2012-13 W&J Men’s Basketball Season Preview
Seventh-year Head Coach Glenn Gutierrez returns a young Washington & Jefferson men’s basketball roster for the 2012-13 season, but one of the most athletic in recent history. Seven letter winners are back, most notably high-scoring senior guard Zach Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry). Bellhy is one of just three players on the 2012-13 roster with more than one year of collegiate experience.
A 2011 Second Team All-Presidents’ Athletic Conference performer, Bellhy scored 500 points last winter, the third-highest, single-season total in school history and led the conference in scoring at 19.2 points per game. Bellhy became the 15th player in program history to record 1,000 points and also led the team in three-pointers (49), free throw percentage (.820), steals (30) and blocked shots (12).
“Zach is talented enough to be one of the best players in the region,” said Gutierrez, who guided the Presidents to the 2009 ECAC Division III Tournament championship. “He has improved each year and I think he feels comfortable in his role as our leader. We have to help him out though, he can’t do everything on his own.”
A face familiar in the Bellhy household has joined the Presidents’ roster, as brother Nate Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) will be alongside his older sibling on the court. A 6-foot-6 forward, Nate transferred from NCAA Division II Seton Hill and has sophomore eligibility. Coach Gutierrez expects the younger Bellhy to have an immediate impact with his scoring touch and physical presence in the post. The Bellhy duo’s younger sister, Beka, has also joined the Presidents’ basketball family as a freshman guard on the women’s team.
“Nate is a good basketball player,” added Gutierrez. “Both Nate and Zach are very athletic and help us bring more athleticism to the floor than we’ve had in awhile. Nate is strong and can handle the ball. He gives us an added dimension.”
Senior forwards R.J. Pilato (Greensburg, Pa./Hempfield) and Ben Cecchini (Jamestown, N.Y./Jamestown) and junior guard Brett Rubin-Goldstein (Pittsburgh, Pa./Fox Chapel) are veterans who will play key roles. Pilato has improved his scoring and rebounding outputs each season while playing in the post. Rubin-Goldstein tallied 6.1 points and dished out 47 assists last winter, while Cecchini returns to the squad after sitting out last season. Cecchini shot 52 percent from the floor during his only collegiate season in 2010-11 and produced 7.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
“Ben brings passion and will to our program. I am impressed by his leadership skills and it’s been great having him back. On the other hand, R.J. is a mild-mannered type of leader. We need him to assert himself in the post on both ends. His communication and leadership will be important to our success.”
Over half of the Presidents’ roster is comprised of a nine-man sophomore class. Many of the second-year players gained valuable playing time during their rookie seasons, including Mike Resnik (White Oak, Pa./McKeesport) and Connor Deckard (Aurora, Ohio/Gilmore Academy), who both appeared in all 27 games as guards.
Resnik is the Presidents’ fourth-leading returning scorer at 5.9 points per game and also ranked second on the team with 25 steals. Deckard added 1.5 points per game, but his hustle and defensive effort is invaluable according to the coaching staff.
Swingman Mitch Locher (Pittsburgh, Pa./Avonworth) and guard Doug Johnson (Greensburg, Pa./Greater Latrobe) are two additional key sophomores who Gutierrez expects to make significant contributions.
“Doug has played really well this preseason and provides us with a solid point guard presence. Mike is a solid, tough basketball player, while Mitch may be the most athletic player we have. Connor brings high levels of energy, enthusiasm and toughness that every successful program needs.”
Gutierrez also noted that sophomore guard Eric Holmes (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine Richland) is healthy after returning from shoulder surgery. He was limited to 15 games last year, but has made strides and has performed well in practice.
In order to claim the program’s first conference championship since 1995, Gutierrez believes offensive consistency end of the floor is paramount. Gutierrez’s squads always pride themselves on defense, but W&J will have to improve upon its 43 percent field goal shooting (7th PAC in 2011-12) and 65.6 points per game (8th PAC in 2011-12).
“This sounds simple, but if we shoot the ball well and stay healthy, we’re going to have a pretty good basketball team,” concluded Gutierrez. “We can’t suffer through the poor shooting stretches that have hurt us the last couple of seasons. We started early-morning practices this year and the players have responded really well. I like this group and we are ready for the season to start.”
The Presidents hit the court for their first game on Nov. 15 at Denison and then return home for the Second Annual Washington Area Credit Union Tournament on Nov. 17-18 at the Henry Memorial Center. Joining W&J in the tournament are Hood (Md.), Ohio Northern and Penn State-Beaver.