Yough boys basketball ready for heavy lifting

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Sunday, December 1, 2019 | 9:12 PM


Inside a weight room at Yough, music blares while players lift and exercise, some methodically traversing from station to station.

Jim Nesser, the gravelly voiced boys basketball coach and a familiar face at Yough as a longtime faculty staff member with a PIAA championship at Jeannette to his credit, stands by and observes.

“I’ve been lifting for 30 years in the weight room with the players. I’ve always done it,” said Nesser, a social studies teacher whose first coaching job came in 1988 at Yough. “This is what I believe in. I just think it creates team unity and it helps guys to get stronger, physically and mentally.”

Whatever it takes to get better, Nesser says.

Heading into the second season of his second stint at Class 4A Yough, Nesser is hoping the Cougars will be better than their 8-14 record last season that produced just one section victory.

Three starters return from that team, which managed to double its victories over the team’s previous record of 4-17.

Yough has made just three trips to the WPIAL playoffs since 2005, an image Nesser hopes the school can shed.

“The No. 1 goal for us is to compete and play tough,” he said. “Hopefully, the way we practice and work in the weight room will help us to compete better, develop good habits and get tougher. If that happens, eventually, you hope the wins will come.”

Of course, quality players are a must.

“I think we have enough, where we have a chance to do some good things,” Nesser said.

Yough enters the season without last year’s leading scorer, Jarrett Bach, a Pitt baseball prospect. But Nesser is delighted with the group of players coming back, among them 6-foot-8 senior Josh O’Bradovich.

“He’s been putting in a lot of work, and he’s gotten a lot better,” Nesser said. “He’s a great athlete with great hands and great feet. He just needs to get some more mental consistency going.”

Junior guard Gamal Marballie has been a starter since his freshman season. Nesser loves the 5-8 Marballie’s work ethic, as well.

“Like Josh, he’s put the time in in the offseason, and he practices hard and plays hard,” Nesser said.

Senior guard Ray Halahurich rounds out the Cougars’ returning starters.

Senior Cody Ulander, a 6-2 forward, is back after taking a year off. He played for the Cougars as a sophomore in former coach Casey Copeman’s final season.

Nesser also hopes the addition of 6-2 senior forward Billy McMillen and junior guard Tyler Zerone will give Yough a boost. It marks the first season of organized basketball for McMillen at Yough.

“Our skill level and mental toughness have to get better,” Nesser said. “Having a consistent effort for 32 minutes in a game and two hours in a practice is what we’re looking for. When you lose, you lack that mental consistency.”

Nesser has had plenty of experience on the bench since those early years at Yough. Aside from a stretch at Class 2A Jeannette, where his 2008 team captured WPIAL and PIAA titles, Nesser also has held high school coaching jobs at Hempfield, Elizabeth Forward and Greensburg Central Catholic, his alma mater, and college jobs at Seton Hill and at Penn State Greater Allegheny.

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