The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

November 10, 2013

Pitt-Johnstown men must replace lost scoring

JOHNSTOWN — The Pitt-Johnstown men’s basketball team is in a state of transition, just like the school’s other programs.

There is a switch to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), which takes the Mountain Cats away from their previous home in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC).

That may not be the hardest thing to adjust to in the mind of coach Bob Rukavina, who starts this season just eight wins shy of the 400-win mark.

The Mountain Cats – 15-13 a season ago – will have to replace their two top scorers from last year in Nick Novak (21.9 points per game) and Jordan Miller (14.2 points per game).

With five returning letterwinners and an offense built to score in a hurry; the production will be missed, but not completely lost.

“We’ve lost two big scorers,” Rukavina said. “But, we’ve got a number of guys who can score, so I think we’ll make up the scoring. Those two guys are hard to replace, but I think we’ll have a few guys doing different things. We have some veteran guys and we have some younger guys, so we’ll have to bring those young guys along.”

Pitt-Johnstown opens the season at

7 p.m. tonight when it hosts Penn State-Altoona at the Sports Center. The Mountain Cats topped the Lions 100-60 last season in the only other meeting between the schools.

While the guard tandem of Novak and Miller have departed, the Mountain Cats return numerous key components from last season and bring in guard Nate Snodgrass, who transferred to the Richland Township campus from Division I Northern Kentucky.

Rukavina projects that his starting five will see Snodgrass at the point, Andrew Cressler at the off-guard, Greater Johnstown product Paul Weatherly at small forward, Bill Luther at power forward and Cambria Heights grad Ian Vescovi manning the post.

Matt Palo, Jake Laravie, Rasaun Mosley will be a part of the Mountain Cats’ rotation along with a pair of true freshmen A.J. Leahey - a Penn Cambria grad - and Adam Shaheen.

While the Mountain Cats’ style of play is heavily influenced by the WVIAC’s freewheeling tempo, seeing old rivals like Indiana (Pa.), Slippery Rock and Clarion return the the schedule is something that excites Rukavina.

“Coming from the West Virginia conference, it definitely was a different style,” Rukavina said. “Usually with four guards, sometimes with five guards. Everyone could shoot the ball, everyone could drive the ball. The Pennsylvania conference is more traditional with three guards and two big guys. We’ve always had that. We have some big guys who can shoot, but we’ll be more comfortable on the defensive end.

“The PSAC is a little different than West Virginia. It’s more physical, there are bigger, stronger guys in the post.”

But again, this Mountain Cats team brings a lot of that WVIAC influence to the PSAC.

“Two years in a row, I think we’ve led all of college basketball in 3-point shooting,” Rukavina said. “We shot 43.4 percent like two years running. I told the guys that I think we may have a better shooting team this year. We shot the ball very well at scrimmages.

“We’re looking to push the ball and take the first good shot we find. We’re not looking to run the shot clock down.”

Getting the Mountain Cats into the PSAC fold was something that the veteran coach was in favor of from the moment the idea became an opportunity.

“We’re really excited about it,” Rukavina said. “The minute that I heard about the teams in the West Virginia conference, the football-playing schools, pulling out of the league, I was on the phone with PSAC commissioner Steve Murray in about 5 minutes. That’s just where we belong. We’ll get a chance to reestablish a lot of rivalries that we’ve had over the years and I think it’ll just be better all around for everyone.”

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • SRU vs UPJ baseball0418 1 UPJ takes one, drops second

    John Fees’ spring baseball season accurately mirrors that of his Pitt-Johnstown team.
    Fees started slow, losing his first four decisions, but has rebounded nicely in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0418 Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama lacking sans Tiger

    If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
    The course was there in all its splendor.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penguins 0418 Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets

    Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
    Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local Sports Briefs

    April 17, 2014

  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • ‘Hawks already building toward next season

    Jason Spence used up his cell phone’s battery on a trip from Johnstown to his parents’ home in Nova Scotia, Canada.
    Once the Johnstown Tomahawks coach got to his destination, Spence had to get creative to secure cell service across the border.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo