New coach brings energy boost to Franklin Regional boys basketball

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021 | 2:10 PM


The more time Jesse Reed spends around his Franklin Regional boys basketball team, the more enlivened he gets.

“It’s been better than I ever imagined,” Reed said. “I love this.”

Reed, a former standout at Greensburg Central Catholic, Saltsburg and The Kiski School who played collegiately at American and professionally in Europe, takes over a program that has been to the WPIAL playoffs six straight years.

The Panthers made the postseason the last four seasons under Steve Scorpion, who was not retained in the offseason.

Reed, 28, had a pair of two-year stints at the college level, serving as an assistant at Saint Vincent and Carnegie Mellon. He brings youthful passion and enthusiasm to a team that returns only one full-time starter in senior swingman Caden Smith.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly the fall (sports) guys were able to pick up on what we were doing,” Reed said. “And what was nice was all the guys who have been here all summer, they were helping along.

“That is what I am looking for, guys who can be an extension of my voice.”

The Panthers went 8-8 last season and finished second in Section 3-5A with a 7-3 mark.

Reed sounds like Scorpion when he describes his ideal player.

“I just want a bunch of tough, hard-nosed dudes that just get after the ball,” Reed said. “Coach (Mike) Brennan at American is a tough dude from Jersey who was trying to get us to play with some grit. I am trying to extend that. I didn’t learn to play tough until I was in college. It’s a learning curve.”

The Panthers will build around Smith, a dynamic, three-sport athlete.

Smith had a stellar football season but is working his way back into form on the hardwood.

“Our first goal is to win the section,” Smith said. “But we’re taking it game by game. I am getting back into basketball (mode). We’re learning a newer system with the new staff. It has been good so far. Coach (Reed) is a nice guy.

“I am willing to play guard, inside, wherever he wants to play me.”

Reed said he sees some of his own characteristics in Smith.

“He might be a little more of an athlete than I was,” Reed said with a smile. “The first day in the gym, he came up and did a little 360 (dunk). I don’t know if I was doing that was a senior. Size, build, first step, shooting ability … I am excited to see him get to work in some actions I was successful in, that I know well, to give him opportunities to gain advantages.”

The Panthers also return upswinging sophomore Cam Rowell and 6-foot-8 junior Max Leven.

Senior Jordan Suvak is expected to provide leadership and energy.

Reed knows it will take time for the team to learn his system.

“There is a lot of stuff I want to get to,” Reed said. “I want them to get comfortable in the actions we are running. I want them to be able to see what our scoring options are. I want them to be comfortable making the movements, shooting their shots.”

Retaining assistants Joe McGinn and Lucas Poole has proven beneficial to Reed as he leans on their experience and knowledge of current players, many of whom Reed has only seen in practice for a few days.

“They have filled me in on how guys were last year, what they did well, what they didn’t do well, the kind of roles they played,” Reed said. “They have been a huge help.”

Junior Jake Kimmich, an All-WPIAL soccer player, is expected to be an energy guy in the rotation.

“Watching him on the soccer field, I saw his toughness, his competitiveness, his vocal leadership,” Reed said. “I am excited to see him continue to grow on the court.”

Sophomores Cooper Rankin and Finian Hutchison and freshman Connoer Crossey have been regulars since Reed took over.

“They all made progress in the fall after playing freshmen basketball last winter,” Reed said. “They were thrown to the wolves and they responded well. They held their own.”

With the season fast approaching, Reed and his staff are trying to implement a system.

“Right now, I just trying to learn what these guys can do, what they’re comfortable doing,” Reed said. “How can I build a system around their strengths to help them succeed? It’s a quick three weeks before our first game to get them up to speed.”

Franklin Regional opens the season against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the Hempfield tournament.

Nonsection games included Upper St. Clair, Pine-Richland, Belle Vernon and Franklin Regional, among others.

Scorpion was big on playing the best to become the best.

“We’re going to be tested,” Reed said. “We’re either going to get our butts kicked or we’re going to figure out how to compete and find ways to win.”

Reed’s assistants, Dan Szramowski and Mike Simmons, also have connections to Saint Vincent. Szramowski is a former SVC assistant, while Simmons played at Kiski Area and for the Bearcats.

Franklin Regional boys at a glance

Coach: Jesse Reed

Last year’s record: 8-8 (7-3 Section 3-5A)

Returning starters: Caden Smith (Sr., G/F)

Top newcomers: Jake Kimmich (Jr., G/F), Max Leven (Jr., F/C), Cam Rowell (So., G), Jordan Suvak (Sr., G)

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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