Mounts look to right the ship under Coletti
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
There are plenty of challenges in taking over a program that won just one basketball game a season ago.
First-year Ephrata boys basketball Coach Jason Coletti is certainly finding that out. But the former Lebanon High star is undaunted when it comes to his desire to turn the Mounts back into a winner.
And he believes that can be sooner rather than later. With a cast of nine players who all saw varsity time a year ago on the 1-21 team, Coletti said he believes the keys to turning it around are "hard work" and "buying in."
They are already off to a good start.
"The kids have been working real hard," Coletti said recently. "Since it’s all new to everybody, we’ve been trying to put a lot of information out there. We’ve just been requiring them to come with their thinking caps and they’ve been picking some things up. We are a long way off but we are getting better. You can tell just from the first scrimmage to the second that they’ve gotten better. That’s a good thing. We are heading in the right direction."
According to Coletti, the biggest issue in the early going has been having enough time to implement everything he wants to do. But he also said they are taking a "baby-step" approach.
"It’s been tough trying to squeeze everything into a short amount of time in the three weeks we’ve had prior to our first game," he said. "We got to make sure we are well-prepared and implemented. We don’t want to call out a play in the first couple games and the kids only have a basic understanding of what is going on. We want them to know exactly how we do it instead of trying to do it on the fly. Also, (another issue has been) trying to fit our philosophies with the kids’ talents. That has been a big challenge too. We are constantly evaluating and observing so we are trying to fit the best defenses and offenses with the players we have."
The good news is he has a veteran group to work with since Brooks Carr (7.7 p.p.g) was the lone regular from a year ago to graduate. Leading scorer Brian Neff (8.7), a slashing 6-3 senior forward, is back along with 6-2 senior forward Jeremy Franck (4.3). Those two will captain the ship, along with 5-7 junior point guard Matt Herbener., who broke into the starting lineup toward the end of last season.
"Those three work harder than anybody else in the program right now, and that’s a good thing," Coletti said. "Those are our leaders so hopefully that trickles down to everybody else. And it should because I think a lot of the kids respect them. Matt Herbener will be the point guard, and he has some experience. And we are looking for a lot of points out of Brian and Jeremy. Both of them can shoot the ball and both are athletic kids. And they are tough kids. They are not afraid to take a couple hits."
Also returning will be 6-0 sophomore guard Aaron Hubbard, who scored 18 points in just his second varsity game as a freshman last year. Juniors Matt Kohan (5-11) and Max Carr (5-10) will add some depth in the backcourt.
Underneath, while the Mounts do not have much size, they do have spunk. Joining Franck and Neff inside will be a pair of 6-1 senior veterans in Derek Horst and Austin Nauman, as well as 6-2 junior swingman Evan Radcliffe.
"We have nine players on the varsity and all of them played some varsity last year from what I’m being told," Coletti said of his varsity group. "And we do have a good group of seniors who are leading the way. Brian Neff is a heck of an athlete and so is Jeremy Franck so that definitely helps. As far as having that varsity experience, obviously Brian is going (to play lacrosse in college) so you know the type of mentality he has. Jeremy was a football player with lots of varsity experience. There is some experience there so it’s just a matter of everybody getting on the same page."
"We will all have to rebound, including myself I think, because we are so undersized," he continued. "That is their main goal and everyone else kind of does their part as well."
Style-wise, Coletti said the Mounts will play the full court and look to run as much as they can.
"We’ll be a fast-paced type of team," he said. "We’ll pick up man-to-man full court. There will be times when we play halfcourt just to change things up but typically we are going to be a pressing team, man-to-man, and at the offensive end we are going to get rebounds and even when the team scores we will take the ball out and inbound quickly. We’ll be uptempo and the kids like playing that way. I think there is less thinking out there. They are just playing, and that’s kind of a fun way to play. It’s definitely fun to watch."
Coletti said the faster his team gains some confidence, the better their season can become.
"It starts with working hard," he said. "It doesn’t matter what kids come out, how many kids come out or what coaches are here, if you are not going to work hard it is not going to work. That was the first thing and so far they’ve been doing that. We’ve had great senior leadership from Jeremy Franck and Brian Neff and Derek Horst leading the way. That was the first step. Then after that just getting them to be committed. If you get them to work hard and commit you are headed in the right direction."
And Coletti, who took the Manheim Central girls to Districts in each of his six seasons there, also feels it’s paramount for his team to get a few wins under its belt early.
"Definitely," he said. "Hopefully we get an early ‘W’, get some confidence to let them know that the hard work does pay off. You can almost see at times them saying, ‘Why are we working so hard?’ We are not going to be that good.’ They have that type of attitude just from the last couple of years having some down years so hopefully we get a couple early wins where they can see that the hard work they put in does pay off."
As far as expectations are concerned, Coletti’s are pretty high considering the Mounts were a one-win team a year ago. But he seems confident the Mounts have the make-up to at the very least be a tough out each and every night.
"My goal for the team would be to make the (league) playoffs," he said. "We want to get into the playoffs, and if we win the section, great. But we want to be in those top two spots for sure. I’m not sure where that will land us in Districts but hopefully we are good enough to qualify. If not, we want to definitely establish the building blocks for next year. This year, with the group of seniors that we have and the athletes that we have hopefully we are able to get into the playoffs."
"(To do that) we’ll need to continue to work hard," he continued. "You mention the word playoffs around them and they kind of look at you like you’re dumb. I don’t think they believe yet which is why, going back to getting a couple early ‘W’s is crucial. Hopefully we can raise their expectations. They are catching on quickly which is a good thing. I think we are going to be able to surprise some people though. I think a lot of teams around the league will just chalk us up as another win but I really think we can surprise some people."
While he hasn’t seen many boys games while coaching girls the last few seasons, Coletti did say people seem to like E-town as the favorite in the section.
"From what I’m being told, E-town will be pretty good," he said. "They have a nice team returning and are well-coached. Lebanon is always a good, athletic team and Cocalico has a real nice program, obviously, so we’ll have our hands full in the section. But I think we are closer to being a good team than a bad team which is a good sign. Those are never going to be easy teams to play but hopefully we’ll be able to compete and sneak into the top two spots." More MOUNTS, page B-6