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On campus: Kochka earns playing time at Thiel

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Gateway 2012 graduate Luke Kochka helped the Gators varsity boys basketball team to the WPIAL Quad-A title in both 2011 and 2012 and an appearance in the championship game in 2010.

Now, Kochka is starting over in his basketball career as a freshman at Thiel College, an NCAA Division III school in the Presidents Athletic Conference.

He is one of three freshmen getting playing time for the Tomcats, and he averages close to 10 minutes on the court per game.

“It was a big transition,” Kochka said. “I had to find a new role.”

Thiel is 8-6 overall and 5-2 in the PAC heading into Saturday's 3 p.m. conference game at Geneva College.

The Tomcats won two PAC games last week — 72-64 over Waynesburg and 65-48 over Grove City — to snap a six-game losing streak after a 6-0 start.

Thiel never trailed against Waynesburg, and the Tomcats raced out to a 20-6 lead.

Kochka scored a season-best six points in nine minutes of action against the Yellow Jackets.

He was 2 of 3 from the field, 2 for 2 from the free-throw line, and he finished with two rebounds.

Thiel began the season with a 61-59 victory over Division II Clarion and Kochka's former Gateway teammate Mike Kromka, a junior for the Golden Eagles and one of the team's leading scorers.

The Nov. 12 game ended on a buzzer-beater.

“That game was pretty crazy,” Kochka said.

Kochka knows that it will take time for him to increase his role on the team.

“I just want to help the team any way I can right now,” he said.

Thiel head coach Tim Loomis likes the way Kochka has begun his collegiate career.

“Luke's doing better than we anticipated,” Loomis said.

“He's a fast learner, and he brought in good fundamentals from high school. He's had to convert from mainly being a shooter to now putting it on the floor, rebounding and defending. His defense is really improving.”

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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