Mountain Cat Men's Basketball SEASON PREVIEW
The Mountain Cats had high expectations going into last season following a 19-8 campaign in 2003-04. Unfortunately, the 2004-05 season was somewhat of a disappointment, as Pitt-Johnstown finished with a 12-13 overall record.
As the 2005-06 season approaches, predicting the outcome is not an easy task. Head Coach Bob Rukavina, entering his 17th season at the helm of the Mountain Cat program, must replace the team’s top two leading scorers and rebounders in Paul Byer (Johnstown, Pa./Conemaugh Township H.S.) and Carlos Cogsdell (Homestead, Pa./Central Catholic H.S.). Pitt-Johnstown must also play without guard Dwight Hines (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa H.S.), the leading returning scorer, who is out for the season with an injury.
Coach Rukavina returns only five players with college basketball game experience. Senior guards Joey Tutchstone (Vandergrift, Pa./Kiski Area H.S.) (7.8 ppg., 4.2 rpg., 5.4 apg.), Steve Scorpion (Murrysville, Pa./Franklin Regional H.S.) (10.2 ppg., 1.9 rpg., 2.1 apg.) and Nick Mezyk (Johnstown, Pa./Westmont Hilltop H.S.) (5.7 ppg., 1.7 rpg.) will lead a team that features five red-shirt freshmen and a pair of true freshmen. Tutchstone, an Honorable Mention All-Independent Basketball selection, finished the 2004-05 season ranked 25th in the country in assists per game, while Scorpion and Mezyk are two of the top three-shooters in the East Region.
Tutchstone will move back to the small forward position after playing the point guard spot last year. Junior guard J.J. Schumacher (Castle Shannon, Pa./Bethel Park H.S.) returns to the lineup after a year off. Schumacher, who averaged 5.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game in 2003-04, brings strength and experience to the point guard position.
Sophomore Chris Gilliam (Baltimore, MD/Lansdowne H.S.) is Coach Rukavina’s only experienced inside player. Gilliam, a 6’7” forward, was the Independent Basketball Freshman Player of the Year after averaging 6.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. Gilliam returned to school much stronger and 40 pounds lighter. He will be heavily relied on to lead a very young Mountain Cat inside game.
Despite the lack of experience in the paint, Coach Rukavina is very excited about his five red-shirt freshmen. “Along with Gilliam, this group is the most talented freshman class in my 16 previous years at Pitt-Johnstown. But we have to remember, they have never yet played in a college game,” Coach Rukavina said.
Leading the group is 6’6” forward Marcus Tullis (Johnstown, Pa./Greater Johnstown H.S.). Tullis is a very versatile performer. He can score inside, knock down a three-pointer or find the open man with a good pass. Tullis may be one of the most athletically-gifted players in the East Region.
Kyle Goldcamp, a 6’9” center from Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., brings size and athleticism to the post. He worked very hard in the weight room in the off-season and added 25 pounds to his frame. Goldcamp runs as well as any big-man his size. He is very active on the glass and will be counted on as one of the Mountain Cats’ top inside players.
Three red-shirt guards will also look to contribute to the team’s success. William Sharpe (Johnstown, Pa./Greater Johnstown H.S.), Quinton Davis (West Mifflin, Pa./West Mifflin Area H.S.) and Matt Ionadi (Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills H.S.) are ready to take the floor for the first time.
Sharpe, who can play the point or shooting guard positions, brings speed and quickness to the Mountain Cat lineup. This should help lead to some easy baskets for Pitt Johnstown.
The 6’3” Davis will bring a high level of intensity when he is inserted into the lineup. Davis is a very capable three-point shooter and should rebound the ball well for a guard. He is considered one of the hardest working Mountain Cats on the roster.
Ionadi had a very good off-season and should contribute to this year’s team. Ionadi improved his shooting considerably and has worked hard on his strength and ball handling skills.
Rounding out this year’s Mountain Cat squad is 6’5” freshman forward Tim McGuire (Nazareth, Pa./Nazareth H.S.). Guards Andy Byer (Johnstown, Pa./Conemaugh Township H.S.) and Jordan Medich (North Huntingdon, Pa./Norwin H.S.)and forward Ben Vescovi (Patton, Pa./Cambria Heights H.S.) will red-shirt during the 2005-06 season.
“We feel we are very experienced at the guard positions,” Coach Rukavina said. “The success of our season, I feel, depends on the maturity of the five red-shirt freshmen. Hopefully, they will progress as the season moves along and we can win games as this process is developing. Overall, we have a pretty athletic team this season, and I think we will be a fun team to watch,” Coach Rukavina said.
With senior leadership from the guard positions and the development of a young inside game, Coach Rukavina, his staff and the Mountain Cat basketball squad could have plenty of success and cause some “Thunder on The Mountain” in 2005-06.
Pitt Johnstown will open the regular season at Bloomsburg University on November 16, before hosting the 2005 Pitt-Johnstown Tip-Off Classic on November 18 and 19.