New Yough boys hoops coach stirring up excitement
An uncharacteristic offseason of workouts and court time for the Yough boys basketball team has stirred some unexpected chatter in the community as the Cougars' 2014-15 opener Friday at the Springdale Tournament draws closer.
The perpetuator is first-year coach Casey Copeman, the starting point guard for Yough's 1996 championship team, who takes over a program that has managed to win just two WPIAL section titles.
“There is a buzz,” Copeman said. “There's a desire. It's just a matter of developing the talent.”
Copeman, who succeeds Wayne Greiser as coach after a 4-18 record last season, is trying to change the losing culture at Yough, whose only other section title came in 2005.
The Cougars, who struggled last season to a 1-11 record in Section 3-AAA, last played in the WPIAL playoffs in 2012 under Greiser with a losing record.
“A week after I got hired (in May), we were a high school team playing against AAU teams, and I got a chance to see first hand who I had to work with,” Copeman said. “I found out quickly that there is a desire there to succeed.”
After months of informal workouts, Copeman said he's ready for the season to begin.
He's likely to start with a lineup of juniors Jordan Pore, Blake Kosor and Nick Beers at guard, and 6-foot-5 senior Alex Bowman and either 6-4 junior Matt Huss or 6-6 junior Jake O'Bradovich at forward.
“There's been some hidden talent here,” Copeman said. “Beers has had no varsity experience coming in, but he can really shoot the ball. O'Bradovich was the defensive player of the year at a camp at Cal U, so we're hoping we can see some production from those guys.”
Establishing a youth program in the district had been a top goal of Copeman's, and he's already seeing basketball enthusiasm spike in the district as a result.
“That's where it starts, in the younger grades,” he said. “We've got to get the kids to believe in what they can do, and the best way to do that is to get a ball in their hands at an early age.
“There's a desire there even with our high school kids. You can see it. I'm excited to get started.”
Copeman is a former assistant at Class AAAA Hempfield, Class AAA Elizabeth Forward and Class A Jeannette, but this is his first high school head coaching job.
He also served as coach of a regional AAU team known as PA Elite.
“Right after I was hired,” Copeman said, “I probably had eight or nine kids who were loyal in showing up in the summer. The intensity level is up, whether it be on the court or in the weight room. Some of the kids have played more basketball this year than they did in the past three years.
“We're going to compete and play every game to the buzzer, whether we're up 20 or down 20. Eventually, the hope is that what we're doing in the offseason carries over to the season.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.