Shippensburg University men’s basketball coach Chris Fite was named the 2016-17 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Coach of the Year, the league office announced Thursday.
Fite is the first SU coach since Dave Springer to earn Coach of the Year honors, and is also the first coach in SU history to win 20 games in multiple seasons. This season is the second-consecutive year the Raiders have won at least 20 games.
“It’s great, it really is a collective award,” Fite said. “We have a great staff, I have four assists who do a great job for me, and obviously, we couldn’t do any of it without the players. It’s nice to be recognized but it just means we’re heading in the right direction with this program.”
Fite, who is in his fourth season at the helm of the Raider basketball team, has flipped the program from when he first arrived. The team went 3–23 in his first season as head coach, but since then, the team has gone 57–26 under Fite.
“It’s been tremendous,” Fite said. “You come in with a vision and you feel like if you recruit a certain type of player you’ll be able to turn things around. I never envisioned that it would happen this quickly, but like I said before, it’s really down to the young man that are playing for us and what they’re doing.”
Among those players is Abe Massaley, who endured the hardship of going 3-23, before flipping the script to this season’s 24-3 record. Massaley believes that the team’s ability to believe and to continue to work hard has led to the turnaround.
“Just believing, working hard and trusting the process,” Massaley said. “I’m a believer, I come from a strong Christian background. I believe in God and I believe in hard work and that’s what happened these last four years.”
Alongside Fite, Massaley was recognized for the second-straight season as a PSAC All-Conference player, earning a spot on the second-team with teammate Justin McCarthur. Dustin Sleva was named PSAC East Player of the Year, and was named to the first-team.
The team’s 24-win season thus far ties the SU single-season record. The team also started out the season on an 18-game win streak, the longest winning streak in school history.
Sleva, believes that if injuries did not affect the team the way they have, the team may have run the table.
“It was an exciting time,” Sleva said. “We had a couple guys get hurt after that, and I feel like if that hadn’t happened we could’ve won them all, but we’re back to full potential.”
“That was fun, it was a good ride,” Fite said. “I was really proud of the way we were able to just take it one game at a time and not get too caught up in it. It was a shame it had to come to an end, but I’m happy with where we’re at in the season and we’ve got a lot left to play for.”
The Raiders won Wednesday in the PSAC Quarterfinals against East Stroudsburg University, and will continue the PSAC Tournament Saturday with a PSAC Semifinals matchup with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, March 4. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at IUP.