University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Pitt-Johnstown Seal

2007-08 Season preview

ATH07_277_HC_BobRukavina_T2007-08 MEN'S BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEW
     11/13/07...There’s reason to celebrate at Pitt Johnstown. 2007-08 is the University’s 80th Anniversary and the 2007-08 season ushers in the beginning of a new era in Pitt Johnstown Mountain Cat basketball as Head Coach Bob Rukavina’s (19th season) team will play its first WVIAC schedule in pursuit of a conference title.  Coach Rukavina welcomes back three starters and a total of eight lettermen, including Second Team All-WVIAC selection Chris Gilliam (Baltimore, MD) off of a team that posted an impressive 21-9 record a year ago.  
     Along with the returning nucleus, Coach Rukavina also added Rashad Mintz (Washington, D.C.), a talented point guard who transferred to Pitt Johnstown from Division I Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
     Gilliam, a senior forward who enters the season ranked ninth on the Mountain Cat All-Time Scoring List with 1.154 points, returns to anchor the middle after leading the team in both scoring (17.0 ppg.) and rebounding (6.2 rpg.) in 2006-07.  Gilliam also led the WVIAC and finished third in NCAA Division II in field goal percentage at 65.2%.
     Joining Gilliam inside are Marcus Tullis (Johnstown, Pa.), Steve Heidenthal (Clymer, Pa.) and Tim McGuire (Nazareth, Pa.).  
     Tullis, a returning starter and one of the most athletic Mountain Cats, averaged 9.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.  Tullis also dished out 49 assists and finished second on the team with 34 blocked shots.
     After earning a roster-spot as a walk-on, Heidenthal saw his minutes increase as the season went on.  In 14 games-played as a true freshman, Heidenthal chipped in 2.4 points and nearly two rebounds per game.
     The Mountain Cats also welcome back the 6’5’, 225-lb. McGuire after he spent a year away from basketball.  McGuire should provide some added depth in the paint. 
     While Gilliam, Tullis, Heidenthal and McGuire should take care of the inside attack, Mintz, a senior from Washington, D.C. is expected to take over at the point guard spot vacated by J.J. Schumacher (Castle Shannon, Pa.), who graduated last spring.  Mintz comes to Pitt Johnstown after two seasons at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi where he posted a season-best 11 assists against Oklahoma State University.
     Junior guard Quinton Davis (Pittsburgh, Pa.) could have a break-out season.  Davis joined Coach Rukavina’s starting line-up last year and led the WVIAC in three-point field goal percentage at 49.5%.  His 51 three-pointers-made paced the team, while his 11.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game were both third on the team.
     Along with Davis, the Mountain Cats have several other returning sharp shooters from the outside in juniors William Sharpe (Johnstown, Pa.) and Matt Ionadi (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and red-shirt sophomore Andy Byer (Tire Hill, Pa.).  This trio combined for 53 three-point field goals off of Coach Rukavina’s bench a year ago.  Sharpe also finished second on the team with 78 assists.  Red-shirt sophomore Jordan Medich (North Huntingdon, Pa.), red-shirt junior Dan Hirsch (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) and true-freshman Danny Branch (Washington, D.C.) will also provide additional depth at the guard spot.  The 6’4”, 175-lb. Branch averaged 13.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game as a senior at Washington, D.C.’s Archbishop Carroll High School.  True freshman Travis King (Washington, D.C.) will take a red-shirt this season.
     Pitt Johnstown just might be the best passing team in the country.  The Mountain Cats led the nation is assists last year at 19.5 assists per game.  In addition, the team finished second in the country in field goal percentage at 52.2%, just .02 of a percent shy of the NCAA Division II lead. 
     The Mountain Cats return a wealth of talent, but there are some holes that need filled.  Starting guards Dwight Hines (Aliquippa, Pa.) and Schumacher both graduated after finishing their careers ranked among the all-time assist leaders in Pitt Johnstown history.  Hines was also the team’s second leading scorer at 13.2 points per game.   
     The Mountain Cats have the talent to be a contender for a WVIAC conference championship and a third trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament.  If Pitt Johnstown is able to navigate a 20-game conference and a difficult seven-game non-conference schedule that features WVIAC rival West Virginia State and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) perennial powers California University (PA), Bloomsburg University and Shippensburg University, the 2007-08 could prove to be the start of something special in a new conference.
Last Reviewed: December 3, 2007