University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Pitt-Johnstown Seal

2010-11 Season Preview

ATH10_212_RukavinaB_T2010-11 Men's Basketball Season Preview
     Last season’s new-look Mountain Cat basketball team posted a 17-12 overall record and finished in the middle of the pack of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) 15-team field.  However, Pitt-Johnstown suffered a loss in the Quarterfinals of the 2010 WVIAC Tournament, something the team wasn’t use to after winning a regular season conference title in 2008 and claiming the WVIAC Conference Tournament Championship in 2009.
     After having to replace four senior starters entering last year, Head Coach Bob Rukavina (22nd year) now has four returning starters, including three who averaged double-figures in scoring, going into the 2010-11 season.  With that, hopes are high for making another run in the competitive WVIAC.
     Of the four returning starters, guard Danny Branch (Washington, D.C./Archbishop Carroll H.S.) and center Patrick Grubbs (Turtle Creek, Pa./Serra Catholic H.S.) were Second-Team All-WVIAC performers a year ago, while point guard Nick Novak (Murrysville, Pa./Franklin Regional H.S.) garnered WVIAC All-Freshmen Team honors.
     Branch, this year’s lone senior, led the Mountain Cats in scoring at 17.4 points per game and three-point field goals with 74.  His 1,047 career points ranked 17th on the Mountain Cat All-Time List, while his 186 career three-pointer are just four shy of tying Steve Scorpion’s (2002-2006) school-record of 190.
     In the middle, Grubbs returns for his junior season after leading NCAA Division II in field goal percentage at 66.3%.  Grubbs paced the Mountain Cats in rebounding and finished 34th in the nation in rebounds per game at 9.0.  Grubbs also finished second on the team in scoring at 16.3 points per game and recorded 12 double-double in 2009-10.
     With the loss of four starters the previous season, Coach Rukavina had to rely on several freshmen to step in to fill the void...and this group was up for the task.  Novak and forward Noah Hartung (Butler, Pa./Butler Area H.S.) joined the starting line-up, and guard Jordan Miller (Vinco, Pa./Central Cambria H.S.) provided a spark off of the bench.
     Novak averaged 12.3 points per game and ended his freshman season ranked 35th in the country in field goal percentage (57.1%) and 89th in assists per game (4.1 apg.).  Hartung chipped-in four points a night and was the team’s second-leading rebounder at 5.0 rebounds per game, while Miller came in and averaged 6.8 points per game and connected on 48 three-pointers, including a Mountain Cat record of 10 against Salem International (WV) University in just his fifth collegiate game.
     Also back is athletic guard Kevin Byer (Davidsville, Pa./Conemaugh Township H.S.), who saw action in 16 of Pitt-Johnstown’s 29 games as a red-shirt freshman in 2009-10.
     The Mountain Cats must replace senior guard Andy Byer (Tire Hill, Pa./Conemaugh Township H.S.) and forwards Steve Heidenthal (Clymer, Pa./Penns Manor H.S.) and Rudy Roberts (Cleveland, OH/East Tech H.S.)Byer average nearly 12 points and 4.7 assists per game, while Heidenthal and Roberts combined to score 10.6 points and pull down eight rebounds per game.
     Pitt-Johnstown also added five newcomers in 2010-11, including 2010 Pennsylvania AAA All-State selection Bill Luther (Forward, Gibsonia, Pa./Hampton H.S.) and 2010 Pennsylvania AA Third-Team All-State choice Ian Vescovi (Center, Patton, Pa./Cambria Heights H.S.)Vescovi is expected to take a red-shirt this year.  In addition, freshman guards Kevin Stapleton (Indiana, Pa./Indiana Area H.S.) and Jordan Albert (Upper St. Clair, Pa./Upper St. Clair H.S.) and red-shirt freshman Garrett Berkey (Central City, Pa./Shade H.S.) will make their Pitt-Johnstown debuts.
     Along with the returning talent, Coach Rukavina has more reasons to be upbeat about the upcoming season.  His young Mountain Cat squad form 2009-10 led the nation in field goal percentage at 51.8% and was fourth in assists per game at 20.0.  In all, Pitt-Johnstown ranked in the nation’s top-50 in seven statistical categories.
     This year’s schedule boasts 14 home games in the Sports Center, a place where Pitt-Johnstown has dominated opponents by posting a 61-10 mark over the previous five seasons.  The Mountain Cats will tip-off the 2010-11 campaign against WVIAC rival Concord (WV) University on November 13 in the Sports Center.
     With four returning starters and a year of experience from last season’s talented freshman class, the Mountain Cats look to make  2010-11 another special one with a run at another WVIAC championship and a fifth berth in the Atlantic Region Tournament.