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Pine-Richland senior helping young team take shape

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal
Pine-Richland's Dean Steliotes can do anything the coaching satff asks of him.

Every athlete wants to have an impact on his or her team, especially during his or her senior season. This season is the senior season for Pine-Richland guard Dean Steliotes, who has grown and wants to leave his mark on this team for years to come.

“Dean is someone we had our attention on early,” Pine-Richland basketball coach Brian Gaetano said. “He has a special skill set as a two-sport athlete, and he came in and played for us as a freshman.”

Steliotes made his mark as a shooter, but a rash of injuries his sophomore season thrust him in to the role of running the point for the Rams.

“He did a good job,” Gaetano said. “But he ended up breaking his foot against Butler.”

He came back to play football and basketball his junior year but opted to focus on basketball at the conclusion of his junior season.

The focus on basketball allowed him to play AAU basketball, and he sought out more individual training. The result was more explosion in his game, according to Gaetano, and a versatility that really helps the team. Aside from Steliotes, the squad was largely inexperienced coming into the season.

“Dean has a lot of initiative, and he is the last of a mold of players we had who, at 6-foot-3, can play guard or small forward, Gaetano said. “He spent a lot of time on his game, and I don't think he has reached his full potential. I want him to have a good senior year, and I think he has a future in basketball.”

Unlike years past, when Steliotes was a player with a role on the team, this season the team runs through him.

“This year is a lot different than last year,” he said. “We had 10 seniors last year, and this year we have five. So you have to bond with the younger players, and they have to contribute more. I think we have a good situation.

“Last year was more of a family feel because we had all been together. This year we are not as tight off the court, but we are adjusting and bonding.”

The senior's drive to succeed comes from many places. He found a real love for the game last season, and without football, he spent an extra two to three hours a day polishing his game. Steliotes improved his ball handling and defense to go along with his shooting ability. He worked with coaches and conditioned and wants to set a standard that will be carried on after he graduates.

Steliotes also is motivated for this season because he has dedicated it to the memory of his grandfather.

Self-improvement is great, but Steliotes knows for this team to win games, the youth has to step up, and he has to play a part in their growth for that to happen.

“If I see them struggle in practice or something, I help them,” he said. “I am not the kind of person who will call them out in front of the team, I will get them one-on-one and then check up on them.”

With the speed of the varsity game being something that takes some getting used to, Steliotes said it is important to instill a focus in the rising players in practice.

“In our section, if you are not ready each day in practice, you are at a disadvantage,” he said.

Steliotes said he and Gaetano have worked together on a lot of details, but the senior said Gaetano is teaching more than just basketball. He teaches life lessons, as well.

“He will show up an hour early to help me with my shot, but he offers more than that — he also helps (with) his knowledge about life and how it all fits together,” Steliotes said.

Steliotes hopes to keep basketball in his life in college. He has garnered some interest from Allegheny, Marietta and John Carroll.

No matter where he ends up, he said studying business is where he will focus his education.

“I will miss the competition … the best competition like Hampton,” he said. “You won't find that in any other section. I will miss playing in front of my community and hometown. I will miss that too.”

Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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