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Men’s Basketball Team Ready for First Test

The Penn College men's basketball team (and its %231 fan)at a recent 'Meet the Wildcats' event.Improved defense and a stronger inside presence are two things that the Pennsylvania College of Technology men’s basketball team hope will help make a positive difference this season.

The Wildcats open their season at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Bardo Gym hosting Central Penn and should get a good indication what strides have been made.

“We seem to be able to put points on the board; it’s just that, defensively, we give up a few too many easy shots. Defensively, we need to work a lot harder,” assistant coach Kevin Pletz said.

Pletz, in his first season at the college, was thrust into a leadership role earlier this week after the death of the mother of 12th-year head coach Gene Bruno. Pletz’ previous coaching experience has come in the Williamsport Area School District at various levels, including as a volunteer assistant with the varsity boys team.

“I’m very excited. To have the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level is something that I wanted to get into. I wanted some new challenges and I’d like to advance at some point to a higher level,” Pletz said.

Addressing the Wildcats’ defense, Pletz said, “I told the kids that a lot of it is their mentality. You have to take it personally that “˜my guy is not going to go in there and score on me.’ I hope to get them thinking about playing a little tougher on the defensive end.”

Four players return from last year’s team that finished 6-20. They are juniors Craig Flint (6-foot guard/Port Allegany), Tom Little (6-2 post/Beacon Falls, Conn.) and Roberto Valentin (6-foot guard/Lebanon) and sophomore Joe Simon (6-2 point guard/Renovo). Simon averaged 12.8 points per game a year ago, Flint averaged 10.2, Little averaged 9.4 and Valentin averaged 6.6.

“Joe Simon has emerged as a team leader. He’s the one that keeps everyone together,” Pletz pointed out.

Three additions to the team who are expected to pay immediate dividends on the inside are Joe Wysock, a 6-4 junior guard from Lancaster, and freshmen Greg Solyak, a 6-4 wing also from Lancaster, and Curtis Walter, a 6-5 center from Mifflinburg. Wysock played two years at Stevens College before transferring to Penn College.

“Last year, it’s my understanding, we got pounded inside on the boards. “¦ We should be way more competitive on the boards. We’re trying to get them to box out (better),” Pletz continued.

Among the freshmen expected to contribute early in the season are Tyrone Holland (6-foot guard/Stoughton, Mass.), Phil Kaylor (6-2 guard-forward/Lebanon), Kyle Klunk (5-9 guard/Hanover) and Jordan McBeth (5-11 guard-forward/Wenksville).

Also on the squad are junior Jordan Green (6-1 forward/Orwigsburg) and freshmen Don Stevenson (6-3 center/Renovo), Ray Kanapesky (5-11 forward/Beaver), Ben Petry (6-foot wing/York) and Richard Thomas (5-10 guard/Bronx, N.Y.).

“We’re still real young. We have no seniors and we have a lot of freshmen, but we should definitely be better than last year,” Pletz said.

This season, the Penn State University Athletic Conference has been split into three divisions with eight teams reaching the playoffs. In the same division with Penn College are Penn State Scranton, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, Penn State Hazleton and Penn State Schuylkill. Teams will play each other twice (home and away) within their division and face teams in the other divisions once.

“Our goal, definitely, we want to make the playoffs,” Pletz said. “We’ve addressed a lot of the weaknesses from last year and I think, if the kids make a commitment to improve defensively, we’ll have an opportunity to make the playoffs. That’s really all we can ask. We just want to get in and see what happens.

“That would be a big step for these guys. If they make that stride this year and make the playoffs, and then they all return the following year, they could be in for a nice little run over the next couple of years,” Pletz added.

Again, the Wildcats’ schedule is sprinkled with some higher classification colleges, including crosstown NCAA Division III rival Lycoming College and Division II Mansfield University.

( Complete rosters and season schedules are available on the college’s Athletics Web site ).

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