Mid-Mon Valley-area cage coaches getting their feet wet

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The first week of organized practice is in the books for area boys' basketball teams.

This year, three local teams - Belle Vernon Area, Ringgold and California- have new coaches, Kyle DeGregorio, Phil Pergola and Steve Luko, respectively.

Pergola is not exactly new as he returns to the program he coached for 18 years guided to a PIAA title in 1996.

“Honestly, it felt a little strange coming into the gym and it still is to a degree, but I'm feeling more comfortable every day,” said Pergola, who coached at California last season. “The biggest changes around here are with the school. I mean, kids playing basketball is still kids playing basketball.”

Pergola said he was pleased with the turnout as 38 boys showed up for the first practice and he said he is down to 22.

“The kids are very receptive, which is a good thing,” he said. “I'm pleased. I think our future is with our younger kids.”Ringgold will scrimmage Albert Gallatin 4 p.m. Tuesday at the high school.

DeGregorio has been busy with the program ever since he was hired in June.

“We've been going five days a week every week since June,” DeGregorio said. “So that's like six months and you can see the skill level has increased with the kids. We have changed and improved in a lot of areas.

“So, once practice finally started, we were way ahead of where would have been had we just waited. We're in a much better place and the kids are really energized. It's a positive thing.”

DeGregorio said he has had 20 players and emphasized that he would not cut anyone who worked hard for him all summer long.

BVA scrimmages at Laurel Highlands at 9:45 a.m. today.

At Charleroi, coach Bill Wiltz says he is pleased with what he sees from the 18 players he has.

“We started with 18 kids and we still have 18 kids,” he said.

“Our practices have been real intense, which is what I like to see and I am seeing a lot of good things,” Wiltz said. “The kids are working hard. They are excited to play.”

Charleroi will scrimmage at Waynesburg on Nov. 30 at 10 a.m.

At Monessen, Joe Salvino is putting the Greyhounds through pre-season practice for his 30th season.

Monessen started with over 40 players and Salvino has whittled the roster down to 21.

“I really like what I'm seeing,” said Salvino. “We have some new kids who will really help us and I have seven kids back from last year, so it is a good mix. I like where we are right now.

“I was watching at practice (Thursday) and I saw that things are coming together. Kids are working hard and hustling and that is all I can ever ask for.”

Monessen has a three-team scrimmage Nov. 30 at Bethel Park along with Erie McDowell, starting at 10:30 a.m.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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