Plum boys quickly adjust to 1st-year coach Coleman
When first-year Plum boys basketball coach Hart Coleman got settled into the position after his hiring in late June, he quickly realized his team for the upcoming season would be young.
Only two seniors are on the roster, and a number of players new to varsity have gotten the opportunity to compete for spots in the rotation.
“It will be a transition year, but it will be competitive,” Coleman said. “We’ve seen that competitiveness in practice. It’s been an open slate for everybody. They all came in with an equal opportunity. They’ve taken heed to what we’ve tried to teach them.”
Coleman replaced veteran Plum coach Ron Richards, who stepped down shortly after last season concluded.
A pair of starters are back in 5-foot-11 junior point guard Lamar Whiting and 6-1 senior forward Isaiah Horne. They are hoping to help navigate the Mustangs through the challenging slate in Section 3-6A, considered to be one of the tougher sections in all of the WPIAL.
“We have the potential to be a good team if we continue to work hard like we have been,” Horne said. “The younger guys have been battling, and everybody has raised their games.”
Plum finished 4-10 in section play and 10-11 overall last season. Five of the team’s section losses came by five points or fewer.
“Coach Coleman is a good coach, and he really knows what he’s doing,” said Whiting, an all-section honorable mention pick last season. “He’s helped get us going in the right direction. Things are coming together.”
As summer transitioned into fall, Whiting said, the team started to develop its identity more.
“We came together and played well as a team,” he said. “A lot of guys have stepped up.”
Junior Chase Fink, a 5-10 shooting guard, will serve as a team captain with Whiting. He had hoped to be in the varsity/JV mix last year, but a pair of injuries limited him to four games.
Fink said he has put the frustrations of last year behind him and is ready to help the team this season.
“It gave me a lot of time to think about what I had to do to help the team when I came back,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in the gym doing what I needed to do to be ready. I knew coming in that the other guys would be counting on me.”
Coleman said freshman Connor Moss, a 6-2 guard/forward, should make an impact in his first varsity season.
“We might take some bumps going through the learning process, but I think we can make some noise in the section,” Coleman said. “We’re not going to be shortsighted because I believe in our abilities. They came in with a great foundation of talent and skill.”
Fox Chapel, Latrobe and Penn Hills finished in a tie for the section title last year with 12-2 records. Woodland Hills also made the playoffs and advanced to the semifinals.
The Wolverines and Wildcats joined four others in representing the WPIAL in the PIAA playoffs.
Plum hopes to get back to the postseason after falling short last year for the first time since 2012.
“We’re looking forward to the challenges in section every week,” Whiting said. “We know it won’t be easy, but we’re ready, and we’ll fight through it.”
Plum kicks off its season Dec. 8-9 with its annual tip-off tournament.
The Mustangs will play longstanding rival and former section foe Gateway on opening night at 7:45 p.m. after a matchup between Fox Chapel and Imani Christian.
“It will be exciting because I coached at Gateway last year, even though it was on the girls’ side,” Coleman said. “I got to know some of the players on the (Gateway) boys team. The guys from both teams know each other so well. It’s going to be a good, competitive game for bragging rights to start the season.”
Plum will play Imani at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 9, and Fox Chapel will take on Gateway in another matchup of former section rivals.
“It will give us the opportunity to see Fox Chapel early in the season,” Coleman said. “Hopefully, we’re able to play well in the tournament and build some momentum.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.