to dissuade Broderick from pursuing Stenglein.

"I just knew how tough he is, how determined he is, and how important basketball was to him," Broderick said. "I was never really worried that we'd never get a chance to coach this guy in real games."

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Stenglein admittedly pushed himself hard -- too hard, perhaps -- over the summer of 2014 to find his groove for his first collegiate season. He never found it. Stenglein and Broderick decided it was best for Stenglein to medically redshirt his first season, while still practicing with the team. That plan only lasted about three weeks, at which point a stress fracture in Stenglein's left tibia -- the result of overcompensating for his right leg -- was discovered.

"I've always been a pretty confident person in myself and in what I could do, but after my freshman season ended, my confidence was probably at the lowest it had been," Stenglein said. "I had no idea what was going to happen, if I was ever going to be able to actually do this again, both physically and mentally."

Stenglein wondered if his legs would be able to survive the rigors of college basketball. For the first time in his life, he considered walking away from the sport he loved above all others. Even his usually exemplary academic performance suffered during his first year at Nazareth.

"When you see a kid who loves basketball and competing that much have the whole season taken away, I don't think everybody understands how hard that is mentally," Broderick said.

But it was all just temporary. Stenglein returned healthy and hungry for the 2015-16 season, and proceeded to take the Empire 8 by storm. In his first collegiate game -- his first competitive game in more than two years -- he finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a 91-81 win against D'Youville. A season that began with a near triple-double ended with Stenglein averaging 15.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, and earning Empire 8 Rookie of the Year and second-team all-conference honors. Perhaps most amazingly, Stenglein led the entire conference in minutes played per game (35.2). This season, Stenglein has upped his scoring (21.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg), while again leading the Empire 8 in minutes per game (37.8).

"We knew going into this year that we were inexperienced, but we also knew we had one of the best players in the country on our team," Broderick said. "We knew that. We had seen it last year.

"We knew he was good, but he's even better than we thought."

Despite the departures of standout big men Mitch Ford and Maurice Mills, the Golden Flyers enter the final weekend of regular-season play third in the conference standings, with a chance to move up to No. 2. Stenglein and sophomore point guard Brendan Wind, who has scored 29, 38, and 48 points, respectively, over the team's last three games, are major reasons why. Broderick said Stenglein is the complete package as a player, excelling on both offense and defense in any capacity he's needed. Nazareth ranks first nationally in 3-point field goal defense (27.5 percent).

Stenglein was also unanimously voted as one of the team captains prior to the season, a rarity for someone with two years of college eligibility still remaining. As someone that used to quietly lead by example, he has taken on a more vocal leadership style, when the situation calls for such.

"He's so respected on our campus and in our locker room," Broderick said. "He is everything you hope a Division III athlete would be."

Stenglein is a physical therapy major, which is a six-year program at Nazareth, so there won't be any hurdles when he completes his final year of eligibility two years from now. Stenglein admits he still worries about his legs, but said he's had no lingering issues with them over the last two seasons.

He's also come a long way in accepting the situation. When Indiana Pacers forward Paul George suffered a leg fracture similar to Stenglein and Ware in August, 2014, Stenglein couldn't bear the sight. Now, he wishes he could watch a different replay.

"People were talking about it and I was like, 'I can't watch that,'" Stenglein said. "I'm over that part of it now. I've actually talked to people and I kind of wish I could see mine. I wish someone had a video of it."

To Stenglein, it's a constant reminder of how much he's overcome, and how much he still has to be thankful for.

SUNYAC race heats up

With one final weekend of regular-season games remaining, nothing is set in stone in the SUNYAC men's conference race.

Oswego State (18-5, 14-2) sits atop the standings, but still has road games left against Geneseo (13-10, 8-8), which is battling for the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament, and Brockport (18-5, 13-3), which trails Oswego by one game. Brockport also faces Cortland (16-7, 11-5), which enters the final weekend in a tie with Oneonta (14-9, 11-5), though Cortland dropped both of its head-to-head meetings with Oneonta. Confused yet? Well, at least this much is known -- Oswego State, Brockport, Oneonta and Cortland will make up the top four seeds. In what order, of course, is anyone's guess?

After that, Buffalo State (15-8, 9-8), Geneseo, defending regular-season champion Plattsburgh State (11-11, 7-9) and Fredonia (10-14, 7-10) remain in the mix for the final two seeds. The top two seeds -- likely Oswego and Brockport -- will earn first-round byes. Last season, No. 2 seed Cortland edged No. 4 seed Oswego in the title game.

This year's tournament is likely to feature an upset or two as well, but first the dust must settle on the regular-season battle. In a sea of great conference races across the Division III landscape, the SUNYAC stands out as one of the more intriguing ones.

Lancaster Bible moves toward familiar territory

Regular-season success has been common for the Lancaster Bible women's basketball team in recent seasons. The Chargers have won at least 20 games in four straight seasons and reached the NEAC conference tournament title game in three of those seasons.

The glaring shortcoming has been the results of those title game appearances. Only once, in the 2012-13 season, has Lancaster Bible won to secure a bid to the NCAA playoffs. With three regular-season games remaining, including key contests against South Division opponent Bryn Athyn (18-4, 14-3) and North Division-leading SUNY Poly (21-2, 15-1), Lancaster Bible (17-5, 16-1) is once again in position to make a playoff push.

The Chargers' success this season has been particularly impressive, considering the current roster stands at just nine players. The team's two most productive players have been two of its youngest in sophomore forward Courtney Goyak (18.7 ppg, 22.1 rpg) and freshman guard Caitlin Hickey (18 ppg, 5 rpg). Goyak, in particular, has been amazingly productive. In Lancaster Bible's 56-38 win against Penn State-Berks this past Saturday, Goyak finished with 18 points and 36 rebounds, just two shy of the Division III single-game record. Her 486 rebounds are the eighth-most in a single season in D-III history, and there's still at least four more games left in the Chargers' season. Of course, the team is undoubtedly hoping for more.

Top 25 roundup: Rochester drops two spots

After suffering its second loss of the season on Friday, the Rochester men's team slipped two spots to No. 6 in this week's D3hoops.com Top 25 poll. Brockport, Oswego State and St. John Fisher each received votes in the men's poll.

In the women's poll, undefeated Geneseo held steady at No. 18 for another week. The Knights are one of just five remaining unbeaten teams in Division III. Ithaca continued to receive votes.

Contact me

Have a story idea? A fun stat? Just want to talk some hoops? I'm always happy to hear from a fellow D-III fan. I can be reached via email at andrew.lovell@d3sports.com, or on Twitter at @Andrew_Lovell.

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Columnist

Justin Goldberg

Andrew Lovell is a writer based in Connecticut and a former online news editor for ESPN.com, as well as a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has written feature stories for ESPN.com, currently contributes fantasy football content to RotoBaller.com, and has been a regular contributor to D3sports.com sites since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing.

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