Seven years ago, Joshua Delfino was an All-State varsity basketball player at Newfield High School and committed to a two-year prep school with the intention of earning a Division I scholarship.
But after nine semesters at four schools, three and a half years on absence from organized basketball, academic probation and playing Division II basketball in Oklahoma, Delfino is using his final semester of collegiate eligibility to come off the bench for a Division 3 program; the nationally ranked Oswego State Lakers.
“I should write a book,” Delfino said.
Delfino, 24, has certainly taken a non-traditional path to get to Oswego State, but its the uniqueness of that journey that Delfino believes has helped him figure out who he is today.
“I’ve learned throughout all my experiences that life is about finding places that are the right fit; where you can find your niche,” Delfino said. “For me, right now, I’m very comfortable at Oswego State.”
For the members of the Oswego State basketball team, adding someone of Delfino’s abilities and character is a special opportunity.
“To our team, he brings an adult presence. He is a little older and more experienced than most players in the league,” Oswego State head coach Jason Leone said. “It takes a special and unselfish person to accept the role Josh has on our team and perform at a high level.”
All-American senior Chad Burridge echoes Coach Leone’s sentiment.
“Josh brings more size to our team and another big post presence,” he said. Josh comes in with experience from a Division II school, so he has played in big games and knows what it takes to compete.”
Delfino said he was happy with the situation.
“This is the bed I’ve made for myself, but I’m embracing it,” Delfino said. “I’ve been given a great opportunity to play for a successful team, and playing for a winner is exactly how I want to finish this crazy basketball journey. Its been a long road.”
His basketball journey started at Newfield High school, only two hours south of Oswego. In 2004 the six-foot, eight-inch forward averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds per game and was the conference player of the year. Delfino helped lead his team within three points of the state championship game.
Instead of enrolling at a Division II or 3 school, Delfino chose North Country Community College (NCCC), hoping that after two years he could transfer to a Division I program.
“I expected to dominate at NCCC, but I didn’t work hard on the court or in the classroom,” Delfino said. “I was very immature; too immature to be successful.”
Delfino’s failing grades and attitude forced him to drop out of NCCC. He then enrolled at Tompkins County Community College (TC3) for the fall 2006 semester, where he was not academically eligible to play basketball. The semester would prove to be as unsuccessful as his time at NCCC.
“I cared more about meeting people then getting my grades up during my first semester at TC3,” Delfino said. “After that semester, I realized I needed to take some time off.”
The NCAA rules state that Division II and 3 student athletes are allotted 10 full-time academic semesters and can use up to eight of those semesters to be active on their respective teams. Traditionally, the extra two semesters given to student athletes are saved for medical redshirts or to comply with transfer regulations.
Despite not playing basketball in the fall of 2006, Delfino did use one of his ten full-time academic semesters. That odd semester is why Delfino enrolled at Oswego State with one semester of eligibility remaining and not two. He was not allowed to attend classes or practice with the team in the fall 2011 semester.
Delfino would re-enroll at TC3 in the fall of 2008, where he was still academically ineligible to play basketball. With a new found motivation, and a combined 3.7 GPA in successive semesters, Delfino was cleared to play basketball at TC3 for the fall of 2009.
“I was so nervous to finally join the team at TC3,” Delfino said. “But we had a great coach and a great group of guys that played well all season.
Delfino led TC3 to the best record in school history and a conference championship. Along with scoring 16 points per game, he set the school records for rebounds and blocks in a single season.
Very quickly, Delfino started receiving offers from Division II and Division III schools all over the country, despite only having three semesters of eligibility left. Delfino chose the Division II program Southeastern Oklahoma University (SOUO), where he said the experience was significant but imperfect.
“I was comfortable with the playing time I received at SOUO because I was getting better as a player, whether or not the stats reflected that,” Delfino said. “I knew I was good enough to be at that level.”
SOUO would finish the 2010-11 season with a 3-22 record, which led to the firing of their head coach at the seasons end. Delfino played in all of the team’s 25 games, but was given just 11 starts and dealt with inconsistent minutes per game.
The toxicity of the SOUO program was too high for Delfino to stay another semester, and he began inquiring about playing his final semester of eligibility back in upstate New York. He contacted the coaches at Buffalo State, SUNY Cortland and Oswego State about playing opportunities for the spring of 2012.
“I remembered being recruited by both (former head coach Adam) Stockwell and coach Leone at their respective schools when I was coming out of high school and TC3,” Delfino said. “Oswego State was always on my mind. I really enjoy Oswego’s style of play and it is a great fit for me.”
Buffalo State and SUNY Cortland are in second and third place respectively, behind Oswego State in the SUNYAC this season. Both schools could use having a weapon like Delfino in their 2012 starting lineup. Instead, Delfino gives coach Leone the deepest frontcourt in the conference.
“Josh is a physical presence on offense and defense. He can score with either hand and he is extremely unselfish,” Leone said. “We have a team full of guys who would have more prominent roles in most other programs. Part of what makes our team so special is that the players are willing to give up individual goals in order to be a better team.”
Delfino said he was grateful to the coach for the opportunity.
“Coach Leone already had a fine rotation, so the fact that he feels comfortable putting me on the court shows I can help this team,” Delfino said. “I’m here to make the team better.”
Delfino’s season high of 10 points helped edge out a win against a competitive SUNY Geneseo team on Jan. 24. The Lakers are 8-0-2 in conference play with Delfino this season.