New coach Dante Calabria working with youthful roster at Bethel Park

Saturday, December 3, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Seven seniors. Count ‘em, seven.

That’s half a roster, and that’s how many players the Bethel Park boys basketball team lost to graduation.

It’s the team that Bethel Park floor boss Dante Calabria inherited from former coach Josh Bears this season. Bears resigned after seven years with the Black Hawks.

Calabria, a 1992 Blackhawk graduate, comes to Bethel Park with gaudy credentials. He is a WPIAL hall of famer who won a national championship at North Carolina.

The 6-foot-5 guard won the NCAA title with UNC in 1993 and also reached the Final Four in ’95.

Calabria played 16 professional seasons overseas in Italy, Spain, Greece and France. He was a five-time all-star in Europe and also played for the Italian national team that won the 2005 European Championship.

A 2014 WPIAL Hall of Fame inductee, Calabria has coached at the college, professional and prep school levels, most recently as an assistant at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla.

“His resume speaks for itself,” Bethel Park athletic director Dan Sloan said following Calabria’s hiring in late May. “It’s exciting to be able to show our kids a guy who came from around this area and made it to where he made it, played at a big-time Division I college under legendary coaches, played professionally and then moved up through the coaching ranks.”

Calabria played for Dean Smith at North Carolina, was an assistant on Larry Brown’s staff in Italy’s Lega Basket Serie A and previously assisted the late Rollie Massimino at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Calabria returned to Western Pennsylvania to spend more time with family.

Bethel Park finished fourth at 5-5 in Section 2-6A last year and took a 16-6 record into the WPIAL playoffs. The Black Hawks landed the No. 10 seed in Class 6A then lost a first-round game to No. 7 Pine-Richland.

Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon tied for first with 7-3 records followed by Baldwin at 6-4. The Black Hawks defeated Peters Township and Canon-McMillan twice, split decisions with USC and lost twice to Mt. Lebanon and Baldwin.

The Black Hawks have dropped in class this season, joining Connellsville, Peters Township, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson and Trinity in Section 1-5A.

Calabria can only hope to start his coaching career at Bethel Park as well as last year’s team began its season. The Black Hawks started out 10-1 in 2021-22.

It turned out to be a year of mini-streaks. BP opened the season with winning streaks of three and seven games, then lost two before winning four more in succession. After losing three in a row, BP ended the regular season with two more victories.

The defensive-minded Black Hawks gave up 45 points per game during the regular season while scoring at a 52 points-per-game clip.

Four of the five players in the starting lineup were seniors, including Dolan Waldo, a 6-6 forward and IUP recruit, and Max Blanc, a three-sport standout and Youngstown State football recruit. Waldo led the team in scoring after recovering from a serious ankle injury suffered in the summer.

The lone returning starter in 2022-23 is Ben Guffey, a 6-foot senior guard.

“I’m super excited for this season, and I’m looking forward to playing alongside some of my best friends,” Guffey said. “My expectations for our team are to compete each and every game and strive to get better each day. We’ve worked hard and have enjoyed learning from our new coaching staff, so I expect that to continue into the season.

“I believe our team’s strengths are our effort and discipline, both offensively and defensively. Also, our conditioning needs to be a key of ours.”

Guffey sports a 4.0 GPA and has been a National Honor Society member since his sophomore year.

“I’m evaluating (college) opportunities at the D2 and D3 levels,” he said.

Other key players back from last year include senior guard Drew Thomas, junior guards Mike Mathias, Connor Karabinos and Nick Brown and junior forward Shawn Davis.

Austin Caye, the Black Hawks’ leading rusher on the conference-winning football team who suffered a season-ending injury, saw starting time in the backcourt last year but is not playing basketball because of the injury.

While the team lost seven seniors to graduation, there also were nine juniors and sophomores to build around from last season.


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