Summer basketball league opens season at Irwin courts
Fourteen teams will make up the league that will play on the newly paved courts of the Irwin Playground, but none of them will be able to carry the title of 'defending champions.'
Hi-Way Tux, the motley crew led by league MVP Roy Bumoskey that banded together after a 4-5 regular season to roll through the playoffs and defeat Rolling Rock 2-1 in the league finals, will not be in the league this season. Norwin graduates Lee Moffat and Rob Painter, who served as rebounders for Hi-Way Tux, are the only two players from that team who are on a roster thus far - playing for Weldon Acres Trophy.
Bumoskey and Hi-Way Tux's next two leading scorers, Paul Crawford and Joe Hite, are still on the open market, and if any team picks up any of those three, especially Bumoskey, the league's most dominant player, their odds of winning the league title will improve by leaps and bounds.
'If (Bumoskey) wants to play, he can play for whoever he wants to,' Rolling Rock captain Rich 'Doc' Fondrk said. 'And whoever he plays for is going to have a shot at the title.'
But with Bumoskey still without a team, most would look to Rolling Rock, the archnemesis of the Duncan Insurance teams Bumoskey used to play for, as the favorite. The Rock went undefeated in last year's regular season before losing to Hi-Way Tux in the best-of-three final. This year, however, Rolling Rock's squad has been split up.
Phil Sherbondy, who averaged 19.6 points per game last season, will continue to carry the banner for Rolling Rock with star defenders Gene Taylor and Dana Vaughn. But the other two members of the Rock's starting five - point guard Rakim Heatherington and big man Jason Trout - will be playing with Solden Winton, another former Rolling Rock player.
The Rock will try to fill that void with big man Eric Butler, a 6-foot-8-inch forward, and Jessie Bone and Bobby Powell. Fondrk will continue to be the captain along with Lee Perry, who can still nail threes when he gets in the game.
Along with Trout and Heatherington, Winton also took Rolling Rock's sixth man, Jermaine Ramsey, onto his team. And he recruited Josh Sapotchne, who played with Trout at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, and Chris Edins and Ty Lewis, who played with Winton at the Greensburg YMCA. Ramsey's younger brother, Joey, also will be on the team.
With Rolling Rock divided, D&D Office Plus might be the team stepping into the limelight. The Office fell to Hi-Way Tux last season after losing to Duncan Insurance in the finals two years ago. D&D, a team mostly made up of Kiski Area graduates, returns sharpshooter Matt Molinaro and Don Boylestein, who averaged 21.9 and 21.8 points respectively to lead the team last season, as well as Isiah Blanciak (15.3 ppg) and Ryan Litterini (14.3).
Captain Frank Dittig also adds 6-foot-7-inch, 280 lb. Arnelle Johnson, who played at Fresno State a few years ago to try to close in on the elusive title.
Making a return to the league this year will be one of the original teams, LSU. They will now play as Penn Town Financial, but the team will include the original group of players from McKeesport. The team's average age is 38, and there's no one to carry the scoring load. They can't run down the court with the more athletic teams in the league, but they constantly grind and pass the ball around, and outwork teams to victories.
As LSU they were in the semifinals every year they were in the league. Last season they played in the Clairton summer league, similar in talent to Irwin's, and finished second. Original players Mike Kemp, Kevin Resnick, Mike Hosni, and Jay Weinberg are still on the roster as well as captain Rick Thomas, a former Norwin star, and Eddie and Dave McKay.
WB22, formerly Mon Valley and Zona-Henderson, will be back this year. They will not have former Duquesne University star Kevin Price on the squad, nor Steve Menifee, who used to dominate down low, but they will have Derrick Scott who played at California University of Pennsylvania, and point guard Floyd Means. They also will play Brandon George, a Serra Catholic High School grad who played at Penn State's New Kensington campus, as well as Eddie Edwards, who also played there, and George Gaydos from Pitt-Greensburg.
