First Posted: 2/16/2015
SCRANTON – The University of Scranton men’s basketball team got a major lift four years ago when it added two Abington Heights graduates with strong ties to the school’s athletic program.
Coach Carl Danzig got everything he could have hoped for when his son decided to play for him on the Royals. He arguably got more than was expected when Justin Klingman committed to the program and made basketball his sport of concentration.
The two Abington Heights graduates joined Brendan Boken in sharing the Les Dickman Award as Scranton’s Most Valuable Player.
Ross Danzig became the first player to receive the award three times. The Dickman Award was created in 1954 and returned to its origin as being the team MVP award in 2002 after a period where only seniors were eligible.
“It’s a tremendous honor to get award,” Ross Danzig said. “To have it three times now is something to strive for, but not something you can necessarily expect.
“It’s a long, long list of great players that have won this award. It’s all the guys that I idolized and all the guys I wanted to grow up to be just like.”
Klingman, a three-sport standout including as an all-state soccer player in high school, has concentrated on basketball to rise up through the program since being a little-used reserve as a freshman. Like Danzig, a two-sport athlete in college with his continuation in baseball, Klingman moved into the starting basketball lineup as a junior and emerged as the most accurate 3-point shooter in school history.
“Justin’s a bit of a late bloomer, but we knew he was a hard worker,” Carl Danzig said. “It’s a cliché, but he has the heart of a champion. Here was a kid who was a three-sport, all-conference performer in high school.
“He was a tremendous athlete in soccer, baseball and basketball, and he hadn’t fully committed himself to one sport or the other.”
Coach Danzig was pleased Klingman made that commitment to basketball.
“It’s a true testament to hard work and a case where somebody truly putting the effort in gets the reward,” the coach said. “Justin has done a great job. He’s made himself a basketball player and what people don’t see is all the hard work he’s done when nobody’s watching.”
The constant work on his shot made Klingman, the top 3-point shooter by percentage in the nation among active NCAA Division III players.
Justin is the son of Steve and Deanna Klingman. Steve is Scranton’s associate director of athletics and former coach of four Royals teams that made the men’s soccer Final Four. Deanna, the 1985 NCAA Division III Player of the Year after leading the Lady Royals to a national title, is the current women’s basketball coach.
“He certainly understands how the game should be played,” coach Danzig said.
Ross Danzig has been one of the team leaders throughout a four-year career that also ranks as the most successful four-year stretch in his father’s 14-year run as head coach. The team is second in the Landmark Conference where it will seek its third title in four seasons next week.
“It’s everything we’ve hoped it would be,” Carl Danzig said. “ … We’ve had a great run with conference titles and NCAA games.
“We’ve been very blessed that we’ve been able to build some lifetime memories together.”
Ross Danzig had the Dickman Award to himself as a sophomore. He shared it with Tommy Morgan last season along with also earning Landmark Conference Player of the Year honors. He picked up the award for the third time at the John Long Center Feb. 11 prior to a loss to Susquehanna University.
After returning from an ankle injury, Ross Danzig went through a 10-game stretch in which he averaged 16.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He surpassed 1,700 points for his career Saturday in a win at Goucher. For his career, he is in the top 10 in school history in points and assists and in the top 16 in blocked shots, steals and rebounds.
Ross Danzig is hoping for one more extended postseason run.
“We have a really talented team that has overcome a lot of obstacles this year,” Ross Danzig said. “This team has had the most injuries, the most sicknesses and the most weird things that I’ve ever experienced.
“I think that will be good for us down the road. We have a lot of confidence going into this end-of-the-year period.”
Boken, a 6-6 junior forward from California, joins Klingman as the only players to start all 23 games. He averages a team-high 17.4 points and 6.8 rebounds.
Danzig, a 6-4 senior guard/forward, spent one year at Blair Academy in New Jersey between Abington Heights and Scranton. He is averaging 13.5 points after scoring a career-high 20.6 per game as a junior.
Klingman, 6-foot senior guard, leads the team in playing time while averaging 11.5 points and hitting 49.5 percent of his 3-point shots. For his career, Klingman is shooting 52.0 percent on 3-pointers, including a school-record, 56.1 percent as a junior.
Scranton enters the final week of the regular season at 11-2 in the Landmark and 18-5 overall.