The Academic Sports & Recreation Center at West Liberty (W.Va.) was packed with screaming fans Jan. 19 in a top 10 battle between the Hilltoppers and Wheeling Jesuit.
It was the first time junior forward Dan Monteroso experienced this Mountain East Conference rivalry as a player. Monteroso, though, had a good understanding of it. His dad, Jeff Monteroso, is a defensive coordinator at West Liberty and his mom, Dr. Cathy Monteroso, is an associate professor of Health and Physical Education at West Liberty.
As a student-athlete, Monteroso spent his first three years playing wide receiver at Purdue University. He was a 2-time Academic All-Big 10 selection for the Boilermakers. During his time at Purdue, the desire to play basketball remained strong.
Final Stats: Monteroso 24pts 8 rebs Hohen 18pts 4rebs pic.twitter.com/8nRrenvJfv— West Liberty Hoops (@WLUHoops) January 28, 2017
“My roommates at Purdue were good high school players so we always went to the rec center on our days off and played as much as we could,” Monteroso said. “I always had the bug to come back and play.”
Monteroso graduated from Purdue in three years and that allowed him to return home and have one season of playing football and two seasons to play basketball. He concluded his collegiate football career last fall by catching a team-leading 57 passes for 944 yards and 14 touchdowns, which were also team highs.
It meant a lot for Monteroso to be on the same football field with his dad.
“That was nice being on the same field with him, especially growing up watching him coach and how his players reacted to him and how he coached his players so well,” Monteroso said. “That is something I looked up to because I want to be a college football coach as well.”
During the football season, the football coaches made sure Monteroso wasn’t overworked and that allowed him to enter the basketball season in good shape. It took very little time for him to gel with his new basketball teammates. He played with some of the players through the years during the summer and on an AAU basketball team. Monteroso knew he was joining a great basketball program.
Last season the Hilltoppers went 31-4 and played in one of the most exciting games of the season in Division II. Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, they came up on the short end of a 103-102 loss to Lincoln Memorial in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Tournament.
“When I first decided to play, I thought I would contribute a little bit because these guys are good,” Monteroso said.
West Liberty coach Jim Crutchfield figured Monteroso would be more than a minor contributor. Crutchfield knows Monteroso well. He has been playing racquetball with his dad for the last decade.
“He was a great high school basketball player,” Crutchfield said. “We would have liked to have had him after high school. He had some major Division I football offers. Dan has obviously been a great addition to our program, not just as a player, but as a person. He is an upbeat, positive guy.
“He has been shooting basketballs in this gym for over a decade. He has been a gym rat here.”
But the gym was never like it was on that Thursday evening in mid-January when the Hilltoppers were playing Wheeling Jesuit, currently ranked No. 9 in the NABC top 25. A crowd of 1,150 was at the ASRC.
“It was unbelievable,” Monteroso said. “There wasn’t a place to sit. The women’s game was packed. To be a part of it was awesome. People were screaming. Every possession was so big.”
The Hilltoppers needed double overtime to pull out a 96-90 victory. Monteroso once again showed he was more than a minor contributor. He scored 17 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in the victory. For the season, Monteroso leads the team with an 18.3 scoring average.
“Being able to contribute and play in these intense games and help our teams get wins is a great feeling,” Monteroso said. “It has been unbelievable, awesome experience. It has beaten my expectations by 10 times.”
After picking up their 12th straight victory Saturday, the Hilltoppers, who are No. 3 in the country, improved to 19-1 overall. West Liberty’s only loss came to undefeated Fairmont State, which is undefeated and ranked second.
West Liberty gets a rematch with Fairmont on Feb. 4 at the ASRC. Expect another packed gymnasium.
Crutchfield doesn’t want to sound like he is complaining because his team only has one loss, but he sees there is room for improvement.
“I feel there is another level for us to go to,” Crutchfield said. “For us to be competitive at the end of the year, we will have to get to the next level. We are working on it right now.”
Chico State playing well with the help of Corey Silverstrom
After a loss a week ago snapped a 10-game winning streak, No. 23 Chico State men’s basketball team returned to form with victories Friday and Saturday.
In those two wins, junior Corey Silverstrom scored 14 points and pulled down five rebounds in the 87-70 victory against Cal State San Bernardino, and the following night he contributed 14 points and two rebounds in a 69-64 win over the University of California-San Diego.
Games like the one on Saturday is why Silverstrom enjoys playing in the CCAA.
“Each team has a lot of talent,” Silverstrom said. “Every night we are going to get a high-level basketball game. I feel like teams in our league take a lot of pride on the defensive end. You have to work for everything on offense. You have to buy in on defense. You really have to learn both sides of the game. It is a highly competitive league. I like it.”
Redshirting his first year at Chico State helped Silverstrom gain the strength and the knowledge to be successful once he started playing in the 2014-15 season.
“He is a huge part of our team,” Chico State coach Greg Clink said. “He is our leading scorer. He does a lot of great things offensively. He is a good shooter, very good off the dribble. One of the things I am most proud of him this year is his defense. He is a guy we put consistently on the other team’s best player. He is really doing it on both ends of the floor.”
Once again, the Wildcats are hungry this season. They won 22 games in each of the last two seasons and made the NCAA Division II Tournament, losing in the first round in the West Regional. But in Silverstrom’s redshirt season, the Wildcats reached the Elite Eight.
“We had a great year last year, but losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament is something they all remember,” Clink said. “They are highly motivated to advance further than they ever had. We feel if we show up every day with the right mindset and attitude and the focus is on improving and getting better, the wins will take care of themselves. If we do that, we will be in a good spot at the end of this.”
For Silverstrom, his experience as a student-athlete at Chico State has been great. He is majoring in communications.
“The atmosphere and culture at Chico State is really amazing,” he said. “The faculty we have on campus are there to help you learn. In the athletic department, we have the best staff and best coaches in the country. When you have the high level of care around you, you really get a lot out of what you put in. I love being a student-athlete here. Everywhere you walk, you have a lot of charismatic people around you.”
It is easy to say Silverstrom is one of those charismatic people. His dreams are bigger than just becoming a professional basketball player one day. On his bio page on the Chico State website, it mentions he once finished second at a major Call of Duty tournament.
“It was pretty cool,” Silverstrom said. “I occasionally play it, but not as much. I focus on school and basketball. But when I have free time and get a chance, I will play it.”
According to Clink, Silverstrom still has high goals when it comes to Call of Duty.
“When we were coming back from the airport the other day, Corey let us know that his goal is to become the first professional basketball player and professional Call of Duty player ever,” Clink said.
One thing Clink is certain of is when he calls on him to play a winning brand of basketball, Silverstrom delivers.
“Guys like Corey who have come in and played the last few years know nothing but success,” Clink said. “They are very hungry and motivated to surpass what we did in previous years. It is no different this year.”