In what can be a daunting move from Class AAA to Class AAAA in boys basketball, Hampton is well-equipped to just close its eyes and jump into the “deep” end of the pool.
After all, what usually separates teams that represent the bigger schools from those that come from smaller ones — depth — is one of the Talbots' greatest strengths.
Hampton can roll out a rotation of 10-12 talented players that would make even the schools with the largest enrollments and steepest traditions envious.
“We know we have five, six, seven guys who can come off the bench and step in and play vital roles on our team,” junior guard/forward Collin Luther said. “There's seniors, and there's freshmen and sophomores who will be great players in a couple years. It makes you play harder because you know nights when you think you might have to conserve energy that someone else can step right in.”
Hampton has played in three WPIAL title games and made three PIAA semifinal appearances the past four years. Despite the history of success, talent level and depth, however, the Talbots aren't taking their move “up” in class lightly.
Hampton joined Section 3, which produced three of the four WPIAL semifinalists last season. Furthermore, like Hampton, New Castle also moved to Class AAAA this season. The Red Hurricanes and Talbots were the two WPIAL Class AAA finalists last season.
“We've been competing — and I've had the experience of coaching for 16 years — in WPIAL and in some very competitive Triple-A sections and in a lot of Triple-A playoff games,” Hampton coach Joe Lafko said. “This will certainly be another challenge for us to compete in what is a very, very good Quad-A section.”
The No. 2 Talbots (6-0, 2-0) have passed all their early tests, having beaten four Class AAAA teams by an average of 19.2 points. Hampton also beat Class AAA No. 3 Mars, a former section rival.
“We've started off well playing good teams that can get us ready for what's coming,” said junior forward Ryan Luther, Collin's twin. “We know that in Quad-A, every game is a grind and every opponent dangerous.”
After averaging more than 15 points per game as a sophomore last season, the 6-foot-7 Ryan Luther already has been offered scholarships by multiple Division I schools, including Duquesne. Collin Luther, who is also receiving Division I interest, missed the first four games of Hampton's season and has gradually eased back into his normal workload after recovering from a concussion.
When Collin was out, 6-1 junior Trace McConnell stepped into the lineup. As experienced, starting-caliber players, McConnell and 5-10 senior guard Tom Radziminski might be the best examples of Hampton's superior depth.
Guards who typically do start for the Talbots are 5-11 junior Jon Floss, 6-1 sophomore David Huber and 5-10 sophomore Joey Lafko.
Senior forwards Jake Adams and Rich Ford and junior guards Jack Obringer and Hayden Seserko also give quality minutes off the bench. Joe Lafko calls 6-0 guard James Edwards, “one of the best freshmen in the WPIAL.”
In all, Hampton dresses 16 players for varsity games — the most Lafko ever has.
“Our practices have been very competitive, and I think that's prepared us for some of the tough games we've played early in the year,” Lafko said. “It's been fun watching the guys develop and continue to improve.”
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