A couple very familiar faces are gone from Gateway's lineup, which didn't go unnoticed when this year's roster first came together.
“It felt like playing a five-on-five pickup game with random people on the street,” senior D.J. Boyce said with a laugh. “It was definitely a process.”
Gone are Tyler Scott and Barnett Harris, two Division I recruits who helped Gateway win the past two WPIAL Class AAAA championships. Yet, these new-look Gators might contend for a third straight title, a feat accomplished only once in Quad-A.
With a number of rising underclassmen and three roster additions, Gateway has a talented rotation that coach Mitch Adams called one of his deepest.
The team drew talent from a junior varsity team that finished 17-1 a season ago. Some may underestimate these Gators, but “that would be a mistake,” said junior Tom Kromka, a 6-foot-5 forward.
“There's definitely going to be a lot more depth on the team,” he said. “We have a lot of faces that people don't know about.”
The Quad-A landscape also has changed since last winter. Class AAA champion New Castle and Class AAA runner-up Hampton were moved up during realignment and placed into Section 3, home to teams from the north.
New Castle, the only team to win three straight in Class AAAA (1997-99), could be favored to win another. But Gateway won't concede its streak.
“We've got two rings, and I want a third,” Adams said. “I'm starting to like jewelry.”
Boyce and Kromka are the only returning starters. The lineup has only five seniors, and will rely heavily on juniors and sophomores. Among them will be junior Shomari Thomas and sophomore Daylon Harris (6-5). Freshman Aidan Howard (6-5), a transfer from North Hills, also will contribute. Boyce, a three-year starter, has been impressed with them.
“I was real surprised, actually, because a lot of times when young dudes come up they're kind of nervous,” Boyce said. “None of them are nervous. They're all ready to play.”
New to the team are senior Jordan Landfair (6-2) and senior Deon Baker (6-4). Returning seniors Steve Hartnett and Matt Shorr also are part of that rotation.
“It's a different feeling, because I'm used to coming in and seeing Tyler and Barnett,” Boyce said. “I grew up with them, so I was always around them playing basketball. It's different, but I'm very happy I get to run the show now with my team.”
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