Deep senior class set to lead Belle Vernon boys basketball
Finding an identity isn't a part of the game plan the Belle Vernon boys basketball team needs to worry about entering the 2017-18 season.
With all but two players returning from last year, the Leopards were able to maintain the same team essentially and were able to jell and stay connected in the offseason.
“We pretty much have everyone back,” coach Kyle DeGregorio said. “We played 27 games this fall with the non-football players. We basically played a full season during the offseason. We have played together a lot.”
DeGregorio is entering his fifth season as the Leopards head coach and is coming off a season where they went 17-7 and were the Section 3-4A champions with an 11-3 record. The Leopards advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals, where they lost to Central Valley.
“Last year was last year, and this year is this year,” DeGregorio said. “First and foremost, we need to take care of ourselves to win the section championship and make the playoffs. We want to win a WPIAL championship. Those have always been our goals. They understand this is a new year, and everyone gets a fresh start. You have to take what is yours if that is what you want.”
Belle Vernon will have to replace graduates Brennan Morgan and Tommy Rodriguez, but will have plenty of options as DeGregorio plans to have a 10- or 11-man rotation. One advantage of having the depth the Leopards plan on having is it will allow them to utilize their uptempo style at a more effective rate with fresh legs.
“I have about 18 guys, and we are battling it out in practice,” DeGregorio said. “We are going to play fast and wear a lot of people out.
“If you want to play fast, you need to have depth.
“The sophomore group has put a lot of time in. A lot of the sophomores are fighting with the older guys to find a spot in the rotation.”
Belle Vernon also has experience with eight seniors returning from last year.
The Leopards will begin their season by participating in the Hempfield tip-off tournament for the second year in a row. They went 1-1 in the tournament last year.
Their first game will be Dec. 8 against Franklin Regional, which plays in a classification above Belle Vernon in Class 5A.
“It is an opportunity to evaluate your team,” DeGregorio said. “For us, we want to play really good teams to get the experience to play quality programs early on in the year.
“We are excited to play and get things going. Everything has been going well, and it is a fun time of the year.”
Drew Karpen is a freelance writer.