Now that the Wyoming Valley Conference season has ended and the District 2 playoffs are winding down, it’s time to hand out some honors. Not the normal stuff — divisional MVPs, all-stars, whatever — but some unique awards.
Holding with recent tradition, up first is the All-Asphalt team. It consists of players who you would load in a car, drive to a playground anywhere and take on all challengers. They aren’t necessarily the best players in the WVC, although they all excel at the indoor game. No, you need guys with special qualities to play pickup games outdoors.
Mike Boutanos, Holy Redeemer: There’s nothing intimidating about Mike. He’s cleancut and only 5-foot-8. But dang, does he bring a lot of energy. And when it’s late in the day and everyone else is dragging a bit, he’ll be playing like the game just started. Always hated playing against those guys.
Jamie Calloway, Wyoming Valley West: Calloway would play the “Bob” position, in honor of the guy I played with numerous times on the blacktop. Bob never played high school basketball but was an incredible three-point shooter. That’s all Calloway would do — stand behind the arc and fire away.
Chris Fazzini, Crestwood: Fazzini has two brothers — Adam and John — who were excellent players. So right there, you figure he’s played outdoors against older competition that tried to intimidate him. (Anyone with older siblings knows how that works). So he’s streetball ready. Plus, his versatility would really come in handy if someone doesn’t show up.
Isaiah Francis, GAR: Francis is a two-time All-Asphalt selection and for good reason. Anyone who has seen him play knows he would probably be the best streetball player in the WVC. The arm tattoos add a touch of intimidation. So does his ability to dunk with ease.
Kyle Karmonick, Hazleton Area: There are better inside scorers in the WVC, but Karmonick isn’t afraid to knock around people inside. And if you don’t have one of those guys, don’t even show up at the playground. Karmonick adds another factor — a beard. Nothing says “That dude’s not in high school” like someone showing up with a beard.
The bench would consist of Lake-Lehman’s Pete Borum (once again) and Meyers’ Tyon Thomas.
Borum is 6-foot-6, 315 pounds and that would come in handy when the self-officiating gets lax. Plus, he is a darn good basketball player. Thomas is a high-energy player who brings two other key factors. First, he is originally from Baltimore and a big-city guy would give the team some street cred. He also bears a slight resemblance to NBA all-star Kyrie Irving. So maybe we can dupe the opponent into thinking they are related somehow.
Remember, the idea is not only to win on the blacktop but also instill a level of fear upon arriving at the outdoor court.
ALL-ROOKIE TEAM: To qualify, a player must be a freshman or a sophomore who didn’t contribute significantly last season. The latter stipulation eliminates guys like Dallas sophomore Suk Mathon, who was on the All-Rookie team in 2012-13, and MMI Prep sophomore Ed Herbener.
Tyler Evans, Berwick: Evans saw playing time in 13 of 14 regular-season games last season as a freshman. So there were some questions whether he fit the qualification parameters. But a jump from 3.2 points per game to 17.6 and 38 three-pointers were enough to make his case.
Robbie Hopkins, Crestwood: The sophomore guard probably has an excellent chance of breaking the starting lineup next season with four players graduating. He averaged only 3.0 points this season, but was often inserted into critical situations for a team that won the WVC Division I title and 20 games.
Brent Piontkowski, Nanticoke: Big guys usually take some time to develop. After making some cameo appearances as a freshman, Piontkowski broke into the starting lineup this season. Things started to click better about midway through the WVC schedule.
Dajon Rush, GAR: Rush plays with three talented seniors, so he didn’t have to make a big impact. Numbers-wise, he didn’t. But any sophomore that can crack GAR’s starting lineup has to be talented.
Scott Stout, Nanticoke: Stout followed the same path as Piontkowski, getting playing time as a freshman. Enough to disqualifying him from All-Rookie honors? That’s debatable. Stout, though, led the Trojans in WVC play with 24 three-pointers while averaging 10.8 points.
ALL-UNDERRATED TEAM: Five players who do things that sometimes go unnoticed.
Shahee Aurelus, Meyers: The junior transferred in from Stroudsburg High just in the nick of time. Meyers’ backcourt was depleted by graduation and needed some stability. Aurelus provided it with his ballhandling and scoring.
Jon Fogarty, Hazleton Area: Hazleton Area coach Mike Joseph described Fogarty earlier in the season as a player who worked tremendously hard to break the starting lineup as a senior. His play has shown he wasn’t content at just getting there. Despite being just 5-foot-11, Fogarty has over 60 more rebounds than anyone else on the squad.
Mason Gross, Pittston Area: How can one of the WVC’s best players also be underrated? It’s simple. Gross is 6-foot-5, but not your typical camp-under-the-basket big guy. His ability to score from the perimeter and his an occasional three-pointer spreads the floor for his teammates.
James Holmes, GAR: Holmes is one of three seniors in the starting lineup. Isaiah Francis brings showmanship. Jahlil Harvey brings an edge. As for Holmes, he just goes out every game and plays hard at his guard position. His team-leading 35 three-pointers in WVC play were the most in Division II.
Mike Sands, Wyoming Valley West: Sands had to assume more of a scoring role when injuries began to take a toll on the Spartans. He scored in double figures in nine of the team’s last 10 games, all of which the Spartans didn’t have their projected starting five on the court. Many times, just three of those five were available.
ALL-GRIDIRON TEAM: This team consists of football-turned-basketball players. Past teams have ranged from mediocre to downright awful. This group, though, might be the best ever. There were some really tough decisions.
Three starters were also Times Leader All-WVC selections in football — Lehman’s Pete Borum, Coughlin’s Darik Johnson and Valley West’s Mike Sands. Hanover Area lineman Tony Marcincavage and Pittston Area quarterback James Emmett will round out the starters.
The bench is very deep with Pittston Area’s Hassan Maxwell and Mike Schwab, Dallas’ Omar Nijmeh and Tunkhannock’s Brian Beauchemin. Not a bad group overall.