MIDDLETOWN, PA - Equipped with six experienced returners and five promising newcomers, second year head coach, Mike Gaffey, and the Penn State Harrisburg men´s basketball team will look to improve on last year´s 8-18 campaign in which the Nittany Lions finished their season by getting knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by Cazenovia College in a 104-114 double-overtime defeat.
Junior Shane Woodman (Mount Joy, PA/Donegal) and sophomore Kenton Alston (Steelton, PA/Steelton-Highspire) will lead the 09-10 Nittany Lions. Woodman, who led the team in three-points made, ranked in the top-25 in scoring and top-10 in three-point field goals made while averaging the most minutes played in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) last season. Alston had an impressive freshman campaign, averaging 16.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 3.0 blocks while averaging 37 minutes per game.
Joining them will be senior Cole McGuire (Duncannon, PA/Susquenita), junior Brian Barry (Annville, PA/Annville-Cleona) and sophomores Brian Ongeri (Hershey, PA/Hershey) and Dustin Collins (Lancaster, PA/Solanco). McGuire led the team in assists and steals the previous season and was the Nittany Lions 2nd leading scorer. Barry, blue and white´s 3rd leading rebounder a year ago, suffered an injury and will be sidelined for the first part of the season. Ongeri and Collins look to bring in solid minutes this year after a promising off-season. "I look for my returners to have a better understanding of the system and philosophy," comments Gaffey.
Penn State Harrisburg welcomes a talented group of freshmen from local high school programs to the 2009-2010 squad. That list includes two forwards, Kenny Stone (Philadelphia, PA/Scotland) and Matt Reichard(Lewisberry, PA/Red Land), who come from two very solid, successful programs; a guard out of Manheim Central, Jordan Gatchell (Manheim, PA/Manhim Central), who was a 1,000 point scorer; a guard from Middletown Area, Bre-mahr Manning (Middletown, PA/Middletown); and a guard from Harrisburg High, Steve Jones (Harrisburg, PA/Harrisburg), who led his team to states.
"All of our new players will make contributions to the team," asserted Gaffey. "They come from good, winning programs and give us some depth at the guard position. We had three of the top-five players in minutes played among NEAC opponents last season and as a coaching staff we feel with this depth, the offense will be more fresh and be able to knocked down more shots down the stretch."
"I expect our team to be physical and aggressive on defense with an up-tempo offense that can score at will," said Gaffey. "One of our goals is to be if not the best scoring team, one of the best scoring teams in the conference."
Gaffey believes that this year´s team has the talent, versatility and depth to play more of an up-tempo style of basketball. That means the Nittany Lions will often attempt to apply pressure both offensively and defensively. Harriburg finished fourth in scoring offense (70.8 ppg) and second to last in scoring defense a year ago in the NEAC, allowing nearly 80 points a game to opponents. Both are areas that must be improved if the Nittany Lions are to contend for a NEAC championship.
Coming off their second-round NCAA tournament lost, SUNY IT is the heavy favorite to win the NEAC championship for the second year in a row led by the 2008-09 Player of the Year, David Golembiowski, and NEAC Tournament MVP, Diloo Brown. Runner ups, Wells College, return 1st team all-conference player, Darrell Bullock, and 2nd team all-conference player, Juan Paulino, in hopes to capture their first NEAC championship. Joining the NEAC are Penn State Abington and SUNY Morrisville.
The Nittany Lions open the 2009-2010 season hosting Penn State Schuylkill Wednesday November 18th at the Capital Union Building. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 P.M.