South/East Xtra: Serra must step up its game as team steps up to Class AA play
Share with others:
Over the past decade, Serra Catholic was a perennial power in WPIAL Class A boys basketball, winning section titles nearly every season and making more than a handful of deep runs in the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.
But Serra is taking a step up in class this season after the new WPIAL realignment placed the Eagles in Class AA. How a young, talented team does in a new environment will be one of the storylines to keep an eye on this season.
"In Class A, we'd probably be getting more exposure right now," said coach Vince Gibbons, who enters his third season at the head of Serra's bench. "But being the new kid on the block, we have a lot to prove."
Gibbons has guided Serra to a pair of section championships (last year the Eagles shared the Class A Section 4 title with Clairton) and two WPIAL quarterfinal appearances in his first two seasons as coach. Overall, the Eagles have earned at least a split of a section title eight seasons in a row.
Serra has since moved to Class AA Section 3, a highly competitive section that includes Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette, Shady Side Academy, South Allegheny, Springdale and Riverview. Greensburg Central Catholic (Section 4) and Shady Side Academy (Section 1) both won section titles a season ago, and those teams along with Jeannette advanced to at least the WPIAL quarterfinals.
The fresh competition provides a strong challenge for a Serra team that must replace four starters, including guard/forward Brandon Camic, a third-team all-state selection who averaged 23.1 points per game last season, which ranked him fifth in the WPIAL during the regular season. Also gone is forward Shaun Menzies, who averaged 16.3 points and was a vital inside presence.
The Eagles will try to remain an elite team with a main rotation consisting of nearly all juniors and sophomores. A guard-heavy lineup will look to push the ball up the floor and help the Eagles keep up their high-scoring ways. They averaged 69.6 points last season, ranking them near the top of Class A.
"We'll run a four-guard offense," Gibbons said. "We have good cohesion and chemistry. I think we'll be pretty good."
When Gibbons' team opens the season Friday against Fort Cherry in the Serra tournament, the Eagles' starting five will likely consist of 5-foot-9 junior point guard Tyler Grebur, 5-10 junior guard Max Kaminsky, 5-10 sophomore guard Anthony Rosso, 6-2 sophomore guard Joe Satira and 6-10 sophomore center George Prota.
"This is the youngest group we've had, but this team has the highest ceiling since the '08 state championship team," said Gibbons.
Before discussing the guards, it's interesting to focus on Prota, whose height undoubtedly raises eyebrows. Prota has dropped 50 pounds since last season, bringing his weight to about 260 pounds. While in better physical condition, Prota is still a work in progress.
But as the saying goes, "You can't teach size."
Thus, the Eagles will have one of the biggest players in the WPIAL.
"He came in in shape and deserves a lot of praise for that," Gibbons said.
But it will be guard play that drives this team. Grebur's hustle and ability to step up in big games reminds Gibbons of former Serra star T.J. Heatherington, now playing at Point Park.
Gibbons said Satira "could be a superstar by the time he's a junior."
Kaminsky saw a lot of starting time last season. Rosso, according to Gibbons, is the team's best defender and the "glue guy."
The top two players off the bench will likely be 6-2 sophomore forward Jake Bruno, who transferred from Penn-Trafford, and 5-8 senior guard Bob Kish.
Other key reserves include sophomore forward Zach Quattrone, sophomore guard Anthony Koval, senior guard Chad Hazaga and sophomore guard Dan Ragan.
A hot start would mean a lot to this Serra team, which is hungry to show that playing in Class AA won't negatively affect its record.
Due to the youth movement, Gibbons said he looks at this situation as being sort of like a two-year plan. He believes the potential to do special things this season is realistic, but added that his team might be another year away from making its biggest impact.
"I think if we continue on the right path, by the time they're juniors and seniors we'll have a legitimate shot to win the WPIAL title," Gibbons said.
First Published December 6, 2012 12:00 am