Campus clippings: UPJ coach Rukavina collects 400th win
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When it comes to coaching college basketball, “Rook” is no rookie.
Bob Rukavina, the veteran men's coach at Pitt-Johnstown, has gathered the respect of a number of coaches and players from across the state because he's built a competitive program with consistent recruiting and commendable longevity.
Now the Lower Burrell resident and Riverview graduate has added another milestone to his tenure.
Now in his 25th year, Rukavina posted his 400th career win over the weekend with a 91-74 victory at Mansfield. His commitment to the program is all part of his “journey.”
Rukavina, 56, has been making the same long drive to Johnstown from Lower Burrell every year since he started in 1989-90.
“It's been a great journey, figuratively speaking,” Rukavina said. “Physically (it's been) many, many miles.
“Without question, the most gratifying part of the journey has been the relationship I have had with my players. Watching them develop from being young 17-year-old kids when I met them and watching them grow into productive, successful citizens is the most rewarding aspect of coaching for me.”
Under Rukavina, UPJ has been to the NCAA Division II Regional Tournament four times and averaged better than 16 wins a season.
“When I got the job here, they had not had a winning season in 17 years and not had a player who played for four years and graduated for a period of seven years,” he said. “I was told by the administration to just bring in good kids and be competitive and have a winning season once in awhile.
“Fortunately, that isn't how my father, who was my idol, raised me. I have always been a very competitive person and never liked to lose in anything that I did. I was determined to turn the program around. It took a few years, but we have consistently been pretty good for a number of years. It has never been a job to me. I love what I do.”
Senior guard/forward Ryan Stanko (Deer Lakes) continues to work his way back to form after an ankle injury stunted his season. Stanko missed the Gators' first three games with a sprained ankle but returned and has made three starts since, playing 16.4 minutes a game.
“It was probably the worst obstacle I had to overcome in all my years of hoops. It was the first time I ever missed a game or practice.”
He averaged 13.8 points and 5.5 rebounds as a junior.
Sophomore guard Makenzie Zidek (Kiski Area) was named the North Coast Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week after tying a school record with seven 3-pointers in an 89-85 win over St. Vincent. She had a career-high 29 points in the win and was 7 of 9 from 3. She averaged 23 points and shot 61 percent across two games, the other a win over W&J.
Senior forward Jenny Papich (Fox Chapel) made sure the Lady Knights stayed unbeaten. Papich scored inside off an in-bounds pass with three seconds remaining to give Gannon a 65-63 victory over Bloomsburg. The win kept Gannon, the No. 2 Division II team in the country, perfect at 12-0. Papich finished with 18 points and five assists in the win.
She also helped the team to wins over Le Moyne, Mansfield and Lock Haven and earned PSAC Athlete of the Week honors.
Sophomore Paul Singerman (Kiski Area) picked up an individual victory and contributed to a winning relay in a 156-84 win over Wheeling Jesuit. Singerman won the 50-yard backstroke in 25.47 seconds, and helped the 200-yard medley relay take first in 1:36.06.
—Bill Beckner Jr.
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