YOUNGSTOWN - Cardinal Mooney High School graduate Danny Reese took and made a 3-pointer during last year's UIC game. It was his first points as a Youngstown State University men's basketball player.
"We had a pretty good lead and I understood there was a chance I might get some playing time," Reese said. "I tried to pay attention and I saw Mike Podolsky take a similar shot a couple of plays earlier before I got in. I kind of made a note of that in my mind.
"When I got in, it was almost the same play. I had an open shot. It was pretty cool to have your first points at home in front of your family and stuff."
Podolsky, a Canfield High School graduate, got decent playing time last year with the Penguins.
The 6-foot-1, 214-pound junior is on his second year as a scholarship player and is a valuable component for the Penguins.
Both Podolsky and Reese initially walked on to the Penguins program.
"Mike is going to play this year," YSU coach Jerry Slocum said. "Mike has changed his body. He's changed a lot of his ball handling that he's needed to do to get better. Mike is going to help us on the floor at different times.
"He's our strongest kid in the weight room. He's changed his body. He's a tough nut. That kid has that it factor that every program needs - that utility infielder that can play two or three different spots, that's not going to hurt you, that's going to be aggressive and bring it on the floor for you. I look for Mike to have a really solid year for us."
Podolsky, who was a 3-point shooter at Canfield, remembers the rough and tumble style he learned from former Cardinals coach John Cullen.
"At Canfield, our coach always preached doing the dirty work, getting on the floor and rebounding," Podolsky said. "That helped me learn that in high school, getting here and implimenting that into my game. It wasn't as big as a part of my game in Canfield, but coming here that's what I knew I had to do. That's what the team was asking me to do. Having that knowledge back in high school to build into this game really helped."
Reese knows he's there to help the Penguins as well.
"Just help the team as much as I can, do what the coaches want me to do - just whatever I'm called upon, whether it's on the floor, on the bench or in practice, just understand the plays and help the new guys out and help the other guys adjust to college," Reese said.
At 5-11, 160, Reese knew he had to get stronger to play the NCAA Division I level.
"When I first got here, I was definitely smaller," Reese said. "A couple games into the season, I understood I was going to be a practice player. I had to pay my dues. (Strength and conditioning) coach (Todd) Burkey, our strength coach, whenever we'd go on the road, I was lifting five days a week with him. They got me a lot stronger than I was my freshman year. My strength is about the same as everyone else, if not more than some guys."
Slocum also enjoys Reese being part of the program as well.
"He's a great kid, great work habits, great family," Slocum said. "We love him and it's an honor to have him in our program."
Reese, a sophomore, got the last of the team's 13 scholarships this season.
"Coach called me in about a month ago," Reese said. "He said there's an extra one and we'd like to give it to you. It's pretty awesome. My dad came in and he told me and my dad together. It's a pretty cool experience to have with my dad, just a great opportunity coach has given me."
Slocum said Reese and Podolsky have made the most of their time with the Penguins.
"Both those guys are Youngstown born and bred," Slocum said. "They love the city. They love the university. Their families do. They bring a passion and loyalty to our program and this city that is good for us. It's good to have them around. They're both developing very nicely into sound, college players."
The Penguins begin the season Nov. 10 at George Washington University.