MIDDLETOWN, Pa. - "One purpose…one goal."
The Penn State Harrisburg Men's Basketball team has adopted this simple motto as their motivation for the 2010-2011 season. They are ready to make it to the top. The Lions finished the 2009-10 season third in the North East Athletic Conference (NEAC), a noteworthy improvement from their last place finish the year before. Third year coach, Mike Gaffey, is proud of where the program has come from and holds high hopes for the future. "I am really excited that we were able to accomplish two significant highlights last year. We set a school record for wins with 16 wins and, secondly, we were able to move from a last place finish to a third place finish. This year we hope to take the next step in moving up in the league standings to the top spot."
Penn State Harrisburg will be returning a talented group of veteran players for the 2010-11 season. NEAC 1st Team All-Conference selection Kenton Alston (Steelton, PA/Steelton-Highspire) returns for his junior year with 930 career points. He finished the 2009-10 season 2nd in the conference in blocked shots. Alston will be one of the team captains this season and Coach Gaffey will look to him for leadership on and off the court as he serves as a role model for the younger players. Sophomore Steve Jones (Harrisburg, PA/Harrisburg), a NEAC 2nd Team All-Conference pick, joins Alston as a court leader. Averaging 19.9 points, 6 rebounds and over 4 steals per game Jones proved, as a freshman, to be a dominant presence on the court.
Shane Woodman(Mount Joy, PA/Donegal) returns as a three year captain for the Nittany Lions. "His leadership has helped change the climate and culture from a last place team to a third place team in one year. He is the glue of our team," said Coach Gaffey. As a guard, Woodman's basketball IQ and court vision will be utilized to create offense throughout the season. Alongside of Woodman at the point guard position is Jordan Gatchell (Manheim, PA/Manheim Central). At one point last season, 5'10'' Gatchell was ranked 14th in the conference in defensive rebounds. "He had a great freshman season running the point and he will have the ball in his hands a lot again this season."
Joining Alston, Jones and Woodman are veterans Nick Liddell (Lewisberry, PA/Redland), Kenny Stone (Philadelphia, PA/Scotland School) and Bre-Mahr Manning (Middletown, PA/Middletown). Liddell returns for his first full season as a Nittany Lion where his shooting ability will be key in the offensive success of the team. The Lions will utilize Stone's strong defensive presence with his ability to guard any player on the floor. Local product Manning brings his athleticism and ability to score back to the program.
Alongside of the veterans are a young set of freshman and transfer players, who Coach Gaffey expects to make "immediate contributions to help upgrade our team, especially at the defensive end". Those include Tyler Hall (Carlisle, PA/Cedar Cliff), Antwine Tucker (Philadelphia, PA/John Barton), Max Flournoy (New Cumberland, PA/Red Land), Andrew Rhoads (Millerstown, PA/Greenwood), Deaven Kelly (Millerstown, PA/Greenwood), and George Mensah (Woodbridge, VA/Woodbridge).
The Nittany Lions have added a tough non-conference schedule to take the program to new heights. The Lions will travel to the Land of Magic Tournament in Daytona Beach, Florida where they will face NAIA powerhouse Embry Riddle University. Other non-conference opponents include Lebanon Valley College, Elizabethtown College and Babson College. Penn State Harrisburg's NEAC conference opponents will also provide them with competitive opposition. The Nittany Lions finished off the 2009-10 season in the NEAC quarterfinals with a loss to #2 seeded Wells College, 82-103. #1 SUNY IT walked away with the NEAC conference championship and went on to win two games in the NCAA tournament, falling in the semifinals to Williams College. SUNY IT will again be a force within the conference as they are ranked 19th in the DIII New Preseason Top 25 Poll.
The Nittany Lions open the 2010-11 season at home, hosting Elizabethtown College on November 15, 2010 at 7:00PM.