It’s a new era of JCC basketball here in the city of Pittsburgh, and this year’s varsity team is prepared to be the face of it.
Led by its newly appointed head coach, Hal Shapera, a Squirrel Hill native, this year’s team is one of the youngest in recent years. Seven of 11 members on the roster are underclassmen, giving this season the potential to be a rebuilding year.
But with a strong starting five, and role players ready to come off the bench, other members of the Greater Pittsburgh Independent Basketball League should have something to be concerned about.
The JCC opened up its season on the road last Thursday with a 62-51 loss to Propel-Homestead; the boys in blue pulled within seven at one point during the game, but their effort wasn’t enough to come out on top.
Senior Andre Rosser, a new recruit, was the high scorer for the JCC with 20 points. Rosser played for All-derdice the past few years before making the switch for his final season.
The only remnants of last year’s roster are the athletic senior Jonah Baron, sharp-shooting junior Adam Hoffman and senior Justin Cicco — a defensive specialist.
But Shapera believes every player — rookies and veterans — will contribute to the team’s success.
“I expect every kid to be a contributing member,” he said. “I have high hopes for this group. They should definitely be competitive.”
The team also includes sophomores Gabe Kass, Sam Nepo, Clint Davis and Charlie Berntsen; and freshmen Eli Sacks, Sam Greenberg and Daniel Salter-Volz.
This isn’t the first time Shapera has worked with Greenberg and Sacks. He coached the duo in the Metro USA League Championship their sixth- and eighth-grade years.
Shapera succeeds longtime JCC head coach Andy Pakler, whom he assisted for six years. Pakler resigned to take an assistant coaching position at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School under Buddy Valinsky.
Assisting Shapera in the coaching are Pittsburgh natives Arron Critchfield, a junior at the University of Pittsburgh; and Penn State alumnus Nick Camerlengo. Looking ahead, the JCC will play its home opener Thursday, Dec. 6, 8:30 p.m., against Urban Pathways in the Robinson Building gymnasium.
The JCC team will then face a Partnership2Gether squad from Karmiel/ Misgav, Israel, in a two game tournament, Sunday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m., and Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 8 p.m. Both games, which the Chronicle will cover, will take place in the Robinson Gym and should be memorable matchups.
(Jesse Irwin can be reached at Jirwin18@gmail.com.)