SEASON PREVIEW: GROVE CITY
Grove City head coach Don Fee, now entering his second decade at the helm, has good reason to be optimistic about the 2000-01 season.
After all, his Eagles return three starters from an 18-10 squad that advanced to the District 10 consolation game last season.
However, the Eagles dropped that consolation game to Sharon, 64-61, as a 19-point lead slipped away in the final 5:30 of regulation.
The Eagles welcome back 6-2 senior swingman Pat Bell (311), 6-3 senior forward Greg Mattocks (303) and senior point guard Adam Gould (169). Bell can play three or four different positions, while Mattocks is the team's defensive stopper. As sophomores, both were key contributors in Grove City's district championship run.
Meanwhile, Gould developed into one of the area's better outside shooters last season.
"I'm encouraged," Fee (184-88), in his 11th season, said. "It's not just those three, but the entire senior crew. It's one of the most committed groups I've had. They're probably not the most athletic group, but they have great hearts and work ethic."
A fourth senior, 6-4 lefty Jake Jefferis (178), will likely start in the frontcourt after serving as the team's sixth man last season.
"Jake has really improved his game," Fee said. "He's become more consistent."
Fee is also high on four other seniors who will likely contribute: forward Adam Cook and guards Erik Bestwick, Tristan Butler and Jeff Hodge.
"Adam knows his role," Fee said of the 6-2 forward. "He's very physical, he rebounds well and he's a godd defender. Jeff and Erik both play good defense and they take care of the ball. Tristan has really come on. He's played very well -- he's very quick."
Meanwhile, junior guard Will Anderson has the inside track toward the fifth starting spot.
"He has just made huge strides," Fee said of the lefty shooting guard. "He has caught on to the seniors' work ethic. He is a good athlete and is a pleasant surprise."
Unlike most of Fee's teams at Grove City, the squad does not feature a dominant post player, as Jefferis is the team's "big man."
"We're not big, but we're not real small," Fee pointed out. "We have some 6-2, 6-3 guys. The key is how we rebound. I think we're capable of rebounding the ball better."
The team must replace graduated starters Ray Billet and Craig Otteni, as well as reserve guards Todd Fisher and Anthony Leone.
Two newcomers could also help the Eagles this season. Fee is very high on 6-3 frosh Michael Johnson, as well as 6-3 senior Peter Istvan.
Istvan, the team's ninth senior, is an exchange student from Slovakia. Currently, he is rehabilitating a knee injury.
"Peter's very strong and he's pretty athletic," Fee said. "He's a good all-around player. I think we have 11 guys that can give quality minutes. That's a nice problem to have."
As usual, Fee has assembled a rugged non-conference schedule. The Eagles travel to North Hills, Erie East and Kennedy Christian and also play Farrell and Westinghouse. Plus, Grove City will battle cross-borough rival George Junior Republic twice.
In the AAA division of the MCAC, Fee considers Sharon to be the favorite because of their tremendous athleticism.
He added, "Slippery Rock is very much improved. They're shooting the ball better. That's important because it keeps you from doubling and tripling down on Zajac. Hickory -- I think they're better than last year and they beat us last year."
Veteran coaches Mont Mattocks and Rich Samsa will assist Fee. -- By Herald writer Ryan Briggs
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