In Nick Novak and Jordan Miller, the Pitt-Johnstown men's basketball team boasts a pair of proven scorers and veteran backcourt leaders as the program prepares for its last season in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference before joining the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
Novak, who enjoyed a standout career at Franklin Regional High School, is entering his fourth year as a starter and he spent the summer as a member of the 2012 Global Sports Select All-Star Basketball Team that toured Belgium and Holland.
Novak netted his 1,000th career point early last season and he went on to average 19.5 points and 4.1 assists - both team highs. Unlike many guards, Novak shoots for a high percentage and, last year, he ranked 17th in NCAA Division II with a 58.5 field-goal percentage. He enters the season, which starts Saturday afternoon at future PSAC-rival Bloomsburg, with 1,409 career points. that ranks eighth on UPJ’s all-time scoring list. His 384 career assists is seventh in team history.
Novak is one of the top guards in the WVIAC, a conference that features the top-ranked team in Division II in West Liberty State. Add Miller, a Central Cambria graduate, to the mix, and Pitt-Johnstown has a backcourt that can compete with any team in the conference.
Miller made a school-record 92 three-pointers as a junior and his 15.3 points per game ranked third on the Mountain Cats roster. His 212 career 3-pointers are second in team history and Miller is one point shy of becoming the 24th player in UPJ history to score 1,000 points.
The duo gives coach Bob Rukavina, who has won 377 games in 23 years at Pitt-Johnstown and 411 games in his coaching career, a dynamic scoring punch.
The area where Rukavina is likely most concerned is the frontcourt.
Gone is 6-8 center Patrick Grubbs, who averaged 16.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last year in helping the Mountain Cats finished 15-14 overall and 12-10 in the WVIAC, which was good enough for seventh place.
Grubbs is now a student assistant for Rukavina, and he'll be tasked with helping mentor the next wave of big men at Pitt-Johnstown.
Bill Luther, a 6-7 junior, and Ian Vescovi, a 6-9 sophomore center from Cambria Heights, will be counted on inside. In addition to his rebounding abilities, Luther was one of the top three-point shooters in the WVIAC last year with 48 made. Vescovi averaged 10 minutes a game as a redshirt freshman and was productive - 4.1 points and 3.9 rebounds. His minutes are likely to increase significantly.