UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions will honor their two seniors - Nick Colella and Sasa Borovnjak - prior to Wednesday's 6:30 p.m. tip with No. 4 Michigan.
The road to Senior Night has been anything but easy for both players, and maybe that is why they have become such close friends.
Colella's path to the Nittany Lion starting lineup is nothing short of remarkable. The New Castle, Pa., native spent the first two seasons of his career at Penn State-Behrend (NCAA Div. III) before transferring to the University Park campus in 2010. Colella was then a practice player for the Lady Lion basketball team during his first month on campus before impressing the men's coaching staff at an open walk-on tryout.
After earning a spot on the roster, Colella has made the most of his opportunity by evolving into one of the team's hardest workers. He played a significant role in starting six-straight Big Ten games last season. This year, the left-hander has been a key member of the rotation, seeing action in all 26 games and starting in eight Big Ten contests.
Colella is a relentless worker anytime he steps into a gym, putting his body on the line for the betterment of the team on both ends of the floor. And he has played some of the best basketball in his career during the last few weeks.
The same can be said for Borovnjak, who has stamped his place as the team's third scoring option in recent games. Things have begun to click for the Belgrade, Serbia native, who is averaging 16.0 points per game in his last three outings.
Borovnjak's surge in recent weeks is a direct by-product of his hard work on and off the floor. A regular in the gym working on getting extra shots and extra lifting sessions, Borovnjak is putting in the time necessary to take his game to the next level. He is never satisfied with his play, and the 6-foot-9 forward has made it a habit to even review practice film to critique his play.
During his time in Happy Valley, Borovnjak has seen just about everything. He played in 18 games as a true freshman during the 2009-10 campaign. After a strong offseason where it looked as though Borovnjak would compete for significant time in the Lions' front line, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee during the team's first official practice. He missed every game in 2010-11, a season in which the Nittany Lions advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Back from injury, Borovnjak saw action in all 32 games while averaging 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in 2011-12. Nonetheless, the Lion forward saved his best basketball for last. Borovnjak has started in 18 of Penn State's 26 games this season, and he has found consistency with his mid-range jumper and post offense in the second half of the Big Ten season.
The senior duo shares similarities in their work ethic on the floor, but outside of basketball, one being from Serbia and the other from Western Pennsylvania, it would not seem as though they share much more in common.
But that couldn't be further from the truth. During his injury season in 2010-11, Borovnjak and Colella formed a bond. Neither player traveled to road games during much of that season, so they created a friendship off the court. Colella took Borovnjak to his house for holidays, and the two have been great friends ever since.
Asking the underclassmen on the Nittany Lion roster what they hope to take away from the two seniors, without hesitation they said the work ethic Colella and Borovnjak bring to the team. Neither player is exceptionally vocal, but they don't have to be because they leave everything on the floor every time they lace up their shoes.
Both Colella and Borovnjak will look to help the Nittany Lions score their first Big Ten win of the season on Senior Night against the fourth-ranked Wolverines at 6:30 p.m. (BTN) inside the Jordan Center. The Lions gave Michigan all it could handle in the first meeting between the two teams just 10 days ago in Ann Arbor.
If the Lions are able to breakthrough and win on Wednesday night, its two seniors will need to continue what they have done throughout the 2012-13 season - play hard, tough, blue-collar basketball.
Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
VIDEO: Lion Seniors to be Honored Before Meeting No. 4 Michigan
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