By Anthony Bellino Staff Writer Standard Speaker
When the Penn State Hazleton men's basketball team opens its 2015-16 season tonight at Luzerne County Community College, the local Lions will have some new faces.
PSU's overall success, though, may lie in the hands of a key returner, 6-foot-5 Jordan Singletary (Houston, Tx.).
Singletary, the lone returning starter from last season's team looks poised for a breakout sophomore campaign after enjoying success as a freshman. He finished second on the team in points (11.9 ppg), first in rebounds (9.5 rpg) and he led the entire Penn State University Athletic Conference with 2.5 blocked shots per game.
"He's one of the better big men in the conference,'' Lions coach Jeff Rush said. "Although we don't have a lot returning, it's great to have a 6-5 guy who's one of the best players in the league. Right now we're going to play to our team's strengths, which is Jordan in the post."
Singletary will undoubtedly be the local Lions' top threat on offense after the departure of Jacob Solano, who averaged 21.3 points last year.
While more production from Singletary will be needed if PSU wants to be successful, the sophomore said he's feeling more confident than ever knowing that he's being relied on as both a producer and a leader.
"It really boosts your confidence knowing they need you and are trusting you to score and to get the job done," Singletary said. "Last year I was a little inconsistent. When I missed a couple shots it got to my head. I have to be more of a leader this year."
Behind Singletary will be newcomers Royce Brathwaite (Pocono Summit, Pa.), Dwayne Richardson (Richmond, Va.) and Brian Miller (Barnesville, Pa.), all of whom will be relied on to produce offensively.
Brathwaite and Richardson are both quick guards who are each capable of handling the ball when duty calls. With Singletary drawing most of the attention from opposing defenses, it should make life easier on the guards to both penetrate and find open shots.
"It should make things easier on the guards; we hope it does,'' Rush said. "Jordan needs to stay out of foul trouble to keep himself in the game. We have two very quick guards in Royce and Dwayne, (and) we're going to try and use those two guys to attack and find shooters."
Miller, a 6-3 freshman forward from Mahanoy Area has made a positive impression on Rush since the team has been together. The only local product on the PSU roster, he will most likely be the fourth option on offense but has all the intangibles to be a great player according to Rush.
"Brian has been outstanding for us; he's been awesome at the forward spot," Rush said. "He's a smart, tough kid who's a good rebounder, I like what he's given us locally."
The potential x-factor for the local Lions hasn't even suited up for a practice yet. Freshman center Christopher Adames (Bay Shore Ny.) is a 6-6 inside-out threat who, if paired with Singletary, could form one of, if not the most daunting inside duos in the PSUAC.
Adames is currently rehabbing from a lower body injury and is "week-to-week, if not "day-to-day" according to Rush.
"He's been injured but he's recovering and is hoping to get back on the court real soon," Rush said. "If he can get healthy and start to contribute, he's going to make our basketball team a whole lot better."
When it comes to this PSU team that has a lot of x-factors and unknowns on its roster, one thing is certain: they'll be tested by the time conference play rolls around on Dec. 1.
In its non-conference schedule PSU will play LCCC, SUNY Dehli, Division II Bloomsburg, King's College and Marywood. While wins may not be easy to come by against some of the better programs, Rush concedes that he's only concerned about how his team performs when it comes time for conference play.
"It's always the first conference game in my eyes,'' he said about the game on the Lions' schedule he has circled. "We want to be prepared for that date. The 16 league games are important, I don't worry about wins and losses outside of the league, (but) I do know conference records very well."