By Chris McManes
WASHINGTON – It is one of those moments in time that Steve Howes is happy a camera captured. His Catholic University men's basketball team had just won the 2013 Landmark Conference championship, and two of his children ran onto the court to join the celebration.
Michael Howes and his sister, Sarah, simultaneously leapt into the arms of twins Kyle and Kevin Phanord just as the photo was snapped. The image of youthful exuberance is reflective of how close a relationship the children have developed with their dad's five seniors: Kevin, Kyle, Bryson Fonville, Austin Calling and manager Dennis Treanor.
Michael, now 11, understands that players can only play college basketball for a short time. Sarah, 7, and Allyson, 3, do not.
"My three kids are very attached to this group, and it's going to be very hard to say good-bye," Howes said. "My daughters don't quite understand yet why they have to leave the college. My kids are going to miss these seniors as much as I will."
The quintet will be honored prior to the Cardinals' huge Landmark Conference game against Scranton on Saturday. CUA (18-5, 11-3) enters a half-game behind Susquehanna in the league standings. Scranton (19-5, 11-4) sits third. The Royals have won eight in a row; their last loss was at home to the Cardinals, 73-62, on Jan. 16.
Game time is 2 p.m.
CUA, which will complete the regular season against the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Sunday afternoon, has won six straight. If the Cards win both games this weekend, they will host a semifinal contest in the four-team Landmark Tournament.
Regardless of when the Cardinal seniors play their final home game at DuFour Center – where they are 11-0 this season and 44-7 overall – the curtain is closing on their Brookland playing days.
"It makes you realize how far it is from freshman year, but all great things come to an end," Fonville said. "It definitely wakes you up. It makes every game that much better."
Fonville, Calling and the Phanords have won two conference regular-season titles (2012-13, 2014-15), one Landmark crown (2013) and advanced to two NCAA Tournaments (2013, '15) The Cards won a playoff game each time at home before falling on the road in the second round.
"My biggest goal is to make it further than that," Fonville said.
First-team All-American center Chris Kearney was the go-to guy on the 2012-13 club that finished 25-4 and 12th-ranked in the nation. Fonville, a four-year starting point guard, has been CUA's driving force ever since. He posted a career-high 15 assists last year at Goucher, and in the Cards' NCAA Tournament victory over Alvernia, scored a personal-high 38 points.
Fonville's total, which included 14 consecutive free throws in the final 3:04, was the most points scored by a Cardinal at DuFour Center, as well as the most in CUA's Division III history. He averaged 16.8 points and 5.3 assists and was named Landmark Player of the Year and third-team All-American.
Wizard of Washington
Fonville not only puts up great numbers – he's already a member of the 1,000-point club – his acrobatic body control can be dazzling. He can slip, slide, twist, turn and contort his body in such a way that might have even astounded Harry Houdini. At times the "Wizard of Washington" looks like he's gliding six inches off the floor.
"He's amazing to watch," Howes said. "He came here as a freshman wanting to earn some time as a backup and ended up leading us to the NCAA Tournament with flawless, unselfish play. His role has grown ever since."
Fonville has boosted his scoring average each season and is this year averaging 17.7 points and shooting a career-best 48.2 percent from 3-point range. He's scored 20 or more points 10 times, including twice eclipsing 30. He tied his season high of 13 assists in Wednesday's 83-60 victory over Juniata. His 3.6 rebounding average trails only Jay Howard (6.8) and Corey Stanford (8.3).
"Some nights Bryson is a scorer, other nights he's a distributor. Sometimes he's a commanding presence on the glass," Howes said. "And he's our top, if not our best, on-ball defender when he commits to it. There's not much he can't do on the floor.
"He's a remarkable talent."
Fonville wants to follow in Kearney's footsteps and play professionally overseas.
"Definitely," he said. "I want to play over there as long as I can – have a great career."
Kyle Phanord is a three-year starting guard and averaging 9.3 points this season. A 3-point sharpshooter, he scored a season-best 22 points at Washington and Lee in November. His brother, Kevin, is a defensive specialist who despite starting just one game last season was named Landmark Defensive Player of the Year. He has a better than 2 to 1 career assist/turnover ratio and has committed just two turnovers in 2015-16.
Calling became an unexpected starter last season when center Ry'n Bland sustained a season-ending injury in the opener at Davidson. He responded by averaging 6.6 points and led the Cards in field goal percentage (64.2). He's a 63.5 percent career shooter.
Fonville had Division II offers coming out of high school and garnered Division III interest from schools in his hometown of Greensboro, N.C. He decided to venture northeast up Interstates 85 and 95 to attend CUA and play for the Cardinals.
"For me it kind of felt good to get away a little bit," he said. "Catholic gave me a better opportunity of academics, athletics and being in a great area.
"I've loved it from day one."
Chris McManes has been affiliated with CUA basketball since the mid-1980s.