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McKeesport boys to face tough challenge in Section 2-AAAA

| Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 1:03 a.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
McKeesport coach Corey Gradson provides instruction to players during workouts on Wednesday, November 20, 2013.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
McKeesport's Javon Grayson goes for the hoop during workouts on Wednesday, November 20, 2013.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
McKeesport's William Gadson works on passing plays during workouts Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
McKeesport's Edward Tyson moves the ball down court during workouts on Wednesday, November 20, 2013.

Corey Gadson couldn't mask his enthusiasm, regardless of where his McKeesport boys basketball program was headed. He just seemed to be enjoying the idea of starting another high school season.

“It's just a passion. That's why I coach,” Gadson said. “I get excited from what I draw from the kids. It's my calling.”

In what has developed into a long head coaching career, Gadson has experienced good times and trying times.

Now entering his 10th year at McKeesport and 26th high school season overall, he hadn't forgotten when his Tigers were ousted from the 2012 WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs with a quarterfinals-round loss to Hampton last season.

But likely in part because of the abrupt and disappointing end, Gadson was anticipating a year of uncertainty in 2013, despite the return of three starters from a 15-8 squad that finished fourth in Section 2 with a 9-5 mark.

“I think we'll be about in the middle of the pack again this year,” Gadson said. “Fox Chapel, Gateway and Central Catholic are the teams to beat again.”

McKeesport moves on without three starters from last season, but there was competition for regular playing time from a pool of veteran players, including Gadson's son, 6-foot-1 senior guard William Gadson.

Others in the mix for starting spots were 6-3 senior forward Edward Tyson, 6-0 senior forward Khalil Perdue and 5-8 junior point guard Jordon Payne.

“It's the same every year,” Corey Gadson said. “Sometimes you're ranked No. 1 and sometimes you're not even in the top 10. It's not an exact science. It's about putting 13 guys together and being successful.

“I think we'll be OK.”

The Tigers open the year Dec. 6 at the Hempfield Tournament against Class AA Greensburg Central Catholic.

Meantime, Gadson approached the court before a recent practice with a bounce in his step. Some of his players emerged from the locker room and headed to the floor shortly behind him. Some already had entered the gym.

“I've been around the game all my life,” he said. “I'm a student of the game. It's a calling of mine, not only just the x's and o's. I draw from the kids. I guess I need that.”

After attending Clairton and first playing in college at then-NAIA Glenville State and later at St. Francis (Pa.), Gadson has served in coaching stints at East Allegheny and at his alma mater of Clairton, and then the college level at CCAC-South before settling in at McKeesport.

He didn't hide his passion for welcoming young players to his program.

“Teaching kids, influencing the kids is part of the passion,” he said, “even away from the court. Developing relationships here and there is so important, and being a mentor to these young men is so important, showing them how to be successful in life and what it takes to be a man.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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