By Megan Karl
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa.— The Penn State New Kensington men’s basketball team suffered another loss on Dec. 2 at the Athletic Conference opener.
New Kensington hosted Penn State Dubois for their first home game on Wednesday night which was also Parkinson Awareness Night. All proceeds from the night go towards research for the disease. The boys from both teams were wearing “Beat Parkinson Disease” armbands during warm-ups.
Dubois currently has a record of 5-2 and ended the game with a 92-64 win. New Kensington’s head coach, Ryan Shank, was prepared for a difficult game.
“They have played a very tough schedule and have been successful,” said Shank. “They are one of the top teams, Penn State Dubois, in our conference. If they aren’t the best, they’re probably top three.”
This is Shank’s fifth season with the Nittany Lions. He is also a Social Studies teacher at the McKeesport Area High School. Before settling down at New Kensington, he was the assistant coach for four years at Penn State Greater Allegheny.
The New Kensington Lions currently have a record of 0-5 this season. The team is comprised of five freshman and five sophomores.
“We’re still trying to grow as a team and we’re still learning the system,” said Shank.
This game is the first of the season where New Kensington had the physical support from their friends and family members. The team opened the season at Clarion University and has traveled to Geneva College, Pitt Greensburg, and Pitt Titusville.
“The intensity here tonight was amazing,” said Joe Mandak III about playing at home. “We feed off the crowd and we feed off the cheerleaders. They’re all great people.”
This is Mandak’s second year on the team as a sophomore. He is a Corporate Communications major and is also an Orientation Leader. Mandak and sophomore, Justin Reed, were elected as team captains this season by their teammates.
Even with a 0-5 record, New Kensington is a team full of talent. They will not be giving up and plan on making a full improvement for the rest of the season. Penn State Dubois had 16 offensive rebounds during the game.
“If we eliminate those rebounds, we’re in the game,” said Mandak. “We also have to play smart and not turn the ball over as much and also be patient with offense.”
Besides the technicalities of the game, a lot of improvement needs to come from the team’s personalities.
“It’s a little bit of confidence as well,” said Coach Shank.
After watching New Kensington get defeated, a current student believed they played much better tonight then the past four games.
“The only thing I’d say they need to work on for sure,” said Becky Ankeny, “is their shooting. They should definitely practice shooting more.”
Ankeny is a sophomore film and video major who travels with the team for a majority of their games as the videographer.
In between practices and games, the Nittany Lions also find time to focus on their academics. The boys have two mandatory study halls a week to ensure their focus isn’t primarily on athletics. At the beginning of each semester, Coach Shank has the team set academic goals and every so often he reminds them what they are.
“We’re trying to make them understand,” said Shank, “the reason why they’re here is for the best education.”
Penn State New Kensington is hosting Penn State Scranton at 7:00p.m. at the next game on Friday, Dec. 4.