Thomas Jefferson boys basketball team has high expectations |

Thomas Jefferson boys basketball team has high expectations

Randy Jarosz | for Trib Total Media
Sophomore Jake Gigerich (right) tries to defend sophomore Zane Zandier after a rebound Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, during practice at Thomas Jefferson High School.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Steelers receiver Lance Moore catches a touchdown pass in front of the Texans' Jonathan Joseph and Andre Hal during the second quarter of their Oct. 20, 2014, game at Heinz Field.

Coming off back-to-back Section 4-AAA titles, Thomas Jefferson’s boys basketball team’s quest to win a third straight title this season will hinge on a lineup featuring a batch of newcomers.

After graduating 11 from last season’s team that went 23-4 and reached the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals, coach Dom DeCicco said the names and faces might change for TJ basketball, but the expectations do not.

“We have high standards. We’ve won section titles in four of the last six years, and we always want to compete for it,” DeCicco said. “Whether we’re good enough to win it or not, I don’t know, but I know we’re going to compete as hard as we can.”

One player returning from last year’s team is junior guard C.J. Mason, who figures to make an impact at shooting guard.

“C.J. has been, all spring, all summer, all fall, has been a do-everything guy for us,” DeCicco said. “He’s really elevated his game. He can shoot it, he can drive, and he’s an unselfish kid, too.

Senior Russell Siess also will see opportunities to contribute in the backcourt. Siess, who is described by his coach as a reliable shooter and scorer, could be paired with speedy fellow senior Frankie Gentille to comprise a formidable duo of ball-handlers.

“Frankie Gentille is the fastest player I’ve ever coached,” DeCicco said. “I’ve coached some great athletes, but from point A to point B, at the point guard, this kid is just quick. He still doesn’t always make good decisions, but if he starts doing that better, we could really compete.”

In the frontcourt, 6-foot-3 senior Frankie Langan will be relied upon to provide a strong inside presence along with 6-2 junior Steve Dunlap.

“Frankie Langan could be a stud if he stays healthy for us,” DeCicco said. “We also got Steve Dunlap, whose a real big body. He’s got really good low-post moves, he’s athletic. He just needs to start finishing better.”

Senior Cam Sarber and juniors Tyler Thompson, Adam Pierce and Jake Aul also will compete ffor playing time with a host of talented sophomores.

“We got to prove ourselves. That’s one of the things we talk about,” DeCicco said. “We haven’t done anything. Last year is last year, the year before is the year before. This group, they have to do it now. They have to make their own identity. It’s up to them.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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