Norwin boys basketball looks to use fast pace, deep bench
After falling to North Allegheny in the opening round of last season’s WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, the Norwin boys basketball team didn’t wait long to get back to work.
“We got back into the gym two weeks later,” senior guard Curtis Perz said. “A lot of guys move into spring sports after the basketball season is over, but we wanted to keep basketball in the back of the minds of everyone. As a team, we have gotten better athletically. We have pushed each other to get better.”
The Knights are coming off a 13-10 season that saw the team claim its fifth straight appearance in the Class AAAA playoffs. Norwin will need new faces to step up as they were hit hard by graduation, losing six players. But that hasn’t stopped coach Lynn Washowich from looking to up the tempo with the deepest bench he said he has had during his time at Norwin.
“Right now we have will have 12 guys dressed for games ,” Washowich said. “If we are to find success, it won’t be relying on seven kids. We will need to rely on all 12.
“It will be unrealistic you can go six straight minutes. If you are playing seven minutes straight, you are probably not playing hard enough.”
The Knights returns two key parts from last seasons’s squad. Perz was the team’s leading scorer averaging more than 15 points per game. Senior guard Logan Deri also returns and will provide the team leadership. Juniors guard Gage McCracken and forward Peyton Deri both return after seeing varsity time last season.
But Norwin is relying on several players to extended their roles this season. Senior guard Zeke Kljucaric will see more minutes this season, as will junior guards Nick Amendola and Robert McMaster.
Junior 6-foot-3 center Dante Rizzo will provide the team size.
Washowich described sophomore point guard Anthony Dellefermine as one of the team’s most athletic players.
“We have a lot of young talent that is coming along,” Logan Deri said. “Once they get into shape and we get them running with the varsity team, we will be in good shape.”
The Knights did lose size from last season’s team – both 6-5 center Nicholas Palo and 6-5 forward Alexander Haas are gone – but will be boosted by its guard play.
“We are skilled offensively,” Washowich said. “We have a balance of kids who can shoot the ball and penetrate with the ball. We are also deeper than we have ever been. But the depth won’t pay dividends if we don’t play hard.”
With a high turnover rate and the Knights looking to be up the tempo this season, building chemistry will be key during the opening weeks. Norwin played in summer and fall leagues. and also traveled to West Point for a team camp at the United States Military Academy to prepare for this season.
“We were playing together through the summer,” Perz said. “We also played in the fall without the football guys. It will be big to get them back. Once we start rolling, the chemistry will be good.”
The team will need to be ready for a loaded Section 1-AAAA this season with several teams returning top players. Hempfield went 21-3 last season and returns guard Kason Harrell and center Tony Pilato. Kiski returns point guard Mike Simmons who scored more than 20 points per game last season. Latrobe returns Navy commit Matt Cullen, who scored 15.5 points per game last season. And Penn-Trafford returns a majority of last season’s lineup.
But the Knights aren’t looking ahead. The team opens the season at home on Dec. 5 as it hosts Altoona. The players said they know that game is the most important game of the season right now.
“The older I get, I put more emphasis on getting better every day,” Washowich said. “We need the players to give a conscious effort and be mentally in the right place. They need to do the things the coaches ask.
“We expect to have a lot of Ws this season. Expectations are great but we have to do it in reality.”