North Xtra: Hampton looks to complete its resumé

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Ryan Luther's basketball resume is quite impressive.

A 6-foot-8 senior at Hampton High School, he is a two-time first-team all-section performer, a Post-Gazette Fab 5 selection last season and recently, a University of Pittsburgh recruit.

But there is still one thing missing from his list of accomplishments -- a WPIAL championship.

That could change this season, however, as the Talbots return four starters from last season's WPIAL Class AAAA runner-up.

"Maybe in the past we were content just to get [to the WPIAL championship game]," Luther said. "But not this year. Our goal is to win it."

The Talbots open the season as the No. 2 team in the Post-Gazette Class AAAA rankings behind New Castle, the team that beat Hampton in the 2012 WPIAL Class AAA final and again in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game last season.

But New Castle did lose key pieces to its championship team last year, while Hampton returns almost intact.

Luther's 6-foot-7 twin brother, Collin, also has gained Division I interest and he returns to give the Talbots two tall, skilled players who will be tough for any team to guard. Hampton will also return junior point guard Joey Lafko, son of coach Joe Lafko, and junior sharpshooter David Huber.

Senior Jack Obringer, who saw plenty of action coming off the bench last season, will move into a starting role this year.

With so much talent returning, the biggest key for Hampton may be avoiding complacency.

"It's going to be a challenge, but we just have to consistently remind the team about the task at hand," said coach Lafko. "We need to take it one game at a time and make sure we do all the little things well.

"If we stay grounded, work on our fundamentals and take it quarter by quarter, everything will take care of itself."

The Talbots haven't been resting on their laurels this offseason. The team has made a commitment to getting stronger since last season ended.

That includes the Luthers, who decided not to play football for the first time this fall. For Collin, that means he will head into the season healthy for the first time in a few years.

And with Ryan Luther on the radar of many Division I teams this fall, it meant that virtually every open gym the Talbots had was viewed by some big names. Hampton's coach said that only helped his team.

"When you have the likes of [Pitt coach] Jamie Dixon, [Michigan coach] John Beilein, [Duquesne coach] Jim Ferry, [Dayton coach] Archie Miller, and their assistants, at your practices, that's going to increase the intensity level of your open gyms," Lafko said.

Lafko is hoping that will have his team flying at the start of the season, beginning this weekend when the Talbots open the 2013-14 season with games against Penn-Trafford and Norwin at the Penn-Trafford tournament.

And if the Talbots do get off to a great start, and expectations continue to grow, Ryan Luther knows that his team needs to block that out if it wants to get that elusive WPIAL title.

"We just have to relax and not force anything," Ryan Luther said. "We have to focus on every team and every game.

"It's great having those expectations at the beginning of the season, but it doesn't matter where you're ranked in the beginning, only where you finish."

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