Share This Page

Nesser a key motivator for Hempfield basketball team

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 11:34 p.m.
Hempfield Area's Kason Harrell eyes an outlet pass to Tyler Handlan during their January 4, 2013 contest versus Penn-Trafford. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Hempfield Area's Kason Harrell drives through the Penn-Trafford defense during their January 4, 2013 contest in Hempfield Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Hempfield Area's Tyler Handlan drives through the Penn-Trafford defense during their January 4, 2013 contest in Hempfield Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

From the opening tip of a Hempfield basketball game, coach Jim Nesser's passionate bellows can be heard from one end of the gym to the other.

Whether conducting practice or guiding players in game situations, Nesser offers a message of hope.

“We're a team,” he said. “We preach teamwork. Our kids are unselfish. They don't care about points. We're about winning.”

Cut and paste those thoughts into any writings about Nesser's teams — past or present — and it's likely to apply.

Perhaps it is why they've enjoyed so much success.

Nesser previously coached Jeannette to three consecutive WPIAL championship games, winning the WPIAL and PIAA championships in 2007-08. Prior to that, he rallied an Elizabeth Forward program to a 24-3 record and its first section championship after the Warriors had won just two games the previous season.

“I've been playing for him since I was a freshman, and he's busted my tail every day,” Hempfield senior guard Tyler Handlan said. “I thank him for it, too, because he's made me a better player.”

Handlan is among five seniors whose value to Hempfield's success is immeasurable, Nesser insisted. All play an important role, he said, but none scores more points than two underclassmen on the team.

Sophomores Kason Harrell (15.4 ppg.) and Tony Pilato (10.7) are the only Spartans averaging double figures in scoring.

“We've definitely bought into the team concept that coach preaches,” Handlan said. “He's taught us not to be selfish as a team.”

The 6-foot-3 Harrell, though only a sophomore, has gotten a lot of attention from fans and players alike.

He scored 12 points and was one of four players in double figures in Hempfield's 72-52 victory over Penn-Trafford on Friday.

“He wants to learn. He's all ears. He's learning to become a complete basketball player,” Nesser said. “He was patient and took what the defense gave him. He's starting to learn to understand the game of basketball. He's learning that there's more to being a great player than scoring 25 points a game.”

Hempfield has had a week to recharge after a feverish pace to the start of the season. The Spartans (8-3, 3-1) shared second place and trail Section 1-AAAA leader Norwin by a half-game entering Friday night's trip to Kiski Area (8-4, 3-2).

With the bulk of the section schedule upcoming, Hempfield hopes to continue its winning ways and stay in contention for the title. To Nesser, the veterans hold the key.

“The group of seniors we have right now are doing things their own way,” he said. “We had three outstanding seniors who showed great leadership in their own way last year on the floor and in the locker room. They supplied something special. It's picked up with these guys this year.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.