The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 16, 2012

Bill Bowman's column on college sports: Fast break

By William Bowman
The Daily Item

---- — Late Friday night word came from Bucknell that coach Kathy Fedorjaka was stepping down immediately from her post as the university's women's basketball coach, walking away in the middle of her 15th season in Lewisburg.

At first glance, the timing is suspect because the move reeks of getting the news out late so it falls under the radar on Saturday morning. In truth, the team was together at an outing when a decision was made and officials wanted to make sure the players heard it from someone at Bucknell before reading about in on Twitter or one of the other thousand social networking sites.

I always liked Fedorjaka, going back to her days at Bloomsburg when I was a kid just learning the ropes. Between her and Charlie Chronister, I learned more about basketball in one winter than in my previous 20 years. She is always polite, always gives you an answer to a tough question and would stand there and answer until you were finished, whether it was five minutes of questions or 20.

Why she left mid-season I don't know. Grumblings on message boards have a serious tone to them, and I don't pretend to know what was going on off the floor. I spend a lot more time with the men's team and I don't know what goes on off the floor with them, either.

Both Fedorjaka and Bucknell director of athletics John Hardt gave glowing comments following Friday's news with the coach saying she is "grateful to these student-athletes in particular for understanding my decision at this time."

Hardt mentioned her passion for coaching, a fire that won't go away with this announcement. "Kathy was extremely passionate about coaching, and she was able to elevate the program to competitive heights never before seen in the Bison women's basketball program," he said.

Where the program goes from here -- a national search will begin at the end of the season -- is still a big question mark, as is the reason(s) behind Fedorjaka's exit in the middle of the season.

n FAST START: The Bucknell men's basketball team, as expected, is out of the gate quickly in Patriot League, winning its first three games by double figures including a rematch of last year's league title game on Saturday at Lafayette.

And while the start is all well and good, Bucknell can really separate itself from the rest of the Patriot League in the next 10 days, starting Wednesday night when it visits Lehigh.

Heading into Wednesday's games, the Bison are the lone unbeaten remaining in the Patriot League, and Lafayette, Lehigh, Holy Cross and American are all 2-1. Bucknell handed the Leopards their lone league loss on Saturday, but if the Bison can win the next three games as well -- certainly no small feat considering the strength of competition -- chances are pretty darn good if someone else is going to win the Patriot League title, they are going to have to so in Sojka Pavilion.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the Bison haven't lost a league game since Holy Cross beat them in the opening round of the PL tournament two years ago. No league foe has won at Sojka in the regular season in more than two years, since Navy won on Jan. 9, 2010 in the PL opener.

See, if Bucknell wins at Lehigh on Wednesday, then against Holy Cross (Saturday) and American (next Wednesday) at home, it would have a two-game lead on the three of the four (it would have a one-game lead on Lafayette, but own the tie-breaker) almost at the turning point in the 14-game league schedule. Sure, the Bison have to visit Holy Cross and American in the second half, but if they can navigate this brutal stretch of games they can make life a lot easier on themselves down the stretch.

But that's really getting ahead of the game. Coach Dave Paulsen never lets his team think beyond the next possession, a sound plan when you have goals like this team does.

n GETTING THE POINT: Another scary proposition for the rest of the Patriot League's men's basketball teams is that it seems like the Bison's two young point guards -- sophomore Ryan Hill and freshman Steven Kaspar -- are starting to figure things out.

Paulsen gave the ball to Cameron Ayers to start the year at the point, but he was playing out of position while Hill and Kaspar got their feet wet. Kaspar moved into the starting lineup after a handful of games, got the start in five in a row before Hill started the last five, including all three Patriot League games.

Replacing All-Patriot guard Darryl Shazier wasn't going to be a one-man gig, and Hill and Kaspar are now doing a pretty good double-team on the spot. In Bucknell's five game win streak the pair have combined for 35 points, 22 assists and just 10 turnovers, an average of 7.0 points, 4.4 assists and 2.5 turnovers. Last year Shazier averaged 8.3 points, 5.4 assists and just 1.4 turnovers.

Hill has tied his career-high in points with eight in two of his last three games, and he handed out a career-high eight assists in the win over Colgate. Kaspar has just one turnover in the last games, all of which could spell bad news for the rest of the league.

n Sports Editor Bill Bowman covers college sports for The Daily Item. Email comments to bbowman@dailyitem.com.