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Underdog label fits Thorpe boys just fine

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    Members of the 2019-20 Jim Thorpe boys basketball team include, front row from left, Jordan Burak, Colby McHugh, Caiden Hurley, Justin Cannariato and Tanner Gilliar; back. Dominick Hendricks, Sonny Ivey, David Richards, Adam Lauer, Jared Marykwas, James Adams and Chris Condly. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published December 05. 2019 11:26AM

You never hear that they are a preseason favorite to win much of anything. In fact, their coach says his team is usually picked to win three or four games a year and finish near the bottom of the league ever since he’s been in charge.

Jason McElmoyle begins his sixth season as head coach of the Jim Thorpe Olympians, and despite the annual gloomy predictions, his team has qualified for district play in each of the past five years.

“We always fly under the radar, and that’s fine with us,” he said. “We use the underdog label for motivation. Like last year, and the year before, this team can surprise our opponents and win on any given night.”

The Olympians will have to “surprise” opponents without their two leading scorers and their best defensive player from a year ago. Nate Rosahac was the team’s scoring leader and the big man pulling down offensive and defensive rebounds. Zach Searfoss scored the most three-point baskets, while Tyler Burek was the lock down defensive specialist who always guarded the opponent’s top scorer.

Six experienced players return to McElmoyle’s team. One is senior Adam Lauer, who will help man the backcourt.

“Adam is tall, and has good length to get off his shots, and he can score,” said McElmoyle.

James Adams brings a different set of skills to the guard position. He’s gotten bigger and quicker, and according to McElmoyle, he’s stronger than many guards and can play inside, where he can be a scoring threat.

In JT’s multi-guard scheme, junior Caiden Hurley will play the point and quarterback the offense. He has long range shooting ability, and also brings a bucketful of intangibles to the hardwood.

“Caiden is the extension of me and my staff on the floor,” said McElmoyle. “He calls the plays based upon the tendencies of the defense. His knowledge of the game is outstanding.

“He never rattles. He keeps the same mentality whenever the defense puts on half- and full-court presses.”

Junior Chris Condly leaves the soccer field and the gridiron–where he kicked goals and booted points–to serve as Thorpe’s defensive specialist.

Senior Justin Cannariato will see action at guard. He’s described as a good shooter who can score from inside the paint.

“We also have Jared Marykwas, who will have plenty of floor time,” said McElmoyle. “He is very smooth with the ball, and has both inside and outside shooting skill. Jared uses his body well to seal off defenders and grab rebounds.”

Junior Gavin Fikentsher and sophomore David Richards are also in the mix to be a part of the team chemistry.

Thorpe will be patient on offense, and take the break and push the ball up the floor when it’s there. In the half-court game, there could be seven or eight passes before a shot is taken. Their scoring should be balanced, with everyone capable of putting the ball in the hole. Defensively, they will man up and throw in some zone at times.

“I think we can wear teams down if we can control the tempo,” said McElmoyle. “We don’t have a lot of size, so we’ll have to be very good at boxing out. We have really good chemistry, and we will feed off each other.”

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