Gateway's Deon Baker, center, transferred from Imani Christian and is expected to have a big impact for the Gators this season.
By Craig Meyer Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If great expectations come with extraordinary success, then the Gateway boy's basketball team has a lot to live up to this season. The Gators are the two-time defending WPIAL Class AAAA champions and are looking to add yet another title in the 2012-13 season after going 21-7 last season. Coach Mitch Adams undoubtedly lost some talent from his two previous championship squads, but the Gators still have five seniors on their roster this season, as well as seven juniors, at least a few of whom have experience from past title runs. Thus far, the quest for a third consecutive championship is off to an unblemished start, as Gateway has won its first three games, edging Blackhawk, 48-45, before convincingly defeating Penn Hills, 63-47, last Friday and Woodland Hills, 48-32, Tuesday.
RUNNING THE POINT
Perhaps no other position in basketball, at any level, is it more important to be returning an experienced player than at point guard. Fortunately for the Gators, while they have lost some key players, they still have senior point guard D.J. Boyce. Boyce started for each of the past two championship teams and has already gotten off to a strong start this season, posting team highs in points in all three games, averaging 16 points per contest. He even showcased his flair for the dramatic, hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to lift the Gators over Blackhawk. "He's the guy who makes the engine go," Adams said. "Any time he does something, you know you're going to get 110 percent out of him."
The 2012-13 edition of the Gators is a slightly reconstructed one, as the team had to replace two of its best players over the past few years, forward Barnett Harris and guard Tyler Scott, both of whom graduated. Harris, a 6-foot-10 forward, was among the team's leading scorers and rebounders, helping provide a valuable inside presence that comes with such a long physical frame. He is spending a season at Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Va., and has accepted a scholarship to Delaware, where he will play next season. Scott led the team in scoring in all but two of its games last season and is at Kent State, where he will begin playing next year after sitting out this season. "The sky is the limit for both of those kids," Adams said. "Tyler Scott is probably the most dynamic player I've ever coached. He'll be a four-year starter at Kent State. Barnett Harris is a big man who can do almost anything. He'll start for [Delaware] for at least three years. He's a big-time player."
Winning three consecutive titles is a task that has been presented to a number of teams throughout WPIAL history, but has been accomplished by few. People will be curious to see if Gateway can achieve that feat, but those who are actually least concerned about it are the Gators themselves. "All we're worried about is our next game up," Adams said. "We can only look at who's ahead of us. There has been no talk of it."
HELP FROM THE OUTSIDE
Even teams as good as Gateway can always use the addition of talented players and this past year, it picked up two talented transfers. Guard/forward Deon Baker transferred to Gateway from Imani Christian, with Adams having high hopes for him. "He has an NBA body and we're getting his skill level caught up to that body and getting him to understand everything that goes along with being a player for us," Adams said. There's also guard Jordan Landfair, who recently moved to the area from Memphis, Tenn., a pleasant surprise for Gateway's coach. "I didn't know anything about him and the principal called me and told me that he wanted to play basketball," Adams said.
GETTING IT DONE OFF THE COURT
For all of the success the Gators have experienced on the court, it appears as though at least some of that translates to the classroom as well. Adams noted that four of his starters are currently enrolled in advanced placement classes and that the team's collective GPA is about 3.5, a passing mark considering Adams said that he likes for the team to keep its GPA above 3.3 every year.