Saturday March 16, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- If his dreams are to be on a team involved in the March Madness, to be mobbed by teammates as Dick Vitale goes absolutely bonkers, and to eventually climb a ladder with a pair of scissors in hand, a victory today will make them all possible.

Candon Rusin, who played for Twin Valley from 2005-2008, and the University of Vermont men’s basketball team will host Albany in today’s America East Championship game at 11:30 a.m. on ESPN2, with an invitation to the Big Dance at stake.

"It’s tremendously exciting for the community, for me and for him," said Twin Valley coach Chris Brown, who guided Rusin’s 2007-08 team to a 19-4 record before the star left for Topsail High School in North Carolina for his senior season.

In three seasons with the Wildcats, Rusin racked up 1,469 points, 452 rebounds, 247 assists and 167 steals. Joining him in the starting five were Scott Hayford, Ian Marquis, Derek Cipriano and younger brother Conner Rusin.

"He was just a dynamic player. He could go out and get us 30 points a night against double and triple teams. He just had a tremendous drive," noted Brown.

Rusin would play two seasons at Marist and led the team in scoring as a freshman with 9.5 points per game. But the Red Foxes weren’t winning and the competitive one wanted to join a program that could qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

"He had that goal way back in middle school, from watching his sister Corey play basketball at Boston College," said Brown.


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"I’m not surprised at all that he’s where he is and playing in this big game. I kind of expected it, because it’s in his personality and because of his commitment to the game."

Rusin, who had to sit out last season because it was his transfer year, has been waiting a long time for this chance. He’ll get to play in front of excited Catamount fans wearing gold today and hopefully watch Selection Sunday on March 17 to see who UVM’s first opponent will be in the NCAA Tourney.

And if the dream continues, a Thursday or Friday game against a powerhouse like Duke possibly, with someone referring to him as a PTPer, and Twin Valley legends such as Buddy Hayford, Devon Spirka, Tarryn Bolognani, Brown, and the entire Rusin family watching the action.

But first things first, the No. 2 team from Burlington has to beat fourth-seeded Albany today.

It will be the 100th consecutive start for UVM’s Brian Voelkel, who was the conference tourney’s most outstanding player a year ago. And on the other side will be Albany standout Mike Black, who leads the Great Danes at 15 points per game and has 52 makes from downtown this season.

Rusin, a 6-4 guard, will be hoping to deliver like he did on Jan. 18, when he went off for 25 points against Stony Brook.

Shane Covey can be reached at scovey@reformer.com or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.