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Knoch's Zanella shows improvement after summer basketball training

| Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 12:36 a.m.
Knoch's Matt Zanella (13) averaged 10 points in a reserve role last season. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

Matt Zanella was the sixth man for the Knoch basketball team last season, but the incoming junior forward is pushing for a spot in the starting lineup.

Coaches at the Keystone State Invitational Basketball camp last month took notice of Zanella's offseason progression.

In his second appearance at the four-day camp, Zanella won the Best Inside Player award and was named an all-star.

It appears he is just warming up.

“At summer league, the other coaches and I have been very impressed with him,” Knoch coach Ron McNabb said. “Once he expands his game, he will be the total package.”

The Keystone State camp has become an annual event at Slippery Rock and is designed to showcase talent throughout Western Pennsylvania.

“I heard about it through my AAU team,” Zanella said. “I heard there were going to be scouts there.”

The 6-foot-4 Zanella gave the Knights an immediate spark off the bench last season, averaging 10 points per game.

McNabb said he is developing into an instant scorer.

While he wants to improve his perimeter game, Zanella is getting more comfortable on the low block as a throwback post player.

“Just look in the NBA and in college, the forwards there play more face-up,” Zanella said.

“You have a real advantage when you can put your back to the basket and score with a hook shot.”

Said McNabb: “You don't see the back to the basket that often; I think that's why it works.”

Knoch finished 12-12 last season and lost in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs to eventual runner-up Chartiers Valley. In the preliminary round, the Knights posted their first playoff win since 2006 after topping Mt. Pleasant, 52-40.

With Zanella and several other key players back, good things could lie ahead for the team this winter.

“The farther we go, the better chance Matt has at becoming a household name,” McNabb said.

He'll settle for quality minutes.

“I'm just looking for a way to get on the floor. I want to help this team any way I can,” said Zanella, who switched from No. 42 to 13 last season to wear Wilt Chamberlain's old number.

Zanella also hopes to mentor some of the younger players at Knoch, so they can follow a similar path to his.

“I'd love to teach them everything Coach McNabb has taught me,” he said.

C.J. Biedka is a freelance writer.

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