Boys basketball preview: New look for Shamokin
Chris Zimmerman calls it a "clean slate."
And, boy, he's not kidding.
When Shamokin Area opens its season Friday night against Hughesville in the Mifflinburg Tipoff Tournament, it will be Zimmerman, a former Indians' standout who also spent time as an assistant coach, on the bench for his first game as the team's head coach.
Joe Klebon retired after 24 seasons in charge and Zimmerman has taken over.
He'll be far from the only new face.
Zimmerman plans to have two freshmen - 5-foot, 11-inch guards Jake Weaver and Ryan Sebasovich - in the starting lineup, to go along with three other new faces from his 10-man varsity roster.
"It really is pretty much a clean slate here," Zimmerman said early this week after one of his team's final practice sessions in preparation for the opener. "We're very, very young.
"We're very inexperienced. And on Friday, we plan on starting two freshmen. Everybody's getting thrown into the fire."
Kevin Carsto, a 6-6 senior center, is the most experienced member of Zimmerman's first squad. He scored all of 34 points last season. Josh Pappas, a 6-4 junior forward, brings 19 points with him from last year, and Dan Delbaugh, a 6-0 junior guard beings 12. They're the only three who scored in double digits - for the season - last year. And Carsto, who Zimmerman said is healthy and ready to go, is coming off an injury sus-
tained during the recently completed football season.
As young as they are, however, there's no 'woe-is-me' talk coming from the Indians' camp. Instead, they're ready to take on the world, or at least the Heartland Conference Division I and District 4 Class AAA.
Others with the potential to contribute the team's success are senior Julian Deitrick, juniors Austin Stine and Erik Taylor, along with sophomores Feliph Taylor and Tucker Yost.
"I think this is going to be a real scrappy group," Zimmerman said. "Even though we're young and not really big, this is a real competitive group.
"It's a real team atmosphere. These guys check their egos at the door. I definitely think we can qualify for districts this year. I like our competitiveness and our room to grow."
The Indians will play five of their first six games on the road, also not a big favor for a team that is so young.
"Sometimes, it might be ugly," Zimmerman said. "Things certainly won't always be pretty.
"But we'll play hard. We'll fly around."
If Carsto isn't bothered by his football injury and can go full tilt, which Zimmerman says he is ready to do, his size and presence instantly makes the Indians more formidable.
"No doubt, we can be a much better team with him," Zimmerman said. "It creates matchup problems for almost everybody we play.
"He makes us more competitive, and if you're competitive, good things happen. We know there will be some growing pains."
The Indians aren't the only team thin on experience heading into the 2012-13 season.
At Southern Columbia, Dave Yost enters his fourth season at the helm having graduated all the starters from a team that won 20 games and reached the state tournament last year.
Three other area schools - Lourdes Regional, Mount Carmel Area and Line Mountain - are at the opposite end of the spectrum with plenty of experience back.
Yost has three players back who at least have a fair amount of varsity experience, even though they weren't regular members of the Tigers' starting lineup.
Seniors Matt Klock and Bryce Parry, along with sophomore Mike Klebon are familiar and comfortable with varsity play and will be looked upon to be leaders for the Tigers in a very tough Heartland Conference Division II.
After that, Yost has a bunch of less experienced players, including three seniors who will be counted upon to contribute.
"I expect us to have to play an uptempo style game," Yost said earlier this week. "Our offense originates from our defense.
"We're young, we don't have a lot of size, so we have to be scrappy."
What the Tigers do have is a strong group of athletes and pretty good team speed and quickness.
"This might be the quickest team I've had in my four years as the coach," Yost said. "We have to use our athleticism to our advantage."
Yost points to Loyalsock, the defending District 4 Class AA champion with three starters returning, as the team to beat in HAC-II. But, he's also quick to point out that Lewisburg, Hughesville, Mount Carmel and Central Columbia should all be very good.
"Our goal is to qualify and get to districts," Yost said. "We have to work hard."
Lourdes coach Pete Long, entering his 11th season in charge, is excited about what the 2012-13 season can ultimately bring for the Red Raiders.
And he has good reason.
Long has eight seniors back, six of whom lettered and started at some point last year, from a team that finished fourth in District 4 Class A and reached the first round of the state playoffs.
As always, one of the goals will be to claim the Schuylkill League Division III title, a division in which the Raiders compete with Williams Valley, Minersville, Tri-Valley and Schuylkill Haven.
Williams Valley, Long says, with all five starters back in the fold, enters the season as the divisional favorite.
Lourdes' only significant loss from last year is leading scorer Zack Chesney, who graduated.
The return, however, of guards Matt Savitski, Michael Menapace, Tyler Holleran and Michael Gilger, along with big men Anthony Pennypacker, Zack Oquendo and Justin Howal should allow for one of them to step forward as the go-to scorer.
Mount Carmel Area
The Red Tornadoes have the potential to be a major player in the stacked HAC-II with plenty of size and experience returning.
Elijah Duran, Tyler Kwiatkowski, Ben Scicchitano and Christian Kelly provide good size inside, while seniors Rob Varano, Ray Heromin and Bobby Beierschmitt, along with junior Zack Wasilewski are all experienced and give head coach John Lazicki plenty of options in the backcourt.
Zack Tocyloski, a sophomore who saw some varsity time as a freshman has the potential to develop into an outside sharpshooter. He contributed 11 3-pointers during limited varsity action as a frosh.
In his preseason prospectus, Lazicki said, "I think we have a very good chance to make districts this year. We have a good core group of players returning who have a lot of experience. How good we will be depends greatly on if we can maintain our intensity and focus, while at the same time keeping a positive attitude.
"Another key to this season will be how effectively they execute their assigned roles and how consistently then can play to their strengths."
The Eagles, who compete in the Tri-Valley League, managed only five victories in Craig Reichard's first season as head coach last year, but a strong returning cast should mean vast improvement.
Leading the way are seniors Cole Rickert (12.0) and and Bill Breinich (11.8), who both averaged double digit points last year.
Also back and expected to be major contributers are seniors Codi Morris, Dillan Michael, Coltin Hunsberger and Joe Weiler.
In his preseason prospectus, Reichard says his team's strength are its athleticism and varsity experience. He stresses, however, that to show the expected improvement they will need to rebound better and limit turnovers, which was a problem area last season.
Reichard expects Greenwood and East Juniata to be the teams to beat in the TVL.