Ligonier Valley boys learn under new coach
A new coach comes with a new style of play for Ligonier Valley's boys basketball team this season.
After playing last season under John Berger with five players standing at least 6-foot-5, the Rams will move to first-year coach Todd Hepner and more of a transition game.
Under Berger last season, the Rams finished 15-8 overall and 11-5 in the Heritage Conference, good for fourth place.
Hepner, who coached Laurel Valley for five years prior to the school's closure, will be without the services of the team's and tallest player, senior forward Alec Bloom, who suffered a knee injury during the football season.
Without Bloom, a UConn football recruit, Hepner will utilize the team's overall quickness and make sure the ball gets out on transition for the Rams. Bloom averaged 16 points and 9.3 rebounds last season for the Rams.
“Our strength is not our height like last year's team,” Hepner said. “We have pretty good quickness and have some good guys that will be able to come off the bench to play some minutes for the starters. We have a big team with 25 players on the roster.”
Hepner and the Rams understand that one player doesn't make the team. Hepner and the rest of the Rams' leaders are trying to make sure that everyone plays as a team and not individually.
Junior forward Jordan Jones, the top returning scorer and rebounder, will try to make up for the production lost by Bloom's injury. Jones averaged 9.5 points and six rebounds last season.
“I think the leaders on the team understand that there is not just one vocal point and one player does everything. The older players need to trust the younger kids to take a shot or make one, while the older kids need to trust each other to do the same thing,” Jones said.
“Not having Alec hurts. But we have a couple real good kids behind him that need to step up. The leaders and I need to step up our production and be more of a leader on the court.”
The starting five will include senior guards Scott Fennell and Alex Tutino and Junior guard Nate Mattis. Jones, who will be the focal point this season, will play up front for the Rams, and freshman guard/forward Collin Smith rounds out the starting five.
“Jordan brings consistency to our rebounding as well as hard work and hustle,” Hepner said. “He does everything I ask him to do and is becoming a leader on the team.”
In the short time with the program, Hepner has witnessed a change in practices.
“I like their hard work and determination, as well as how the team has come together as a team. At the beginning, you could see the players seeing what each individual could do. Now, they are buying into the team concepts that win games.”
Andrew John is a freelance writer.