Indians looking for some improvement
Members of the Lehighton boys basketball team are, front row, from left, Nate Kresge, Brandon Edgar and D.J. Rossino. Middle row, Alex Matika, J.T. Keer, Heath Markley, Aaron Szacska and assistant coach Aaron Foulk. Back row, assistant coach Tommy Foulk, Dave Behler, Brent Getz, Josiah Evans, Tyler Hill and head coach Mike O'Brien.
Coach Mike O'Brien knew he had work ahead of him when he signed on to resurrect the boys basketball program at Lehighton.
In starting his second year, O'Brien is undeterred in his quest and the team is showing signs of improvement.
Despite a 1-21 season last year with a senior laden team, there is optimism about the program.
"Last year we took our hits, but those kids are back here to work harder," O'Brien said. We were in some games. Stroudsburg was the league champ and we lost by 10 points."
To add to that, the entire coaching staff has returned to provide stability and consistency in a program that had a reputation of shuffling through coaches. O'Brien stays busy working with all the levels. In one day, O'Brien shuffled from the middle school to the freshman practices before coaching his varsity team.
"If you look at all the programs, we all have to work together as a team," O'Brien said. "We are building and we are in good shape."
O'Brien points to the eighth graders playing freshmen ball, a core group of ninth graders, and the possibility of four starters returning next season. Still, there is no looking past this season and improving upon last year's win total.
Although, Kyle Hunter chose to pursue other options over the winter, former players are flocking back to the program. J.T. Keer and Tyler Hill have rejoined the team to add skill and depth.
"I'm excited to get them back and I think the kids are excited to get back," said O'Brien.
With last year's team full of seniors, this year's squad will have a lot of catching up to do in the experience category.
"We're going to be young this year," O'Brien said. "We have one senior that played last year in Heath Markley. He's our leader right now."
Alex Matika at the forward position is going to be expected to step up to the challenges of senior leadership as will Brent Getz, who will see time at center.
Josiah Evans, a 6-4 junior, will start at center for the JVs but could see varsity floor time as well.
A strength of the team will be the play of the guards. Bringing the ball up court and running the offense will be sophomore D.J. Rossino. Joining him at the guard spot will be Nate Kresge and junior Aaron Szascka.
Junior Forwards Keer and Hill are solid shooters and with both being left-handed, defenses will have to adjust.
As far as expectations, the Indians will be taking it one game at a time starting with Palmerton tonight and then on to the Mountain Valley Conference.
"We are going to take it one game at a time, be positive in what we do, and let the basketball take care of itself," O'Brien said. "No matter what league you play in you just have to get better,"
"I think we can, but we have stay focused on what we're doing."