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Greensburg Salem boys begin rebuilding process under new coach

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 11:46 p.m.
Greensburg Salem basketball coach Craig Mankins sets up a drill during practice in Greensburg on November 28, 2012. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem's Max Ponzurick participates in a practice drill in Greensburg on November 28, 2012. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem's Denzel Jackson drives to the basket during a practice drill in Greensburg on November 28, 2012. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review

The Greensburg Salem boys basketball team is rebuilding under first-year coach Craig Mankins.

No starters return. Junior Max Ponzurick is the only returning letterwinner.

“It's just one of those years,” said Mankins, who took over after longtime coach Paul Sapotichne retired following the 2011-12 season. “We're going to have to work hard to grind it out at the end.”

Besides Ponzurick, the starting rotation will include seniors Denzel Jackson and Nick Holtzer and juniors Simeon Stevens and Pat Boyer.

At 6-foot-5, Boyer is Greensburg Salem's tallest player.

“Pat moves well and is really coming along,” Mankins said.

Freshman Sam Nowicki and sophomore Antonio Ferrari are battling for the point guard position.

“Sam lives and sleeps basketball; he's a real gym rat,” Mankins said. “Antonio lives in the gym, too.

“They're both smart players.”

Mankins, a former assistant at Indiana High School, plans some new wrinkles offensively.

“Coach Paul (Sapotichne) ran all set plays,” he said. “I like to spread the floor, with our players doing a lot more cutting.

“I want to teach the kids to read the defense and respond.”

Ponzurick, a forward, likes the new offense so far.

“It's pretty fun,” he said. “It's free-running; you move more.”

In 29 seasons under Sapotichne, Greensburg Salem won nearly 400 games. The Golden Lions were 16-7 and shared the Section 3-AAA title with Uniontown a year ago. They lost in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs to Central Valley, 49-43.

It was the ninth straight season Greensburg Salem reached the WPIAL tournament. The Golden Lions were PIAA runners-up in 2009.

“We have a very strong tradition,” said Mankins, 36. “We respect that and would like to continue it even as we're rebuilding.”

The Golden Lions open the season Friday against Jeannette at the Hempfield Tip-Off Tournament.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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