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H.S. Notebook: Upper St. Clair basketball player commits to Richmond

| Monday, Oct. 22, 2001

Leigh Sulkowski will continue her basketball career at Richmond next year.

A 5-foot-11 guard for Upper St. Clair, Sulkowski made an oral commitment Sunday to play at Division I Richmond. An oral commitment is non-binding and will not become official until Sulkowski signs an NCAA letter of intent in November.

'It was a tough decision,' Sulkowski said. 'I had to decide between going far and staying close to home. I just felt that Richmond was a better fit for me. I think I will fit in socially there. I really got along well with the players and the coaching staff.'

Sulkowski chose Richmond, which competes in the Atlantic 10 Conference, over Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, Lehigh, and Loyola of Chicago.

'It is exciting all the way around to have Leigh going to Richmond,' Upper St. Clair coach Ernie Koontz said. 'We have had good success having players go to Division I schools. I think she will fit in well at Richmond.'

Sulkowski averaged 17.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.8 blocks and 4.1 assists per game last season for Upper St. Clair. Sulkowski credits her father, Bill, and former Pitt women's basketball coach Kirk Bruce with being a big part of helping her become a better player.

Bruce and Bill Sulkowski played at Pitt in the early 1970s. Bill Sulkowski spent hours practicing with his daughter at the hoop located outside the family home. Bruce coached her in AAU.

'I have always played basketball with men and boys,' Sulkowski said. 'Playing against them made me better.'

Now that her decision is made Sulkowski said she can concentrate on helping the Panthers win a WPIAL title.

Koontz hopes to combine Leigh Sulkowski with four juniors on a run for the WPIAL Class AAAA title.

'Leigh was our leading scorer last year, but we are looking to get some balance this year,' Koontz said. ' A lot of teams would key on her, but we have a lot more depth this year. Hopefully, we can go farther in the playoffs this year.'

COACHES SUSPENDED
Of the seven coaches the WPIAL gave one-game suspensions to last week for taking part in illegal scrimmages, only Deer Lakes' Larry Rommes and Valley's Ray White are serving them this week.

Duquesne's Pat Monroe, Jeannette's John Cross, Steel Valley's Ed Wehrer and Burrell's Tom Henderson will miss the first conference game of next season.

'With the playoffs on the line, I'm taking it next year,' Wehrer said. 'It's not going to be easy next year either.'

Wehrer's decision isn't a surprise considering the Ironmen can clinch a playoff spot with a victory over South Park on Friday.

'I would like to think my presence would contribute to (a victory),' Wehrer said.

Cross' decision was based on necessity.

'I'm the only one who knows how to run the offense,' Cross said. 'This way, I'll have two weeks of preseason camp to prepare for it next year.'

Peters Township coach Keith Hartbauer already served a one-game suspension, administered by the school district in response to the illegal scrimmages, earlier this season and therefore doesn't have to serve another one.

VALLEY TO HIRE NEW COACH
Valley's athletic commmittee will recommend hiring Vern Benson as the high school's new boys basketball coach at the New Ken-Arnold school board meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Benson currently runs a youth organization best known for putting on ball-handling exhibitions at Pitt basketball games.

Valley athletic director Frank Link said six people applied for the job and were interviewed.

'We were looking for someone with a committment to the total program, from the high school to the elementary,' Link said. 'Also someone who could keep the tradition. Valley has a great tradition.'

Tom Myers resigned as Valley's coach to take over Penn State-New Kensington's men's program. Myers led Valley to the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs eight times in 12 seasons, winning a WPIAL championship and reaching the state title game in 1993.

CALIFORNIA COACH RESIGNS
Mark Jeney resigned as girls basketball coach at California on Monday.

Jeney led California to the playoffs the past two seasons. He chose to leave because the school board would not approve his daughter as an assistant coach. The school district had decided to pay Jeney the same as the boys coach this season, too.

'I never said a lot about not getting paid the same as the boys coach because I really enjoyed coaching there,' said Jeney, who coached three years at California. 'I hated to do it because I love coaching.'

WPIAL HAS NEW SPONSORS
The WPIAL has secured UPMC Sports Medicine and Cricket Comfortable Wireless as major corporate sponsors. UPMC Sports Medicine is the region's largest provider of sports-related health care services. Cricket launched its revolutionary All-You-Can-Talk local wireless phone service in the Pittsburgh market this year. Both companies agreed to multi-year deals beginning with the 2001-2002 school year.

'The WPIAL is delighted to have organizations the caliber of Cricket Communications and UPMC Health System as major corporate sponsors,' WPIAL President Tim O'Malley said.

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