University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Pitt-Johnstown Seal

2008-09 Season Preview

     Expectations are high for head coach Bob Rukavina (20th Season) and the Pitt Johnstown Mountain Cat basketball team entering the 2008-09 season.  Pitt Johnstown, ranked as high as No. 15 in the NCAA Division II preseason polls, returns four seniors and nine lettermen, including senior forward Marcus Tullis (Johnstown, Pa.), a preseason Sporting News and Street and Smith’s Honorable Mention All-American, and senior guard Quinton Davis (Pittsburgh, Pa.), a 2007-08 Honorable Mention All-WVIAC choice. 
     The Mountain Cats made a statement in their first season competing in the WVIAC.  Pitt Johnstown posted an impressive 23-8 record last year on its way to their third consecutive 20-win season, a regular season WVIAC conference title and their third NCAA National Tournament bid in school history. 
     Tullis finished 18th in NCAA Division II and third in the WVIAC in field goal percentage last year at 62.1%, and was Pitt Johnstown’s second leading scorer (14.3 ppg.) and third leading rebounder (5.1 rpg.).  Tullis enters the season just 20 points shy of reaching the 1,000-point milestone.  Davis was the team’s third leading scorer (12.7 ppg.) and second leading rebounder (5.6 rpg.). 
      Davis ranked 96th in NCAA Division II and sixth in the WVIAC in steals per game and enters the season 129 points shy of the 1000-point plateau. He also needs 89 rebounds and 21 assists to break into the Mountain Cat All-Time Career Rebounding and Assists lists’ top 10.
     Major contributions are also expected from senior guards William Sharpe (Johnstown, Pa.) and Matt Ionadi (Pittsburgh, Pa.)Sharpe’s team-leading 6.1 assists per game and 2.4 steals per game ranked 16th and 20th in the NCAA Division II, respectively.  He also tied for the team lead in blocks (23) and his 1.74 assist-to-turnover ratio ranked 79th in the country.  Sharpe’s 344 career assists rank sixth on the Mountain Cat All-Time Assist List.
     Ionadi averaged 7.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists after joining the starting lineup last season. His 50.0% (95-190) shooting from the field led Coach Rukavina’s guards.
     Sophomore guard Danny Branch (Washington, D.C.), a WVIAC All-Freshmen Team choice in 2007-08, burst onto the scene and led the team in three-point field goal percentage (45.8%, 60-131) and three-pointers-made (60).  Branch was also fourth in scoring at 9.2 points per game. 
     However, Pitt Johnstown must replace Chris Gilliam (Baltimore, MD) the school’s second all-time leading scorer (1,762 points) and third all-time leading rebounder (699 rebounds).  Gilliam, the WVIAC Player of the Year in 2007-08, was named a 2007-2008 NABC/State Farm All-American, a Daktronics Second Team All-American and a Division II Bulletin Honorable Mention All-American after averaging 19.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
     Looking to fill Gilliam’s shoes is freshman standout Patrick Grubbs (Turtle Creek, Pa.)Grubbs will be the first freshman in the Mountain Cat starting lineup in over six years.  He was a Pennsylvania Class A First Team All-State choice at Serra Catholic High School in 2007-08 after averaging 20 points and 13 rebounds per game.  The 6’8”, 255-lb. forward/center led his high school to a Class-A State Championship a year ago.
      Off-the-bench play is another important factor for the Mountain Cats this season.  At the forward position is  6’5” junior Steve Heidenthal (Clymer, Pa.), a strong rebounder and solid defender who averaged 2.6 rebounds per game last season.  
      At guard, the Mountain Cats have three strong players coming off the bench.  Junior Andy Byer (Tire Hill, Pa.) is on of the team’s top three-point shooters.  Byer shot over 42% from behind the arc last year.  Junior Jordan Medich (North Huntingdon, Pa.) and red-shirt freshman Travis King (Washington D.C.) will provide added depth to the guard position.  King is also expected to back-up at the point guard spot.
     Coach Rukavina added another solid recruiting class.  Red-shirting in 2008-09 are Kevin Byer (Davidsville, Pa.), the cousin of Andy Byer, Rudy Roberts (Cleveland, OH) and Byron Westmoreland (Baltimore, MD)Byer ended his high school career with 1,093 points and 480 rebounds.  Roberts was selected as his high school team’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year as a senior when he averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds per game.  Westmoreland averaged 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists per game last season.
     As a team, the Mountain Cats are coming off of a year that saw them finish ranked in the top five in two NCAA final statistical categories.  Pitt Johnstown led the nation in field goal percentage (52.9%) and was second in assists per game (20.5).  In addition, the Mountain Cats led the WVIAC in field goal percentage (52.9%) and field goal percentage defense (42.5%) and were second in assists per game (20.5 apg.). 
      In 2008-09, the Mountain Cats are looking to go “Back-to-Back” with another WVIAC championship and second consecutive NCAA Division II tournament berth.