Catholic boys to make do with 9 players
Scott Clentimack has coached district championship teams and teams that have made state playoff runs during his 19 distinguished years as the boys basketball coach at Lebanon Catholic.
He probably won't be doing that this season, but like any good coach Clentimack is looking forward to another challenge and another interesting journey, albeit a different one than he's used to.
In what is a perfect example of the cyclical nature of small school athletics, the Beavers will be suiting up only nine players this season, just two of whom have significant basketball experience.
That means diminished expectations for win-loss success, but not for enjoyment for Catholic's veteran coach and his players.
"I've never been in this position," Clentimack said of having such a small roster. "It's a new challenge. With everything we've faced over the years I don't know that I've ever been in a situation like this. It's something that keeps it a little fresh, because when it comes to practice I have to be creative and figure stuff out. The way we're gonna look at it is, our goal is to succeed. The journey is to figure out what that means."
In other words, success will often be measured by things other than wins and losses. That's the reality of having only two experienced basketball players on the roster - junior guard and returning starter Humberto Valerio and Lebanon High transfer Kyle Kauffman, a junior forward and nephew of former Lebanon High standout Anthony Trautman.
But that doesn't mean Clentimack thinks any less of the rest of his squad - seniors Matt Brennan and Alex Witmer, juniors Nate Hatzfeld, Jacob Ferreira and Kevin Zongze, a Chinese exchange student, sophomore Michael Miranda and freshman Albie O'Rawe.
"It's gonna be about improvement, it's gonna be about being competitive." Clentimack said. "They're great kids; they do well in school. Two seniors came out this year that haven't played since they were freshmen. They came back out because they knew our numbers were kinda low, which tells you what kind of kids they are. I enjoy being around them."
Whatever tangible on-court success Catholic is able to enjoy this season will rest on the shoulders of Valerio and Kauffman, who are legit varsity players in a difficult situation. But it's one that they'll have the opportunity to shine in, particularly in the Beavers' more winnable games against Christian schools of similar size.
"When we step out on the court with those teams, I'm gonna expect to have the two best players every night," Clentimack said.
But even on those nights when Catholic is overwhelmed by its opponents, its coach still plans to enjoy the task at hand.
"Maybe at this point in my career that's what I need," Clentimack said. "It's like anything else, you do it long enough you get in a rut and do the same stuff over and over. This is gonna be my 19th year, so this could be something that infuses some new life, a little more enthusiasm.
"I'm kinda looking forward to it, not knowing what to expect and seeing the improvement. I'm anxious to see the progression."
Lebanon Catholic boys
Coach: Scott Clentimack
Last year: 3-19
Key returners: Humberto Valerio (jr., G), Kyle Kauffman (jr., F).
Other key player: Nate Hatzfeld (jr., F).
Season opener: Dec. 13, at Veritas Academy, 7:30.