Matt Bingaya is looking forward to his return to the basketball court.
The 2012 Delaware Hayes High School graduate is hoping his hard work, growth and maturity will pay dividends this coming season with the University of Southern Mississippi men's basketball team.
"I've been working real hard so I can help the team this year," Bingaya said. "I'm very excited because I haven't played in a real game in two years and I want to go out and show people what I can do."
The last time Bingaya, a 6-foot-4 guard, played in an organized game was Feb. 26, 2011, when Delaware lost to Olentangy Liberty 54-51 in the second round of the Division I district tournament. He had 24 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two assists in that contest and averaged 21.2 points and 11.2 rebounds that season as the Pacers finished 15-7 overall and 11-3 in the OCC-Capital Division. He was named league Player of the Year, first-team all-district and special mention all-state.
Bingaya received a scholarship offer from Morehead State and made a verbal commitment to the Division I program in Kentucky before tearing the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Oct. 7, 2011, while playing football. Morehead State did not rescind its offer and he signed with the Eagles on Nov. 16, 2011.
The injury, however, forced Bingaya to miss his senior season.
"That was very tough on me," he said. "I wanted to be out there so bad, you don't even know (how much)."
Bingaya respected the fact that Morehead State stuck by him as he rehabilitated his right knee and he was excited about playing for the Eagles, but coach Donnie Tyndall stepped down after the 2011-12 season to become the coach at Southern Mississippi and Bingaya revisited his decision to attend Morehead State.
Tyndall had compiled a 114-85 record in six seasons at Morehead State, including a 2-2 mark in two NCAA Tournament appearances.
"I would've stayed at Morehead State if one of the assistants got the head-coaching spot," Bingaya said. "But when that didn't happen, I asked (Tyndall) if I could go with him."
Morehead State released Bingaya from his scholarship and he followed Tyndall to Hattiesburg, Miss.
"Since Matt had to sit out (the 2012-13 season) anyway because of some academic issues, he wasn't going to lose any eligibility," Tyndall said. "I love the fact he's physical and competitive. He won't back down or be intimidated. His athleticism and size for a wing player are fantastic. He's going to be a great defender and a leader on our press. He has a great chance to be in our eight- or nine-player rotation as a freshman."
Tyndall was named National Association of Basketball Coaches District 11 Coach of the Year in his final season at Morehead State and earned the same distinction last season after leading Southern Mississippi to a 27-10 record. The Golden Eagles, who are members of Conference USA, were invited to play in the National Invitational Tournament and they lost to BYU 79-62 in a quarterfinal.
"I like coach Tyndall because he wants a fast-paced game," Bingaya said. "I love this style of play. I like all of my teammates, too. They're excited for me to play with them. Everybody here is athletic, but I think I can add some finesse to the team. We don't have an outstanding scorer."
Tyndall is looking forward to watching Bingaya develop on and off the court.
"He's had some bumps in the road, from Delaware to here," Tyndall said. "He has dealt with family issues, grade issues and injury. He needs to be mature and become more dependable in the classroom, attend all of his classes and be prompt when he needs to be someplace.
"Grades really shouldn't be an issue because he's a brilliant kid. He's bright and intelligent. He just needs the discipline to get things done in a timely manner. He has the ability on and off the court to be a very good player and student-athlete here. He does have to work on his ball-handling and jump-shooting, but he'll get there."
Bingaya doesn't anticipate having any problems with his rehabilitated knee during Southern Mississippi's summer workouts, which begin Aug. 1.
The Golden Eagles leave Aug. 12 for the Bahamas, where they will play five games in seven days.
"I don't have any knee trouble and I'm still as quick as I was before," Bingaya said. "I got up to about 212 pounds, but it was mostly muscle. I've been working out hard so I'll be ready to go (for the 2013-14 season)."