Olympians look to bounce back in 2011-12
bob ford/times news Jim Thorpe boys basketball team members include, front row, from left, Robert Freeman, Dean Ciavarella, Mike Harleston, Ben Moore and PJ Johnson. Beck row, Darius Clark, Paul Joseph Gallagher Saba, Khaaliq Lynch, Conner Ennis and Jaquan Brown.
The Jim Thorpe boys' basketball team is dealing with the aftermath of its first losing season under head coach Brian Carroll.
A 6-16 record from a season ago left a mark within the program. It also brought a streak of seven straight seasons qualifying for the District 11 playoffs to an end.
Entering his fifth season with the program, Carroll believes he has an answer to help the Olympians rebound and start a new streak this season.
"Obviously, not making the playoffs last year left a bitter taste in our mouth ," Carroll said. "A lot of our losses came down the stretch where we just didn't close out teams.
"It's just a matter of playing as a solid unit of five guys and not as individuals. It also comes down to us just doing the little things."
In Carroll's eyes, the idea of relying solely on Dean DiBonifazio to carry the offense last season came back to hurt the team more than it helped it.
DiBonifazio finished fourth in the TIMES NEWS area in scoring with a 13.29 points per game average, was second in the area in free-throw percentage (78.1 percent) and was tied for fifth in three-pointers with 36.
After DiBonifazio, no one averaged double figures in points per game.
Senior PJ Johnson, with an average of 9.45 points per game, was the next highest scorer. DiBonifazio finished with 279 points in 21 games while Johnson netted a total of 208 points, playing in all 22 of the Olympians' game.
Carroll doesn't want the Olympians to do the same and rely on Johnson's abilities alone this season. Instead, he would rather see several other Olympians contribute.
"We're looking for more balance this season compared to last year where we were almost relying on one guy to score," Carroll said. "You can't beat good teams with one guy scoring."
The Olympians still hope Johnson will serve as the number one option to lead the team in the right direction.
"First and foremost, it (the offense) starts with Johnson," said Carroll, of the four-year varsity player. "A lot of it is going to be on his shoulders to step up and lead this team."
Junior Jaquan Brown will serve as the Olympians' "quarterback out on the court," according to Carroll.
"He has been another solid guy," said Carroll, of the Olympians' point-guard, who saw action in 16 games last season and averaged 2.0 points a game. "He gets everyone in position. He does the little things for us."
Darius Clark (7.39 ppg.) and Dane Ciavarella (6.36 ppg.) will present a challenge for the opposition from either outside or inside the paint while Ben Moore will serve as a "physical presence" in the paint.
With the season right around the corner, Carroll wants the Olympians to focus on what's in front of them rather than think too far ahead.
"We just have to focus on taking it one game at a time," Carroll said. "We have to learn from what we didn't do last year and improve upon it.
"We want to get those magical 11 wins to make the district playoffs again."