As Pennsylvania College of Technology men’s basketball coach Geoff Hensley gears up for his fifth season, he does so with a good mix of players who bring experience and improved defense to make a move up in program growth.
The Wildcats open their season at home in Bardo Gymnasium against Centenary (N.J.) University at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
“Practices have started very well this year. The team is extremely competitive and hard-working. We return a lot of experience from last year’s squad, which has certainly contributed to the team’s competitive nature,” Hensley said.
Gavin Barrett, of Roselle, New Jersey, a 6-foot-1-inch junior point guard, leads a group of key returning players that includes 6-1 sophomore shooting guard Alec Cooper, of Huntingdon; 6-4 junior shooting guard Max Jackowsky, of Garnet Valley; 6-9 junior center Michael Woolridge, of Hollidaysburg; 6-5 junior forward Livingston Cross, of Union, New Jersey; and 6-4 senior forward David Brown, of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Barrett led last year’s team that went 10-15 overall and 5-11 in the United East in scoring with 460 points, 143 rebounds, 169 assists and 47 steals to become the program’s first UE first-team selection. He enters this season with 718 career points.
Among the newcomers are 6-3 junior guard Ronn Flood, of Union, New Jersey, a transfer from Brookdale Community College; 5-10 sophomore guard Ahmir Ellzy, of Williamsport, a transfer from Lackawanna College; 6-6 freshman forward Landon Reeder, of Montoursville; and 6-foot freshman guard DJ Smith, of Dallastown.
“We have a great mixture of upper and underclassmen. Despite only having one senior on the roster, we have a very solid junior class that has a tremendous amount of experience from the last two years. The team leaders are doing a good job of bringing the team together and our new players are picking things up fast,” Hensley said.
“This will most likely be the best defensive team we’ve had in the last six years. We have a good combination of playmaking guards, athletic wings and size. We have enough versatility to match up with bigger teams or go small and maintain our play style without having matchup problems,” Hensley said, adding that improvement in offensive efficiency is needed as “last year we finished seventh out of nine in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage and fifth in free throw percentage.
“I feel our program is in a good spot moving forward. We have gone through the tough times and challenges of laying the groundwork for a successful program. Now, it’s up to us to compete with the teams at the top of our conference. We’ve battled those teams in the past; now it’s about learning how to win and close out those games this year.
“We have an extremely challenging nonconference slate. Due to losing conference games (after last summer’s UE merger with the Colonial States Athletic Conference), we were forced to pick up more nonconference games. Montclair State and William Patterson are two really good New Jersey Athletic Conference teams, in addition to playing in two very tough tournaments at Juniata College and Bridgewater College. We hope those tough games will get us prepared for conference play.”
Looking ahead to United East play that begins later this month with two games but will see the majority of action after the first of the new year, Hensley said, “The United East is extremely competitive in men’s basketball. Every game is a battle. There are some really good programs with a long history and tradition of winning basketball. It’s a tough task to climb up that ladder, but our guys are up for the challenge.”
As a result of the merger, the Wildcats will compete in the Volt Division of the United East along with Penn State Abington, Penn State Harrisburg, Penn State Berks, defending champion Lancaster Bible College, St. Mary’s (Md.) College and Gallaudet University.
Teams in the UE’s Skye Division are St. Elizabeth University, Bryn Athyn College, University of Valley Forge, Keystone College, Clarks Summit University, Notre Dame (Md.) University, Wilson College, Rosemont College and defending champ Cairn University.
Teams will play each other twice in conference divisional games, with six of the seven in each division entering the playoffs.
“Conference expansion is becoming more and more common at all levels. We welcome the new teams to the United East and look forward to developing some competitive rivalries with those teams,” Hensley said.
Wednesday, Nov. 8 — host Centenary (N.J.) University (Penn College leads 1-0), 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 10 — Crosstown Challenge host Penn State Mont Alto (Mont Alto leads 1-0), 5 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 11 — Crosstown Challenge host Montclair State (Montclair State leads 1-0), 1 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 15 — at William Patterson University (first-time opponent), 5 p.m.
For more about the United East, visit the conference website.
For additional information, visit the Wildcats Athletics website.