New Kiski Area boys coach has visions of turnaround

Monday, November 29, 2021 | 7:22 PM

The excitement of his first season as the Kiski Area boys basketball coach hasn’t waned an ounce for Corey Smith since the day he was hired back in April.

He’s accepted the task of restoring his Alma Mater’s hoops program into a formidable one after some lean years.

The Cavaliers haven’t had a winning season since 2013-14, but Smith, who played at Kiski Area in the early 2000s, is ready to change that.

“Coming back home is always a good thing,” Smith said. “I have to thank the school administrators and Athletic Director (John Peterman) for believing in me to take over this program moving forward. I can’t wait to get into the games and bring Kiski Area back to where it’s supposed to be.”

Smith had a successful three-year run at Leechburg from 2017-19 leading the Blue Devils to three WPIAL playoff appearances and a trip to the PIAA playoffs for the first time in over a decade. He also has coached many of his current Kiski Area players at Top Level All-Stars in AAU basketball.

He is big on building players’ confidence and belief in themselves. That’s one of the things he is working on in practice as he works on the programs’ foundation.

“I just want to bring energy every day in practice,” Smith said. “I want to change the culture for the respect level they have. It’s about the name on the front of the jersey. That’s why we won’t have last names on the back of the jersey. It’s about having pride in your school and your community. I think I’m seeing that culture change happening already.”

The Cavaliers open the season Dec. 10 against Eden Christian at the Burrell Tip-Off Tournament.

Seniors Brayden Dunmire and James Pearson, junior Lebryn Smith (Coach Smith’s son) and sophomores Jason Flemm and Isaiah Gonzalez are returning players who saw significant minutes last year.

Joe Lukas, a senior, returns to Kiski Area after playing last season at Kiski Prep. Lukas played for the Cavaliers as a freshman and sophomore.

Smith said there are plenty of players in the mix for playing time, and the team will feature some different looks this season.

“The boys know there really aren’t going to be set starters,” Smith said. “We’ll have a different lineup every night. It’ll be game to game and come down to game planning against our opponents. If I watch film and I see I need to play two bigs in there or there’s more guard play needed (against an opponent), then we’ll do what we need to do to match up.”

Kiski Area is in Section 3-5A again with Franklin Regional, Gateway, Latrobe, McKeesport, Woodland Hills and Penn Hills.

Though the opponents are the same, Franklin Regional, Woodland Hills and McKeesport have new coaches.

“I’m interested to see what type of battles we have every night in this section,” Smith said. “I know some of the kids we’ll be playing against, and I’m already watching film like crazy. It’s going to be different plays, though, since there are four new coaches in the section.”

Kiski Area boys at a glance

Coach: Corey Smith

Last year’s record: 5-15 (2-10 Section 3-5-A)

Returning starters: Lebryn Smith (Jr., G), Isaiah Gonzalez (So., G), Jason Flemm (So., G), James Pearson (Sr., G), Brayden Dunmire (Sr., F)

Top newcomers: Joe Lukas (Sr., G)

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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