By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Pittsburg State returns three full-time and two part-time starters from last year’s 17-13 team that made a run to the MIAA Postseason Tournament championship game.
Add a talented recruiting class headlined by four freshmen, and expectations are high for the Gorillas this season.
JaVon McGee, 6-foot-6 forward, returns for his senior season after averaging 13 points and almost seven rebounds last season and earning honorable mention all-MIAA honors. He’s been slowed in the preseason after undergoing surgery to repair a broken left wrist, but he’s expected to receive doctor’s clearance to play in Tuesday night’s season opener against Baker.
“We’ve missed the energy he brings, how hard he plays,” head coach Kevin Muff said. “He’s great on the glass and a very active defender. It will be good having him back earlier than we thought — we thought it was going to be December — so we can get him back in playing shape.’’
Rico Pierrevilus, 6-7 senior, and Marky Nolen, 6-4 junior, return to the lineup. The Gorillas have Pierrevilus for a full season after he averaged seven points and four rebounds in the second semester last season. Nolen averaged eight points and four rebounds and is one of the Gorillas’ best defenders.
“Rico learned a lot last year,” Muff said. “He’s dropped a little weight, and that will help him sustain a higher level of play for a longer period of time. Marky is a high-energy guy, a great defender, our blue-collar guy. He will guard the opponent’s best player, and he will need to make open shots when they present themselves.”
Courtney Ingram and Sam Pugh were part-time starters a year ago and averaged 7.5 and 3.7 points, respectively.
“Sam will be off the point a little bit this season with Kaleb Porter coming in as the point guard,” Muff said. “Sam will be more of a combo guard. He’s been working on his shot and is shooting the ball very well. Courtney will use his athleticism to score the ball, and he can also stretch defenses. He’s a good perimeter shooter.”
Jake Bullard, Denton Hays, Ray Blanco and Porter comprise one of the Gorillas’ best freshman recruiting classes in several years. Blanco averaged 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals last season at Bloomfield Tech in Passaic, N.J. The others had standout prep careers in Oklahoma — 6-5 guard Bullard averaged 18 points over his last three seasons at Vinita, 6-7 forward Hays averaged 9.5 points and 8.5 rebounds at Jenks, and 5-11 guard Porter averaged 21 points at Tulsa East Central.
“I’m not saying Porter will be the starter, but he will be playing the point quite a bit,” Muff said. “It will be a learning experience, but the good side is he’s a quick learner.
“Jake Bullard will play the ‘3’ some and as he gets comfortable he will be a significant contributor. Denton Hays is an inside guy who has played extremely well in the preseason. He’s a physical player, not afraid to bang. He goes after rebounds and is not afraid to make contact. Ray has been injured (ankle) and not played in scrimmages. He’s a get-to-the-rim type guy, and he will be a great defender.”
The Gorillas also added 6-0 junior Ethan Cordray, a transfer from Coffeyville Community College who will be one of the top 3-point threats.