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Penn-Trafford basketball teams stay busy in summer months

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 11:45 a.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Penn-Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford sophomore Casey Aunkst handles the ball during a WPIAL Class AAAA playoff game against Plum on Feb. 19, 2013, at Woodland Hills.
Valley News Dispatch
Penn Trafford's Timmy Vecchio (left) Kiski Area's Nick Stone and PennTrafford's Dorian Stevens scramble for a loose ball in the closing minutes of Friday's game at Kiski Area High School February 1, 2013. Bill Shirley | For The Valley Dispatch

The Penn-Trafford boys basketball team didn't waste much time getting back into the gym after the 2012-13 season ended in mid-February without a playoff appearance.

After about two months off, the Warriors were already working toward a better finish in 2013-14.

“We wanted to get the guys back in as quickly as we could because it left us with a little bit of a sour taste from last season,” coach Ryan Yarosik said. “We've got a bunch of young kids that really just want to go out and play and work hard. So we decided to get them in a little earlier.”

Both the Penn-Trafford boys and girls basketball teams have spent the summer hard at work, as both teams competed in summer leagues to go along with work in open gyms and in the weight room.

Both Yarosik and girls basketball coach John Giannikas said they're already seeing results.

“When we first started, we saw the kids needed some work,” Giannikas said. “(We) definitely see some improvement with some kids in the past month and a half. And I think they see it, too. They've gotten better with their ball skills, but there's no doubt some of them have gotten stronger (and) quicker, (which) gives them more confidence. It shows when they play on the court.”

Both teams will return more youth than experience next season, which caused Giannikas to focus more on skill development than philosophy this summer — a departure from his usual summer plans.

“We've maybe gone over one type of defense and one or two basic offensive plays that we run in our system,” Giannikas said. “Other than that, it's basically been focusing on the skills and just having the kids go out and play.

“In the past, it was the other way because we had a lot of girls who were playing since they were freshmen (and were) experienced coming back. We could focus more on our sets and fine-tune those.”

The Penn-Trafford boys team will return just one player with meaningful varsity experience in rising sophomore Timmy Vecchio, but that didn't stop Yarosik from focusing on some of the defensive philosophies this summer.

“(The players) realize and they recognize that the opportunity to get on the varsity floor is probably a little bit sooner than later,” Yarosik said. “The competition is breeding right now. They're coming in the gym, (and) they're working hard. I'm showing up at open gyms at Penn Middle (School), and I'm getting 20 to 30 kids just showing up for varsity and JV sessions.”

Because of the team's youth, Yarosik fielded two varsity teams in a summer league hosted by Greensburg Central Catholic. The teams played twice a week in an effort to get the players used to competing alongside each other.

While attendance can fluctuate in the summer because of jobs, vacations and other sports, both Yarosik and Giannikas said they had seen good participation from their players — particularly among those with less experience.

“We've got a lot of young kids trying to get better,” Giannikas said. “Our core kids have been working hard and leading the way, so I'm excited for them and happy for them that they're doing well. But it's still early, so hopefully they keep working hard and five (or) six months from now, we'll see results.”

With July halfway done, both coaches plan to wind down the summer work in the coming weeks. Yarosik said he planned to finish work in July before “cranking it back up” when players return to school.

Giannikas said he would continue the team's open gyms through late July and the twice-a-week speed and agility program until mid-August.

“As of right now, we're right where we want to be,” Yarosik said. “For July, (it's) not bad. We've got a lot accomplished.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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