Chaos reigns: Vincentian's fast pace produces points
January 30, 2014 8:43 PM
Vincentian Academy's Ryan Wolf puts up a three-point shot against Obama Academy's Calique Jones Sunday afternoon.
By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Just about everything associated with the Vincentian Academy boys basketball team is small.
The Royals are in the WPIAL's smallest classification. Student enrollment at the school in McCandless is only 262 in grades 9-12 (boys and girls). The team doesn't have a starter taller than 6 feet 1 and the Royals play in a tiny gym that holds only 225 people.
But Vincentian's team has one thing that is extraordinarily big -- a scoring average.
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Vincentian is scoring points at a rate rarely seen in the WPIAL. The Royals are averaging 93.9 points a game, at least 10 more than any other WPIAL team. It is highly unusual for a team to average more than 90 points for an entire season. It is believed the last one -- and one of the few in WPIAL history -- to average 90 a game was the 1991-92 Blackhawk Cougars, who went 32-1 and averaged 91 points.
If you just look at scoring numbers and statistics on number of possessions per game, Vincentian is scoring at a rate and playing at an offensive pace faster than most NBA teams. And Vincentian is using a style of play that their coach, George Yokitis, came up with after watching old tapes of college coach Rick Pitino's teams more than a decade ago.
"I've heard this term -- organized chaos? It really is that," said Jim Kenna, a senior forward for Vincentian.
Consider these chaotic statistics and comparisons:
* As of midweek, Vincentian was averaging more points a game than two NBA teams -- Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks.
* Vincentian's scoring average is over a 32-minute game. The Royals' average would be 117 points over a college game (40 minutes) and 140 over an NBA game (48 minutes).
* Vincentian averages 75.6 shots a game. The Miami Heat averages 76.8 shots a game.
* It takes 20 3-pointers a game, which is more than nine NBA teams.
And the style has brought success. Vincentian is 16-1 and won its first 16 games before losing to Obama, 88-84, this past Sunday.
Critics of Vincentian might say the Royals are able to put up big scoring numbers because they play in Class A and because they play home games and a few others on small courts. But Vincentian has always played home games at the same court since joining the WPIAL in the mid 1980s and never came close to scoring this much. Vincentian averaged 83 points a game last year and never more than 74 in Yokitis' other four seasons as coach.
Plus, no other team in the WPIAL, no matter the classification, has scored this much in decades.
"We've played a style similar to this before, but not quite to this extent," said Yokitis.
Vincentian uses a full-court trapping defense and even traps sometimes after missed shots. Vincentian tries to play as quickly as possible on offense, spacing the court and having players who either shoot a 3-pointer or use ball fakes and attack the basket, sometimes kicking out for an open 3-pointer. It is "dribble drive" offense at its finest. The Royals usually shoot short shots or 3-pointers, rarely a medium-range shot.
Charting every possession during two recent games shows how fast Vincentian plays. On Jan. 20, Vincentian played at Wilkinsburg and won, 107-83. It was the fifth time Vincentian scored 100 points or more in a game this season. Yes, Wilkinsburg's court also is small, but consider these statistics:
* Vincentian had 96 possessions for the game. Every NBA team averages between 92 and 102 possessions per game.
* Its number of possessions would average out to 144 for an NBA game.
* In the first half, Vincentian had 56 possessions and 32 of them lasted six seconds or less before the Royals attempted a shot.
On a bigger court six days later, Vincentian played Obama at Montour. Vincentian didn't play quite as fast, but in the first half alone, Vincentian still got 47 possessions, and 29 lasted 10 seconds or less.
Yokitis, a lawyer who lives in Ross Township, had four sons play basketball at North Hills. One son, Dan, is a Vincentian assistant. George Yokitis coached at St. Sebastian Grade School in Ross for a number of years before coming to Vincentian and bought into the fast-paced philosophy after watching some Pitino instructional tapes.
"I tell when this style really resonated with me was when I was a grade-school coach," Yokitis said. "I listened to Pitino and he said team morale will be good because you have to play a lot of players. The other thing that resonated with me was your kids would probably like it."
But Yokitis admits this style doesn't fit everyone.
"Oh come on, you have to have good players to play this way," Yokitis said.
This Vincentian team is shooting 51 percent from the field and an impressive 46 percent (120 of 346) from 3-point range. The No. 1 3-point shooting team in NCAA Division I basketball is Creighton at 43.2 percent. The college 3-point line is a foot farther from the basket than the high school line.
Junior guard Ryan Wolf leads Vincentian with a 26.4 average and has made 38 percent (46 of 121) of his 3-pointers. Kenna, a senior, averages 14.1 points and shoots 43 percent (30 of 69) from 3-point range. Guard Jamison Nee averages 14.6, junior forward Jay Cortese 10.7 and senior guard Kevin Fischer 7.7.
"We feel like we maybe have to play this way," Yokitis said. "Our tallest guy is 6-1 at the most. We just feel like if we get in a game against big guys or get in a half-court game where teams pound it inside, we lose."
Kenna said, "Even though we're running around a lot and doing whatever, we do have some organization. We call out everything on defense. Then we just get into it and start running around like crazy."
The WPIAL playoffs are only two weeks away and it seems many are talking about a possible Class A championship game between Vincentian, ranked No. 2 in Class A, and No. 1 Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park averages 83 points a game and has a starting lineup that features two 6-7 players and another 6-9.
"We don't want to look too far ahead," Kenna said. "Lincoln Park is really good but it would be nice to see what we could do against them."
For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh
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