Freeport boys display some early dedication
No one can question the dedication of the Freeport boys basketball team.
The Yellowjackets reported to the gym one morning last week for a 5 a.m. practice.
Guiding the bleary-eyed Freeport team is Garrie Davies, back after a five-year hiatus from coaching. And the veteran coach seemingly hasn't missed a beat.
"My number one comment has to be about their enthusiasm every day," Davies said. "We got started in the summer a little late, but from the get-go, they've been upbeat. After one workout, they said, 'Thanks, coach.' What charisma."
The toughest part of Davies' return to coaching is getting to know the players again. After all, the seniors were in seventh grade the last time he coached.
His longtime coaching staff also has been reunited. Former head coach Mike Beale is on hand, along with John Sikora and Rich Macura.
"Everybody understands what we're trying to do," Davies said.
Davies also feels the team will go as far as seniors Nick Gentile, Alex Isenberg, Darius Frantz and Tyler Collins takes it.
"They're real anchors for us," Davies said. "Juniors Shawn Liberto and Jake Campbell also have stepped up."
Senior Mitchell Shaw and junior Derek Durand suffered serious leg injuries playing football, but both hope to contribute at some point.
Davies has wasted no time reinstalling baseline-to-baseline defensive pressure, a staple of his earlier 20-year stint.
Freeport finished 5-7 in Section 1-AA play last season (9-13 overall) under coach Gene Rodgers.
The Yellowjackets last made the WPIAL playoffs in 2007, defeating South Fayette before losing to perennial powerhouse Beaver Falls.
For the following two years, Freeport will remain in Class AA as the largest school in that classification.
The Yellowjackets will open the season with a round-robin-style tournament at Knoch High School. Freeport will open with Slippery Rock Area on Dec. 11, then play the host Knights.
After a Dec. 15 game at Valley, the Yellowjackets begin the section campaign with their home opener against Burrell. Some observers feel those two teams could ultimately be fighting for section honors.