Twinsburg boys basketball finally ready to roar

Steve Batko
Twinsburg guard Trevell Williams puts up a shot during a game against Nordonia last winter.

It promises to be an intriguing season for the Twinsburg boys basketball program.

Blessed with talent to compete at a high level after going 16-8 last year, the Tigers seemed poised on paper to do some damage this winter.

Then COVID-19 came and the Tigers experienced an extensive pause as did the rest of Twinsburg athletics.

Now, Twinsburg is a bit behind as the Tigers return to the court and will face clubs who have not faced any stoppages in play.

However, Phil Schmook returns for his fifth year with plenty of optimism, but admits he is still learning what his schedule will look like this season.

Schmook has some unanswered questions himself.

“We just recently completed tryouts and did not have a summer season, thus at this point, we are unsure of the team identity we will possess,” said Schmook.

“As always, I expect our team to be good,” noted Schmook. “Our guys are tough, work hard, share the ball, defend, play extremely hard and they are coachable.”

Twinsburg is athletic with a ton of speed and versatility.

However, team chemistry has been challenged by a lack of a cohesive pre-season that was dominated with interruptions and safety measures.

“It has been really frustrating, but there’s not a lot you can do,” stressed Schmook. “I am just happy to be in the gym again.”

“We have not had any scrimmages and I know we should defend well and use our quickness and stress good shot selection, but at this point, we have had only six practices as a team. We just need to get our identity.”

The coaching staff includes varsity assistant Bill Felberg, junior varsity coach John Temple and Vince Paolucci will head the freshman cast.

A good graduating class will be missed.

Do-it-all guard Ken McElrath was an honorable mention All-NEO Inland District Division I choice and made first-team All-Suburban League and will be missed along with Joey Plantner.

A top-3-point threat, Plantner made honorable mention All-District.

In addition, Twinsburg also lost 6-foot-5 Ethan Golnick, a strong rebounder and shot blocker as well as veteran guard Josh Wanton, who had to battle health issues late in his career.

Twinsburg has two returning starters back in senior Dante’ Yarbrough and junior Reggie Bussey.

A 6-3 forward-guard, Yarbrough was an honorable mention All-District and all-league player. He averaged 10.1 points and 4.2 rebounds a game.

“Dante’ was our most productive player down the stretch last year and is a tremendous and coachable young man,” expressed Schmook. “He just cares about winning and playing hard.”

Yarbrough is a consistent wing, who can help out on the glass and also could step out and shoot the 3-pointer. He also has the quickness to drive to the rim.

“Dante’ does whatever you ask of him and he does not complain,” said Schmook.

Bussey came on strong last year as the Tigers needed other athletes to handle the ball.

An athletic point guard, Bussey dished out 2.4 assists a game and showed flashes on defense. The Tigers also need the speedy Bussey to score on the offensive end as well.

“Reggie was a sophomore and stepped in and handled the ball for us last year in a very tough situation,” explained Schmook. “He grew game by game.”

“I know that it is tough to be a point guard for me,” stated Schmook. “I do expect big things out of Reggie.”

A trio of senior lettermen will play huge roles this winter. They include Trevell Williams, P.J. Suggs, and Roman Sims.

All three players were in the rotation last year and all three are versatile athletes.

Williams is a 6-1 guard, who can shoot from deep and play out on the wing as well. Williams exploded for a career high 15 points in a game last year against Youngstown East.

“Trevell is a tremendously skilled and high IQ guy that brings a great toughness to the floor and loves to compete,” said Schmook.

Suggs also showed flashes last season and continues to get better as a 6-3 wing, who can play anywhere on the court.

A rising athlete who opened some eyes at the 2020 NEO Youth Elite College Showcase, Suggs is a superb athlete, who can handle the ball and excel in the transition game. He may prove to have a high ceiling.

Schmook is so high on Suggs that he thinks he is a college prospect who will surprise this winter!

“P.J. Suggs may be one of the most improved players in the area,” declared Schmook. “He has worked so hard on his game all on his own. He has developed into a future college player.”

Sims is a sturdy 6-4 athlete, who should get plenty of minutes in the post. He will be needed to board and defend in the paint.

“Roman battles on the boards and had signs of greatness last year,” said Schmook. “In the past two weeks, Sims has been working so hard and running the floor hard.”

Top newcomers include juniors John Morris (6-0 wing) and Ravon Willis (5-9 guard), plus sophomores Adam Williams (5-9-point guard), Jake Bond (6-0 guard/wing), David Coniglio (6-0 shooting guard/point guard), Brennan Hopp (5-10 wing), and Mylen McGhaw (5-10 guard).

“Many of these guys will be in the rotation and our sophomores will play a lot this year,” said Schmook, who at times, stretches his player rotation beyond 12 athletes.

Twinsburg was 9-5 in the deep Suburban League National Conference in 2019.

“I feel we can compete with anyone for the league,” remarked Schmook. “Unfortunately, with the pandemic situation, everything can be very difficult.”

“We are going to be facing a tough battle as all of our conference members have been practicing and some, playing games from the start,” noted Schmook.

Schmook also pointed out that the league may just be counting the first game between foes in the league standings – something that could leave a bad taste in the mouths of several coaches.

North Royalton, the defending SL National champions at 12-2, will still be strong as league MVP and standout guard Omar Abuhamdeh is back.

Twinsburg opens the season Jan. 8 at home against Nordonia.

“I think Nordonia has been playing and going since June in the off-season until now,” said Schmook. “Their kids have played together and have games under their belt. We do not.”

Last year, Twinsburg ran into red-hot fifth-seed Barberton, which beat the fourth-seeded Tigers 73-57 at the sectional final of the Copley Division I sectional-district tournament.

Schmook is just hoping his seniors can have a post season.