Sunday, November 19, 2023 | 5:01 PM
Last year, the Jeannette boys basketball team featured a strong frontcourt.
But because of graduation and injuries, the Jayhawks will need to lean on strong guard play if they want to return to the WPIAL playoffs.
If Jeannette (13-8, 7-5) wants to make a deeper postseason run this season, senior guard Isaiah Mallich likely will take an even bigger role. The two-year starter averaged 11.5 points last winter.
“He’s got to be a leader and set an example when he steps on the floor. The opposing team is probably going to try to stop him with their best defender. He’s got to find a way to make it work for us,” coach Adrian Batts said.
“If it’s not putting the ball through the hoop, it’s defending the opposing team’s best player and making plays to make our team a better team.”
Mallich will be joined in the backcourt by sophomore point guard Kymone Brown, who averaged 8.5 points and 4 assists as a freshman.
On top of the graduation of forwards Jalen Bass and Shane Mickens, Jeannette will not have junior forward Lonnie Greene, who suffered a torn ACL during football season.
Senior guard Noah Sanders will join the starting lineup, and Batts will look to have young players such as sophomores Noah Sunder and Xavier Odorisio and freshmen Jayce Powell and Markus McGowan emerge.
“This is probably the youngest team I’ve had since I’ve been there as far as experience. Last year, we had all of our inside guys returning. This season, it’s our guards. With that being said, guards win games. We should be a little bit better at the guard position just because of experience and understanding their roles,” Batts said.
“We will have to scrap and play hard. We will be a little undersized for the first time coaching at Jeannette. I’m looking forward to the challenge of playing that way. We normally like to play inside-out first. Now we have to play outside in.”
The Jayhawks’ nonsection schedule includes games at St. Joseph, East Allegheny and Steel Valley as well as a home game against Burrell. Jeannette hopes to have developed chemistry by the time section games start.
“It’s always good to win nonsection games and the tournament games we have coming up over Christmas. It really comes down to the section games. That is when it’s time for us to step up and when we need to have chemistry,” Mallich said.
The Jayhawks open their season in the Norwin Tip-Off Tournament on Dec. 1-2.
“I like the challenge with us being a little undersized. I like the group we have. We are going to come out and compete for 32 minutes. That’s all I ask from my guys. I want them to play as hard as they can for as long as they can and let’s make the best of the opportunity,” Batts said.