Now healthy, Habib steps into new role for North Allegheny

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Saturday, January 16, 2021 | 9:01 AM


Greg Habib’s junior season ended early last winter when a player fell into his leg at Seneca Valley’s gym, forced his knee inward and injured his medial collateral ligament.

A lot can change in 12 months.

Almost one year to the day, the North Allegheny senior returned to Seneca’s gym and scored 25 points on Jan. 12, but with a new coach, a new outlook and an entirely new position.

The guard is now a forward.

“I explained to him when I got here: ‘Greg, if you just do what I ask you to do, you’ll score 20-some a game, easy,’” said new North Allegheny boys basketball coach Dan DeRose. “I know he wanted to be a guard, but don’t worry about playing out on the perimeter and shooting 3s.”

To his credit, Habib bought in.

“I took it with pride,” Habib said. “I wanted to get down there and try to bully ball. I like to get physical, so it was a nice change for me. Plus I can kind of act as a two-way, so it works out well for me. I like it.”

To be successful, DeRose’s high-tempo offensive needs mobile forwards who can run the floor and finish layups, two things Habib does well. He’s also a team leader in film study, DeRose said.

Habib scored 26 and 25 points back to back in NA’s first two games once the governor’s three-week shutdown ended. A year ago, Habib averaged 8.7 points.

“I’ve been focusing more on getting a little bit stronger and moving a little bit faster,” he said, “because with our scheme, we’ve got to move fast. Getting down the floor quick is kind of my specialty.”

Shifting to the front court is a big move for someone used to handling the ball. DeRose sensed some apprehension at first but credits Habib for trusting him.

“He’ll have more fun this way,” DeRose said, “having a chance to be one of the best players in the section. … You’re going to have big games. Just accept it. Trust me and you’ll love it.”

Habib is a key part in an offense that promises to rank among the highest scoring in the WPIAL this season. The Tigers scored 82 and 91 points in consecutive games this month. Habib went 11 for 14 shooting against Seneca Valley, doing much of his damage within a few feet of the rim.

“I’m getting down the floor, beating guys down and laying it up,” Habib said. “High-percentage shots.”

“You don’t need to get 20-some shots to score 20-some points,” DeRose said. “If you take high-percentage shots, you’re going to score. That’s what it’s all about.”

Habib was injured Jan. 10, 2020 and missed the team’s final 10 games, including a first-round WPIAL playoff loss. Fortunately, his knee injury didn’t need surgery.

Still, the wait alone was painful.

“Just sitting there watching my guys, I really missed being out there,” Habib said. “That kind of pushed me over this offseason to work even harder, so we can have a better year this year.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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