LEWISBURG — Just days after the worst season of his coaching career ended, Dave Paulsen hopped a plane to Minnesota to get a look at the future.
Paulsen and his assistants had already signed a class that would eventually produce three Patriot League All-Rookie players the next season. But the Bucknell men's coach wanted to get a close look at assistant coach Dane Fischer's prize recruit, a 6-foot-10 inch center from Roseville named Mike Muscala.
"I went and saw one of his state playoff games and I was just giddy," Paulsen said Wednesday as his team prepared for this afternoon's Patriot League title game. "I watched and thought, Wow! We've got something special. We just didn't know how quickly it was going to come together."
It came together pretty darn quickly. Muscala started 16 games as a freshman, averaging 10 points and five boards to earn All-Rookie honors from the league. But that was really just the start.
As a sophomore this season, Muscala evolved into the focal point of Bucknell's motion offense and every opponent's defense. He has averaged nearly 15 points, eight boards and two blocks a game, and became Bucknell's first Patriot League Player of the Year since Charles Lee in 2006.
And now he's got a chance to reach the ultimate goal he had when he chose Bucknell: Lead the Bison to the NCAA Tournament.
"Hard to argue it could have gone any better," Muscala said of his first two years in Lewisburg. "I've been blessed to have the coaches and teammates I do. I am in a very fortunate situation here to be part of a team like this."
On the trail
Fischer, himself a Minnesota native, saw Muscala play in tournaments and initiated the recruiting process which would eventually lead Muscala to Lewisburg.