By Joe Hofmann
Koinonia Academy Athletic Director
The Koinonia Academy varsity basketball team might not be blessed with much size, but coach Ernie Pedicano hopes the team can make up for it with hustle and smarts.
“I feel good about the kids,” said Pedicano, in his fourth season, “I’d like to think we’ll win our share of games. The kids here play hard. We’ll see where we’re at.”
The Seraphs begin the season at Rahway Saturday at 1 p.m. and then play host to Academic Charter School Dec. 23 at 5:30. Over Christmas vacation, they will travel to Denville and play host Morris Knolls in the Morris Knolls Christmas Tournament at 2 p.m.
Koinonia was 6-15 last year. The team played well in scrimmages against Boonton and East Brunswick Tech last week.
“I played everyone because I wanted to give everyone a chance,” he said. “They have been working very hard and we have had a lot of great practices. We won both of our first quarters and that’s a good indication that we could so well this year. In our scrimmages, we played good defense. I think in all the quarters, we only gave up more than 10 points in only one of them. Maybe in one quarter we gave up 16 points, but that was because we played everyone in that quarter.”
One of the team leaders figures to be 5-foot-10 inch guard Francisco Carrero, who has improved immensely during his time at the school, according to Pedicano. “He’s started t learn how to shoot and he’s come to practice and worked hard every day,” the coach said. “He used to get frustrated because he expects a lot out of himself, but he’s gotten a lot better. He’s gonna play a lot for us. He’s not afraid to mix it up and he is a good defender.”
Another leading contributor is figures to be senior co-captain Ryan McCabe, who averaged 15 points per game last year, when he was the team’s most valuable player.
“He did a very good job for us last year,” Pedicano said. “He was the captain of cross country and he ran nine miles a day every day, so you know he’ll be in great shape.”
The other senior co-captain is 6-1 forward Aaron Wortman, who is the team’s best rebounder. Wortman was home-schooled before last year and has begun grasping the team concept.
“He can score inside and he’s developed a jump shot,” Pedicano said. “He can hit the three-pointer.”
The team’s biggest player is Jimmy Clemente, a 6-4 freshman.
“He’s an incredible freshman, a really good athlete,” the coach said. “He’s a really good athlete and his speed is getting better. He can score against older players. He moves pretty well. He’ll be a heckuva player.”
Another team strength lies in its depth at guard, with a slew of players vying for playing time. Joining Carrero in the backcourt will be John Murray, a returning player from last year.
“John is a really good leader for us,” Pedicano said. “He’ll see a lot of action.”
Another guard to watch out for is 5-8 Ray Molnar, who “is a very strong kid, good defender, very fast and very quick,” Pedicano said. “He needs to develop his confidence. He could score. He can make 3-4 jump shots in a row, he just needs to develop his confidence a little bit.”
Pedicano is excited about freshman Ben Peregrin, “one of the best freshmen I have ever seen,” the coach said. “He can score, he plays good defense. He can deny the ball and stay with his man.”
Another guard who played last year is 5-9 Brendan Minague, who is “a tough kid, good defdner and is getting better on offense,” according to Pedicano. “He’s hitting his shots. He’s in the mix for playing time.”
Joe Wetzel (5-10) was a big contributor off the bench last year because of his defense.
“I started him at the end of last year because of his defense,” Pedicano said. “He played some tough kids really well. He has great lateral quickness.”
Sophomore Gabe Sznvick (5-9) is strong and runs the floor well.
“He’s a good athlete, maybe our best athlete,” Pedicano said. “When he is motivated to play well, he is a really good player.”
Junior Julian Medina (5-11) just began playing last year and hopes to contribute.
“He’s a strong kid with a great shot,” Pedicano said. “He is still learning the team concept.”
Sophomore Joe Benson (5-9) is one of the team’s most intelligent players.
“He plays good defense,” Pedicano said. “He can hit a jumpshot and he’s learning how to handle the ball.”
Senior Peter Skizyniarz (6-3) is one of the team’s biggest players and the fastest player on the team from one end of the court to the other. But two knee operations have taken their toll.
“He’s an intelligent player who knows where he needs to be and he can rebound,” Pedicano said.
“We have a tough schedule ahead of us,” the coach said. “I think we can have a good season. I feel good about this season.”
Pedicano hopes Seraphs can grow
By Joe Hofmann