Sancomb enjoying Cal U. basketball building process

WHEELING – Be it as a player or a coach, he is a proven winner. So while a 2-6 record is not to his liking, Danny Sancomb feels good about his Cal University (Pa.) basketball program.

Sancomb is in his initial season with the D-II Vulcans. He spent the past 11 seasons as head coach at Wheeling Jesuit University, posting a 216-115 record. Last year, he led the Redbirds to their first-ever Mountain East Conference championship and a third-straight NCAA Tournament berth.

Despite that lofty success, Jesuit hierarchy unceremoniously and inexplicably cut Sancomb loose. Cal. U. quickly and adroitly brought the highly regarded mentor on board in an effort to rebuild a floundering program.

Although the early-season sledding has proven tough for the Vulcans playing the likes of powers Fairmont State, Notre Dame and Shippensburg, Sancomb is both realistic and excited about his program.

“We have a really young team, and due to injuries and transfer rules we dressed only six players for several of our games. Also, we have had only two home games and many of our games have been back-to-back ones which is really tough on a young team,” Sancomb offered. “We were playing with four freshmen and two sophomores early on. So we knew we were going to have growing pains this year.

“But the kids have been playing hard. Their mistakes were ones because of youth. They have given me great effort,” he added. “It is good to be young when you see potential. I really like our potential. I know it’s a coaching cliche but we just want to keep getting better every day.”

Sancomb, who guided Jesuit to 100 victories over the last four seasons, has good reason to be optimistic about the Vulcans’ future. In addition to having his youthful charges gain a valuable year of playing experience, he has a Rutgers transfer already in the program primed for next year while also inking a talented 6-7 recruit from Lakewood High near Cleveland.

“We already signed one player while looking to add three or four more recruits for next year,” Sancomb said Wednesday afternoon in a phone interview while beating the recruiting bushes in Virginia. “I look for major improvement next year and in two years we should be ready to compete at a high level.”

While his dismissal from Jesuit was messy to say the least, it is a situation Sancomb has handled with the utmost class. Rather, than speak negative about his former employer, Sancomb is relishing his fresh start.

“The transition has been great. I love this place,” Sancomb said. “I am a worker. I have been breaking down film, running practices, coaching games and recruiting. I relish all the worked involved. It has been a labor of love.”

Last season, Jesuit captured its first league title since 2005. Sancomb guided the Cardinals to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championship during the 2016-17 campaign while in the 2015-16 season, he directed Jesuit to a school-record 28 wins as the Cardinals gained their first-ever No. 1 ranking in the National Association of Basketball Coaches poll.

The Maryland native was a star performer for Jay DeFruscio at Jesuit. Sancomb led the WVIAC in scoring in both his junior and senior seasons while being tabbed first-team all-conference selection both campaigns. Sancomb ranks among the top 10 scorers of all-time Jesuit annals with 1,454 career points.

Sancomb was inducted into the Wheeling Jesuit Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.

Cal U. returns to action Tuesday against Bloomsburg.

BUBBA’S BITS

CAMERON PICA has been named to the Big 10 All-Academic All-Conference Team. He is a wide receiver for Penn State whose parents are Bellaire natives. The 6-2, 220-pound freshman starred at Hickory High in Hermitage, Pa. His parents are Dr. Rick and Jennifer (Destifanes) Pica. Rick was a standout wrestler for St. John’s while Jennifer a cheerleader for the Fighting Irish. Cameron is majoring in finance.

SHADYSIDE HIGH grad Austin Dorris also earned Big 10 All-Academic All-Conference honors. The Indiana Hoosier tight end also picked up his college diploma Saturday. The former Tiger all-stater plans to transfer for his final season of grid eligibility.

THE SAM Andy Classic is a good thing, paying tribute to a superb coach. The second annual hoop event played out quite nicely Friday night at WesBanco Arena. Adding a top-quality girls game matchup was a great move. Wheeling Park head coach Michael Jebbia and WesBanco Arena Director Denny Magruder — and all those who assisted — deserve much credit.

FORMER WHEELING Park hoop standout D.P. Harris has guided his St. Vincent College men’s basketball team to an 8-1 start this season. Harris is in his 16th year at the Bearcat helm, recently surpassing the 300-win mark at the school. St. Vincent is playing in a tournament in New York City this weekend.

MARTINS FERRY’S Robert Vargo has been named an Academic All-American. Vargo is an all-conference offensive tackle for D-II Ohio Dominican University.

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