RAY SWANSON | Keystoner After losing 3 aces, the Titans rebuild
When a college basketball coach loses three of his front-line players to graduation, that's one thing. When those three players were all 1,000-point scorers, that may be a tough obstacle to overcome.
That's the quandary Jim Dafler, coach of the Westminster College Titans finds himself in this season. His big guns, Henry Klinar, Andy Wormsley and Chad Phillips, all received their diplomas last season and their absence in Dafler's program is bound to have a telling effect.
It is only the second time in the history of Titan basketball that three players with over 1,000 points have graduated in the same season.
Although Dafler is going to miss the services of all three, he's still upbeat about the Titans' hopes in 2001-02. He sees the season not only as a challenge but as an opportunity. His squad last season rolled to an impressive 19-6 overall record, the best at the school since the 1993-94 season.
With nine new players in the fold this year, Dafler believes he has the players to step in and continue the team's winning tradition.
The Titans were scheduled to open the campaign this past weekend, hosting the Buzz Ridl Classic.
Fourth year: Dafler is in his fourth season as coach of the Titans, after serving nine seasons as a Titan assistant. He formerly served as coach at Mount Union and Bethany. His two assistants are once again Larry Ondako and Tim Goske, both members of the 1,000-point club at Westminster.
This season marks the final campaign of reclassification from NCAA Division II to Div. III for the Titans, and Dafler had a roster of 22 players, one of the largest rosters in recent seasons.
Ryan Oman, a product of Greenville High, is one of the top returnees this season. He averaged 5.6 points per game last season while leading the Titans in assists with 76. He's the lone senior on the squad. He will be one of the leaders of the team and will be counted on heavily for his rebounding ability.
Junior class: Two juniors who received ample playing time last year are guard Rick Giordano (Neshannock) and forward Joe Wilson (Newton Falls). Rounding out the junior class, who saw limited playing time last year, are center Greg Foster (Ursuline) and guards Andy Colosimo (Greensburg Central Catholic) and Jeff Simmons (Somerset).
A pair who made an immediate impact as Titans rookies last season are Andy Podbielski (Seneca Valley) and Mike Hill (Windham). Both are sophomores.
Four other sophomores saw limited action last year. They are Corey Utz (Mars), Tom Free (West Middlesex), Justin Robinson (St. Joseph's), and Greg Scott (Struthers).
Eight freshmen: Rounding out the squad is an eight-player freshman class that Dafler is expecting some big things. Making up the freshman acquisition are guards Bobby Bartle (Moon), Craig Bohyer (Warren G. Harding), Mike Colaneri (Struthers), Justin Crum (Mohawk), Chris Hatch (South Range), Andy Krawchyk (Beaver Falls), Ross Martin (Mohawk), and T.J. Spencer (Elderton) and forward Pat O'Connor (Keystone Oaks).
The Titans are a member of the Presidents' Athletic Conference, but they won't be eligible for the league championship until next season. Westminster was 9-1 against PAC schools last year.
Bethany tough: Dafler believes that Bethany will probably be the team to beat in the PAC this season since the Bisons posted a 7-1 league mark last season. He was quoted as saying, however, that it would be unwise to pick Bethany as the champion at this point since the PAC is such a well-balanced circuit.
Bethany has everyone returning this year, but so does just about every one team in the league with the exception of Westminster.
Dafler thinks his team is up for the challenge this season and that his new players will meet the forces that be head-on.
"We know we have a lot of talented players this year who haven't had a chance to show what they can do. This year they will get their chance."