NEPA Sports Nation

Players don’t mind earlier start

By Tom Robinson,

SCRANTON – Whether teams were ready at the time or not, the high school basketball opened around Pennsylvania one week earlier than usual this season.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association shortened the preseason preparation time by a week this season, starting practice at the same time, but beginning game action – in the case of District 2, non-league games – one Friday earlier.

It’s only a slight over-simplification to say that the change worried coaches, wondering if their teams were ready, and thrilled players who were happy to move right into the fun part of the season – playing games.

“I don’t like this two weeks getting ready to play,” veteran Hazleton Area girls coach Joe Gavio said during the Wyoming Valley Conference Media Day for girls teams in Wilkes-Barre in late November. “It’s crazy, but everybody is in the same boat.”

Gavio’s players showed he did not have much to worry about.

Hazleton Area has matched the Pittston Area girls for the best basketball records in District 2 at 5-0 in the first wo weeks of the season.

Hanover Area boys coach Chris Gray thought his team was adapting well to the new schedule. He praised the team’s off-season commitment and readiness to work. Eight days into the preseason he said: “I’ve never had this much in already.”

The Hawkeyes stumbled out of the blocks with four losses before winning games on consecutive days this week.

Gavio said he would not have been surprised if the first week – a time when teams normally would have still been practicing or scrimmaging – included some oddities, not usually seen.

Although there was some anecdotal evidence of some early sloppy play, games went on without much a difference.

Perhaps the players could have predicted it with their eagerness to get started and the amount of time many had already put in before the teams could formally conduct mandatory practice sessions.

Here is a sampling of what many of the boys players around District 2 had to say about the shorter official preseason during their stops by Media Row at the Coaches vs. Cancer Media Day November 27 at Riverfront Sports in Scranton:

Matthew Alfieri, Riverside:

“We’re ready. We’ve been practicing all year long, even throughout the summer, and we’re ready to go.”

Jaymire Allen, Carbondale:

“We’re a group of guys that played with each other for a long period of time, so we all kind of jelled together in getting ready for the season.”

Frankie Antoniacci, Riverside:

“You get a little less preparation, but I think it’s better. You don’t have that long wait for that first game.”

James Barbour, Blue Ridge:

“I don’t think it’s much different. We’ve been playing together so long that it’s the same thing – just working hard every day and trying to put our team first.”

Joey Dunstone, Lakeland:

“It’s fine. I feel like it’s just what we’re doing in the practices, as long as we’re staying disciplined and focusing on what we’ll need to do in the games, we’ll be good.”

Connor Hilling, Valley View:

“We all work hard at practice. We all rely on each other. We hold each other accountable, so we get in condition quickly and we get ready for the season very quickly.”

Justin Hocker, Wallenpaupack:

“We’re ready to go. We’re always ready to go.”

Hayden Hosie, Holy Cross:

“We have kind of a late start with our first game being December 8 (compared to as early as Dec. 2 for others), so we’ll be prepared. I don’t see any change.”

Tristan Lee, West Scranton:

“We’ve been working hard since March, so it really doesn’t make a difference. We’ve been ready ever since we lost that playoff game.”

Joey Macciocco, Old Forge:

“We had our team together for a good amount of time, earlier than we usually do.”

Sean Murphy, Berwick:

“Having the experience of having three weeks (previously), I can definitely tell that it’s been shorter. There’s a lot less time to run through our plays. Having a younger team, it’s hard getting the younger guys accustomed to playing varsity basketball.”

Ben Rothwell, Scranton Prep:

“Since it’s condensed, we’ve been cramming in a lot of plays. Not having that extra week has been tough, but we’re getting through it. We’re doing well. We’re being efficient with it.”

Tanner Stout, Mountain View:

“I think it helps us. The earlier in the year we get started, the better.”

Cal Talutto, Dunmore:

“There’s no difference. We work hard in the offseason, all year long, going into the gym on our own, putting shots up, all that kind of stuff.”

Ricky Vinansky, Mid Valley:

“We’re ready to go. Every day is fun. It’s been great energy; great guys; a great year. The two weeks, I like it better. You get straight into the action. I think it’s a great change.”

Chris Walsh, North Pocono:

“We’re doing the same things we usually do.”

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