About a month and a half ago, it looked like South Fayette star Zach Challingsworth would not take the court this season, but that one-time doubt was erased when Challingsworth made his debut last week.
Challingsworth, a 6-foot-2 guard/forward who has committed to Pitt to play football, was diagnosed with a sports hernia the week after he and his South Fayette football teammates lost to Washington in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals. Challingsworth said he was initially injured a week earlier against Beaver Falls, and added he wasn't at full speed against Washington.
"I was originally not going to play [basketball] once we found out it was a sports hernia," said Challingsworth, who averaged 15.3 points per game last season. "The doctor said if it hurt, he recommended I not play. I talked to my parents about possibly sitting out the season, but I wanted to be out there. I wanted to play my senior year."
After not playing in South Fayette's first three games, Challingsworth saw his first action when the Lions played games against a pair of teams from Maryland last Tuesday and Wednesday. Challingsworth said he played about 10 minutes in each game. He said the pain has subsided significantly, but he is not yet 100 percent. Heading into this week, he had not participated in a full practice.
"I'm not the player I was last year yet," said Challingsworth, who last week was named to the Associated Press Class AA All-State football team.
South Fayette, which is 4-1, plays Blackhawk in the C.J. Betters tournament today at the Community College of Beaver County.
Serra big man opening eyes
George Prota's 6-foot-10, 260-pound body draws a lot of attention, and his early numbers are beginning to turn some heads, too.
Just a sophomore, Prota is making a sizable impact for Serra Catholic this season. After seeing limited minutes last season, Prota dropped 50 pounds in the offseason and his improved conditioning is paying off.
Prota is Serra's top rebounder and one of its leading scorers. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds against Riverview, and 14 points against Sewickley Academy.
"He has improved by leaps and bounds from last year," Serra coach Vince Gibbons said. "His skill set and work ethic are now where they need to be. At 6-10 and growing, his potential is nearly limitless. Hopefully his arrow continues to trend higher."
Here are a few boys games to keep an eye on this week.
Tonight -- Washington vs. Indiana, 6 p.m. (West Allegheny tournament) -- Led by seniors Josh Wise (averaged 20.2 points per game last season) and Jaylin Kelly, Washington is off to a 6-0 start. Indiana (5-1) fields an underclassmen-dominated roster, but the Little Indians appear to have grown up quickly.
Saturday -- Bethel Park vs. Penn-Trafford, 7:30 p.m. (Shady Side Academy tournament) -- This one has the potential to be an excellent game, as both teams are among the best in Class AAAA. All eyes will be on the play of the frontcourts. Bethel will try to work the ball inside to big men Wyatt Hagerty and Kenny Gilmore, while Penn-Trafford will counter with Corey Stanford and Andy Abreu.
Holiday Tournament Primer
Here's a quick look at some of the top holiday tournaments involving South Xtra area teams.
Hampton tournament (Teams: Baldwin, Hampton, Keystone Oaks, Kiski Area), Tonight/Friday: Baldwin and Keystone Oaks have both had up-and-down starts, so entering the new year with some momentum would do both teams some good. Baldwin gets host Hampton in the first round. The Talbots are ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA. Meanwhile, Keystone Oaks starts things off with Kiski Area.
Pickerington North (Ohio) tournament (Teams: Centerville, Ohio; Fairborn, Ohio; Northland, Ohio; Olentangy, Ohio; Philadelphia Archbishop Ryan; Pickerington North, Ohio; Seton-LaSalle; Toledo Start, Ohio), Today through Saturday: This tournament, which began in 1986, is loaded with top players and teams. Seton-LaSalle will be tested early when the Rebels face Northland in the first round. Division I recruits in the tournament include Seton-LaSalle's Angela Heintz (Duquesne), Fairborn's Alexis Gassion (Indiana), Pickerington North's Christy Macioce (Dayton) and Centerville's Spencer Gray (Iona).