HYDE — Coach Forrest Campman believes his 13th Clearfield Area High School boys basketball team has a realistic chance to end the Bison’s string of losing seasons at three because of the blend of six upperclassmen letterwinners and several promising young newcomers.
Seniors Christian Lezzer (253 points, 11.5 points per game), Jon Janocko (101, 5.0 ppg) and Wyatt Westen (57, 2.6 ppg) are returning starters, while classmates Seth Ford (32) and Andy Brown (23) were the first two players off the bench most nights last season.
Junior Erik Sellers (39, 2.6 ppg) saw more and more action as the season progressed.
Janocko and 6-5 sophomore Cody Spaid are true post players, but Lezzer, Sellers, 6-2 freshman Will Myers, Brown and senior Devin Jones also can help out in the paint and under the basket.
“Lezzer, Sellers and Myers are swing players who can go perimeter or inside with their versatility,” Campman noted.
Ford, junior Spencer Herrington, seniors Derek Hryn and Kaleb Taylor and freshman Ryan Lezzer are vying for playing time on the perimeter, too.
“I really believe we have 10 to 12 kids who can play varsity basketball,” Campman stated. “How they mesh together and how they execute will determine how many minutes they play.
“There’s no guarantee the lettermen are playing as many minutes as they did last year because some of the seniors who didn’t play look like they should merit some minutes, Herrington will play, Spaid gives us some size out there and a couple of freshmen have been moved up for a reason.”
The up-tempo philosophy he preaches would benefit greatly from a deep rotation.
“We really hope we can apply pressure full-court the whole game and push the ball up court on offense, which would play into our depth.
“We want to wear the other team down with the number of people we can put on the floor.”
The Bison will continue to ratchet up their tough trapping defense in the half-court.
“We plan on playing more man-to-man defense than the match-up zone we’ve played in the past because of our athletes,” Campman said.
The offense has been tweaked, too.
“We’re going to be a patterned offense with two post players,” Campman said. “We ran four-out last year because we weren’t big, but we’re going back to running our flex that gives us more post presence.”
More firepower is a must for the Bison after averaging just 44.5 points last season, when they finished 4-10 in the Mountain League and 7-15 overall.
Lezzer, who has accumulated 542 points while earning three letters, is a threat from any spot on the floor. He poured in 36 three-pointers as a junior, when he was an honorable mention selection for the All-Mountain League Team, but also has the quickness to drive to the basket and the jumping ability to cash in on offensive rebounds.
Campman is counting on increased production elsewhere, too, labeling Westen as a much-improved shooter and Sellers and Myers as very good shooters.
One concern is that players who were on the Bison football team, which reached the state quarter-finals, got a late start on the hardwood and aren’t in basketball shape yet.
“The success of the football program is something we’re use to dealing with, but it’s not easy,” Campman said. “We have to play catch-up because conditioning and playing together affects your execution. And there’s no timetable to get where you need to be.”
The schedule is a bit of a drawback, too.
Five of the seven December games will be on the road, as will three of the first four games in January.
Also, Campman expects most of the Mountain League teams to be formidable again.
“I think we’re gonna be better and can be a .500 team, but a lot of the top teams have a lot of experience coming back, too.”
The first test for the Bison will be Monday when a veteran Curwensville team invades Weiss Gym, followed by trips to Central-Martinsburg and Huntingdon for Mountain League games.
Campman’s staff includes varsity assistant and junior varsity mentor Erik Durancik for his second season. Tom Janocko and Joe Davis are volunteer assistants.
Last season’s seniors were leading scorer Trey Jordan (351 points, 16.7 ppg), point guard Seth Beardsley (117 points with 27 three-pointers, 5.3 ppg), and reserve guard Kenton Clime.
The 2013-14 roster, with (*) denoting letterwinner:
Seniors – Andy Brown (*), 6-2; Seth Ford (*), 5-10; Luke Godissart, 6-0; Derek Hryn, 6-0; Jon Janocko (*), 6-2; Devin Jones, 6-1; Christian Lezzer (*), 6-0; Kaleb Taylor, 6-0; Wyatt Westen (*), 6-0.
Juniors – Spencer Herrington, 5-11; Erik Sellers (*), 6-0.
Sophomores – Sam Evans, 5-9; Mala Patel, 5-9; Corey Shimmel, 6-0; Cody Spaid, 6-5; Caleb Strouse, 6-0; R.J. Ward, 6-1; Carter Wood, 5-10.
Freshmen – Evan Brown, 5-8; Ryan Lezzer, 5-10; Will Myers, 6-2.
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The schedule, with (ML) designating Mountain League games and tip-offs at 7:30 p.m. unless noted:
9 – CURWENSVILLE; 10 – at Central (ML); 13 – at Huntingdon (ML), 7:15 p.m.; 18 – BALD EAGLE AREA (ML); 20 – at Bellefonte (ML); 27-28 – at Purchase Line Lions Club Holiday Tournament with Bald Eagle Area and Harmony, TBA.
3 – at Punxsutawney; 6 – TYRONE (ML); 7 – at Brookville; 10 – at Penns Valley (ML); 14 – PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (ML); 17 – ST. MARYS; 20 – DUBOIS; 22 – CENTRAL (ML); 24 – HUNTINGDON (ML); 29 – at Bald Eagle Area (ML); 31 – BELLEFONTE (ML).
5 – at Tyrone (ML); 7 – PENNS VALLEY (ML); 12 – at Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 14 – at Curwensville.