Connellsville boys basketball team adjusts to new coach
Whenever a change takes place, a period of adjustment is bound to follow. The Connellsville boys basketball team is in that transition phase as it prepares for the start of the 2014-15 season.
This season, the Falcons will begin a new era. Longtime Blackhawk boys basketball coach Andy Hedrick has taken over at Connellsville.
Hedrick, who coached at Blackhawk for nine seasons and led the Cougars to a WPIAL Class AAA title in 2008, replaced Dan Bosnic, who resigned following the 2013-14 campaign.
Hedrick was hired less than two months ago, which means the Falcons are racing to adapt to a new style of play.
“I think that they're trying really hard to learn a lot of new things,” Hedrick said, noting that he has seen some development in the past few weeks. “They are having to learn all new plays and that's been a part of our drawback, but that's normal. We've improved, but we still have a long way to go.”
The Falcons lost six players (Austin Heinbaugh, Jade Maher, Alex Farris, Mike Parlak, Trent Bauer and Jimmy Leichliter), to graduation, but it hasn't taken long for Hedrick to identify a core of starters that will be relied upon throughout the upcoming season.
“I think that we probably have three or four guys that are solid in the starting lineup, but the difficult part will be deciding how deep we are,” Hedrick said. “Are we a team that is going to be seven deep or 11 deep? I'm pretty sure we'll find the starters. It's just a matter of how deep we will be.”
Seniors Brock Bonadio (guard), Caleb Pittsment (forward), Griffin Thompson (point guard) and Avery White (guard/forward) are expected to be in the starting lineup.
“Brock is a hustler, and he brings intensity,” Hedrick said. “Caleb is an experienced guy who gives us size. Griffin is our point guard that runs the show, and he's starting to think the way I think. Avery shoots the ball real well.”
According to Pittsment, the Falcons are making progress each day. And after an 11-win season in 2013-14, Pittsment believes the team can use its speed to take the next step.
“We're a smaller team, but we'll run the court and get things moving,” Pittsment said. “It's hard getting used to the changes, but we're coming along pretty well. We can make the playoffs if things go our way.”
In addition to the four starters, expect seniors Jacob Connell and Bradley Sledge to compete for playing time. Juniors Tyler Evans, Caleb Miller, Colby Shipley and Dunston Wiggins will also be in the mix for game action, as will sophomores Alek Detwiler, Hayden Harvey and Hunter Lonigro and freshman Seth Younkin.
Hedrick, who will be assisted by Kris Oswald and Larry Evans, acknowledged that it's not just the players who have to learn on the fly.
“I have a lot of learning to do on what the teams in the section (1-AAAA) have to offer,” Hedrick said. “But obviously we'd like to make the playoffs.”
The Falcons have not qualified for the playoffs since the 2010-11 season. Hedrick hopes those postseason appearances begin to come with much more regularity.
“It's a whole different challenge from where I was at,” Hedrick said. “At Blackhawk, you're expected to be in the mix (for a section title or championship) every year. And I'd like us to get to a point where our kids don't just give lip service that they are going to win.”
Connellsville will open the season by competing in the Fayette County Tip-off Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.