by Jim Manion | Correspondent
When it comes to the Streetsboro boys basketball team, there are some good news and bad news.
The bad: Ben Gency graduated during the spring.
The good: The Rockets lost just three starters and have seven returning letterwinners.
Such is the case for Streetsboro, which finished 13-8 overall and 11-3 in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division.
The Rockets, who lost a 73-58 decision to Chardon Notre Dame Cathedral Latin in a Division II sectional final contest, finished third in the standings behind Kent Roosevelt and Norton. Kent and Norton shared the Metro Division crown with 12-2 records.
Streetsboro earned a split with Kent and lost both games to Norton — one of those loses took place in the final six seconds of the game.
But the Rockets no longer have their 6-foot-7 forward. Ben Gency, who is playing at Ashland University, was a two-time PTC Player of the Year.
Also graduating were guard/forward Sawyer White and guard Devin Adams.
“The tough news is replacing a guy like Ben who just about did everything for us last season,” said third-year head coach Nick Marcini, who is 29-14 at Streetsboro. “But the good news is we only have to replace three guys and we have seven lettermen returning. We definitely believe we can complete again this year.”
Despite not having their star, the Rockets do believe they can still have a presence in the post. And Streetsboro also plays to make an impact on defense.
“We have a couple guys in the paint that are showing promise,” said Marcini. “We will like to get up and down the court as in the past. We might press a little more this year because we are athletic.”
The Rockets feature a very experienced and talented group of guards. Seniors Jordan Matusik and Dorian Williams both lettered as sophomores. Senior Brandon Gency, a second-team All-PTC Metro Division choice last season, returns for his fourth season at the varsity level, he was second-team all league last season.
The point-guard position could be by committee, but Marcini says he expects Gency to probably log the majority of the time handling the ball despite his 6-foot-3 size. Matusik can handle the ball but is more suited to be on a wing to take advantage of his scoring opportunities.
“Brandon is one of those guys that does everything for you,” said Marcini. “He is our best rebounder, maybe one of our best outside shooters, getting better all the time and is one of our best ball-handlers. I call him our triple-double threat every night.”
One of the most consistent players on the team is Matusik (6-1), who averaged more than 12 points per game last season. Senior Johnny Kelly (5-10) had some big games last season for the Rockets.
“He got some big-game experience last year, starting several games when Ben Gency was sidelined with a knee injury,” said Marcini. “He hit several threes in that first Roosevelt game and helped pull out that win.”
Williams (6-0), the star running back for the football team, will be spending time on the wing.
“He is our high-energy guy and our defensive stopper,” said Marcini. “He is probably one of the best athletes in the league.”
Senior twins Brian Diulus and Brandon Diulus lettered last season and are both good shooters coming back this year. They could push for a lot of front-court time for the Rockets.
Devin Rencher, a 6-2 junior forward, is the most experienced post player returning. He lettered last season as a sophomore and has worked hard this summer, according to Marcini.
“Devin came on slow last year and by the end of the season, he had worked up to be our sixth man,” said Marcini. “He was our most improved player last season and will be our high flyer this year and can play above the rim.”
Junior Paul Jenkins is the tallest Rocket to take the floor this season at 6-4.
“He played JV [junior varsity] last season and is improving every day,” said Marcini. “He will probably get the start for us and if he keeps improving, he could have a special year,
Junior forward Reggie Dublin (5-11) and sophomore forward Josh Reyes (6-1) are battling to get more varsity minutes.
Marcini’s varsity assistant is John Harris. The junior varsity head coach is Stephen Laird and the freshman coach is former Solon varsity head coach Todd Van Reeth.
If you play the Rockets, don’t plan on getting too comfortable. Streetsboro’s players plan to be in ball-handlers’ faces throughout the season.
“We probably will get out with more full-court pressure this year,” Marcini said. “There are some big teams in the league and we are not one of them.”
Marcini believes Norton is the odds on favorite to possibly repeat because it has everyone coming back but also adds that Kent Roosevelt is always a tough game.
“When you look at our seven guys, we should compete,” he said. “We are athletic and have some shooters.”
The Rockets are scheduled to make their 2012-13 season debut Nov. 30 in Garrettsville. Streetsboro is set to play PTC rival James A. Garfield. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.