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Men’s Basketball Team Faces Growing Pains

Great starts, less than great finishes.

That, in a nutshell, has been the story of the Penn College men’s basketball team in recent years. But this year could be different.

When the Wildcats open their season at 3 p.m. Saturday at Williamson Trade School, ranked third in the nation among National Junior College Athletic Association teams, they will have six sophomores on the team and eight freshmen, three of whom will start. In somewhat of a reversal of what has become a typical season, coach Gene Bruno said, “We’ll experience growing pains (early on), but, as the year progresses, we could make the playoffs.”

Expected to start Saturday are sophomores Tony Flint, a 6-foot guard from Port Allegany, and Joe Knapick, 6-2 center/Shamokin, along with freshmen Dan Morgan (6-2 guard/Milton), Ricky Shannon (5-11 guard/Bellwood-Antis) and Josh Hoffman (6-3 forward/Halifax).

Flint averaged 11 points per game last season, when the Wildcats went 10-14 and reached the playoffs for the third season in a row, and is the squad’s top 3-point shooting threat. Knapick averaged nine rebounds per game a year ago. Coming in from solid highschool programs, Morgan was the Central Susquehanna Conference Big School Player ofthe Year at Milton, Shannon averaged 16 points per game on Bellwood-Antis’ District 6 championship team and Hoffman averaged 18 points per game at Halifax.

Other sophomores on the team include Brandon Way (6-2 forward/Bedford), Ben Hill (6-4 guard/Havre de Grace, Md.), Matt Melusky (6-4 center/Minersville) and Ryan Mentzler (6-0 guard/Boiling Springs).

Rounding out the squad are freshmen Nate Yocum (5-10 guard/State College), Chris Burrows (5-11 guard/Renovo), Travis Phillips (6-4 center/Pocono Mountain), Anthony Sofranek (6-0 guard/Newport) and Brian Matthews (6-2 guard/Stratford, Conn.).

Adrian Harry returns as a volunteer assistant. Bruno, in his seventh season as head coach, describes Harry as a good communicator and credits Harry’s work with the team’s guards.

An addition to the coaching staff is Matt Johnson, a longtime assistant with the Williamsport Area High School boy’s team, who is making a move into the collegiate ranks.

“Matt brings to the table his witty knowledge of man-to-man defense, which, in turn, will make us a better half-court defensive team,” Bruno said.

“Matt would be an asset to any program, and I am glad he picked Penn College. Matt will also give me a lift with recruiting, which will be a big help. The addition of Matt will only make the program better, the players better and, at the same time, make me a better coach. I am now able to diversify responsibility to all of us,” Bruno added.

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