East Xtra: Greensburg Salem grad lifts Saint Vincent

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D.P. Harris chuckles while recounting the story of how Chris Klimchock became part of his program.

"His father called me and said 'Chris is enrolling at Saint Vincent,'" said Harris, the Bearcats' men's basketball coach. "That was it. It was the easiest recruiting job I've ever had."

Klimchock signed with NCAA Division II Edinboro following a stellar career at Greensburg Salem High School in which he lead the Golden Lions to the PIAA Class AAA championship game as a senior in 2009. After two seasons with the Fighting Scots, however, Klimchock, a point guard decided to transfer.

Klimchock had to sit out the first semester last season under NCAA transfer rules but has shined ever since and is a big reason why Saint Vincent is off to a 5-2 start despite playing a demanding non-conference schedule. The Bearcats won their Presidents' Athletic Conference opener last Saturday, beating Westminster, 72-55.

Both losses have been to ranked Division III teams -- 88-63 at No.1 Virginia Wesleyan in the opener and 78-70 to No. 19 St. Mary's (Md.) in the championship game of the Carnegie Mellon Thanksgiving tournament.

"We've played well against some very good competition," Harris said. "I've been very encouraged by what I've seen to this point."

Harris couldn't be happier with the way Klimchock, a 5-foot-8, 150-pounder, is playing. He leads the team in both scoring (18.3 points a game) and assists (3.9) while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line.

"He's a great player," Harris said. "He runs the offense well and he's an outstanding shooter. He's the best free-throw shooter I've ever coached. He does everything you could possibly ask a scoring point guard to do.

"Even though he's a big scorer, he's not the type of guy who is always looking to shoot. He knows we have a lot of options and he gets everybody involved."

Klimchock made an immediate impact for Saint Vincent last season, averaging 11.2 points and 4.5 assists a game along with an outstanding 3.9 assist/turnover ratio.

What immediately struck Harris most about Klimchock, however, was his attitude.

"He's a great leader," Harris said. "He has such a great knowledge of the game and he always has everything under control on the floor."

It was quite fitting that Klimchock would decide to finish his career back home in Westmoreland County, where his father, Rick, is now the Franklin Regional girls basketball coach after a lengthy stint as Jeannette's boys coach.

Klimchock became a bit of a legend in Greensburg in not only getting the Lions to the state title game but finishing his career as the school's third-leading career scorer with 1,455 points. He was selected to the Post-Gazette's Fabulous 5 following his senior season when he averaged 17.7 points a game.

Playing at Saint Vincent is also quite natural for Klimchock. His sister, Laura, scored more than 1,300 points while playing for the Bearcats women's team and Rick Klimchock was an assistant coach under Harris for one season between his stints at Jeannette and Franklin Regional.

Younger brother, Ben, is a freshman reserve guard for Saint Vincent after starring at Greensburg Central Catholic. Ben and Chris played together for the first time last Thursday night in an 83-56 victory against Penn State Fayette as Ben scored seven points in just 11 minutes in his collegiate debut.

"Ben is a very good player in his own right," Harris said. "He's a little bit different player than Chris. He's a little more aggressive and a little fiery, whereas Chris plays more under control."

Two other freshmen from the East Xtra area -- guard Dan Sinwell (Greensburg Central Catholic) and forward Tom Weremeychik (Valley) -- are also playing for Saint Vincent. Sinwell has logged 27 minutes in four games and Weremeychik has played seven minutes in two games.

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