ShareThis Page

Shaler senior discovers comfort zone

Chris Harlan
| Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, 8:56 p.m.
Shaler's Geno Thorpe scores past Hopewell's Cole Meeker during their game in the C.J. Betters Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, at the Community College of Beaver County. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Shaler's Geno Thorpe scores past Hopewell's Cole Meeker during their game in the C.J. Betters Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, at the Community College of Beaver County. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

Shaler's Geno Thorpe had just transferred home after seven weeks in Florida, a surprising decision much like his unexpected move there, so his coach sought to eliminate any lingering apprehension.

“I wanted to look him in the eye and let him know I'm OK with every decision that had been made,” said Shaler coach Paul Holzshu, who joined Thorpe for lunch at a restaurant along McKnight Road. “I didn't want any uncertainties. I didn't want anything lost in translation.”

It was an important conversation for Thorpe, who had left Shaler rather abruptly in July.

“Nobody sugar-coated anything,” Thorpe said of their September conversation that cleared the air. “I never got a chance to speak to him (before leaving for Florida), which I was kind of hurt about. Coach Holzshu is a real important person to me.”

Now a few months later, it's like he never left. Thorpe has averaged 27.1 points through 11 games and leads the WPIAL in scoring. He has reached 30 points five times, including a 45-point outing against McKeesport.

That down-to-basics discussion also prepared Thorpe for his role as a superstar surrounded by varsity rookies, guys playing their very first minutes.

“We knew that I was going to be the ‘it' guy and I was going to draw all this attention,” Thorpe said. “He told me he wanted to make me a better player. That I needed to learn how to get guys involved in the game early, because this year was going to be a lot different than it was last year.”

A season ago, Thorpe was just one important part of a very good team. But now as arguably the best senior in the WPIAL, attention paid to the 6-foot-3 guard has escalated.

“Now everybody focuses on him,” Holzshu said, “from the other team, to the other coach, to the other fans, to our fans, to the reporter in the stands, to the custodian who takes a break sweeping the hallway to watch a little of the game. There's a lot of pressure on this kid.”

And with increased frequency, Thorpe has seen unorthodox defenses, including box-and-one shadows.

“There are times this year that he's run into some things that have made him very frustrated,” Holzshu said. “A couple of teams have figured out that they have enough talent to run two people at him. When that happens, sometimes he gets a little impatient, and he forces some things. But good players want the ball in their hands, and good players want to try to make their team successful.”

Shaler is 6-5 overall but 0-4 in Section 3-AAAA. Thorpe sat out the first half of Friday's 60-58 loss to North Hills as discipline for missing a practice, Holzshu said. But Thorpe scored 25 in the second half.

The Titans' best game was a 66-62 victory Dec. 28 over Lincoln Park at the C.J. Betters Tournament. Thorpe scored 35, including a dunk between defenders that few could execute. But his teammates also showed promise in that victory. Starting alongside Thorpe are seniors Bill Reinheimer (6-1) and Greg Lydon (6-4), and juniors Jacob Mathias (6-5) and Zach Weaver (6-2).

“Guys needed to learn how to play off of me, and I needed to learn how to get teammates the ball,” Thorpe said. “It was something I had to do better. Last year, getting people involved wasn't as hard as this year. But I do like the challenge.”

Even if these weren't necessarily the teammates expected to share Thorpe's senior season. Not after July, when he transferred to West Oaks Academy in Orlando, near where his father lived. The private school had a successful basketball program that played in a Florida prep league more challenging than the WPIAL.

A family issue prompted his return to Shaler.

“Things didn't work out,” Thorpe said. “Everything happens for a reason in my eyes. We just had to move forward and make the best of what we had. The decision was to come back to Shaler, which was a very easy decision. Shaler has been wonderful to me.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @chrisharlantrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.