Tomato Patch will try to make a run after a disappointing end to last season. After opening up strong with a win over D&D, and hard-fought losses to Mr. Mike's and Rolling Rock, the Patch lost their last five games, including an opening round playoff loss to McKeever & Sons. This year they return at full strength, with recent Pitt graduate and Penn-Trafford High School alum Griffin Abel back at point guard after sitting out last season with an injured ankle.
John Jenkins, former Steeler signee, also will be back, as will Lou Dubois, who averaged 19.8 points per game last season, and Dave and Tom Kubicsek, East Allegheny High School grads who will be helping to crash the boards.
Weldon Acres Trophy is back, but without last year's leading scorer, Jamie Bigler, who will spend his summer in Cleveland. Taking his place will be Steve Yaniga, Norwin's all-time leading scorer, who sat out last season with an injured ankle. With Moffat and Painter also joining the team that was mostly made up of Penn-Trafford alums, Weldon will have the first known team in the league with a mix of Norwin and P-T players.
Jim Lesko and sharpshooter John Giannikos will be keys for this team. Lesko is as good a scorer as any in the league, but often is missing in action. Giannikos is a pure shooter who can score 20 when he's on, but might not score when he's off.
Captain Brian Lenart and his brother Mark also will be available to pick up scoring slack.
Another team that will have Penn-Trafford flavor will be Copper Mountain Fitness, captained by former P-T and St. Vincent College guard Tony Morocco. Morocco will bring former Pitt fullback Chris Schneider to the court, as well as John Oshefsky and Matt D'Ambrosio, all Penn-Trafford graduates. He also will bring in Rob Stauffer, a 6-foot-6-inch forward, guard Dave Malaney, and league veteran Mike Gerdich, all from St. Vincent. Morocco also brings Khalid Loda, a 6-foot-9-inch big man who plays under Morocco's father at Point Park.
Loda, originally from Casablanca, Morocco, is likely farther from home than any other player in league history.
Jay's Sports Bar, Bisignani and Goldstrum, and the Gym Rats all will be relying on youth to get them through. Jay's is made up mostly of former Franklin Regional players. Included are 2001 graduates Steve Scorpion and Brian Vetere, the second leading scorer and all-time assist leader for Franklin, respectively. Scorpion will play at Pitt-Johnstown, and Vetere will play at John Carrol University. Jay's will also play with Ian Versalis, a Penn Hills graduate who has been playing at Washington & Jefferson College, and Steve Parello who graduated from Franklin Regional and now also plays at W&J.
The Gym Rats will be playing with 1999 Section One player of the year Nolan Larry from Greensburg Salem High, Norwin High graduate and Duquesne soccer player Nathan Salsi, and Hempfield Area High School alum Greg Randolph. Greg's brother Brad also will play, as will former Hempfield guard Luke Dunlap.
Bisignani and Goldstrum will boast Plum Senior High graduates Carlo Dorazio and Matt Magnusen as their likely leading scorers. Jim Klipa from Westminster College will serve as the inside force.
Another new team will be 84 Lumber. They likely will rely on the inside-outside combination of sharpshooter Chris Deberardinis and big man Eric Watson to lead the squad. Both played at Ringgold High School, and also at California University of Pennsylvania.
McKeever & Sons became Choice One Realty over the offseason, but not much else has changed. Josh Geletko, who went to Serra Catholic High and played at Pitt-Greensburg, will be expected to carry the scoring load, and Norwin alum Chris Jardenhazy will be expected to run the point-and-score in double digits. Kevin Kendall, formerly of Mr. Mike's, could be a helpful addition if his outside shots are following.
Another new addition to the league will be the Blacktop Heroes, led by recent Norwin grads Shawn Schake and Jason Pacacha.
There were four games last night after deadline. The schedule for Sunday is not set, but there will be five games starting at 5 p.m., and continuing until the close of the 9 p.m. game. There will also be three games on Monday, starting at 7 p.m.