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Ex-Blue Devils help keep team tight

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Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Leechburg senior Chris Swank goes through drills during basketball practice at Leechburg High School on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.
By Jesse Huba
Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, 11:56 p.m.

You might be hard-pressed to find a more tight-knit local basketball team than the Leechburg boys.

The Blue Devils consider their program a type of fraternity, where former players give back and help to mold current ones.

This year's team will be led by three seniors. Chris Swank, the team's second-leading scorer last season, joins other projected starters Joe Strellec and Jacob Iellimo.

Leechburg coach Damian Davies is excited about this group of players.

“They'll provide strong leadership and continue our family basketball tradition,” Davies said. “All of these players are close, and they've been playing together for a long time.”

Leechburg should benefit from having a lot of players who saw action last season. And aside from their senior-led team on the court, the Blue Devils will be helped on other fronts.

“We have players coming back from former teams to help like Todd Rupert from the (2006-07) WPIAL championship team, and (former player) Chris Diller,” Davies said.

Davies believes he has enough ability and depth to put a fast-paced team or physical lineup on the court. The team also has several multi-sport athletes, as Strellec and Iellimo played on the football team.

“We have some intense, quick guards,” Davies said. “We can also go with a big lineup, so we're pretty diverse.”

With those two options, Leechburg should be able to match up with a lot of teams. The Blue Devils hope experience can pay off.

“We always want to get better and improve in our preseason games. Winning the section is always our goal,” Davies said.

Leechburg finished 5-13 overall and 2-8 in Section 4-AA play last season. It opens the 2012-13 season in its own tip-off tournament.

Jesse Huba is a freelance writer.

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