Tutchstone nurturing inexperienced Kiski Area boys basketball team

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017 | 8:18 PM


Joe Tutchstone wore a shirt recognizing Kiski Area's 2013 boys basketball section championship at Tuesday's practice.

Just as every year, that remains Tutchstone's expectation for the Cavaliers. But they'll have some growing up to do to get there.

Kiski Area enters the 2017-18 with no returning starters and just two of their top eight rotation players from last season, a far cry from the senior-led group that helped the Cavaliers reach the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.

“My day-to-day expectations are to just keep getting better and better and better,” said Tutchstone, clapping his hands for emphasis. “(I want them to) enjoy the grind and understand that we're young and embrace it and just tackle every day and say, ‘I'm going to be better today and tomorrow.' We're going to have fun playing ball.”

Tutchstone is enjoying the responsibility of leading a younger roster. The former Kiski Area and Pitt-Johnstown guard said he loves “teaching and coaching the game of basketball.”

There's a lot more of that this year with a group that has minimal varsity experience.

“You have to stop and explain things, to explain the way to do it, and why we're doing it this way so they can process it better,” Tutchstone said. “You don't want to let up. You don't want to ever stop pushing them and keeping those high expectations, and that's what we do. But you do have to be more patient and know that they're going to make mistakes. If I blow up on them every time, I don't think I'm going to teach them anything.”

What Kiski Area lacks in experience it can make up for in size and athleticism.

The majority of the expected starters played fall sports, whether football or soccer.

“I think we'll be one of the most athletic teams in our section,” said 6-foot-4 junior forward Ryne Wallace. “We might not all be basketball players, but we're all athletes, and we'll all play hard. I think we'll be good.”

Wallace was the sixth man last season and is the Cavaliers' most experienced returner, and junior guard Nick Smith also came off the bench.

Those two will be joined by senior Ross Greece — a newcomer to the basketball team — and juniors Jack Colecchi, Tracy Moore and Austin Swartz as Kiski Area's core six players. Tutchstone said juniors William Cochran and Andrew Mason also could fill minutes.

“We have very little varsity experience, so it's going to be new to them, but I think once they get into it, they'll be fine,” Wallace said. “I know they're going to be nervous because it's their first time, but I just try to get them ready for the game and have them have confidence and calm themselves down.”

Kiski Area will rely on its annual calling card of strong defense, as the Cavaliers frequently have finished in the top five of scoring defense under Tutchstone. They limited opponents to 47.5 points last season.

Offensively, Kiski Area hopes to lean on its size and grit to get baskets off second-chance opportunities.

“They can do the little things, like get offensive rebounds, get those rough points, those tough points,” Tutchstone said. “They're willing to go do it, to offensive rebound and do that to be successful that way.”

Tutchstone figures Kiski Area will see frequent tests in the rugged Section 3-5A, which includes Armstrong, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Greensburg Salem and Highlands. That was the case last season, when all 10 of the Cavaliers' games were decided by 10 points or fewer.

Given the Cavaliers' youth, Tutchstone said some early growing pains could occur. But he remains confident the team will improve as the season progresses, labeling his players “sponges” who are eager to get better.

“They're going to compete on a level,” he said. “They don't like to lose, so they're going to refuse to give in. They're going to give everything they've got on every play. They're going to keep learning. This group more than others, they take constructive criticism way better than I have in the past and understand that they're inexperienced and want to get better for themselves and for the team.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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