(Photo Credit: Pictoria.com)
Led by guard Joe Zeglinski, the Hartford Hawks entered the 2008-09 season with dreams of a winning season and an America East championship. However, the Hawks got off to a slow start by starting the season 3-6.
Just when coach Dan Leibovitz thought the season couldn't get any worse, it did. Playing against Brown, the 6'0" Zeglinski injured his left ankle and suffered a tendon tear that required season-ending surgery.
Hartford could not overcome the loss of his 15.3 points, 5.6 boards, and 34.1 minutes of experienced play per game before the injury. The Hawks finished last in the America East with a 2-14 conference record and were 7-26 overall.
Fortunately for the team, the NCAA granted Zeglinski a redshirt, leaving him two years of eligibility still remaining. The better news is that Zeglinski is displaying no ill effects from the injury and is now playing his best basketball of his career.
After four games, Zeglinski is averaging 16.8 points and 5.3 rebounds, shooting 46 percent from three-point range with 17 makes. His stamina is back as well, as Zeglinski is only off the floor for 4.8 minutes per game.
The Hawks are currently 2-2 on the season and just missed obtaining one of their biggest wins in recent history. Zeglinski scored 23 points and connected on eight three-pointers against Baylor, but a last-second desperation shot by the Bears' Epke Udoh caused Hartford to lose, 71-69.
In his sophomore season, Zeglinski became the first Hartford player since the legendary Vin Baker to be named All-Conference First Team. In the 2007-08 season, he was only the eighth player in Hartford's Division I history to score over 500 points in a season.
Zeglinski's 103 three-pointers made that year set the school mark and placed him second in the history of the conference.
Zeglinski averaged 12.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in his freshman year while being selected to the America East All-Rookie team.
This talented competitor left high school as the all-time leading scorer at Archbishop Ryan high School with 1,300 career points. Zeglinski is the only athlete in Philadelphia history to rush for 3,000 yards in football and score over 1,000 points in basketball.
The return of Zeglinski to Hartford's starting lineup has given the other players renewed confidence and the open space to be productive.
Junior point guard Andres Torres is dishing out 7.5 assists per game. With the opponents focusing on Zeglinski's prowess from long range, forward Morgan Serbia has made nine three-point baskets so far this year.
Hartford recruited forward Joel Barkers from Kirkwood Community College, and he has the found the less-crowded paint to his liking. Coming off the bench, Barkers leads the Hawks in scoring with 17.0 points per outing.
It will not be easy for Hartford to go from worst to first in the America East in one season. However, with Zeglinski's hustle and toughness spreading throughout the team, the Hawks can again compete with anyone in the conference.