Valley boys have clean slate as rebuilding process continues

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Monday, November 28, 2022 | 4:56 PM


After a 1-21 season in his first year as a high school head basketball coach in 2021-22, Valley’s John Stone was undeterred, even as he bid farewell to four senior starters.

Incidentally, the Vikings’ fifth starter since has transferred out, leaving them with an overhauled lineup this season.

“I love the challenge this presents,” said Stone, a former boys assistant at Central Catholic — his alma mater — and Norwin.

He enters his second year with a continued hope of elevating Valley’s sagging boys program back to respectability.

But essentially, he’ll be starting over again.

Valley, which averaged just 46.5 points per game last season, remains in Section 3-3A with other holdovers Apollo-Ridge, Ligonier Valley, Shady Side Academy.

Burrell, Deer Lakes and Derry replace East Allegheny, South Allegheny and Steel Valley, the only team Valley defeated last season.

“I had some seniors last year who were competitive and did some great things,” Stone said. “At the same time, we were teaching the younger guys on the floor how to play together.”

Valley will play this year with a new lineup after having won just one game in each of the past two seasons. The Vikings and are a combined 14-62 since last posting a winning record (14-6) in 2017-18.

“We are trying to change the culture,” Stone said. “I love working with these kids. I love coming out and competing every day. They are definitely responding to the way I’m coaching. It’s a process.”

Stone will look to several players with limited varsity experience to lead the way, most notably seniors Jayden Richter and Xavier Wilson and junior Jacob Staraniec.

He’s also expecting to see more confidence from senior Dallas Price, junior Keyziyah Clay and sophomore Mickael Allen, a 6-foot-5 forward.

“There is a lot of youth there with Mickael. He could have some room to grow yet,” Stone said. “But he’s a presence already because 6-5 is 6-5. He’s young and he’s still maturing. I really need him to accept his teammates and realize that it’s never good to be 1-on-5, but rather it’s 5-on-5.

Stone senses a special bond forming with his current group, which includes only one returning underclassman (Staraniec) with varsity experience. He predicted but didn’t guarantee a starting lineup of Allen, Clay, Staraniec, Price and Wilson, with Richter the first off the bench.

Staraniec, he said, has potential to light up the scoreboard if he can gain some confidence with his shot-making ability.

“Once he gets his confidence, he’ll be able to put up some points,” said Stone, who insists he’s not focused on the team’s record just yet. There have been other priorities.

“A big goal was to keep everyone eligible. That was a corner piece,” Stone said. “You have to do well there (in the classroom) to even think about being here (on the court).”

The Vikings have been able to do just that.

“I keep telling them if we do what we need to do and grind, the wins will take care of themselves,” Stone said. “If our opponents get on a run and it’s too much to overcome, just come back and move on. If a loss happens, it’s OK. Here’s the film. Learn from it. It might be bumpy at first, but once we jell, once there is some cohesiveness, I think we can pile up the wins.”

Valley is looking for candidates to replace a number of experienced players from last season, including leading scorer Ben Aftanas and leading rebounder BJ Harvey.

“I’m excited to see how the mixture of young players play with a couple of seniors,” Stone said. “A bunch of guys are going to get a chance to earn playing time. They’ve been working all summer. We’ve been grinding. I think we’ll buy in. Let’s see something more than one win.”

At a glance

Coach: John Stone

Last year’s record: 1-21 (1-11 Section 3-3A)

Returning starters: None

Top newcomers: Mickael Allen (Soph., F), Jacob Staraniec (Jr., G), Xavier Wilson (Sr., G)

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