Former Valley teammates together again at St. Vincent
Tom Weremeychik catches the ball in the paint, pivots and delivers a kick-out pass to waiting teammate Geoff Fuquay, who calmly sinks a 3-pointer from the right corner.
Just like old times.
Only when the pair played together for three years at Valley High School, those roles were reversed. It often was Fuquay to Weremeychik.
Either way, the former high school teammates have been reunited as sophomores at St. Vincent College in Latrobe and are key reserves for a high-flying Bearcats team that is 19-4 and aiming for a PAC title.
“I always wanted one of my friends to be up here with me,” Weremeychik said. “It's great to have Geoff here and to be able to play together again.”
Fuquay has appeared in 13 games and has averaged 3.0 points in 14.3 minutes. Weremeychik has 23 appearances and also has given quality minutes (8.6 per game) off the bench.
Fuquay, a 6-foot-2 guard and 1,000-point scorer in high school, began his college career at Division II Walsh (Ohio), where he spent his redshirt year. He transferred to Division III College of Wooster and played in 27 games. But feeling out of place and wanting to be nearer to home, Fuquay left for St. Vincent and joined the team in season.
“When I came out of high school, I didn't realize how important the decision-making process was,” Fuquay said. “I made some wrong decisions. I should have spent more time looking at more places.”
Just down Route 30 from SVC, another pair of former Alle-Kiski standouts are sharing spots on the same roster.
St. Joseph graduates Brian Heinle and Mike Connelly are productive teammates for Pitt-Greensburg.
Heinle is a 6-4 junior guard who was starting for the Bobcats until he injured his ankle last week. Connelly is a 6-3 sophomore forward and the first player off the bench.
The players were named UPG's athletes of the week in consecutive weeks. Heinle has started 20 games and is averaging 11.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists for the Bobcats (12-11).
“There's definitely a little chemistry there (with Connelly),” Heinle said. “We interchange spots. He'll be the 3-guard, but he'll come in to play the 4 for me during stretches. He has embraced his role.
“He'll make a bunch of shots in a row. We call him the ‘Wet Man.' ”
Connelly is averaging 10.5 points and 3.4 rebounds and has 43 3-pointers, second on the team.
“Being able to continue playing basketball with a great friend makes the experience that much more enjoyable,” Connelly said. “The roles on our team have changed, but we still have that chemistry and special bond, both on and off the court.”
As if those two local pairs weren't enough, there are several others playing this winter that also won't be as surprised to see each other at their high school reunions.
• Former Kiski Area teammates are on the same basketball team again at Washington & Jefferson. Nick Stone is seeing playing time as a freshman point guard, and sophomore Alex Lamendola is a reserve guard.
• Three wrestlers that used to spar in the Burrell wrestling room are college teammates at Mercyhurst: redshirt sophomores Brian Beattie and Jeremy Landowski and freshman Dakota DesLauriers.
• The Penn State Behrend men's volleyball team has five players who played together in high school at Plum. They are junior defensive specialist Derek Polishen, sophomore outside hitter Eric Theiss, and freshmen Matt Shepherd (OH), Zach Miller (DS) and Daniel Szurley (OH).
• Former Deer Lakes teammates Jeremy Gaston and Tony Nicotra are together on the court again at St. Francis (Pa.). Gaston is a redshirt sophomore, and Nicotra a true sophomore.
Weremeychik and Fuquay had productive careers at Valley before giving quality minutes at SVC. Both were slashing scorers with complementary pull-up jumpers. Weremeychik said the adjustment to college basketball has been swift, but he has been playing more inside, at the center position, which has been a change of pace.
“I guess coach doesn't know I can shoot,” he said jokingly. “I'll have to talk to him about that.”
Fuquay can't get in a time machine and start over his college experience, but he appears to have found the right place.
“It's the first time I am 100 percent on the same page with the coaching staff,” he said. “We play a lot faster and with a quicker tempo, compared to other places.”
Heinle said Division III basketball doesn't get the credit it deserves.
“People shrug it off, like it's not competitive or whatnot,” he said. “People don't understand the work that you have to put in. It's a big transition (from high school). The speed of the game is different, and there's a lot more involved in the strategy side than you think.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.