University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Pitt-Johnstown Seal

2012-13 Season Preview

     Similar to a year ago, Head Coach Bob Rukavina (24th season) will welcome four players back to the starting line-up.  Led by guards Nick Novak (Murrysville, Pa.), a 2012-13 Basketball Times Preseason All-American and 2011-12 first-team all-conference selection, and three-point sharp-shooter Jordan Miller (Vinco, Pa.), the Mountain Cats will look to make another run at a West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) title in the school’s last season in the league before joining the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) in 2013-14.
However, unlike the 2011-12 season, Pitt-Johnstown will be without center Patrick Grubbs (Turtle Creek, Pa.), the school’s all-time leading rebounder and third all-time leading scorer.
Despite the loss of Grubbs, Pitt-Johnstown returns a wealth of talent that looks to improve on last year’s 15-14 overall record  and seventh-place finish in the WVIAC.
With the strength of the team in its guard, Novak and Miller will need to lead the way.
Novak, a four-year starting point guard and member of the 2012 Global Sports Select All-Star Basketball Team that toured Belgium and Holland, paced the Mountain Cats in scoring (19.5 ppg.) and assists (4.1 apg.) on his way to garnering First-Team All-WVIAC honors.  He ranked 17th in NCAA Division II field goal percentage (58.5%), 30th in scoring and 42nd in free-throw percentage (85.5%).  Novak, who netted his 1,000th career point on December 3, 2011,  comes into his senior season ranked eighth on the Pitt-Johnstown All-Time Scoring List (1,409 points.) and seventh on the all-time assists list (384 assists).
Adding more punch to the Mountain Cat offense is Miller, who hit 92 three-pointers as a junior to break Josue’ Nieves’ school record set during the 1999-00 season.  Miller, Pitt-Johnstown’s third leading scorer at 15.3 points per game a year ago, ranks second on the school’s all-time three-point field list with 212.  He wrapped-up the season ranked ninth in the country in three-point field goals per game (3.17) and 13th in three-point field goal percentage.  He is also just one point shy of becoming Pitt-Johnstown’s 24th 1,000-point scorer.
Coach Rukavina also welcomes back junior forward Bill Luther (Gibsonia, Pa.) and junior guard Paul Weatherly (Johnstown, Pa.).  With the loss of Grubbs, Coach Rukavina needs Luther and Weatherly to increase their numbers, both scoring and on the glass.
Luther, was Pitt-Johnstown’s fourth leading scorer (7.5 ppg.) and third leading rebounder (3.4 rpg.) as sophomore.  At 6’7”, Luther was also one of the top three-point shooters in the WVIAC.  His 49.0% shooting from behind the three-point line led Pitt-Johnstown, while his 48 three-pointers were second behind Miller’s 92.
Weatherly joined the starting line-up last season and averaged 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.  With talent to score from the outside (18-40 3FGs), as well as in the paint, Weatherly will be a key component for the Mountain Cats in 2012-13.
Pitt-Johnstown also returns depth at both the  small forward and guard positions in senior Noah Hartung (Butler, Pa.) and sophomore Matt Palo (North Huntingdon, Pa.).  Hartung and Palo combined to average just over eight points and six rebounds per game a year ago.
Plenty of talent returns, but the big task will be replacing Grubbs in the middle.  Grubbs, a Second-Team All-WVIAC choice, averaged 16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds a game and finished ninth in NCAA Division II in field goal percentage at 61.9%.  Grubbs anchored the paint for Pitt-Johnstown four straight seasons and wrapped-up his stellar career as the school’s all-time leading rebounder (996 rebounds) and third all-time leading scorer (1,759 points).
Although the entire team will have to step up on the glass, the bulk of the responsibility of replacing Grubbs will fall on 6’9” sophomore Ian Vescovi (Patton, Pa.).  Vescovi made his Mountain Cat debut last year as a red-shirt and averaged 4.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 10 minutes a game, numbers that will need to rise if Pitt-Johnstown is going to have success inside.
Coach Rukavina, who will look for some added depth at the guard spot from red-shirt freshman and Johnstown native Dereck Malzi, also brought in several athletic freshman, and junior guard  Andrew Cressler (Pittsburgh, Pa.), a standout transfer from Seton Hill University.  Cressler a two-year letterman for the Griffins, joined the starting line-up a year ago and averaged 11.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.  The addition of Cressler gives the Mountain Cats some extra athleticism and experience.
Three freshman guards have also been brought in to bolster the roster, including PIAA All-State selections Rasaun Mosley (York, Pa.) and Quentin Brandon (Johnstown, Pa.).  Mosley led New Hope Academy Charter School to a District 3 Runner-up finish and a spot in the PIAA State Playoffs, while Brandon finished his senior season ranked in the Top-10 in the state in scoring (22.8 ppg.) and 15th in rebounding (11.6 rpg.).  Brandon guided Westmont Hilltop High School to a District 6 title in 2011 and two trips to the PIAA AA State Playoffs.
     In addition, Jake Laravie (Kettering, OH) comes to Pitt-Johnstown from Archbishop alter High School where he averaged 12.1 points and 3.0 rebounds per game on his way to garnering District 15 All-Star honors.