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Sweich signs with Akron; Wild Things manager returns in 2007 |

Sweich signs with Akron; Wild Things manager returns in 2007

| Sunday, November 19, 2006 12:00 a.m

When the 2006-07 scholastic basketball season starts, Elizabeth Forward High School star post-player Steve Sweich can concentrate on leading the Warriors to a second consecutive section title and his academics.

On Nov. 8, Sweich, the school’s all-time career leading scorer, signed a national letter of intent to continue his basketball and academic careers at the University of Akron. On that same day, Akron head men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot also signed Brett McKnight and Ronnie Steward from the state of Ohio. All three are high school seniors.

The early signing period opened on Nov. 8 and continued until midnight on Nov. 14. This trio of signings culminated Akron’s recruiting class for 2007-08.

“We have recruited hard to improve our size and athletic ability in order to better equip us to play outside of our league,” Dambrot said. “But we still wanted to maintain our skill and knowledge of the game, which is exactly what the signing of this class does. I really like the character and talent level of this class. Not only do we fill the needs of our program, but all three individuals come from great families. We targeted Steve, Brett and Ronnie early, and are very excited that they chose to be a part of Akron basketball.”

Sweich, a 6-foot-9-inch, 255-pound center, averaged 27 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks per-game as a junior a season ago. He is one of just four players in school history to score more than 1,000 career points. The others are Matt Scurfield, Bob Minford and Ted Mosay.

He earned a spot on the Associated Press All-State Class AAA Third Team and was also listed in the Tribune-Review Terrific 10.

Sweich’s coach this upcoming season at Elizabeth Forward will be Mike Mehalov, who replaces Jim Nesser, who guided the Warriors for six seasons before moving on to be the head boys basketball coach at Jeannette.

In 2005-06, Sweich helped the Warriors win their first section title en route to a school-best 23-3 overall record and top seed in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

Sweich was injured in the Warrior’s opening-round playoff victory over Derry Area High School and was unable to play in the WPIAL quarterfinal loss to section rival Thomas Jefferson, which was twice defeated by Elizabeth Forward during the regular season.

Sweich had surgery on his right foot during the offseason and is expected to be at 100 percent this season.

“Steve is a great recruit for our program,” Dambrot said. “He is a very good basketball player and an even better person. He provides another big, inside presence for us in the post. He has a good feel for putting the ball in the basket.”

The Zips are the favorite to win the Mid-American Conference’s East Division after going 23-10 last year and beating Temple in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament.

Akron received one vote in the Associated Press’ pre-season poll earlier this week, marking the first time in the school’s history the Zips have been listed in the AP preseason rankings.

Massarelli returns

The Washington Wild Things recently announced that John Massarelli will return as the team’s manager for the 2007 season.

Through three years, Massarelli owns a 184-103 cumulative record and the .641 winning percentage is tops among all active Frontier League managers.

“I’ve worked with a lot of managers over the years,” said Ross Vecchio, the Wild Things’ general manager.

“I can honestly say that from the first day of the season until the end, ‘Mazz’ has his team prepared to play day in and day out, as well as any manager in professional baseball. There’s a reason why he has received the Roger Hanners Manager of the Year honors twice.”

Massarelli is the only coach ever to receive the Frontier League Manager of the Year award more than once. He received the honor in 2004 and again in 2006.

The 2006 Wild Things were the first in Frontier League history to make the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season. However, for the fourth consecutive year the Wild Things were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs after reaching the league championship series in 2002.

Seemingly out of playoff contention at the All-Star break in early July and more than eight games out of first place, Washington went 37-14 over the final 51 games of the season.

“The Wild Things organization is one of the best in baseball,” said Massarelli. “They set their standards at the highest level. There is only one goal we have yet to accomplish. I have every confidence that we’ll secure players with the right chemistry, and I look forward to a great 2007 season.”

Including the playoffs, the Wild Things’ cumulative career record is 299-176, despite an 8-19 cumulative record in the month of September. They led the Frontier League in each of their five seasons of existence in single-season victories with 59, 63, 62, 54 and 56 wins. Washington was recognized as the Frontier League’s Organization of the Year in 2002, 2004 and 2005.

The Wild Things open their sixth season in the Frontier League in May.

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