Defense, size could help Mt. Pleasant boys basketball overcome lack of experience

Thursday, December 2, 2021 | 5:02 PM

Mt. Pleasant led WPIAL Class 4A in scoring defense last season. The Vikings allowed a paltry 47.6 points per game. Among the district’s three largest classifications, only two teams posted a better defensive scoring average.

Now, imagine how low the total might have been if Mt. Pleasant avoided a 2-6 start.

There’s no doubt defense, the play of double-double machine Jonas King and timely 3-point shooting helped engineer Mt. Pleasant’s midseason turnaround under coach T.J. Kravits, who was in his first season with the Vikings. The team won six of seven late-season games to finish 9-9 overall and 6-5 in Section 3-4A, and a 61-34 preliminary-round victory against Hopewell was its first playoff win since 2014.

But those Vikings were senior-dominated. Every starter graduated. So did the first two players off the bench.

“Basically, we’re starting from scratch this season,” Kravits said. “But the difference this year is we had a full offseason to work together, unlike last season when I came in August.”

Kravits, unlike the rest of Mt. Pleasant’s opponents, has familiarity with his new-look group, but no matter what the players bring offensively, there definitely will be one similarity to last season.

“It always seems defense is ahead of the offense early in the season, and that won’t be very different for us,” Kravits said. “Last year, we played six consistently and seven on occasion. This year, we’re going to have eight, maybe nine. We’ll have a deeper bench, so we’ll get to play more man-to-man and full-court pressure.”

Mt. Pleasant’s expected depth will be bolstered with height.

Kravits expects big things from 6-foot-6 senior center Aiden Wisnewski, and he will be complemented in the post by fellow 6-6 senior Cody Surma.

Braden Caletri, a 6-3 swing player, can play inside or bring the ball up the court, and the backcourt likely will consist of sophomore shooting guard Dante Giallonardo and junior point guard Dylan Donitzen.

Kravits said Wisnewski, Caletri and Giallonardo could be double-figure scorers.

“(Wisnewski) really has come a long way, and to have two bigs, we’ll be able to play them together,” Kravits said. “And another thing that has been better for us is there’s not a huge disparity between our first five and the next three. We have competitive practices, which makes us better.”

Those practices could help the newcomers adapt more quickly than last season’s team did. Avoiding a 2-6 start would be key to adding a couple of more numbers to Mt. Pleasant’s win total.

Yet, with all the fresh faces, expectations need tempered.

“It’s always difficult to predict goals from a won-loss standpoint, but, honestly, I’d consider this season to be successful if we finished .500,” Kravits said. “If we have that kind of growth, we’ll be OK. It will be good for the program.”

Mt. Pleasant boys at a glance

Coach: T.J. Kravits

Last year’s record: 9-9 (6-5 Section 3-4A)

Returning starters: none

Top newcomers: Aiden Wisnewski (Sr., C), Braden Caletri (Jr., G/F), Dante Giallonardo (So., G), Cody Surma (Sr., F), Dylan Donitzen (Jr., G)


More High School Basketball

Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week for Jan. 17, 2022
Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Player of the Week for Jan. 17, 2022
Mt. Lebanon weathers storm, drops rival Upper St. Clair
High school roundup for Jan. 17, 2022: Chartiers Valley holds off South Fayette
What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Jan. 17, 2022: Rivals Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon to meet

click me