DuBOIS – A wealth of returning talent, and a deep roster, has DuBois Central Catholic optimistic entering this season.
The Cardinals finished 8-14 last season, which was an improvement from four wins in the 2016-17 campaign. Third-year head coach Dom Varacallo is looking for that improvement to continue.
“We’re definitely going to continue to trend in the right direction this year,” Varacallo said. “I felt like we took some steps forward last year and built upon our first year. We have 11 seniors, and eight have played all the way through. That’s a blessing and a challenge.
“It’s nice to have that many players, but it’s going to be tough to find minutes for everyone, especially with a strong sophomore class and a couple of pretty solid juniors. That’s why I’ve been telling them that ‘It’s next man up.’ We’re going to have to buy into a team concept of ‘we over me’.”
The Cardinals have good reasons to be optimistic, especially returning senior Justin Miknis. Miknis reached the 1,000 point milestone late last season and was one of the top scorers in the district, scoring 21.9 points per game. While Miknis is a scoring threat on every possession, coach Varacallo is most impressed with his leadership.
“One of Justin’s individual goals for this year is to help the younger guys develop,” he said. “That says a lot about him as a person and a teammate. In order to be a leader you have to think of others first and he definitely has the right mindset.”
Central Catholic returns most of their top contributors as Thomas Grecco and John Swalligan were the only seniors last year. Current Seniors Anthony Kness, Brandon Walker and Josh Solnosky are back and looking to help make the Cardinals contenders again.
Solnosky had to sit out part of last season after transferring to DCC. The Cardinals are excited to have their 6-foot, 7-inch big man. While Solnosky brings a height advantage that most teams don’t have, he is also a scoring threat from the perimeter.
“I think this is the year Josh is going to put it all together,” Varacallo said “I think the sky is the limit for him, and we are a much better team with him on the floor as long as he brings a team-first mindset.”
Walker took a big step forward in his junior year as he emerged as one of the team’s top scorers.Central looks to Walker to bring leadership as he is one of the seniors to stick with the program through all four years of high school.
“Brandon has a great team-first mindset,” Varacallo said. “He had some high scoring games early in the year, but later in the year we used him off the bench. He never complained and was ready for whatever role we gave him.”
Junior Jonathan Kurtz also emerged as an impact player last year. Kurtz brings a diverse skill set which gives him the ability to affect a game in several ways. The only other junior on the roster, Parker Meholick, has improved and will get time on both the JV and varsity teams.
“Kurtz just brings it,” Varacallo said. “He’s so good defensively and does so many things well. He’s the kind of player that can make a huge impact on the game without most people noticing. Parker has worked really hard and has worked his way into the conversation for minutes.”
Zack Vandervort and Kenny Starr are also seniors that have stuck with the program throughout their high school careers. Varacallo expressed his gratitude for their dedication to the program and the example of hard work and determination.
“Zack Vandervort has improved tremendously as has Kenny Starr. They have worked as hard as anyone and I’m so proud of the work they’ve put in,” Varacallo said.
Depth is added to this roster with a sophomore class which has a lot of potential. Nick Felix, Damon Foster, Harrison Starr and Loren Way will have roles on the varsity squad. Felix missed part of last season due to an injury but looks to make an impact this year. Foster and Starr also got varsity experience as freshmen, and look to have increased roles.
“The whole sophomore class is a good group, and if they stick together, the future is very bright,” Varacallo said.
This depth gives DCC plenty of options and should allow the Cardinals to play at a fast pace. Central has the athleticism to move the ball up and down the court, but sloppiness with the basketball has been an issue in the past, and something the Cards will have to clean up if they want to get back to contention.
“I think 10-12 guys a night will see minutes, depending on the style we play,” Varacallo said. “We like to play fast and dictate the pace. The more possessions we get, the better we feel and hopefully that means we will play more than six or seven guys like we have in the past.
“This really allows us to play harder for shorter periods of time, and rotate guys in and out. We need to take better care of the basketball. When you play a faster pace that can be difficult, but when you take care of the ball you get more shots.”
Central Catholic will start the season by hosting its annual Tip-Off Tournament Friday and Saturday. Johnsonburg will take on Marion Center at 6 p.m. Friday, with DCC and Punxsutawney to follow.
Seniors: Anthony Kness, Noah Bloom, Peter Downer, Josh Solnosky, Justin Miknis, Garrett Prosper, Jon Schoeneman, Kenny Starr, Egan Peck, Zack Vandervort, Brandon Walker. Juniors: Jonathan Kurtz, Parker Meholik. Sophomores: Dante Armanini, Nick Felix, Damon Foster, AJ Jenkins, Ethan Kness, Zach Spellen, Harrison Starr, Loren Way. Freshman: Jalen Kosko.