PS Fayette men aim to build on last season

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 1:36 a.m.

For the Penn State Fayette men's basketball team, the time for success is now. The Roaring Lions are coming off a strong 2011-12 season in which they racked up an 11-7 record in the PSUAC.

Penn State Fayette also won a game in the USCAA National Tournament to close the season.

This season, the Roaring Lions return four-fifths of their starting lineup, which should give the team plenty of confidence.

“They get better every day,” Penn State Fayette third-year coach Mark John said. “In our first year together, we had four wins and last year we had 14 wins. When you have a season like that, the guys are hungry to come back and see what they can do.”

The Roaring Lions lost starter Tyler Van Olst, who transferred to Penn State's main campus. However, Penn State Fayette has the luxury of an experienced team taking the court this year. Senior guard James Pratt and senior forwards David Winns and Ryan Hart join sophomore guard Brandon Cunningham as returning starters. Winns averaged nearly 20 points last season. Senior guard Will Gaines also saw plenty of starting time and will play a major role this season.

“These guys have been around each other for three years,” John said. “They are getting better and everybody is on the same page. We don't have to tell them to do the little things. They just do it.”

Senior center Andrew Hoye and sophomore guards Darius Mack and Derek Jones add plenty of veteran experience, while freshmen C.J. Gaddis, Tony Bristol and Spencer Perieff bring new energy to the program.

With a strong and experienced foundation, the goals are high for the Roaring Lions.

“We want to compete at the highest level,” John said. “We lost in the PSUAC quarterfinals last year, so we want to build on what we did in the past. We want to compete for the (PSUAC and USCAA) championships. We go into every situation thinking we are going to win.”

Of course, like any team, the Roaring Lions have room to improve.

“Offensively, we have to react more,” John said. “We have to be able to take what a defense gives us and react and create off of it. Defensively, we need to focus more on positioning. We are a man-to-man team, so we have to focus for 35 seconds on every possession.”

For Pratt, a Uniontown graduate, one of the keys to success will be the team's speed.

“We can run the floor and we've got a good offense,” Pratt said.

Pratt also believes the Roaring Lions are in position to build on last season.

“Since last year, we've put high expectations on ourselves and I think we can do better this year,” Pratt said. “Any senior wants to go out with the best and we're trying to achieve our goals as one team.”

The concept of team is certainly a powerful theme for this group of Roaring Lions.

“Our strength is team unity and how much they care for each other,” John said. “When you have that, anything becomes possible.”

Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-626-3534.

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