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Vincentian forward Rathz quietly played big role for basketball team

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

No matter how well a senior season goes, a player must move along to the next adventure when the campaign ends.

Only a handful of seniors get to leave fresh off a championship, and one of those seniors is Vincentian forward Matt Rathz.

Rathz went from a role player last year to a starting forward on this season's basketball team. And although he enjoyed being more of a factor in each game, he said the life lessons he learned from being a part of this team are what will help carry him in the next phase of his life.

“I know it seems corny, but there are some life lessons I think only sports can teach you,” Rathz said. “I learned a lot from coach (George) Yokitis and Vincentian basketball and made friends and relationships I hope last a long time.”

Rathz said it all starts with Yokitis, who instills the ideal that nothing can beat hard work.

“People, the media, can say whatever they want, but we control what happens between the lines (on the court),” Rathz said. “Hard work gave us confidence, and we realize we can control the final score by how we play.”

Rathz said this season was a lot of fun, because many of the opponents the Royals conquered were bigger or faster. By each player playing hard, doing his job and looking out for his teammates, the Royals lost only two games all season and won a WPIAL championship, their second in three years.

Rathz and his teammates hit the gym days after the season last year, and it was that big offseason when he got in the best shape of his playing career. He was able to come out and crash the boards better than ever and give the Royals a bigger presence inside.

“I usually played more of a perimeter game, but without a true center, I knew I needed to improve inside,” Rathz said. “I attacked the ball on the glass more; that is where my game improved.”

Yokitis said Rathz is a special kid who really did all he could to sacrifice for the better of the team.

“He went in and did the dirty work,” Yokitis said. “He matched up with the other teams' big men, and he held his own.

“He is a smart kid, does his homework and is totally dedicated to being a great teammate.”

His work in the classroom landed him an opportunity to attend Michigan, an prospect about which he is excited.

“I visited my sister, who is a sophomore there,” Rathz said. “It is a great college town, and having my sister there will help me.”

Rathz said he will study liberal arts and look into careers in that field.

Yokitis said he will miss Rathz as a person and as a player.

“Matt did a lot of little things,” Yokitis said. “He is a great teammate and helped us stretch a defense.”

Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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