Olympians will rely on speed, defense
Bob Ford/TIMES NEWS Jim Thorpe boys basketball team members for the 2010-11 season include, front from left, Dean DiBonifazio, Treysean Marshall, Milton Moranta, P.J. Johnson; middle row, Edwin Valentin, Ben Moore, Dane Ciavarella, Michael Munoz; back, Darius Clark, JT Otto, Jaquan Brown, TJ Prontnicki and Alonzo McGill.
Whether it's fair or not, opponents and fans that see the Jim Thorpe boys basketball team may focus more on who's not on the floor rather than who does step onto the court.
And in a way, you can't blame them.
The Olympians put together another successful season a year ago, earning berths in both the league and district playoffs, while finishing with a 17-8 record.
Leading the way for that Thorpe squad were three quality players who are no longer part of the program.
Rashid Epps, the area's second leading scorer at 17.6 points per game and probably the best rebounder, is now at a prep school in New Jersey while Sam Lux (13.3 ppg) and Corey Cinicola (11.5 ppg) have since graduated. That trio accounted for 70 percent of the team's scoring and provided both leadership and stability.
"It'll definitely be a different look this year," said head coach Brian Carroll. "It's tough to replace your three top scorers. Those losses reduce our size but I think we have a lot of athletes who are very fast. We're just going to have to use our speed and defense to create havoc.
"We want to play a fullcourt game. We don't want to get bogged down into a halfcourt one because we're probably going to be outsized on most given nights. Our aspirations are still to make the playoffs but we know that's going to be a more difficult chore. The guys on the bench need to step up. The bottom line is we're not sure what we're going to get from certian players."
Carroll is pretty sure what he'll receive from his returning backcourt of P.J. Johnson and Dean DiBonifazio.
Johnson, a junior, will run the point while DiBonifazio, a senior, is the team's shooting guard. Johnson has earned experience over the past two seasons and also gained confidence. DiBonifazio, meanwhile, averaged 7.1 ppg and was among the area leaders with 32 three-pointers.
The rest of the starting lineup is unproven. Junior Darius Clark saw limited time a year ago but will be counted on to be an inside presence. Dane Ciavarella, also a junior, and sophomore Jaquan Brown will hope to take advantage of their starting roles.
"Darius is someone we've known to have talent but he's going to have to take it to another level," said Carroll. "He's probably the most talented player we have. He has that nice size (6-3) where he can play inside and out.
"Dane's been a pleasant surprise and we're counting on him to shoot from the outside, drive to the basket and use his athletic ability on defense. Jaquan has great court awareness and is very intelligent on the court."
Senior Milton Moranta and juniors JT Otto, Alonzo McGill and Ben Moore will be the first players off the bench and need to contribute to help the Olympians reach their goal of a postseason berth.
Rounding out the squad are seniors Treysean Marshall, TJ Prontnicki, Michael Munoz and Edwin Valentin.
"We need to play together as five on offense," said Carroll. "In the past we've been blessed with gifted players and sometimes we stood around and watched that player do his magic. We still have good players but they need to play together as a unit and take care of the ball."