Knoch boys basketball excited about improved depth alongside top scorer Ryan Lang

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | 4:45 PM


When asked what the biggest takeaway was from his team’s offseason of work, second-year Knoch boys basketball coach Alan Bauman pointed to the development of strong depth in the varsity rotation.

“Last year, we didn’t have that (depth) as much,” he said. “We just had seven in the rotation. We had an outstanding spring, summer and fall, and the kids were really committed. The senior captains held the other players accountable. That depth now has allowed us to have really competitive practices where guys have competed hard for playing time, which is great.”

With that depth and commitment, Bauman said his players are hoping to be in the mix for the section championship and make some noise in the WPIAL playoffs.

“We played a lot of games this summer and fall, and we were in the gym constantly,” said senior Ryan Lang, a Valley News Dispatch first-team all-star last year who averaged 25 points a game. “We had a 10,000-shot club this year, and most of the players met that goal. We put in a lot of time, and we’re ready to see the benefits.”

Lang is one of two returning starters, the other being fellow senior guard Keagan Fraser.

Both Lang and Fraser are team captains, along with senior guard JJ Szebalskie.

“I couldn’t be more happy with our senior captains,” Bauman said. “They are committed to the program and have helped the team build on last year. They want to make this year as memorable as they can. Whatever our mountain top is, they want to get there, and they are totally committed to that.”

Knoch finished 7-10 overall last year and was 5-5 in Section 1-4A. The Knights routed Yough in the WPIAL preliminary round before falling to Lincoln Park in the first round.

“I thought we really grew as a team last year,” Bauman said. “Covid really hit us hard, and with a new system from a new coaching staff, it took time for the players to fully learn everything. The last three weeks, you could really see that improvement.”

In addition to his impressive per-game scoring average, Lang also averaged eight rebounds and seven assists. He has yet to commit to a college, but, Bauman said he has garnered interest from some schools in Division II, as well as some high-level Division III programs.

“Ryan has become a complete player,” Bauman said. “Everyone talks about how great of a shooter he is and a scorer. I look at his growth as a playmaker, being able to control the game and make people better.

“He understands the selflessness where it’s not just about getting the ball to go score. It’s controlling the pace of play and being a coach out there on the floor. I can call him that this year. He’s definitely like a coach out there, running the show.”

Fraser added 10 points and six rebounds as a junior.

“Keagan’s confidence is at a different level than it was last year,” Bauman said. “You saw him come into his own late last year. The last five to six games, he averaged 14 to 16 points. He carried that over into his offseason work.”

Szebalskie, Bauman said, earned starter minutes off the bench last year, and now is ready to increase his role.

“JJ is our stabilizer,” Bauman said. “He keeps everyone calm and communicates well with Ryan and Keagan. He’s a competitor, and he wants to win. He understands the standard and where we want to be as a program.”

Bauman said a team newcomer in junior guard Carson Kosecki, a one-time Knoch student who is back after two years at North Catholic, is expected to make an impact.

Senior guard Luke Herrit is back after several years away from the program.

Others challenging for starting time and minutes include juniors Jacob Feidbauer, James Snyder, Gasparo Porco, Tyler Simpson and Jackson Pacek as well as sophomores Jacob Stallsmith and Zarian Finucan.

“We’re having some really nice battles to compete for playing time,” Bauman said. “There are a lot of new faces on varsity, and they are hungry to get on the court.”

Knoch was right in the middle of the section pack last year and played 10 of its 12 section games. North Catholic won all six of its section matchups and made it to the WPIAL Class 4A title game, and Deer Lakes was 6-2 and a WPIAL quarterfinalist.

Derry and Burrell also won five section games.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs and compete for a section title,” Bauman said. “A lot of the teams in the section are bringing back a lot of kids with talent and experience. There aren’t going to be many, if any, off nights in the section this year. We have to be ready every time.”

Knoch will open it season at the Butler Tournament on Dec. 10 against defending PIAA Class 5A champion Cathedral Prep. The Knights then will play Latrobe on night two before a nonsection game against Hampton on Dec. 14.

“We need to be tested early and figure out where we are at, so we will be ready when we start section play with Deer Lakes on that Saturday (Dec. 17),” Bauman said.

Knoch boys at a glance

Coach: Alan Bauman

Last year’s record: 7-10 (5-5 Section 1-4A)

Returning starters: Ryan Lang (Sr., G), Keagan Fraser (Sr., F)

Top newcomers: Luke Herrit (Sr., G), Carson Kosecki (Jr., G)

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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