After a devastating one point loss (to Sewickley in the Class A finals) last March, Lincoln Park’s Leopards are looking forward to a roaring outcome this basketball season.
While recently speaking with athletic director Mike Bariski, I was able to unravel some of the secrets to the success in the new 2010-2011 season. Despite the disappointing end of the previous season, the Leopards plan to wipe their slate clean and slowly but gradually reach their ultimate goal: to win the WPIAL and PIAA championship. “We obviously have to look at the small picture then the big picture and take it one game at a time,” says Bariski.
Although they are planning to start fresh, Coach Mark Javens’ team has four returning starters and a total of eight returning lettermen. The returning starters are led by Class A All-Stater Chaquille Pratt and second team All State selection Devontae Watson. They are joined by senior guards Alex Kross and Kyle Taylor
In addition to the returning eight, the Leopards have four new players whom Bariski says “might contribute immediately.” Those newcomers include BJ Lipke, a junior from Cornell; Nate Loedding, a freshmen from Blackhawk; Brandon Hazleck, a sophomore from Midland; and last but not least, Sharron Moreland Jones, a senior from New Brighton.
All four have had the chance to compete with the other eight for a starting position, but just like on any other team, the starting five could change at any point during the season. As the coaches tell the team, each player dictates their own playing time on the court at each practice, so only time can tell.
As this season progresses, the team definitely has a lot it would like to change from last season. “Last year we were a dark horse, no one knew what to expect. Last year set this year’s precedent because now we have a bulls eye on our back, because everyone is expecting something good from us” says Bariski.
The Leopards will be drawing interest from more than just fans and competitors, however. Pratt and Watson have attracted interest from several Division 1 coaches who we are expecting to see in the stands for the duration of the year. Pratt, who is still weeding through offers, is a senior, while the 6 foot 10 Watson, although still a junior, is also attracting D1 interest. Taylor and Kross are also looking at a future playing college basketball, Bariski says.
Out of the 701 schools that compete, the Leopards have no doubt that they are very much capable of coming out on top. With the title “WPIAL champions” on their minds, the team is aware what they have to do to make it there. Although very determined, they never lose sight of the fact that, as Bariski says, “only one team is happy at the end of the year.”
– Fawn Rawl