SEASON PREVIEW: GREENVILLE
Some teams have the luxury of a defined starting lineup; others utilize a rotation system. Greenville High boys basketball head coach Kelly Jones will work from a slightly altered format.
"You've heard in baseball of the bullpen by committee?'' Jones said. "Well, we sort of have the ball being brought up the floor by committee at this point.''
One of Jones' senior stalwarts, slender sharpshooter Sammy Young, is trying to allow his surgically-repaired knee time to rest from the recently-completed football season. Until Young returns and because of the ripple effect his presence has on the remainder of the rotation, Jones, in the true spirit of the holiday season, is shopping for a lineup.
"At this point, we're not going to have a starting five; it'll be more of a rotating seven, possibly eight,'' the seventh-year mentor said. "We've not been able to establish defined roles. We still need to establish our strengths and weaknesses that we need in order for us to be real successful.''
In lieu of Young's questionable status, Jones acknowledged that point guard is, "the one question mark at this point. We're hoping that somebody does rise to the occasion and establish themself. Some of that will be placed upon Sam, but the wear and tear (playing the point) is not beneficial to his knee, so we need somebody else to put forth some effort to carry the load.''
A pair of juniors, 5-foot-9 Aaron Zane and 6-0 Justin Jamison, along with sophomores Tim Hudson, Trevor Cascio and Mike Mueller, 5-4, 5-9 and 5-10, respectively, are vying for playing time at the point.
"They're beginning to understand what it takes to be successful at the jayvee and varisty levels,'' Jones said. "They're becoming accustomed to the faster speed of the (varsity) game, so it's not going to be as much of a jump for them.''
Until Young returns, the wings will be filled by a pair of seniors in 6-2 Kenny Strader and 5-11 Wes Baird, while the trio of 6-2 senior newcomer Russ Sauer, 6-3, 280-pound sophomore Andy Young, and 6-3 junior Matt Keller will compete for post position playing time.
Ron Renwick, a 5-9 senior transfer from Jamestown, is being looked at by Jones as a 2-guard. "(Renwick) seems to be making very good progress, and we're counting on him to make a very positive contribution,'' Jones offered, adding,
"Wes Baird and Ken Strader have provided very good senior leadership in the preseason. They're setting the tone and level of expectancy, (and) Russ Sauer has been a very pleasant surprise. ... and Aaron Zane and Justin Jamison have given us some very solid performances in practice."
The face of the MCAC-AA circuit has changed dramatically in a year's time. George Junior Republic will play an independent Quad-A and AAA schedule; West Middlesex has dropped down to A, and two new coaches -- Mike Williams at Mercer and Bob Donatelli at Sharpsville -- will factor into the equation.
"From my perspective, it really is (wide open),'' Jones said. "Last year, most teams were senior laden, so this year's sort of an unknown entity. ... There's not any one group that returns a nucleaus of starting players, although, I would have to say Reynolds, on paper, really is the only one. (The Raiders) probably have as many returning lettermen, or more, than anybody else.''
With the MCAC-AA slate opening after the first of the year, Jones is hopeful that a competitive early-season schedule will properly prepare his club.
"I'm not sure what to expect,'' he admitted. "With our pre-Christmas schedule being, what I would consider, pretty arduous, and the (Cambridge Springs) tipoff tournament very competitive, then when we play some AAA teams such as Mr. (Ben) Zajac-led Slippery Rock; Grove City, with several returning lettermen; George Junior; Sharon, which when they're done with football will have almost everybody back from last year, and with a new coach at Hickory (Tony Mastrian), that's going to present a new set of challenges.
"And that's what'll be, a challenge,'' Jones continued. "And we're taking that attitude and perspective; that's how we're looking at it. We're playing some different teams and that'll help us find our strengths and work on our weaknesses. It'll provide a sound base on which to build so we are very competitive when the AA season rolls around.''
Greenville garnered an 8-2 MCAC-AA record last year and 12-13 overall, losing to Fairview in District 10's opening round.
Jones' first assistant and junior varsity head coach will be Matt Blaschak, while Todd Nehlen runs the freshman squad. -- By Herald assistant sports editor Ed Farrell
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