Vincentian boy's basketball ready to defend title
Being the defending WPIAL champions always presents extra challenges for the season ahead, but the Class A champion Royals have a coach and team who are up to the task.
The Royals mesh a run-and-gun offense (which averaged a WPIAL best 83 points) and a pressure defense that unhinged the opposition en route to its second title under coach George Yokitis. The Royals' best all-around player (Tony DiNardo) and tallest player (Matt Rathz) have graduated, but Yokitis said although you can't replace players of that ilk, his cupboard is far from bare.
The core of talent is stellar with scoring phenom Ryan Wolf. Yokitis said Wolf, a second-team all-state player, has improved as a passer and dribbler and will be more of a slasher in the paint this season.
Wolf will be joined by fellow guard senior Kevin Fischer, a steady ball handler who has a strong game and is a smart player, according to his coach.
Jamison Nee is another good player who earned a starting job this season. Yokitis said his work ethic has gone a long way toward him earning the job.
“He is up and shooting the ball at 5:30 a.m.,” Yokitis said. “He is a nice runner, he is strong and he had a nice year as a sophomore.”
Also back will be the heroes of the title game as Jim Kenna and Jay Cortese will round out the starting five.
“Jimmy is the perfect player,” Yokitis said. “He is just a sponge with knowledge. He has such good anticipation, and he is one of the best shooters when he has a clear shot. He just has a beautiful shot.
“Jay is one of our more athletic kids. He is a good rebounder and had a strong fall season, and you will see him around the basket more this season. He can break a game open.”
As usual, the Royals' bench is nearly as dangerous as the starters. Players like Greg Kaniecki, Jack Monahan, Greg MacQueen, Ian Taylor and Evin Fitzgerald will have roles to play and are up to the job.
“Greg is a strong worker, and he can run,” Yokitis said. “Jack is a good defender and has good movement, while Greg is one of our best defenders. Ian will be good once we get him in the mix (he came late because of baseball workouts), and Evan is our tallest player at 6-foot-3 and is a good shooter and rebounder.”
Other players chipping in will be Connor Kreutzer, Vinny Miller, Nate Elias and David Jen.
“We will have to replace the leadership we lost, and we know everyone will be gunning for us,” he said. “I have some unbelievable kids here, and they way they play together, I can't ask for anything more.”