Dan Holzer may teach social studies at Upper St. Clair High School, but he he’ll be mastering his chemistry degree this winter as he pulls the varsity basketball team together.
“Our goals as always will be to improve every day and win the section, WPIAL and state titles,” said Holzer, who enters his 25th season as floor boss. “To achieve this we really need to work together as a team on and off the court. Getting your team to play together is the biggest key in high school sports,” he added.
Chemistry is obviously critical to this year’s club as Holzer welcomes virtually a whole new line-up. Four starters graduated from last year’s 19-4 club that lost in overtime to runner-up Butler in the WPIAL playoffs.
Tanner Gensler was among those departures. The first-team all-section performer was USC’s leading scorer, averaging 19.2 points per game. Gensler, who also managed 7.6 rebounds an outing, is currently playing at Muskingum University.
Off playing football for Johns Hopkins is Chris Pantelis (11.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg). Ben Sandusky and Luke Heisler were the other departures. Neither is playing basketball in college.
Luke Gensler, Tanner’s younger brother, is the lone returning starter. He averaged 12.4 points and dished up four assists per game.
Among the players Holzer expects to see plenty of action and have an impact on outcomes will be: Andrew Casey, David Pantelis, Josh Russell, Zack Kingseed, Landon Rauch, Jack Moore, Tanner O’Grady, Luke Banbury, Mike Pelvic and Jamie Smith.
Casey and Pantelis have plenty of experience because they were key substitutes last season. They also are talented athletes as Casey, a senior, excels in baseball and Pantelis ranked among the WPIAL’s leading receivers during this past football season. A two-year starter, the junior also is a standout defensive back.
In addition to Pantelis, Banbury and Smith contributed to the success of the football club.
While with a young club there are a plethora of areas that need improving, the Panthers have two strengths that should factor into their success.
“Our depth and ability to shoot the ball,” said Holzer. “but we need to improve on basically getting better every day on both offense and defense.”
Holzer looks to defending WPIAL champion, Mt. Lebanon, as well as Peters Township and Bethel Park to pose the biggest league competition for his Panthers. But he doesn’t discount Canon-McMillan, which is in the post-Rick Bell era, and Baldwin.
“Our section is very good. Lebo, Peters and Bethel return a lot of key guys and Canon-Mac and Baldwin are rivals that will be tough games in a very difficult section,” Holzer said.
“Anybody can beat anybody,” he noted then added that he has learned a vital lesson in his career.
“Attention to details on all facets of a high school program year in and year out can make a big difference,” he said.
After hosting its own tip-off tournament, USC opens Section 2, 6A action on Dec. 13 at Peters Township.