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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 27, 2007

Small in stature, Dagostino plays a big game

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Steven Dagastino has become larger than life.

When you walk into the Thomas P. Nolan Gymnasium on the Albany campus of The College of Saint Rose, all you can see is an enormous sign on the side of the building, featuring a much taller than normal Dagostino in his full basketball uniform.

It is one of the few times in his life he’s been seen as taller than he is, but equal to the way he plays.

Dagostino, who graduated from Guilderland High School in 2004, is 5 feet, 11 inches tall. That’s short in today’s world of college basketball stars, where being under six feet tall gets you mistaken as the team manager.

"It’s overwhelming," Dagostino said of the sign with his picture. "I walk by it to go to classes every day. I try not to look at it."

Dagostino is in his fourth year as a starting guard for the Golden Knights, which, after a 86-68 win over St. Michael’s College of Vermont on Dec. 19, improved their record to 7-2 overall and 6-1 in the Northeast-10 Conference. Dagostino scored 17 points against the Purple Knights.

That has been Dagostino’s game, to lead his Saint Rose teammates ever since he earned a starting spot during his freshman season

"I didn’t expect to play as much right off," Dagostino said. "The coaches put me in and I think it helped me to grow and get better. In high school, I took a lot of shots each year and my role increased. It was a different coming into my freshman year of college. I didn’t think I was going to play right away. There’s been a lot of learning, more than high school."

Learning to be a leader

Dagostino has learned a lot from Saint Rose Head Coach Brian Beaury.

"Coach is a teacher," Dagostino said. "He’s taught me things to help me grow. He’s teaching me to be a leader, and that it isn’t about getting all the stats. It’s about the guys having trust in you and respecting you."

Being a leader is very important to Dagostino. He’s been given awards, honored for his academic accomplishments, and had his image put on a humongous banner, yet he remains humble.

In the pre-season, Dagostino was named a first-team All-American by The Sporting News in Division II. He was also tabbed as a "Super 16" selection by the Division II Bulletin.

Coming into his senior campaign, Dagostino is 20th all-time in scoring at tradition-rich Saint Rose with 1,062 points. He is 12th all-time in assists with 376, and 11th in steals with 164.

Dagostino was named the Player of the Year in the Northeast-10 Conference after his junior year. He averaged 17 points, 4.8 assists, and two steals a game last winter. He was only the eighth non-senior to win the award.

Dagostino led the league by shooting 87 percent (140-for-161) from the free-throw line and 41.5 percent (76-for-183) from behind the three-point line, which is the 10th best single-season mark in the school’s history.

Dagostino was the only player in the league to finish in the top 10 in scoring, assists, and steals.

He was one of only 16 players to be named a National Association of Basketball Coaches All-American. He was also picked to be on the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American Team, one of only five student-athletes honored from the 900 small-school colleges that sponsor basketball in North America. It is an award he also received during his sophomore year.

Also, this summer, Dagostino was the lone Division II player among a team of Division I players that competed in Holland and Belgium.

It’s a long way from when he was a short, scrawny sophomore on the Guilderland varsity team.

"Dags has become one of the best players ever to wear a Saint Rose uniform," Coach Beaury wrote in the Saint Rose media guide. "His career has blossomed each and every year thanks to his tremendous work ethic. Dags is an electrifying player whose decision-making and ability to make plays has turned him into one of the most exciting players in the league.

"He comes to play every day and his ability to lead has helped our program compete at a high level. It should be another great year and we are all excited to see his final season here at Saint Rose."

Basketball family

To understand Dagostino’s success, you have to look at his family. His family owns Dagostino Building Blocks on Altamont Avenue in Schenectady and his father, Ken, was an assistant coach at Guilderland — coaching both Steven and older brother, Kenny. He is in his third season as head coach at Mohonasen High School in Rotterdam, his alma mater.

Kenny Dagostino attended Iona College in Westchester County and walked onto the basketball team. He earned a scholarship for his junior and senior years and is now the director of basketball operations and serves as an assistant coach to Will Brown at the University at Albany.

Basketball flows through the veins of the Dagostino family.

Ken Dagostino, the boys’ father, did not play the sport while a high school student at Mohonasen. He did play on the team at Castleton State College in Vermont.

In his final year of college, Ken Dagostino, already smitten by the coaching bug, coached at Poultney High School, also in Vermont.

When Kenny and Steven were born, they had no choice but to want to play basketball. They were also born with a very competitive gene.

"Our dad obviously got us into it," Kenny Dagostino said. "And, ever since, we’ve had the competitive drive to win and compete at everything. We push ourselves to always get better. Steven is always trying to get better. Even after last year. If the gym over there wasn’t open, he was calling me and asking to open the gym up here."

Kenny Dagostino knows that drive has helped him overcome the naysayers who call him too short to play college basketball.

"The guy was so small, no coach ever believed in him," Kenny Dagostino said of his brother. "I remember when I was a junior and he was on the junior-varsity as a freshman, he would score 25 points a game. And he was 5-4 and built like a little girl. He was scoring 25 points a game on a team that won 15 games and against a lot of good people.

"My dad and Coach Beaury were the first to really see something in him," he added. "Saint Rose is a great situation. He has a coach that believes in all of his abilities. He plays like he has something to prove but not in a bad way. He’s not as vocal and doesn’t show it as much as my dad and I do. He’s quiet like my mom. But he puts it all out on the court."

On to Italy

"This is the perfect spot for me," Steven Dagostino said. "It’s close to home. And Coach has been here for 20 years and had great players. He’s had All-Americans and guys on NBA teams. He’s had teams that went to the Elite Eight. He’s gottenß everything besides a National Championship. I’ve learned so much from him. The Saint Rose program has so much tradition. Teams want to beat you. We’re not sneaking up on anybody. But I’ll do anything to beat you."

Dagostino said that he could have gone to prep school after graduating from Guilderland, but clicked with Beaury. Dagostino also likes the competition Saint Rose plays.

"We are on par with a low Division I program," Dagostino said. "Coach will do what it takes to win. Since I’ve been involved with him, we beat Binghamton in scrimmages and we lost to Syracuse by nine. We raised our level of play."

Dagostino has goals in mind for the upcoming season. The accounting major is heading for graduation and on the court wants to win a national championship.

"Everybody in the country thinks that," Dagostino said. "And, with the level of the league and the level of the guys on the team, we can put something together. You never know."

When his career at Saint Rose is over, Dagostino will not put the ball away. He is planning on going to Italy to play in one of the top European leagues in a country that loves the sport.

"My mom was born in Italy so I can get a dual citizenship," Dagostino said. "Each team can have four Americans but I would count as an Italian and not an American."

This won’t be the first time in Europe for Dagostino.

"This summer, I played on a team in Holland and Belgium and I got a couple of good looks," he said.

As the lone Division II player on a team that featured Division I athletes, Dagostino led the team in scoring during the tour.

All the success on the court has not overwhelmed Dagostino, but he is sure surprised by it.

"I didn’t forsee it at all," he said. "It hit me at the end of last year. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and look at it. When I’m done playing basketball, it’ll blow my mind a bit."

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