MONT ALTO, Pa. – The Penn State Mont Alto men's basketball team will open the 2018-19 season on Friday, November 9 when the squad hosts its annual John E. Benchoff Tip-Off Tournament. PSUMA will host Penn State York, Davis College, and Williamson College of the Trades with the Lions facing Davis College on Friday at 8 p.m. and the Mechanics on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Penn State Mont Alto looks to return to postseason action after missing out during the 2017-18 campaign, which saw the team finish 12-13 overall and 6-10 within the conference. Head coach Jack Schenzel returns for his 8th season at the helm of the program and has instilled a newfound desire to tighten things up on the defensive end of the floor.
"I really feel like we have lost our way defensively last season, so we had a boot camp at the beginning stages of the preseason where we really focused on the fundamentals," head coach Jack Schenzel said. "It's helped having an extra two weeks this year as we have a great group of veterans that push our younger guys in practice and I've steadily seen improvements at each practice."
Improving the defense and rebounding is certainly a full team effort, perhaps the biggest key to the team's success this season will be the play of the upperclassman. Schenzel boasts five seniors and three juniors who comprise more than half his roster. The seniors include Jalen Smith (Ranson, W. Va. / Jefferson), Terrell Campbell (Germantown, Md. / St. John's College Prep), Kevin Holston (Fort Washington, Md. / Friendly), Drew Pitzer (Bunker Hill, W.Va. / Musselman) and Nick Jacoby (Shippensburg, Pa. / Shippensburg) who will also have another year of eligibility as well during the 19-20 season.
Smith, a first team USCAA All-American led Mont Alto in scoring at 20.6 points per game and collected a team-high 129 rebounds. Smith was also a two-time PSUAC Player of the Week during the 2017-18 season and enters his senior season 14-points shy of surpassing 1000 during his career at Mont Alto. Campbell, the all-time leader in assists in program history has totaled 293 assists to date and will be expected to be one of the lead guards. Fellow senior Kevin Holston (Fort Washington, Md. / Friendly) returns to the program after a year away from the team and has a specific goal in mind for his return.
"Kevin provides us with a lot of grit and he wants to be the defensive player of the year in this league," Schenzel said. "He has shown in practice that he is very capable of locking down the opponent's top scorers.
Nick Jacoby (Shippensburg, Pa. / Shippensburg) a product of Shippensburg Area High School has been a defensive first guy in the past but has steadily improved on the offensive end of the floor and is expected to make some noise this year. Drew Pitzer (Bunker Hill, W.Va. / Musselman) transferred to PSUMA from NCAA Division II Salem University and according to Coach Schenzel the senior forward has brought some toughness and the ability to rebound on the offensive end of the floor.
This year's 15-man roster is comprised of four freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors and five seniors. Quintyn Flemister (Harrisburg, Pa. / Harrisburg) netted in double figures in seven games during his freshman season. The Lions will also see the return of Shun Hickman (Shippensburg, Pa. / Shippensburg) and Marcus Roper (Charlestown, W. Va. / Jefferson) who was one of two players on the team to start every game during the 2017-18 campaign.
After the Benchoff Tournament, the home portion of the schedule features a non-conference contest against Christendom College (Nov. 13) with the bulk of the non-conference scheduled being played on the road and featuring three outstanding matchups; the first is with NCAA Division II Salem University on November 16 and the second is a trip to Miami, Florida where the team will play two games versus Florida National (Dec. 18) and Florida Memorial (Dec. 19).
"The trip to Miami is going to be one of the highlights of the regular season as we're going to be playing two of the top notch USCAA Division I programs," Schenzel said. "Some of the guys have never flown in a plane and I know they're excited to experience playing in a collegiate game outside of the northeast region, plus we get to explore a whole new city together."
Mont Alto will play in their first PSUAC contest on November 27 at home against Penn State New Kensington. Other home PSUAC games will feature Penn State Beaver, Penn State Greater Allegheny, Penn State York, Penn State Fayette, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, Penn State Scranton, Penn State Shenango, and Penn State DuBois. The PSUAC restructured into an East and West divisional format with all games against conference competition counting towards the standings with Mont Alto being placed in the west division.