University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Pitt-Johnstown Seal

2011-12 Season Preview

     With four starters returning from last season’s squad that finished third the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC), Head Coach Bob Rukavina (23rd-year) and his Mountain Cats look to return to the top of the conference rankings and make a fifth trip to the NCAA Regional Tournament in 2011-12.
     Pitt-Johnstown, which finished with an 18-10 overall record and a 14-8 mark in the WVIAC, will be led by four-year starter and Sporting News Division II Preseason Honorable Mention All-American center Patrick Grubbs (Turtle Creek, Pa.)Grubbs led the Mountain Cats in both scoring (18.4 ppg.) and rebounding (8.5 rpg.) on his way to being named First-Team All-WVIAC a year ago.  He finished fourth in the nation in field goal percentage (67.5%), 46th in rebounding, and 64th in scoring.
     Grubbs has already etched his name in the Pitt-Johnstown record books.  He enters the year ranked third on the Mountain Cat All-Time Rebounding List with 743, just 202 shy of Don Elzer’s (1973-77) school record of 945.  He also ranks 10th on the All-Time Scoring List with 1,294 points.
 In addition to Grubbs, junior guards Nick Novak (Murrysville, Pa.) and Jordan Miller (Vinco, Pa.) return to the starting line-up.
     Novak, who took over the point guard spot as a true freshman, was a Second-Team All-WVIAC Team choice last season after finishing fourth in NCAA Division II in free-throw percentage (90.8%), 19th in assists per game (5.5), and 40th in field goal percentage (55.9%).  Novak led Pitt-Johnstown in assists with 155 and was second on the team in scoring at 18.0 points per game.  He enters this season 138 points away from becoming the Mountain Cats’ 23rd 1,000-point scorer.
     Miller, one of the WVIAC’s top three-point shooters, joined the starting line-up as a sophomore and was second on the team in three-pointers (72) and assists (117) and fourth in scoring (12.7 ppg.).  His 41.9% three-point field goal percentage ranked 23rd nationally, while his 2.21 assist-to-turnover-ratio was 29th and his 2.6 three-point field goals per game were 61st.
     Sophomore forward Bill Luther (Gibsonia, Pa.)  rounds out Coach Rukavina’s returning starters.  At 6’7”, Luther stepped-in and led the Mountain Cats in three-point field goal percentage (47.3%) on his way to garnering WVIAC All-Freshman Team honors.  He was  also third on the team in three-pointers-made (62).  With just a few more attempts, Luther would have ranked among the national leaders.
     The Mountain Cats have loads of returning talent, but Coach Rukavina must replace guard Danny Branch (Washington, D.C.), a Second-Team All-WVIAC selection and Pitt-Johnstown’s all-time leader in three-point field goals made with 269.  Branch was a fixture on the court for four straight seasons.  He wrapped-up his career ranked fourth on the Pitt-Johnstown All-Time Scoring List with 1,521 points and ended his senior season ranked 18th in the country in three-point field goals per game (3.1) and 50th in three-point field goal percentage (38.2%).
     Juniors Noah Hartung (Butler, Pa.) and Kevin Byer (Davidsville, Pa.) and sophomore Paul Weatherly (Johnstown, Pa.) will all look to increase their minutes after being solid contributors off the bench a year ago.  Hartung averaged nearly three points, four rebounds and two assists, while Weatherly chipped-in five points and two rebounds in his first season after red-shirting as a true freshman.  Byer played in 26 games and averaged 1.6 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.
     Coach Rukavina will also look to red-shirt freshman center Ian Vescovi (Patton, Pa.), junior guard Roger Rhoden (Coraopolis, Pa.) and hand group of newcomers to provide depth off the bench.  At 6’9”, Vescovi will give Grubbs and Luther a solid replacement.
     Four newcomers will also make their Mountain Cat debuts in 2011-12, including Marc Rozanski (White Oak, Pa.), Grubb’s high school teammate at Serra Catholic High School.  Rozanski, who played at Seton Hill for a year and at Ave Maria (FL) University for two seasons, comes to Pitt-Johnstown as a senior.
     Freshmen include Matt Palo (North Huntingdon, Pa.) and former local standouts at Richland High School Dereck Malzi (Johnstown, Pa.) and Alex Ritenour (Johnstown, Pa.)Palo was the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Athlete of the Year after leading Norwin High School and the WPIAL in scoring at 30.2 points per game in 2010-11.  Malzi scored over 1,200 points and grabbed over 500 rebounds, and Ritenour led the team in blocked shots on their way to guiding Richland to a District 6 Runner-up finish and a trip to the PIAA State Play-offs as seniors.  Both Malzi and Ritenour are expected to red-shirt this season.
     Another key to this year’s success will be how Pitt-Johnstown works together as a team.  In 2010-11, the team finished ranked in the top-ten nationally in six NCAA statistical categories, including second in field goal percentage (51.9%), assists per game (20.4) and scoring offense (87.8 ppg.).  The Mountain Cats also finished third in personal fouls per game (14.0), seventh in both three-point field goal percentage (39.9%) and in assist-to-turnover-ratio (1.39), 11th in three-point field goals per game (8.8), 18th in free-throw percentage (76.7%), and 78th in won-lost percentage (64.3%).
     The 2011-12 season could be another banner one for Coach Rukavina and the Mountain Cats.  With plenty of returning talent and experience and the ability to navigate through a very difficult WVIAC schedule that includes last year’s NCAA Division II National Semifinalist West Liberty (WV) University, Pitt-Johnstown could make another run at a conference title and a fifth trip to the NCAA Regional Tournament.