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Copeman looks to lead boys basketball resurgence at Yough

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Saturday, May 31, 2014, 12:33 a.m.
 

Yough basketball fans wondering when the Cougars might return to the glory days of Ben McCauley will have to settle for Casey Copeman for now.

“Hey, we won a section title in 1996 when I played,” Copeman said.

It was the school's first and came six years before McCauley was a freshman at Yough, where he played four seasons and scored 2,284 points, carrying the team to its only appearance in a WPIAL championship game in 2005.

There hasn't been much to cheer about since those days. The 6-foot-9 McCauley went on to play at N.C. State before turning pro and playing in the NBA Developmental League and in Europe.

McCauley spent the 2013-14 season with BC Donetsk of the Ukrainian SuperLeague.

Longtime Yough basketball fans remember the good times.

Copeman does, too.

He played for former coach Jim Nesser and later assisted him at Elizabeth Forward, Jeannette and Hempfield. Next season, Copeman will take his first crack at leading a program — his alma mater.

Yough recently hired Copeman, 36, to replace Wayne Greiser, whose teams struggled to a four-year record of 21-66.

“Our record speaks for itself,” Yough athletics director Tom Evans said. “Our coach we had for the last four years was a great guy. He did what I expected him to do. He was about the kids, and if it's good for the kids, it's good with me.”

Evans said Yough officials were hopeful that a change could jumpstart the program toward recapturing some of the past glory. Finding a coach with hometown roots just might be the way to start.

“Casey is a hometown guy. I'm confident he will do the job,” Evans said.

“He's enthusiastic and eager to get to work. Casey has shown a good work ethic. He'll be a good teacher of the game.”

Copeman said his plans are to launch a summer travel program for prospective players in grades 3-6. He already has brought his Amateur Athletic Union team, PA Elite, to the district and was coaching it in a tournament Friday night at Court Time Sports Center in Elizabeth Township.

“We've had three open gyms, and we're trying to get into summer leagues and play more AAU events,” Copeman said. “I just had a player come up to me and say how great it is that we finally are getting serious about this.”

Yough squeezed into the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs after the 2012-13 season with a losing record (8-15) but stumbled in Greiser's final season to a 4-18 mark, including 1-11 in Section 3-AAA, setting up the change.

“I know that the feeder system I use works because at Hempfield, we won three out of four (Class AAAA) section championships,” Copeman said.

If that's the case, Yough fans soon might just find themselves mentioning Copeman's name right there with McCauley's.

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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