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2012-2013 Men's Basketball Season Preview
11/12/2012 — The Penn State Altoona men’s basketball team has put the struggles of last season behind them, and the Lions have reason for optimism heading into their 2012-2013 schedule. For the first time in several years, they return a core group of experienced players who will all hold big roles on the team. They have also addressed areas of concern from last year, such as having a stronger presence in the paint. By coupling their skill with hard work, head coach Billy Clapper knows his team can have a successful season.
“This team has work ethic and a desire to get better,” said Clapper, who enters his fourth year at the helm of the program. “We want fans to see that we’ve built on the foundation from last year, to see an improvement in our defense, and to see that we play together for 40 minutes every night.”
The Lions will be led by nine returning players, including five seniors. Not since 2009-2010 has the team brought back so many of its key players from the previous year. Clapper believes this is an ideal situation to grow a program.
“Our returners already know our system and what we want to do on the court,” he said. “Our group wants to be successful and has worked very hard to get better over the past nine months. They have set a great example for our younger players of how hard we must work to have a chance to achieve our goals as a team and as a program.”
The team’s returners include three senior guards: Durant Harvin (Baltimore, MD/Franklin), Mitch Moyer (Port Matilda, PA/Bald Eagle), and Jordan Stiles (Northern Cambria, PA/Northern Cambria). Harvin, who was highlighted as one the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference’s preseason Players to Watch, started all 25 games for the Lions last year and averaged 34.1 minutes per game. He was second on the team with 14.0 points per game and led the squad with 3.0 assists per game. Moyer also made 25 starts last year and was third on the team with 29 three-pointers made. Stiles appeared in 25 games and shot 50% from the three-point line.
The team’s other returning guards are junior Dillon McKeehen (Tyrone, PA/Tyrone) and sophomores Jonathan Ross (Columbia, SC/Cross Creek) and Jordan Wells (Columbia, MD/Atholton), who are both expected to take on bigger roles this season.
“This is by far the strongest and most athletic group of guards we have had in my time here,” said Clapper. “Our team speed in the back court is excellent and will benefit our defense in many ways, as we can now expand our pressure on opposing teams.”
At forward, Penn State Altoona will rely on seniors John Brennan (Philadelphia, PA/St. John Neumann-Goretti) and Matt Gehret (Altoona, PA/Altoona) to bring a strong, physical presence in the paint. Brennan made 25 starts a year ago and led the team in rebounds, averaging 7.9 per game. He also blocked a team-high 32 shots. Gehret gives the Lions an anchor in the front court that can score inside, rebound, and will be one of the top shot-blockers in the AMCC.
Former Altoona Mirror All-Star selections Joel Redfoot (Hollidaysburg, PA/Hollidaysburg) and Michael Wigfield (Flinton, PA/Glendale) will both bring size and versatility to the front court. The Lions will also benefit from the sharp shooting of sophomore Justin Van Houten (Doylestown, PA/Central Bucks East), who shot 35% from three-point range last year in addition to 5.0 points per game.
“All five of our front court players will be a big part of our success,” said Clapper. “They are skilled, they can rebound, and they can pass. That depth will help us overcome a weakness we had in the front court during previous seasons.”
Clapper says that the Lions will run a motion offense, looking for high quality shots. His team looks to improve defensively by increasing its pressure on opponents and attacking them more.
This year, Clapper thinks that fans will see a team built on hard work and desire. He hopes that the fruits of their labor will pay off in the win column.
“We need to rebound, defend, and have the attitude that we have a chance to win every game until the buzzer sounds.”
Penn State Altoona men’s basketball opens its season on Friday, November 16 at 5:30 PM in the second annual regional Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Juniata College in Huntingdon. The Lions host their first home game of the year on Saturday, December 1 at 3:00 PM in the Adler Gym against Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Pitt-Bradford.
Photo (from left to right): Penn State Altoona men's basketball seniors Matt Gehret, Mitch Moyer, Jordan Stiles, Durant Harvin, and John Brennan.