Tipoff Time

Turnovers are something every basketball team wants to avoid. The Gannon University men’s team experienced plenty of turnover in the offseason, but will look to avoid giveaways where it counts—on the court.

Gannon, which will begin its 2011-12 season on the road against a pair of Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference teams this weekend, returns three players from its 2010-11 campaign.

The Knights will face East Stroudsburg University Friday and finish their opening road trip against Kutztown on Saturday. Both games are slated for 3 p.m.

The Knights’ preseason consisted of a four-game trip to Canada in October.

Senior guard Steve Piotrowicz said the trip proved beneficial.

“We had the opportunity to play in Canada, which was great practice for the season, and helped us play together as a team.”

Last season, the Knights finished 15-11 overall and 6-8 in the PSAC. Despite a strong ending to the season, they missed the PSAC playoffs for the first time since joining the conference in 2008.

Gannon will return three starters from last year: Piotrowicz, junior forward Tanner Furno and sophomore forward Stephen Battle comprise Gannon’s only returning players.

Piotrowicz, an Erie native and Cathedral Prep graduate, shot a team-high 42.5 percent from the 3-point line and led the team in assists last season.

Furno, a 6-foot-9 forward, started 16 of 26 contests last year while averaging 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

Battle was one of the team’s pleasant surprises last year, averaging 12.6 points per game as a true freshman, which was good for second on the team behind only Kelvin Agee.

Among those returning are redshirt juniors Alvin Tucker and Darrell Blanton.

However, as much as the starting lineup looks familiar, the same cannot be said about the rest of the roster, which features eight new additions to the program.

Sophomore guard Brandon Belt, junior guard Oscar Macias, junior forward T.J. Wilson and forward Dmitry Martynenko have all transferred from junior colleges.

The Russian-born Martynenko provides a big body for the Knights in the paint. Standing 6-foot-9 and weighing 235 pounds, Martynenko could fill a void Gannon has lacked since Kyle Goldcamp graduated following the 2008-09 season, when the Knights advanced to the Elite Eight.

“(The size) hopefully adds an intimidation factor for us,” Piotrowicz said. “It can really work to space the floor.”

All four of these transfers are expecting to compete for playing time in their first year in a Gannon uniform.

Gannon has only one freshman on the roster this year—Adam Blazek, led Prep with 14.7 points to go along with 5.9 rebounds.

Senior Shameel Carty will also join the roster as a transfer from fellow PSAC school Clarion. And junior Robert Wilson, who transferred from Division II Urbana, will most likely redshirt this year.

Rounding out the roster is sophomore forward Dytanya “Bubby” Johnson, who transferred from Division I New Jersey Institute of Technology. The 6-foot-9 forward provides size and offense, as he averaged 2.3 points per game and played in 25 games, starting 11 of them.

After the road trip, Gannon won’t play another game until Nov. 25, when it hosts the Gary Miller Classic during the Thanksgiving weekend.

The Knights will then play four PSAC crossover games, before hosting the Porreco Cup over Christmas break.

Piotrowicz said the Knights are  preparing for the heavy workload of the season.

“We’re kind of at the stage everybody is right now– still getting used to playing with each other, and just getting ready for the season,” he said.

JACOB TARR

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