UPJ vs. IUP men

Pitt-Johnstown’s Josh Wise, right, pressures Indiana University’s Malik Miller during a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference game in Johnstown, PA., Wednesday, Feb.13, 2019.

With senior all-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West first-team guard Josh Wise and a handful of very talented sophomores returning, including forward and PSAC West second-team member and PSAC West freshman of the year John Paul Kromka, the Pitt-Johnstown men’s basketball team looks to make its mark this season.

Despite the 2018-19 squad being one of the youngest teams in Pitt-Johnstown history, coach Bob Rukavina, who enters his 31st season 15 wins shy of 500 for his career, led the Mountain Cats to a 17-13 overall record and a berth in the PSAC Tournament quarterfinals.

With four starters and seven of the team’s top eight players returning for the 2019-20 season, this young group becomes one year older with a full season of experience under their belts.

Rukavina, who garnered his second PSAC West coach of the year award after last season, will look for Wise, who became Pitt-Johnstown’s 30th 1,000-point scorer on Feb. 2, and Kromka, the PSAC West Defensive Player of the year, to lead his Mountain Cats. Wise, a three-time PSAC West player of the week a year ago, led four Pitt-Johnstown players who averaged 9.9 points per game or better at 17.9 ppg. He was also second on the team behind Kromka in rebounding at 5.8 rpg and third in assists (70), steals (37), and blocked shots (12).

Kromka, a four-time PSAC freshman of the week selection and Coach Rukavina’s first sophomore ever to be named a team captain, burst onto the collegiate basketball scene and led the Mountain Cats in rebounding (7.7 rpg.), field goal percentage (63.7%) and blocked shots (76). He was also second on the team in scoring (14.9 ppg.), assists (80), steals (41) and free-throw percentage (80.3%). Nationally, Kromka’s 63.7% field goal percentage ranked fifth, while his 76 blocks and 2.53 blocks per game both ranked eighth.

Sophomore point guard Fred Mulbah and sophomore forward Caiden Landis join Wise and Kromka as returning starters and look to improve even more after hard work in the offseason. Mulbah was Pitt-Johnstown’s third player who averaged in double figures in scoring at 10.6 ppg. He also led the team in assists (144) and steals (43), and ranked 53rd in NCAA Division II in assists per game at 5.1. Landis, who earned a spot in the starting lineup midway through his freshman season, added 20 pounds and additional strength that will help him in the physical PSAC. He averaged 9.9 points and was the Mountain Cats’ third leading rebounder at 5 rpg.

Rukavina also welcomes back a pair of experienced forwards, and three sophomore guards, including Drew Magestro, the 2017-18 PSAC West freshman of the year, who sat out last season with an injury.

In the paint, senior Adam Kline (2.8 ppg., 2.4 rpg.), and junior Marcin Wiszomirski (6.5 ppg., 2.5 rpg.) add depth for the Mountain Cats. 

Both Kline and Wiszomirski have starting experience and will provide Pitt-Johnstown with solid play and plenty of experience.

Magestro, and fellow sophomore guards Joe Batt and Jared Jakubick add to an already loaded backcourt. Magestro averaged 7.6 points per game and connected on 38 3-pointers as a true freshman in 2017-18. Batt averaged 7.7 points per game, while Jakubick averaged 7 points per game as a freshman.

Redshirt freshman and Central Cambria graduate Matt Holsinger, a strong and active forward who will give the Mountain Cats another inside presence, will make his collegiate debut this season.

Along with an already very talented group of returners, Pitt-Johnstown added three newcomers to this year’s roster, including junior guard Donovian Maxfield, who transferred from Johnson and Wales (R.I.) University, and freshmen guards Daunte Allegretto (Ridgway) and Austin Greene (Northeastern). Wile Allegretto and Greene are talented guards who will battle for playing time, Maxfield has the ability to make an immediate impact and will be one of the top 3-point shooters on the team.

Pitt-Johnstown has the pieces in place and gained valuable experience last season. If the Mountain Cats are able to navigate through another difficult PSAC schedule, the 2019-20 season could be a special one.

The Mountain Cats open the season with games against Concord and West Virginia Wesleyan at the Indiana (Pa.) Tip-Off Classic on Friday and Saturday, before making their home debut with a non-conference game in the Sports Center against Carlow on Nov. 13. Pitt-Johnstown will then open PSAC play in the Sports Center against East Stroudsburg on Nov. 23.

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