Colts will feature plenty of new faces
The Marian boys basketball team is comprised of, kneeling, from left, Ryan Karnish, John Julian, Mike Nesgoda, Corey Ryba, Anthony Agosti, Damian Richards and Anthony Pilla. Standing, Chris Barletta, Jordan Weber, JT Keer, Ryan Gimbi, Dominick Richards, Eric Baker, Zach Motil and Mark Stawick. Paul Martin is also on the team.
Last season, the Marian boys' basketball team concocted a winning formula that took them all the way to the second round of the State playoffs.
In addition, the Colts (23-6) coasted to a Schuylkill League Division 3 Championship, a second-place finish in Leagues, and claimed their first District 11 Championship in 11 years.
However, much has changed over the off-season.
Marian enters this year having lost 65-percent of its points, 66-percent of its rebounds, 67-percent of its three-point field goals and 88-percent of its blocked shots.
As if that wasn't enough, the Colts also must replace the winningest head coach in school history, as Mick Stefanek stepped down after an 11-year tenure that amassed 165 victories.
Taking over the program will be John Patton, Stefanek's right-hand man over the past 11 years. Patton, a 1982 graduate of Marian has served as an assistant coach for the past 12 seasons and will inherit a team that has lost four starters from a year ago and seven of its top nine scorers.
Patton's first order of business at the helm might just be his most difficult - piecing together a team that has been decimated by graduation and finding a chemistry of players that can pick up where last year's team left off.
Gone are 6-4 forward Matt Yaich, 6-6 center Drew Sherkness, and guards Cody Decker and Tommy Gottstein.
Yaich, the TIMES NEWS Boys Basketball Player of the Year and a Second-Team All-State selection was Marian's leading scorer last year with 14.55 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game.
Sherkness was the team's leading rebounder (10.2 per game) and established himself as Marian's all-time single-season leader in blocks last year with 136, while Gottstein was the team's top outside threat and led the Colts with 31 treys.
"We know we have our work cut out for us," added Patton. "The bright side is that we have some guys on this team that can play. The downside is that those guys haven't played together, so establishing team chemistry needs to be a priority."
One player that Patton will be heavily dependent on is senior point guard Chris Barletta, a three-year starter who averaged 10.36 points per game last season while leading the team in assists (110) and steals (58).
"Chris has certainly gotten better every year and we're going to be depending on him a lot this season," said Patton.
Barletta will be joined in the backcourt by seniors Mark Stawick and JT Keer. Keer, a transfer from Lehighton, led the Indians in scoring last year with 9.0 points per game.
Stepping in down low are senior forward Ryan Gimbi (6-2) and senior center Dominick Richards (6-5).
Richards returns to the lineup after having missed his junior season due to health issues, while Gimbi was second on the team in rebounding last year with 6.9 per game.
Coming off the bench will be guards Mike Nesgoda, Paul Martin, Ryan Karnish and Anthony Agosti, while Eric Baker and Anthony Pilla will sub in as forwards.
"We're going to attack the basket this year and be aggressive up and down the floor," said Patton.
"We have some serious competition on our schedule early in the season, so by Christmas time, we should have a good indication of how good we are or how much we need to work on."