McKeesport, Pa. – Coming off of a record-breaking 14-13, 11-5 Penn State University Athletic Conference season, the Penn State Greater Allegheny men's basketball is gearing up to compete in the 2016-17 athletic season.
The Lions have a staggering ten returning soldiers to mesh with the seven eager newcomers. Second-year head coach Tyler Care stated, "We have a great core coming back to work after finishing third in the PSUAC regular season and lost to eventual champions, Mont Alto, in the semi-finals of the conference tournament on the road."
Top returning athletes coming back to the squad sophomore guard Jordon Payne (McKeesport, Pa./McKeesport), who was crowned Co-Newcomer of the Year last season, after being named PSUAC Player of the Week the week of November 10th, 2016. The freshman played in 27 games for Greater Allegheny, posting 353 points on 75% (21-of-28) from the foul line, 72 three-pointers with 130 buckets from the floor. Jordon pulled down 103 rebounds while dishing out 66 assists, 47 steals and one block.
Along with Payne, junior guard Khari Hicks (East Hills, Pa./Imani Christian Academy) earned PSUAC honors, as he was named to the PSUAC Honorable Mention list. Khari played in 25 games where he put up 296 points from 56.3% (27-of-48) the foul line, 122 buckets from the floor alongside 25 treys. The sophomore put in work through his second season with the blue and white with 88 assists, 79 rebounds, 24 steals and four blocks.
Other GA big-timers include junior guard Denzel Boyer-London (Coatesville, Pa./Coatesville), junior guard Jeremy McMunn (Pittsburgh, Pa./Woodland Hills), junior forward Curtis Newby (Sharon, Pa./Sharon), senior guard Moe Alli (Edison, N.J./Cardinal McCarrick), senior forward Jumanne Butler-McDaniel (Franklin, N.J./Cardinal McCarrick), sophomore guard Tyrone Johnson (Hampstead, Md./North Carroll), sophomore forward Scott Przybysz (Elderton, Pa./West Shamokin) and sophomore center Brannon Murphy (Pittsburgh, Pa./University Prep).
Boyer-London is a three-year Lion with 459 points, 258 assists, 202 boards and 73 steals recorded for the blue-and-white. McMunn comes back as a clutch shooter, with 54 total three-pointers, 120 field goals and a 87.2% overall free-throw percentage (34-of-39). Newby denoted 330 points in his first season with GA, as the forward pulled down 251 blocks, put up 34 blocks and 61 steals.
Both transferring into GA, Alli and Butler-McDaniel both contributed vital minutes. Alli averaged over 20 minutes a game, surging the Lions with 167 points, 145 rebounds, 29 assists and 22 steals. Averaging 13 minutes a game, Butler-McDaniel added 59 points, 48 rebounds, eleven assists and eight steals last season.
Johnson appeared in nine games for GA, while adding all of his three-pointers and free-throws attempted, one and four respectively, alongside shooting 58.3% (7-of-12) from the floor. Przybysz played in 23 games, averaging six minutes per contest. He cashed in for 50% (17-of-34) of his shots from the floor with 83.3% (10-of-12) with 44 points and 37 rebounds. Murphy served relief in eight games, cashing in for six rebounds and eight points.
"We are expecting a lot from a very talented freshman class who can step in and play big minutes right away," extended Care.
Sophomore forward George Prota (Elizabeth, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) is slated to do big things for GA in the paint this year, as he is a 6'11 transfer from Pitt Johnstown.
Other noteable freshmen include guard Steven Ennis (South Park, Pa./South Park), guard Colby Hall (Hopewell, Va./Dinwiddle High), guard Connor Paoletti (Elizabeth, Pa./Elizabeth Forward), forward Nate Andrews (Penn Hills, Pa./Serra Catholic). Sophomore guard Juwan Ledbetter (Pittsburgh, Pa./Taylor Allderdice) and junior forward Virgil McClendon (Pittsburgh, Pa./Obama Academy) are newcomers eager for playing time as well.
"We have a very challenging schedule this year with a pair of NCAA Division II teams on the schedule by the way of Pitt Johnstown and Clarion."
Clarion will be a personal challenge for coach Care, who played his college basketball under current Clarion head coach Marcess Williams.
"Coach Marcess is my closest mentor and the first person who really pushed me to go after a career in coaching. This game has been something I have been looking forward to since I started coaching five years ago."
The Lions are also facing a very demanding United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division I team, Apprentice, at the Penn State Beaver Holiday Tournament.
"The guys and I are really looking forward to the start of the season. We were left with a bad taste in our mouths last year when we lost to Mont Alto in the semi-final game after leading by 16 at halftime."
The men fell to Mont Alto in overtime 82-73.
Coach Tyler continues, "The team comprised of mature veterans this season, and I am very excited to see how we can keep out composure to make a deep run in the post season. I am looking forward to continue to build on the success we had last season and to take the next step as a program."
Care ends, "Our goals this season are very simple – and extremely reachable. First, we are on target to win the regular season conference championship. Second, we will win the conference tournament. Lastly, we aim to secure a bid to the USCAA National Tournament and be victorious in our schools first national championship."
Greater Allegheny is slated to host CCAC-Allegheny, Wednesday night, for a 7 p.m. tip-off.