City League basketball preview: Westinghouse teams out to defend titles
Westinghouse boys basketball coach Tariq Francis can't promise another City League championship this season, but he can provide assurance that his team will put in plenty of hard work.
Entering this season on the heels of a playoff title run after finishing third in the regular-season standings, Westinghouse returns just one player (sophomore guard Khalil Morris) from its championship squad.
But that doesn't mean the third-year Bulldog coach's squad won't work just as hard.
“We talk about last year, and the thing about something special is it's just that special,” Francis said. “It's hard to duplicate winning the lottery. Our thing is just instilling the same attitude and work ethic in the guys. I don't know if we'll see the numbers or city championship, but we're going to work them in practice, play the games, teach them, coach them. … I think we're going to see that growth.”
With just one returning player, it goes without saying that Westinghouse will feature virtually an entirely fresh set of faces in the 2013-14 campaign.
“Obviously, we wish we had more guys back to make it an easier transition,” Francis said. “But we're not going to let the guys off the hook.”
Two players the Bulldogs will look to for help are freshman guard Jahi Ogeoani and 6-foot-6 senior forward Willie James III, a transfer from Penn Hills, who will be the focal point of the offense.
“We're going to put the ball in his hands,” Francis said. “Our offense is going to run through him. He's going to shoulder the team being one of our only seniors.”
The Westinghouse girls found themselves in familiar territory last season, playing in a 26th consecutive City championship game and claiming a 10th league title in that span.
“It was very special, it really was,” coach Phyllis Jones said of the school's two basketball teams earning titles. “It brought the community together. That's what we were excited about, how the community came together. It was really nice to see.”
Westinghouse features plenty of returning talent, most notably seniors Jasmine Myers, Brittany Jackson and Tiarra Gordon.
Jones said determination and defense keyed her team's surge to the championship last season, and hopes it gives her group an increased sense of confidence in 2013-14.
“We came along strong during the postseason, and I hope it carries over to the beginning of this season,” Jones said.
“(The playoff run showed) that they're able to do what they want to do.”
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.