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Class AAA boys basketball preview: 6-11 transfer George Prota vaults Elizabeth Forward into contender status

| Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 9:10 p.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Elizabeth Forward's Jaquan Davidson runs wind sprints during practice Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Elizabeth Forward's Jasano Brooks works out during practice Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Elizabeth Forward's Jalan French works out during practice on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 .
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Elizabeth Forward coach Gerald Grayson watches team workouts Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.
Albin R. Roth/For The Valley Independent
EF's multi-talented Jaquan Davidson is a major threat for defenses, running and passing.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Elizabeth Forward's Austin Matta runs a passing drill Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.

Elizabeth Forward's JaQuan Davidson was the leading scorer in Class AAA last season with an average of 22 points.

He's hoping he won't defend that title.

Davidson had to shoulder a big portion of the scoring responsibilities for an undersized squad a season ago. At 6-foot-4, he was the tallest player on the team.

That changed with the addition of 6-11 Serra Catholic transfer George Prota, a junior who averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks as a sophomore. With a big man in the middle, Davidson is able to show off his other skills.

“JaQuan is an amazing player,” Prota said. “He's even better than I thought he was. Some of the passes he makes are ridiculous.”

Double-teaming the athletic Davidson, a Pitt football recruit, and leaving open another player won't be a good strategy this year.

“If the ball's in my hand, I just have to make something happen with it,” he said. “I don't mind passing. In fact, I like it.”

Along with Davidson the top-ranked Warriors return starting guards Austin Matta and Jalen French, as well as starting forward Matt Bernadowski. They added 6-5 Gateway transfer Jasano Brooks to a team that finished 12-11 overall, 6-6 in Section 4.

Perhaps the most important person returning is coach Gerald Grayson. The former McKeesport girls basketball coach, who led teams powered by Swin Cash, is in his second season coaching EF. His brand of fundamentally sound basketball has resonated with his players.

“Coach Grayson is all about hard work,” said Prota, who has visited Pitt and West Virginia. “If you don't want to play, then go home because you're not going to fit in.

“I absolutely love Coach Grayson.”

Prota is the embodiment of hard work shaping success. He has transformed from a 310-pound freshman to a 250-pound nightmare for opponents. He credits a healthy diet and hitting the weight room for developing into the prospect he has become.

“I want to bully people in the paint this season,” he said.

Prota's blue-collar mindset meshes well with the laid back Davidson. Neither player is looking to be a star. All they want to do is play for a champion, they said.

They will have to navigate what looks like the toughest section in Triple-A. Thomas Jefferson (12-0 in section last season); Steel Valley with Ajan Smith (18.1 ppg); and West Mifflin, which returns Ryan Maha (17.9 ppg), each will put up a fight.

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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