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2013-2014 Men's Basketball Season Preview

2013-2014 Men's Basketball Season Preview

11/11/2013 — The Penn State Altoona men’s basketball team posted one of its strongest showings in recent history during the 2012-2013 campaign, winning seven games in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference and narrowly missing out on its first playoff berth since the 2009-2010 season. But the Lions have lost nine players from last year’s roster, including five seniors who played essential roles to the team’s success. The squad will look to find success this year with an athletic, yet mostly young, group of players built around a core group of returners.

“Our team had great senior leadership last year, and I could not have asked for more of our five seniors,” said head coach Billy Clapper, who begins his fifth year at the helm of the program. “The leadership they displayed last season was a great example for our returners, and it allowed them to grow into their own leadership roles this season. They have picked up right where those five seniors left off.”

Headlining the team’s returning players are junior guard Jonathan Ross (Columbia, SC/Cross Creek) and sophomore forward Michael Wigfield (Flinton, PA/Glendale), both of whom were named as “Players to Watch” in the 2013-2014 AMCC Preseason Poll. Ross held the fifth-highest scoring average in the league last season, putting up 15.1 points per game, despite missing six contests due to injury. Wigfield developed into the squad’s sixth man in his freshman season last year, scoring 3.0 points per game and averaging 2.5 rebounds per game.

“Jonathan has really improved his skills, and he has dedicated himself to helping this team have success. Our goal is for him to fill up the stat sheet in all areas this year, as well as to stay healthy,” said Clapper. “Michael will be expected to do a lot as a sophomore, as he’ll be starting at one of the forward spots. He has gained 25 pounds since this time last year, and his skills continue to evolve. It should be a lot of fun to watch him play this season.”

The Lions also welcome a pair of sophomore transfers: forward Max Beckham (Montross, VA/Mountain View) and guard Dylan Leazier (Hagerstown, MD/St. Maria Goretti). Clapper expects both players to step in and make an impact right away.

“We recruited Dylan out of high school, and two years later, he is now part of our program. He has stepped right in at one of the wing spots, and he has played really well alongside Jonathan Ross. He has a chance to really excel here as a student-athlete,” said Clapper. “Max is an athletic forward who can score inside, rebound, and protect the paint. He is picking up new things every day, and he will have plenty of opportunities to make an impact this season.”

Despite having several proven players, the Lions’ 17-man roster is still comprised of nine freshmen – meaning that many first-year players will receive significant playing time. Clapper sees the newcomers as an athletic, skilled group that will need to learn quickly to limit mistakes.

“We have some freshmen who will play major roles this year. Evan Greening (Stafford, VA/Stafford) and Jordan Smith (Pittsburgh, PA/Taylor Allderdice) will be contributors at the forward spots, while Tay Charles (Chambersburg, PA/Chambersburg), Markel McCloud (Clinton, MD/Surrattsville), and Javon Wilson (Washington, D.C./T.C. Williams) are all in the mix at the guard positions,” Clapper said. “Anton Lucas (Alexandria, VA/Mount Vernon) can play any position on the court, which is an asset for a 6-foot-5 player.”

Clapper believes that his roster possesses the right skillset to run his ideal styles of offense and defense.

“Since the day I arrived here at Penn State Altoona, I have wanted to play at a fast pace where we can use all of our skills out there together,” he said. “Last year, we lacked the roster size to do it, but I’m excited to do it this year.”

With so many players on their roster who are largely unknown around the AMCC, the Lions were picked eighth out of 10 teams in the conference’s annual preseason poll. But Clapper wants his players to believe in their abilities and focus on success, and he thinks his team can surprise the conference by playing an up-tempo style at both ends of the court.

“Every day we talk about going after your goals and thinking big. To do that, you have to be aggressive and you have to compete. We get better every day, and we will probably evolve as the season goes along,” Clapper explained. “I want our student-athletes to do their best in everything they do. That is the mindset we are trying to embrace. Our goal is to make the AMCC Tournament, and if that happens, everything else will take care of itself.”

Penn State Altoona men’s basketball opens its 2013-2014 schedule at home on Friday, November 15 against Waynesburg University at 7:30 PM, part of the two-day Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament in the Adler Gym. The Lions’ first AMCC contest is also at home on Wednesday, December 4 at 6:00 PM against La Roche College.

Photo: Returning junior Jonathan Ross (left) and sophomore Michael Wigfield (right) are key returners for the Lions this year.

TAGS: men's basketball

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