SEASON PREVIEW: MERCER
Mercer's first-year head coach Mike Williams considers his new job a dream come true.
"I've wanted this position for 20 years," Williams said. "I wrote it down back in high school. I posted it on my mirror at home, in college, as a single adult, through marriage and children. My primary goal has always been to be the basketball coach at my alma mater. Now that I have it, I've got some work ahead of me. This is a labor of love if there ever was one."
Williams graduated from Mercer high school in 1980 where he was a reserve player under Dave Cook, the Mustangs' mentor for the past 26 seasons and the person whom Williams is replacing.
Williams has held assistant coaching positions at Lakeview, Sharon and West Middlesex. His first head coaching gig was at Allegheny-Clairon Valley, where he led the team to three consecutive winning seasons and playoff berths, in the process earning the Butler Eagle's Coach of the Year award for the 1993-94 season.
At A-C Valley, Williams took charge of a squad that had a losing record the year before and was returning only one letterman. He steps into a nearly identical situation at Mercer where senior guard Chris Green is the only leftover from last year's 10-13 squad.
Green isn't a bad leftover to have, however. He led Mercer in points last year with a season-ending total of 291 (12.7 ppg).
"Experience is not one of our strong points," admitted Williams.
Following Green onto the court will be a trio of seniors with a limited amount of playing time, including 5-11 forward Greg McConnell, 5-10 guard Mike Frydrych, and 5-11 forward Lowell Jensen.
"All three of these kids are hustlers," said Williams. "And each has certain things that they bring to the mix, like leadership and toughness. Again, inexperience is a negative here. Anytime you have inexperienced players trying to get experience during their senior year ... it's tough."
First-year player Nathan Wallace rounds out the senior class as a guard.
Mercer boasts a pair of promising juniors with the team's only 6-footer, forward Justin Brennesholtz, and 5-11 guard Gregg Guyton. Williams is looking for Guyton to make a major contribution.
"Guyton has a lot of skills and he may be the best athlete on the team," he said. "He jumps well, he's fast, he is very active on defense. If he is focused, he can be dangerous."
Leading the sophomore class is 5-9 point guard Josh Faltot.
"Faltot's quick and can shoot the ball with accuracy. He seems to fit the Mercer mold as far as point guards. He reminds me of a young Troy Harris," Williams related.
In addition, 5-11 forward Brenton Bestwick, 5-9 shooting-guard Curtis Schultz and 5-9 point-guard Mike Sankey, all sophomores, could earn letters this season if they, according to Williams, "step it up and gain confidence."
To make up for low numbers Williams moved his entire crop of freshmen talent to the junior varsity level. Vying for playing time will be 5-9 guard David Chaussard, 5-11 guard Sean Berti, 5-11 forward Josh Haynie, and 5-11 forward Jason Moon.
Williams admits he and his team are going to face a tough season.
"I didn't take over until late August, which was too late to get anything done as far as summer recreation or a weight program," he said. "We've been in the gym for about two solid months with the kids (that were) not in football or soccer. Learning a new system with a new coach is tough. We will show some early growing pains, but I think we can compete with some of the teams on our schedule."
Assisting Williams is JV coach Jamie Schmid. -- By Herald writer Pete Chiodo
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