Minus James, South Allegheny boys coach remains upbeat
Right now, there’s a 6-foot-8 star athlete at South Allegheny who started every basketball game for the Gladiators last season.
That’s Jesse James, of course. Problem is, he likely won’t be there much longer.
A 250-pound tight end who is committed to play football at Penn State, James plans to graduate early from South Allegheny and enroll at Penn State for the spring semester, which begins Jan. 9.
“So, I’m coaching as if I’m not going to have him,” said South Allegheny coach Mike Yeater.
That leaves Yeater, in his first year with the Gladiators, without a returning starter and a lineup cresting at 6 feet.
“But I like my team,” Yeater said. around teams that won, and I didn’t like being around them. I like being around these guys, and it “They’re clicking. I enjoy coaching them. From a coaching standpoint, I’ve coached for 14 years now. I’ve been helps. You’re going to fight harder. You’re going to work harder, because you know that they are, too.”
Chief among the hard workers has been senior guard Joe Ramirez, who figures to be the Gladiators’ top outside shooter, while sophomore Harry Matczak, who can also handle the ball, joins him on the perimeter. Then, junior guard Delvin Coleman, a transfer from East Allegheny, “can get into the lane and distribute,” Yeater said, and also finish at the rim.
“With Joe and Harry on the wings and Delvin being able to get in the lane, that helps,” Yeater said. “That sounds hunky dory, and it looks good on paper, but you have to execute it, too. And when it’s your first time really trying to do that, it’s not always the easiest thing to do.”
Yeater, who has coached at college programs such as Robert Morris, Akron and Eastern Michigan, says he’ll also look for contributions from seniors Jake Leber and Blake Maloney, as well as sophomores Derek Vargo and Kordell Thompson.
While Yeater brings with him a new, faster style of play, he says he’s simplified things so that he doesn’t overwhelm the Gladiators, which finished 3-19 overall and 1-11 in Section 3-AA last season.
“I’ve tried to make it more appealing to them, so psychologically, for them, they’re like, ‘Hey, I enjoy this.’ And when you’re enjoying something, you’re going to pay attention more. You’re going to learn more and in turn, that helps us. And then, as I go, I’ll tweak things and get tighter and tighter and tighter.
“We’re going to get better as the year goes on, but I need to make sure that we do the best we can to be in games and not get blown out or anything,” Yeater added. “Because we need to learn how to win, and we need to change the atmosphere in our program, because, these kids are yearning for success. They need it, bad. They want it. Everybody needs it, but sometimes, you just don’t know how to go about it. That’s where my job comes in. They’re part is to work their tail off. My part’s to teach them how.”