The Wyoming Valley Conference basketball coaches held their annual Media Days Sunday. Here are 10 Things To Know regarding the conference and the Media Days:
After conducting virtual Media Days last season, the girls and boys leagues went back to their usual formats for their meetings.
The girls session, organized by Berwick coach Bill Phillips, was held at Grotto Pizza in Edwardsville.
The boys meeting, organized by former coach Joe Caffrey, was conducted at Patte’s Sports Bar in Wilkes-Barre.
“Last year was interesting with the Zoom press conference, … so it’s really nice to get back here,” Caffrey said.
Of the 15 schools in the conference, 14 were represented at the boys meeting, including 13 by their head coaches. On the girls side, 11 head coaches participated. Coaches not in attendance forwarded information to be distributed following the meeting.
Wilkes-Barre Area boys head coach Pat Toole revealed to his colleagues that this will be his final season coaching.
“I’ve already told my administration, this will be my final year,” said Toole, the head coach of Meyers before the merger of the Wilkes-Barre Area sports programs, then schools. “I’ve been around basketball. I refereed for 21 years and I’ve coached for 24 years. I’ve met some great people.
“I’ve had the pleasure of coaching some great kids who went on to be successful in life. But, the most fun I’ve had is the camaraderie of the coaches. There are some great people here who care about kids and that means so much.”
Chris Gray is back as Hanover Area boys coach after having to sit out last season because of health issues.
Adam Dizbon is beginning his first full season at Lake-Lehman after taking over during the 2020-21 season.
Terry Hartz is the new girls coach at MMI Prep.
Both MMI Prep teams are back in the WVC after sitting out last season for COVID precautions.
The girls team will again have a small roster and play varsity only, without a junior varsity squad.
Hartz said even that was in jeopardy until recently.
“We probably have the smallest roster around with nine girls,” she said. “However, that’s a good thing. A few weeks ago it wasn’t even looking like we’d have a team.”
Dallas has returned to Division 1 boys and Tunkhannock has returned to Division 1 girls.
In MMI’s absence last season, those teams moved to Division 2 to create balance with seven teams in each division.
The WVC now has eight teams in Division 1 and seven in Division 2 for both boys and girls.
Dallas and Tunkhannock join Berwick, Crestwood, Hazleton Area, Pittston Area, Wilkes-Barre Area and Wyoming Valley West in Division 1.
MMI Prep is part of Division 2 with Hanover Area, Holy Redeemer, Lake-Lehman, Nanticoke, Wyoming Area and Wyoming Seminary.
Dallas, in Division 1, and Holy Redeemer, in Division 2, were consistently pointed to as the favorites in boys.
In girls, where several quality teams were hit hard by graduation, the favorites are not as clear cut.
Wilkes-Barre Area and Wyoming Valley West are possible favorites in Division 1 while another Lake-Lehman race with Holy Redeemer seems likely in Division 2.
Friday is the first time teams can play.
December is reserved for non-league games and tournaments, with WVC play scheduled to begin in full in the first week of January.
Among the openers:
Crestwood is at Scranton Friday night in a game between the defending Division 1 boys champions of both the WVC and Lackawanna League. The teams are also defending District 2 champions in the largest classifications – Crestwood in 5A and Scranton in 6A.
Both the Wilkes-Barre Area (Friday) and Dallas (Saturday) boys open at defending District 2 Class 4A champion Scranton Prep.
The Friday girls schedule includes the Hazleton Area Tournament where Lake-Lehman will play Nazareth and the hosts will play Williamsport in the opening round.
Hazleton Area coach Tim Barletta said Brett Antolick, the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder (he ranked second and third in those categories on last season’s team), has been lost for the season with a knee injury.
The Wyoming Valley West girls have lost 6-foot-1 Kalia Saunders, the second-leading scorer last season, after she transferred out of state to a prep school.
The shortage of officials, which is plaguing other sports, is becoming a larger issue in basketball with the combination of officials switching to coaching, going inactive because of COVID and/or retiring.
At the boys meeting, District 2 chairman Frank Majikes, who assigns officials for the conference, encouraged coaches to recommend promising young officials they see working on lower levels when they may be ready for promotion to varsity games.
The WVC’s annual senior all-star doubleheader has been scheduled for April 1 and is moving from the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center in Wilkes-Barre to the new Wilkes-Barre Area High School gymnasium.
While mask-wearing is expected to be enforced throughout the gym – for spectators, workers and arriving teams – at most schools in the conference, there will be no requirement to wear masks once players step on to the court.
PHOTO CREDIT: The new Wilkes-Barre Area gym will host the WVC’s senior all-star doubleheader in April. (Tim Drewes Photo)