Trib Cup: PIAA runner-up football players getting into basketball shape at Central Catholic
The Central Catholic basketball team has the unique opportunity to embark on its second preseason of this season.
The Vikings went through the normal rigors of preseason basketball when they tipped off Nov. 18. Now they'll begin phase two with the addition of football players who were missed because the PIAA playoff run.
“When your football team plays 16 games well into December and six to eight of your guys are on it, it puts you back a little bit as far as getting a full team together out on the court,” coach Chuck Crummie said. “But where were are right now is a pretty good spot considering we're getting guys back at Christmas ready to play.”
Crummie's squad — though depleted early on — has been competitive and successful early and often. The Vikings have mustered a 5-3 record overall and 3-0 mark in Section 2-AAAA. Its three nonsection losses came at the hands of Montour, Lincoln Park and Hampton, all teams ranked in the Tribune Review's top 5 rankings.
The Vikings are highlighted as this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature team, and they are a primary reason why Central Catholic is in fourth place in the Class AAA standings.
Crummie said there advantages and disadvantages to starting the season the way the Vikings have. Several young junior varsity players saw varsity minutes which will prove important in building a bench. The disadvantage is having a team that lacks all of the necessary fundamentals that come from preseason practices.
“We could have easily pushed back some of our games and waited for the football starters to get back in the gym,” he said. “But what I'm seeing is some young guys really get that experience that is only going to help make us more complete and better in the long run.”
The Vikings have relied heavily on senior Pat Sproule and juniors Alex Schoppen, Kevin Price and Sean Whalen. Those four have been present since Day 1, nabbing starting spots on the roster. Senior Pat Fuscaldo, junior Ryan Sproule and sophomore Bobby Kiernan have come off the bench to fill that fifth starting job.
Junior Carlo Catania and freshman Kenny Robinson and Paris Ford have reaped the benefits of a small roster. The trio has come in and proven to be valuable role players who may make a significant impact in the future.
“With Kenny and Paris, they probably wouldn't get to see much if any varsity action if we had a complete roster,” Crummie said. “Now they've had a chance to see how to come in and play against a Hampton and a Montour and what this varsity game requires.”
Juniors J.P. Petrishen and Graham Adomitis and sophomores Rashaad Wheeler, Bricen Garner, Ronald George and Damar Hamlin traded in their football helmets and their second-place medals for basketball shoes.
After the Vikings football team lost 35-10 to St. Joseph's Prep in the state final, each player has been working to alleviate some of the nagging football injuries and work toward getting back into basketball shape.
Crummie said their return will make the Vikings a better team, but he is not comfortable putting a time in place for when they should be at their potential.
“I asked these guys a single question on November 18 and that was ‘who's ready to play?' ” he said. “I reposted it to them just the other day, and I know these guys are ready to get out there and win some basketball games.”
The Vikings will look to add just a few more pieces to this season's puzzle Thursday night as they host Community School of Naples, Fla. in the opening round of the Central Catholic tournament. Friday they'll play Woodbridge, Va.
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.