CLINTON TWP. — Lackawanna Trail head coach Christian Sunseri, in his fourth year leading the Lions boys basketball team, hopes a better knowledge of his teaching points among the players will lead to more wins this season.
“I think the system of what we run on offense and defense is starting to set in,” he said. “I haven’t had to spend nearly as much time putting in plays this year. Now that the guys know the standards, we need to become more competitive. Our focus is on getting better every day. We have a lot back and we can be successful.”
Senior guard Griffin Holmes and senior forward Shawn Jones return to anchor the starting lineup.
Sophomore guard Josh Rzucidlo, who missed most of last season with a collarbone injury, junior guard Zach Stec and junior forward Zac Cost are also expected to play significant minutes.
According to Sunseri, sophomore guard Nico Berrios, sophomore forward Richard Helbing and senior guard/forward Tim Cole should also contribute.
The team must replace five key players who graduated off last year’s team — guards Travis Ankoff and John Maier, forwards Ronnie Traver and Anthony Berrios and center Jake Sanders.
Sunseri is hoping Holmes will be more assertive on the offensive end of the floor this season to compensate for some of the production that was lost.
“I think he’s going to have to look to be more aggressive than he has in the past,” Sunseri said. “He’s always been looking to set people up, but this year we’re going to need him to score.”
Jones believes the team’s success will hinge on its ability to work together on a regular basis.
“The past couple years when we had rough seasons, we just weren’t clicking together,” he said. “If we find a way to play as a team, it should be a good year. We have one sophomore and two juniors who are great players. (The upperclassmen) have all played together since we were in, probably, fourth grade. We all know each other and we all know how we play.
“The energy in the gym is also a lot better than it’s been the past couple years.”
Sunseri has been impressed with Jones’ leadership throughout the first couple weeks of practice.
“He just wants it to be a team from the top to bottom,” Sunseri said. “He wants it to be enjoyable for everybody, and he wants everybody communicating and helping each other out.”
Holmes feels the extra work put in by the team during the summer will pay dividends once the season begins.
“We got into the gym a lot so we could use the shooting gun,” he said. “We would get countless numbers of shots up for a bunch of hours, and I think it worked. Our shots are starting to fall.
“Our defense is looking good, we just have to score.”
Sunseri expects Mountain View and Susquehanna to be among the top contenders for the Lackawanna League Division 4 title.
The Lions will begin their season by traveling to play Wallenpaupack as part of a tournament at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 8.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.