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Costantino flourishes as starter for Bearcats

A second player from Southern Oregon has turned into a major contributor for the Willamette Bearcats men's basketball team.

Corey Costantino, a junior wing from Ashland, moved into the starting lineup halfway through the season and has remained entrenched there.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder has started 13 of the 25 games he's played and is averaging 9.8 points and 3.2 rebounds. He's shooting 47 percent from the field, 48 percent from 3-point range and is making 73 percent of his free throws. He'd rank among the Northwest Conference leaders in 3-point shooting but doesn't average the requisite one make per game.

"Corey has really blossomed into a very versatile scorer," says Willamette coach Gordie James. "He can score from outside and take it to the basket. And he plays hard defensively. He's been a big plus for us and really helped catapult us in the second half of the season."

Costantino became a starter when Ian Mansfield missed time due to academic problems. Mansfield has since returned but is now a reserve.

Costantino and senior guard Mike Smith of Phoenix have formed a bond as both hail from Southern Oregon.

"On family vacations, we ride home together and hang out," says Smith, who echoed James' assertion that Costantino can "get to the basket with the best of them" and plays hard all the time.

And, says Smith, when it comes to academics, Costantino is "the best we have."

A recent award was testament to that. Costantino, who is majoring in chemistry, with a biochemistry track, was named to the ESPN The Magazine College Division Academic All-District VIII first team.

He's now eligible for the magazine's All-America team, which is expected to be announced next week.

— Tim Trower

Costantino flourishes as starter for Bearcats