Shaler boys basketball star stays put
The past two years, the Shaler boys basketball team went into the season as one of the teams to beat. This season, graduation has depleted what was arguably the deepest team in Quad-A hoops.
Shaler coach Paul Holzshu returns only one player with any notable experience, but if a coach gets to keep only one player, who else would that person rather have than Geno Thorpe?
Thorpe, a Penn State recruit, was set to transfer, but Holzshu said he's back and declared eligible by the WPIAL.
“He started here for three years, and he was a starter for Shady Side Academy as a freshman,” Holzshu said. “He already has 1,000 points for his career and has earned (almost every accolade possible) as a junior. It all starts there ... that's the easy part. Now, where does it end?”
The task facing Holzshu is surrounding Thorpe with enough help so teams can't simply focus their attention on the star.
Seniors Bill Reinheimer (6-foot-1) and Greg Lydon (6-5) saw most of their action on the junior-varsity squad last season, while Lou Ferraro rounds out the returning players.
The junior class saw only mop-up duty at the varsity level prior to this season but played a lot at JV. Jake Mathias, Zack Weaver and Kevin Mincher will factor into the team's plans more this season.
Sophomore Jake Potach is another big player at 6-5, giving Holzshu at least one of the physically bigger teams in the section if not all of Quad-A.
Holzshu said he's going to bring some freshmen up and rotate them in, too, just to see if anyone can hang at the varsity level.
“We are fairly young and inexperienced, but I like what we have,” Holzshu said. “This will be a big challenge with the level of competition we play.”
Shaler's conference already includes Pine-Richland, North Allegheny, North Hills and Seneca Valley and will welcome former Class AAA powers Hampton and New Castle, making a steep climb to the top that much steeper.
Holzshu didn't ease up on the non-conference schedule, either, as the Titans will play McKeesport, Plum, Hempfield and Montour.
“I am a firm believer in playing only the strongest teams,” Holzshu said. “You don't get any better playing weaker teams.”
The other challenge Holzshu said he faces is getting this team to play together to maximize the talent that is there. The key is to get Thorpe and the other four starters to interact in a manner that is productive — and not have Thorpe do it all.
“In the past, Geno had the luxury of playing with good athletes,” Holzshu said. “Now he is on an island, so how will he gear his game to excel as a leader and be a complement to the group.”
Holzshu said he has a good group, and they have no false sense of what's ahead.
“You never know when it will be your night, and the only thing we can control is how we play,” Holzshu said.
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.