West Xtra: Hard work paying off for Montour's Sleva

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All summer Dustin Sleva kept the same routine.

Each and every day he would set himself under a basketball hoop and took 100 low-post shots from each of the painted blocks.

"I needed to make 100 shots with just my left hand and then 100 with my right hand," Sleva said.

A 6-foot-7 senior member of Montour's basketball team, Sleva had been more of a guard/forward before growing 3 inches since his junior year and wanted to develop an inside game before this season.

"I was mostly taking outside shots last year, but knew I had to develop a post game so I worked a lot on that over the summer and before the season," said Sleva, who lives in Robinson Township. "[Montour coach Adam Kaufman] explained what I needed to do and how I needed to go about making the transition."

Sleva's efforts toward evolving as an all-around player have paid off for the Spartans ... and himself.

As one of the top scorers in the WPIAL this season, Sleva is averaging 22.5 points per game, ranking among the WPIAL leaders.

"Dustin is our center and he's the best shooter on the team," said Kaufman, who is in his sixth year as head coach for the Spartans and a Montour alumnus. "He can play all five positions and we use him to bring the ball up court against a press [defense]. He also can bring the ball up on the wing and get by guys with the dribble.

"He's been playing great and that's because the kid really, really worked his butt off during the offseason. Everything he's doing now he's earned because of the time and effort he put in during the summer."

Sleva also earned a spot in Kaufman's starting lineup this season. As a junior, Sleva missed the first half of last season with an injury to his left knee before returning to add depth off the bench and help the Spartans capture a WPIAL Class AAA championship.

"The main thing with Dustin is that he's really worked hard to become a better player," Kaufman said. "He's had to deal with a number of injuries during his high school career and he could have used them as a crutch or gave up all together.

"He didn't do that. He wanted to be a better player and put in the time. It's paying off right now and I'm happy he stuck with it."

Sleva rounds out Kaufman's starting five and is surrounded by 5-10 point guard Randall Labrie, 5-8 guard Ryan Nolan, 6-1 forward Cameron Harbaugh and 6-1 forward Kyle Kutchman.

"His post game has really improved," Kaufman said. "He's able to play with his right hand and left hand, and he's able to get those baby hook shots with either hand. He's also a lot stronger and the game has sort of slowed down for him.

"Before, we were using him as a pick-and-pop guy and everything was from the perimeter. Now, we're trying to get Dustin the ball in the paint and use him in every position because he makes good things happen."

Sleva paced Montour's 56-41 Section 5-AAA win against South Fayette last Friday night with a game-high 23 points. Nolan followed with 11 points and Harbaugh had 10. He had 27 in a win against Keystone Oaks Tuesday.

"Dustin is the best offensive player we have and he's our best shooter," Kaufman said. "He's also a good passer down on the post. He's not shooting every time he touches the ball.

"To me, the most impressive thing about Dustin is that he's so accurate with his shot. He's averaging about 12 shots a game and still averaging about 23 points a game. His efficiency and ability to get other guys involved in scoring has stood out."

After 11 games and after the first half of section play, Montour owns an 8-3 overall record and is 5-1 in Section 5-AAA. The Spartans are in second place behind Chartiers Valley (11-1, 6-0) and a game ahead of South Fayette (7-3, 4-2).

"We're playing well right now, but we also know we have to keep getting better as a team," Sleva said. "We're working in practices and it has been paying off in games. We have some good competition in practice and that's pushing all of us to play better in games and pushing us to win."

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