Nov. 14 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany men’s basketball team will embark on their second century of play with quite a few new faces when they begin their quest of repeating as PAC champions when the season opens Nov. 17 at home against LaRoche.
In their 100th season of varsity play last year, the Bison went 17-11 overall, captured their 12th conference title in school history, a PAC record, and earned their sixth bid to the NCAA Tournament. However, this year’s Bethany team will go into the season with a new head coach in Mike Summey, a new assistant in former Bison standout Matt Drahos and trying to replace their starting backcourt in Brody Jackson (PAC MVP) and Marcus Adams (First Team All-PAC). Summey says the team has done a good job adapting to all the change through the preseason.
“It’s been interesting and I’m learning a lot about the team,” said Summey, who came to Bethany after a two-year stint as an assistant at Division I North Florida University. “It’s an adjustment because everyone on the team and everyone on the staff is learning a new role. Because we have so many new players, they are not only getting to know each other but also getting to know what I want as their coach. But the preseason has been great because we are growing every day and getting more comfortable with each other and what we want to do.”
Bethany was expected to have three starters back, including two in the frontcourt. However, injuries have already made an impact on the season, as junior forward Ryan Besancon (Wooster, Ohio/Waynedale), who led the team in blocked shots with 31 while averaging 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, is out until at least December. In addition, junior forward Jonas Ankrom (Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan), who averaged 7.6 points and 3.1 rebounds in 23 games off the bench, will have to sit out the year because of injury.
The Bison will have two experienced interior players from the start this year in junior Joe Testa (Amity, Pa./Trinity) and senior Petre Petkovski (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Park). Testa averaged 9.1 points and a team-best 6.0 rebounds per game in 28 games last season, while Petkovski’s role was coming off the bench for most of the year and recording 9.6 points and 5.1 boards per game.
Two freshmen who are expected to contribute down low include Jimmy Reeves (Macedonia, Ohio/Nordonia) and Tobi Akinsola (Cary, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy).
“Our frontcourt situation is unique in that it seems like we have everyone back, but because of the injuries to Ryan and Jonas, we really don’t,” said Summey. “We do have two experienced players back in Joe and Petre. Joe is the toughest guy I’ve coached in my 15 years. He was unanimously voted as a captain by the players on the team because of his work in the off-season and through the pre-season. When I talked to Coach Drahos about what kind of players I wanted to recruit, I told him to look for two things: tough guys and shooters. Now I would say find me more Joe Testas because he is a dream to coach.
“Petre had some terrific game last year and came in this year stronger and more physical,” said Summey. “He is 100 percent open to anything asked of him and he’s proved that by learning four positions because of injury, but also because he’s versatile enough to play all four.
“Two new guys who will help us this year include Jimmy and Tobi,” said Summey. “Jimmy still has to work on a lot of things, but he comes to practice every day and by going against the older guys, he absorbs something new from them. He will definitely make his mark on this program before he leaves. And the other surprise is Tobi. We’ll still trying to figure out how to use him. He’s listed at 6-3, 180 pounds, but plays more like he’s 6-5, 220. He’s definitely going to help us this year.”
Other players looking for time in the frontcourt include sophomore Kenny Barrows (Wheeling, W.Va./Bishop Donahue) and freshman Luke Flanagan (Washington, D.C./The Kent School).
The BC backcourt has one starter back in senior Tyler Morando (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central), who canned 60 three-pointers last season and averaged 10.1 points per game, second-highest on the squad. Two other Bison return after playing in all 28 games last season, including senior Carey Palermo (Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline) and sophomore Dakota Matz (Zanesville, Ohio). Both Palermo (4.0 points, 1.7 assists) and Matz (5.0 pts., 1.7 rebs.) have also been selected as captains this season by their teammates.
Bethany could have a deep backcourt, as three others have been solid in the pre-seasons, including junior Jay Lyonett (Weirton, W.Va./Brooke),, who played in 12 games last year, sophomore Ryan McFadden (Columbus, Ohio/Mount Vernon Academy), who came off the bench in 18 contests, and freshman Lance Beckwith (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God Christian Academy).
“Carey is everything that is good about Bethany basketball in that he came here as an average player who worked hard to become a great player and now has a chance to leave a mark on the program,” said Summey. “He has worked his tail off to become the team’s best shooter and to be a senior who people listen to. He’s been a part of two PAC championship teams and wants desperately to be part of a third. Carey also cherishes his role a mentor to the younger guys.
“Tyler is an excellent shooter who started all 28 games last year,” said Summey. “He is working hard on his defense and is in the gym every day to work on his game. Dakota is going be our point guard and is our best on-the-ball defender because he loves the challenge of guarding the other team’s best player. The year of experience he gained last year gave him a great base and you forget he’s just a sophomore sometimes. I feel when he’s out there, he’s an extension of me in terms of what he’s trying to get out of our team.
“We have three other guys who should give us solid depth this year,” said Summey. “Jay has a chance to be a surprise player because he can really shoot and is a good defender. If he believes in himself as much I do, he’ll be a great player. Ryan has flashes of being as good as anyone in the league because there aren’t many that have his size and length. And Lance is strong, fast and our best defender next to Dakota. He’s learning to make the transition to the college game, but he will get a chance to help us this year.”
The Bison have five other guards vying for action, including senior Milton Joyner (Pittsburgh, Pa./Westinghouse), junior transfer Jamal Jones (Zanesville, Ohio) sophomore Dustin Opalka (Cortland, Ohio/Lakeview), who played in 11 games this year but is out until December because of injury, sophomore Nick Thomas (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands) and freshman Ryan Summers (Sistersville, W.Va./Tyler Consolidated).
Although his players are aiming towards the big prize of repeating as PAC champions, Summey isn’t concerned with wins and losses as much as he is getting better every day.
“At Bethany, our players’ goal is always to win the PAC championship, especially having won last year,” said Summey. “I can’t think like that or in terms of wins and losses because I don’t know the league or even my team well enough yet. My goal is to continue to work hard, get better every day in practice and hopefully that comes through in games.”