There is a Rebel yell in WPIAL Class AA basketball this season. The Seton-LaSalle Rebels are making noise, running to a 6-1 overall record, a 3-0 mark in Class AA Section 4 and the Post-Gazette's No. 3 ranking in Class AA. Although Washington is another top team in Section 4, Seton-LaSalle is hoping to win its first section title -- and then some-- since 2000. "We have really high expectations this year," said junior Levi Masua. "We won't be satisfied with anything less than the WPIAL [title] and I think we're holding each other accountable for that."
BALANCE IS BEST
Second-year coach Mark "Knobby" Walsh has a team with four junior starters. The top reserve is a sophomore and four players are averaging between 9 and 13 points a game. Masua, a 6-foot-5 forward, leads Seton-LaSalle in scoring at 13.3 points a game and Malik White, a 6-4 junior forward, averages 11.1. Dale Clancy, 5-8 junior point guard, averages 10.6 and 6-3 sophomore forward Ryan Norkus 9.7 off the bench. "We have a lot of balance and depth," Walsh said. "We have 12 guys on the varsity and we're playing 10 or 11." Dom DelGreco, a 5-9 junior guard, and 5-10 senior guard Eric Marasco are the other starters. "I think we're very unselfish," Masua said. "Everyone knows their role and how to make each other better. That's what's really been helping us this year."
LEARNING FROM THE FIRST TIME
This is Walsh's second head coaching job. He also was Bishop Canevin's coach from 1998-04 but made the playoffs only once in his time there. "I think I learned from the first time about how to deal with all the little things off the court, like how to handle meeting with kids, how to talk to kids more and how to get a better feel for the team," Walsh said. "Also, the other biggest thing I think I learned was when I first started coaching, I think I was trying to put square pegs into a round hole. I said, 'This is how I'm going to do it.' As I went through the years, I realized you have to adapt and adjust to your personnel. ... But I'm not waving a magic wand here [at Seton-LaSalle]. I told the kids I think it has more to do with how hard they've worked and the time they've put in. But also, having talent and ability can make things a lot easier on you as a coach."
KNOBBY, KNOBBY, KNOBBY, KNOBBY
Walsh, 44, is known to many people as "Knobby." But he has two older brothers, Kevin and Danny, who also are nicknamed Knobby. And their Dad, Edward, also was called Knobby. What gives? "Word is that it all goes back to something with a comic strip character and also with this other guy who worked at the Post-Gazette and was called Knobby," Mark Walsh said. "Someone years ago said our Dad looked like Knobby and the name stuck. Then we all got it."
Seton-LaSalle enjoyed plenty of success in the old Catholic League when the school was all male and known as South Hills Catholic before joining the WPIAL in the mid 1970s. The Rebels have been in a WPIAL championship game seven times, but won only once, in 1989. That 1989 team was coached by John Lee and featured 6-11 center Kevin Salvadori, who went on to play at the University of North Carolina and was a member of the Tar Heels' 1993 national championship team. Salvadori played 39 games in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings. The last time Seton-LaSalle played in a WPIAL title game was 2000 and the Rebels' leading scorer was Bruce Gradkowski (20 ppg), who is now a backup quarterback for the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.
THIS AND THAT
Masua was born in Sudan and moved here when he was in kindergarten. ... Clancy's nickname is "Sandwich." He was an all-section pick last year as a sophomore and is one of the quickest point guards in Class AA. "He's maybe as fast as any kid I've ever coached," Walsh said. ... Luke Brumbaugh, star quarterback on the football team, is one of the top players off the bench. He did not come out for the team a year ago. ... Walsh's wife, Carrie, is the daughter of longtime Bishop Canevin football coach Bob Jacoby. Walsh also is the uncle of Cassidy Walsh, starting point guard on Seton-LaSalle's girls team and a Duquesne University recruit.
Mike White: email@example.com