West Shamokin players newest additions to Cager Classic
West Shamokin boys basketball coach Mike Nagy, the team's top supervisor since the school's creation in 2000, wondered if one of his Wolves might at some point receive an invitation to compete in the Cager Classic.
The school, Nagy acknowledged, sits many miles northeast of the heart of the Alle-Kiski Valley and Highlands High School, home of the annual all-star event.
But West Shamokin competed against numerous teams that had Cager selections, and it had the ability to boost the talent pool with a player such as 1,000-point scorer Justin Barnett, a 2001 graduate.
“We had a big push to get him in, and for whatever reason, it didn't happen,” Nagy said. “So we kind of gave up on it.”
The Cager, however, kept West Shamokin in mind. And this year, for the 17th annual event, it welcomes two of West Shamokin's most celebrated, Anthony Rocco and Jill Glover, to the show — and it gives Nagy as well as girls coach Judd McCullough the opportunity to coach.
“With Anthony and Jill, it's certainly a good year to include us,” Nagy said of the players, each of whom surpassed 1,000 career points in December. “It was icing on the cake when they asked me to coach.”
Nagy will lead the East boys team, which will play at 8 p.m. Saturday. McCullough, who completed his first season with the Wolves, is in charge of the East girls, which will play at 6 p.m.
The men agreed: All-star coaching is an art.
“Offensively, I want there to be some sort of structure,” Nagy said. “I do like disciplined basketball. … However, I don't think the spectators would appreciate us holding the ball and forcing a half-court game.”
Said McCullough: “I think it comes down to having fun. And there's a fine line between goofy fun with razzle dazzle stuff and competitive fun.”
Prior to this year, the Indiana Optimist Club Invitational served as the main local all-star showcase for West Shamokin players.
Rocco and Glover both received offers to compete in that event — opportunities which only made their March schedules busier.
Glover also earned chances to participate in the Roundball Classic at Geneva College and the Hoops For a Cure showcase at Chartiers Valley.
Rocco received a nod for the Roundball Classic.
Only the Cager gives Rocco and Glover a chance to work side by side with players they clashed against.
“I played basketball with St. Joe's and Highlands players all summer long and they always talked about (the Cager) and how much they liked it,” Rocco said.
“It's a little nerve-racking for me being that it's the first year for us. But at the same time, it's not as big of a deal because it's the first time.”
Rocco actually will miss Friday's skill competitions because he must attend an award ceremony at Mount Aloysius College, where he will play baseball and possibly pursue a spot on the basketball team as well.