By Pete Sirianni
Editor’s note – This story originally appeared in The Penn, the student newspaper at IUP. It is being rerun on the D9Sports Blog with permission of its author, a Kane graduate.
INDIANA, Pa. – There are many ways basketball players find their way onto college teams.
For Jesse Bosnik, he may have taken one of the most obscure paths to Indiana University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball coach Joe Lombardi’s bench.
Bosnik, an Elk County Catholic graduate and a graduate student at IUP working towards a master’s degree in business management, had it all start with a phone call.
“Coach Lombardi brought it up that I have a year of eligibility left,” Bosnik said.
Bosnik, a three-year starter on St. Bonaventure University’s baseball team, left the Bonnies organization in 2010 after being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in the 13th round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft. The St. Marys product was a highly sought-after recruit on both the baseball diamond and on the basketball hardwood.
As a high school junior in 2006, the 6-foot-2-inch Bosnik led his ECC basketball team to a perfect 33-0 record, which culminated in a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Class A state championship. That spring on the baseball diamond,
Bosnik had a batting average of .592 and hit 10 home runs, both school records.
At the time, Bosnik made official visits for basketball to such schools as Kent State University, Youngstown State University, Lehigh University, James Madison University, Penn State University and St. Bonaventure University, who originally recruited him to play basketball before baseball.
While the offers were definitely there for Bosnik in both sports, it was early in his senior year at ECC that he decided to focus on just one sport at the collegiate level.
“I was not going to go play two [sports] because of how much time you have to devote to your sport,” Bosnik said.
Though he admits basketball was his love and that he was extremely close to choosing the hardwood over the diamond, he eventually listened to the advice of those he knew best.
“I had people close to me who I trusted who said I could evolve and mature and play professional [baseball],” Bosnik said.
That reasoning was echoed at the time of his commitment to St. Bonaventure by Bonnies head coach Larry Sudbrook.
“I think one of the final reasons [Bosnik] opted to play baseball only is that looking down the road, he may have a future in baseball beyond college,” said Sudbrook in SBU’s official release announcing the Class of 2007 recruiting class.
“I wanted to get good grades and be a good student-athlete,” Bosnik said. “That was really the first thing I did was say, ‘I’m only going to play one sport.’”
But Bosnik faced a dilemma when the Bonnies’ head basketball coach at the time, Anthony Solomon, offered him a spot on the team after the starting point guard had been injured early in the season.
“It was very tempting, especially because I hadn’t done anything in college baseball yet,” Bosnik said.
Bosnik ended up turning down Solomon’s offer and then entered his freshman campaign as the starting shortstop that spring and proceeded to set the school record in errors while playing on SBU’s new turf field.
“It was tough to say no (to playing basketball), but I made my decision, and I was going to see it through,” Bosnik said. “God had a plan for me, and I think that plan worked out
very good for me.”
After being drafted by the Dodgers, Bosnik spent three years in the Dodgers organization hitting .239 for his career with 20 home runs and 117 RBIs making it as high as the Great Lake Loons in the lower Class A Midwest League.
Not playing this season, Bosnik was working as a logistics analyst at a powdered metal plant in Ridgway, Pa., before being offered a roster spot by IUP, which meant a chance to work toward a master’s degree, which Bosnik said, was too good to pass up.
“Anything to better myself and set myself apart from my peers is beneficial for me,” Bosnik said. “A master’s degree will do just that for me in the workplace.”
While confidence only goes so far, Bosnik brings another noble quality to the Crimson Hawks in his exceptional leadership abilities.
“In addition to being an outstanding player, Jesse was one of the best leaders that I have ever coached,” said ECC head coach Aaron Straub, whose teams have won 688 games over his 31 years as the boys’ basketball coach at Class A school in St. Marys. “He was a coach on the court and had a great understanding of the game and how it should be played. IUP has acquired an excellent player and a leader. I am sure he will have a very positive effect on the program.”
Sudbrook, the veteran SBU baseball coach, also had high praise for
“Jesse is a class act who was a team captain and leader here,” said Sudbrook. “He has a great work ethic and the maturity to lead others to be successful. ‘Boz’ could have been an excellent Division-1 basketball player if he chose that route instead of baseball. He will
be a success at IUP in basketball and a success at all of life’s challenges.”
Bosnik points to Straub as the one who taught him about leadership and the different ways to be a leader.
“There’s vocal leadership and sometimes you have to act as a leader,” Bosnik said. “The most important thing I think is leading by example.”
While Bosnik has not played organized basketball since his final high school game in 2007, IUP fans should not spend a great deal of time wondering why he was offered a spot on the team.
During his career at ECC, which included being the first four-year letterman in school
history, Bosnik scored 2,083 points while often playing half of the game due to the subpar competition and was named to the Class A All-State First Team twice as well as the D9Sports.com Player of the Year in both 2006 and 2007. He ranks first in school history and fourth in District 9 history in scoring.
Though Bosnik didn’t play against top-class basketball competition night after night in District 9′s Allegheny Mountain League and D9 League, he was a part of the Pittsburgh JOTS AAU team and competed in tournaments as far away as Las Vegas and Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Some notable teammates of his on the JOTS include DeJuan Blair, D.J. Kennedy, Terrelle Pryor and Herb Pope.
“I sat in the corner and waited for teams to double-team DeJuan Blair,” Bosnik said. “It was fun.”
With his AAU and high-school days behind him, Bosnik is still confident in his skills.
“I’m confident because of the time and effort I’ve put into my game from when I was in high school,” Bosnik said. “I’ll continue to get more and more confident as time goes on.”
While his role on the team still has yet to be determined by the coaching staff, Bosnik hopes to do what he does best – score.
“I’m a scorer, so hopefully I get the opportunity to play and score the basketball, and help my teammates as well,” Bosnik said.
Bosnik considers doing the little things as his goals for this season.
“I’ll do any little thing I can do to help (the team),” Bosnik said. (I’ll) knock
down a jumper, make an extra pass, guard the other team’s best player, anything to help the team win.”
As for the team, the goals are a bit more lofty but very much attainable.
“We’d like to win the (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference
championship),” Bosnik said. “Coach has a good program growing. It’d be neat to give
Coach Lombardi and IUP its first national title.”
While Bosnik’s dream of becoming a major league baseball player didn’t turn out the way he had hoped, he has no qualms about his journey.
“It’s the easiest sport to get drafted and the hardest to make the professional level,” Bosnik said. “I didn’t make it to the big leagues, but not many people do.”
That’s how the Jesse Bosnik story comes back to IUP.
Somewhere between being a prep star and rubbing shoulders with future National Basketball Association and National Football League players and working at a powdered metal plant in Ridgway, there lies some role for Bosnik on Lombardi’s team. That role could be anything from an energy player in the mold of 2013 graduate Scooter Renkin to a reserve player who has a positive locker room presence.
Whatever that role, Jesse Bosnik will do it to the best of his ability and put his team first.
Because that’s just the type of person he is.
Jesse Bosnik (center) hoists the PIAA championship trophy in 2006 - Photo courtesy of DuBois Courier-Express