Lebanon Catholic's season wide open
There is something to be said for not knowing what to expect when you get to work every day. It beats a mundane existence any day, right?
Scott Clentimack can relate as his Lebanon Catholic boys' basketball team prepares for the 2015-16 season.
The Beavers' head coach, entering his 18th season as the boss on Assumption Hill, truly doesn't know what this winter will hold for his squad and he's both intrigued and apprehensive about it.
Not that there aren't clues, considering Catholic went just 3-19 a season ago and lost its most productive player, forward John Groh, to graduation.
But with four Lebanon High transfers in the fold, and three returning starters in senior guards Joe Gates and Luke Frattaroli and sophomore wing Humberto Valerio, the Beavers could be much-improved.
Or they may not be. Clentimack (give him points for honesty) isn't really sure at this point.
"I wasn't surprised; I kind of expected it," Clentimack said of last season's struggles. "Only because the year before we graduated seven or eight seniors so it was kind of a rebuilding year. But this is the first time in 18 years I don't know what to expect. I really don't.
"I usually know if we're gonna be pretty good, and I know if we're not gonna be so good. But I really don't know what to expect, only because we have 12 kids and six of them did not play on this team last year, and five of them are new to our school."
Four of the newcomers come by way of Lebanon High — senior guard Davian Perez and junior guards Sabu Pereyra, Melshawn Scott and Miguel Escobar — and could inject some needed life into the program. But they've got an adjustment period to go through first.
"I haven't really seen any of them play," Clentimack said, midway through the first week of practice. "We've had a couple of practices and stuff, but I really don't have a great feel at this point. There's a lot of ifs here with this group. I think we can be somewhat competitive, because I think we have a lot of athletes in the group, especially at the single-A level. But there are a lot of ifs."
And because there are, the Beavers will lean heavily on senior co-captains Gates and Frattaroli in the early going.
"It was a no-brainer, they were named our captains," Clentimack said. "I'm looking for them (to lead). In addition to that, they're two guys that are gonna have to produce on the court. And they're the ones that are gonna have to get these guys to understand our philosophies and things we want to do in certain situations. They gotta play with these kids, I don't."
But Clentimack likes the way the transition is going so far, with the veterans seeming to welcome the new kids with open arms. That's a start, and a good one. But what happens when the whistle blows will ultimately determine the Beavers' success, or lack thereof, this season.
"We're not very big and we're not very deep," Clentimack said. "But I think the kids are well-conditioned, I think they're in pretty good shape. Which is important, not being very deep. We want to play 90 feet, we want to get the ball up and down the court. And that's even more important this year, because we have to force the issue and not let teams pound us inside."
And if they can smooth out enough of the rough spots early on, the Beavers could find their way back to districts in Class A, where anything could happen.
"Ultimately, districts is what our goal is," Clentimack said. "That's where we have a chance. Let's face it, we're never gonna win the Lebanon-Lancaster League. And I don't think we're ever gonna win states. So districts is where we look to make our mark."
LEBANON CATHOLIC BOYS AT A GLANCE
Coach: Scott Clentimack, 18th season, 216-238
Last year: 3-19
Returning starters: Joe Gates (5-10, sr., guard), Luke Frattaroli (5-10, sr., guard), Humberto Valerio (5-10 so., guard)
Other top players: Davian Perez (5-10, sr., guard), Sabu Pereya (6-1, jr. guard), Melshawn Scott (5-10, jr., guard), Miguel Escobar (5-10, jr., guard)
Season opener: Dec. 7, home, vs. Lancaster County Christian