Kiski Area basketball standout finding ways to help team after 2nd torn ACL

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Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | 8:21 PM


When Kiski Area senior Isaiah Gonzalez slashed to the basket or pulled up for a mid-range jumper in Tuesday’s 58-45 victory over New Castle, Jason Flemm got excited.

When Cavaliers junior Colin Keller drained one from beyond the arc or made a standout defensive play, Flemm felt the energy.

When the last seconds ticked off the clock to finalize the triumph over the Red Hurricanes, the Cavaliers senior affirmed to himself and to his teammates that he was confident their efforts would lead to victory.

“We’re a solid team, and we can beat anyone if we play our best game,” said Flemm, who started for three years with the Cavaliers.

He hoped for a fourth this season, but the basketball gods stepped in with other ideas.

A torn ACL in his right knee over the summer, the second such injury to the knee in the past two years, has sidelined him for the season.

While he can’t be out there with his teammates, he is doing as much as he can to be there for them, both in practice and during games. Having a keen eye for the game, Flemm said he is willing to lend his knowledge to anyone on the team as it hopes to build on a 3-0 start that includes wins over Westmont Hilltop (56-42) and defending Class 3A WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up Deer Lakes (59-41).

“He is a great kid who cares a lot about this program,” Kiski Area coach Corey Smith said. “He’s also a hard worker, and he is going to do whatever he can to get over this hurdle. He’s a good, tough kid who is mentally strong. He has a great group of teammates around him who care for him, and he cares for them. He’s still very involved in what we do as a team.”

Flemm said he wouldn’t want it any other way.

“It’s been tough, but what can you do? You have to live in the moment, and that is what I am trying to do,” he said. “I am thinking of the positives I still have. I am still able to be a part of a great group of guys who I know can have a special season. I saw my brother (Connor) and what he went through with his injuries and the way he still wanted to be a part of his teams. I just want to take after him.”

Connor Flemm, a 2023 graduate who played football, basketball, and baseball at Kiski Area, missed every season from football his sophomore year to his junior basketball season.

But he kept pushing through the adversity, found success his senior year and just completed his freshman season on the football team at Grove City.

Jason Flemm said he looks to his brother for inspiration as he deals with the latest setback. He also doesn’t have to look too far for added motivation through his close connection with his mother Kelly’s cancer fight a couple of years ago.

The first ACL injury came in February of his sophomore year. He rehabbed with thoughts of getting back on the court, and he was ready to go by the time his junior basketball season rolled around.

Flemm had a standout year a season ago as he helped lead the Cavaliers to a third-place finish in a rugged Section 3-5A. It was their third WPIAL playoff appearance in a row.

The latest injury to the right knee came in July during an outdoor league game on the courts near the YMCA in New Kensington.

“Five minutes into the game, my knee popped,” Flemm said. “There was swelling, but I didn’t know how bad the injury was. I continued to play through what I thought was just pain. But I kept feeling it wasn’t right. I had that desire to want to keep going. There was also thought of playing this year on the torn ACL with a brace, but in the end, it just wasn’t worth it.”

Flemm had surgery about six weeks ago, and he is well into his latest rehab regimen of three days a week.

“The first time, I came back in seven months,” he said. “This time, they are not letting me come back early. It will be a year. We’re playing it safe. But this one wasn’t as bad. The first one, it was my meniscus and my ACL. This time it is just the ACL.”

That puts his return in July or August, right at the start of preseason workouts at what will be his new home with the Pitt-Greensburg men’s basketball team.

Flemm received an offer Nov. 9. Twelve days later, he committed to the Bobcats and coach Chris Klimchock.

“Going there is something I am really looking forward to,” he said. “I will be able to shoot and do some other drills, but I probably won’t be able to scrimmage until right before the season starts in October. I know what steps I have to take to be ready to get back.”

Smith said it is great to see the opportunity at Pitt-Greensburg remain for Flemm.

“I am glad coach Klimchock kept his word with me and with Jason,” Smith said. “He had been looking at Jason for the past year. I talked with (Klimchock) and told him that he wanted to go there and he could play there. He saw what Jason could do, and when he is ready to play again, he’s only going to be better.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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