Last updated: March 27. 2013 11:54PM - 3790 Views
By - psokoloski@timesleader.com - (570) 991-6392

AIMEE DILGER /THE TIMES LEADERFormer GAR basketball standout and La Salle player Larry Koretz will be cheering for LaSalle in the NCAA tournament.
AIMEE DILGER /THE TIMES LEADERFormer GAR basketball standout and La Salle player Larry Koretz will be cheering for LaSalle in the NCAA tournament.
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They played on Wyoming Valley Conference basketball courts that were never marked by 3-point lines.

But Paul Guffrovich and Larry Koretz both know a lot about outside shots.

Their old college programs are both longshots in the NCAA tournament as they square off in a West Region semifinal tonight.

Guffrovich was a long-range bomber and record-setting point guard at Wichita State. Koretz was an anomoly of his time as a big man who deftly drilled deep jumpers for La Salle University.

And both are excited about the success their old schools have found decades after they departed.

“Yes,” Koretz said, confirming the excitement of seeing his old college team make a tournament run, “and tell ‘Guff’ I’ll be pulling for the Shockers, too.

“I think everybody goes for the underdog.”

He goes to Grotto Pizza to serve up drinks instead of assists now.

And makes schedules, covers shifts and manages the bar the way he once managed games.

They used to say putting a basketball in the hands of Koretz in the clutch was like money in the bank, and more than 25 years later, that still rings true.

He makes bank deposits, too.

“Jack of all trades,” Koretz called himself.

Which is fitting. Because back when he played for La Salle, Koretz didn’t have one defined position, he played three of them - sometimes in the same game.

“Anywhere from small forward, big forward, power forward,” said Koretz, who starred at GAR High School in the early 1980s.

Guffrovich was purely a point guard, and one of the best in Wichita State’s history.

He’s currently a part-time teacher at Luzerne County Community College, which is also fitting. Because during his playing days, Guffrovich schooled plenty of players while setting Wichita State records for assists and 3-point shooting percentage, which stood for a few years after he was gone.

“It was a tremendous learning experience,” Guffrovich said.

They already knew Guffrovich could shoot. He set the standard that still stands at Nanticoke Area High School, where Guffrovich scored 2,271 career points and may have scored over 3,000 if he had the benefit of playing his high school days with a 3-point shot. Many of his baskets came from 20 feet or beyond during his high school days from 1983 through 1987 - before the 3-point shot was installed in the high school game.

So Guffrovich found comfort in the bombs-away system coach Eddie Fogler used to reach the NCAA Tournament in Guffrovich’s first year at Wichita State and the NIT tourney during Guffrovich’s first season as a starter during his sophomore season. The Shockers were bounced out in the early rounds of both playoff tournaments.

Guffrovich’s 43.4 career 3-point shooting percentage still ranks fifth on Wichita State’s all-time list. He was named the 1991 team MVP and was selected to Wichita State’s top 50 all-time team at the turn of the century.

“That’s one thing that will stick with me. They have a pretty rich history out there,” said Guffrovich, who left a job in Arizona and returned to the Wyoming Valley to take care of his mother a few years ago.

Still, Wichita State is hardly a perennial NCAA power, and Guffrovich said it delighted him to to watch his old Shockers team pull off a couple of stunning upsets - including knocking off the nation’s top-ranked team Gonzaga - to reach the Sweet 16 as a No. 9 seed.

“In the pool I was in, I actually picked them to beat Gonzaga,” Guffrovich said. “I’ll always have ties there. I spent a long time in Wichita. I’ll always watch them.”

Koretz is the first to admit he doesn’t watch La Salle much anymore.

“There’s not a lot of guys who were there when I was,” Koretz said. “I follow them as much as I could, which is not to say a lot. I’ve been to a couple Temple games.”

That’s because his old college assistant coach Fran Dunphy is currently the head coach at Temple, where former La Salle head coach Speedy Morris - who recruited Koretz out of GAR - hangs out.

But he was impressed when the current group of Explorers won a play-in game to join the NCAA field, then upended No. 4 Kansas State and Mississippi to reach the Sweet 16 as a No. 16 seed.

“If it weren’t for Florida Gulf Coast, probably the whole country would be talking about them,” Koretz said of the Explorers.

During his playing days at La Salle from 1983 through 1987, Koretz gave Philadelphia fans something to revel in.

His 6-foot-8 frame may have suggested an inside game, But Koretz suprised opponents with remarkable outside touch that produced over 200 field goals from 3-point range and 1,382 points during his college career.

“It was uncommon,” Koretz said. “When I was in high school, the other guys on the team were saying there’s never been a big guy who can shoot (from outside) like you.”

Koretz, also playing his high school ball without the benefit of a 3-point shot, scored 2,100 points at GAR from 1978 to 1983. He was so agile, he also played shortstop on the school’s baseball team.

And at La Salle, Koretz started every game from his freshman through senior seasons. That ’80s era never included an NCAA tourney berth for Koretz and La Salle, but he did help the Explorers reach the NIT championship game in 1987.

“Starting every game was big,” said Koretz, who now coaches his 9-year-old son Jacob in a youth league. “I was one of the first guys to do that for four years. When I first started (at La Salle), I don’t know there was anybody else who did that.”

What their time on the college courts did do was instill an interest in their old programs that remains long after Guffrovich and Koretz are gone from the team’s spotlight.

They’re anxious to find out if one of these decided underdogs can make a real run starting tonight, and ride a long-shot bid all the way to an NCAA title.

“I would love to see that,” Guffrovich said, “just for the players and for the team.

“I’ll definitely watch it.”

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