Olympians ready to take the next step
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Jim Thorpe boys basketball team members include, front row, from left, Kareem Mickens, Milton Moronta, Dane Ciavarella, P.J. Johnson and Sean Green. Back row, Sam Lux, Corey Cinicola, JT Otto, Rashid Epps and Ben Moore.
The Jim Thorpe boys basketball team has been climbing the mountain of success during Brian Carroll's first two years as head coach.
If the Olympians can continue the accelerated ascent they displayed a year ago, they might just reach the peak in 2009-10.
In Carroll's rookie season, the Olympians qualified for the District 11 playoffs but dropped their opening game to finish the season with a 12-13 record.
A year ago, Thorpe went 18-7, qualified for the Schuylkill League playoffs, and won the school's first District 11 playoff game in 17 year.
According to Carroll, the natural progression is to not only make the playoffs and win postseason games, it's to win championships.
"We've been gradually taking steps toward a championship," he said. "The next step for our program is not to be satisfied with making the league and district playoffs, it's putting ourselves in position to win titles.
"We know it won't be easy. There are no nights off in Division 1 of the Schuylkill League. We have a very tough schedule. But we're stressing to the kids that if we take things one practice, one game at a time, our goals will take care of themselves."
With four returning starters, Jim Thorpe enters the season with the potential to reach its lofty expectations. But considering who the one graduating starter was, that won't be easy.
The Olympians will have to find a way to replace TIMES NEWS Basketball Player of the Year Kysheem Lynch and his area-best 23.6 ppg. scoring average.
Before you start feeling bad for Carroll, however, realize that junior forward Rashid Epps (13.0 ppg.), senior forward Corey Cinicola (11.9 ppg.), senior guard Sam Lux (10.3 ppg.) and lightning quick sophomore point guard PJ Johnson (2.3) will all be back to pick up the slack. Rounding out the starting lineup will be junior guard Dean DiBonifazio.
Also expected to battle playing time are are senior guard Jaquan Richardson, junior guard Sean Green, junior guard Milton Moranta, sophomore forward JT Otto, and sophomore forward Ben Moore.
"Last year, we were a pretty good offensive team, but we relied on Kysheem for a lot of that offense," said Carroll. "This year, I expect us to be very good offensively as well, but you will see a lot more balance.
"Everyone one of our starters can put the ball in the basket. Opponents won't be able to key on one person."
While the Olympians' area-best 64 points a game scoring average is something Carroll thinks can be maintained, he's looking for a change on the defensive end.
"We're really working on improving defensively," said Carroll. "I think with our speed and athletic ability we have the potential to be much better on the defensive end of the court this year."
If the Olympians can combine defensive improvement with their returning experience and offensive talent, the mountaintop might be within reach.