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Despite losing their coach, Lancers seem to have all bases covered

Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Deer Lakes guard Tim Jaczesko (right) broke Deer Lakes' single-game scoring record with 45 points on Thursday night.

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By George Guido
Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

An October appointment to a high school basketball head coaching position usually is a prescription for trouble.

But new Deer Lakes boys basketball coach Jon McKay feels comfortable with his appointment late into the offseason.

Former coach Joe Lewandowski left for personal reasons. McKay was his main assistant.

“It's been a little hectic, but I have a great staff,” McKay said. “I have great assistants, a great administrative staff, and we have eight seniors on the team. It's been as seamless a transition as possible.”

McKay said it helped to be familiar with the players in the program as opposed to going to a new school where he didn't know anybody.

“I was with coach Lewandowski in the spring and the summer leagues, so that makes everything a little easier to take,” McKay said.

One key player back for the Lancers is senior guard Tim Jaczesko, who has been plagued with injuries for much of the past year.

“Tim is back, healthy, and he looks great,” McKay said. “He's a leader; he's a kid we're blessed to have.”

After missing part of last season with a leg injury, Jaczesko came back, reinjured the leg in AAU play in May and spent much of the summer in a cast.

“It still bothers me a little bit,” Jaczesko said. “I'd say I'm about 95 percent right now, but it's getting there.”

Other projected Lancers starters, all seniors, include J.J. Kowalkowski, the team's tallest player at 6-foot-1.

Zach Bryner, Tim Cresta and Cody Keenan look to round out the starting lineup.

Lack of height will be a problem with the Lancers, and McKay hopes to make up for it with quickness and better shooting.

Deer Lakes will be moving down to Class AA for at least the next two seasons, but McKay insists the team is taking nothing for granted due to the quality of teams in Section 1-AA such as Burrell and Summit Academy.The Lancers were 2-12 in Section 1-AAA last season and 4-18 overall.

Assisting McKay this season will be Conlan Walsh, most recently at Butler Junior High and a former player at Geneva College. Also on the staff is Austin Snodgrass, a student manager for four seasons at West Virginia University.

“He's filtered out the coach (Bob) Huggins language, but not the X's and O's,” McKay said with a laugh.

McKay's first game will be quite a challenge as the Lancers face Shaler in the Plum Tip-off Classic on Dec. 7. Shaler is led by Geno Thorpe, considered by many the top player in the WPIAL.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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