There’s no weirder feeling than coming back to your hometown as a member of an opposing team. Thankfully for Joey Lonardi, his return to Elizabethtown was a warm one, even if his team ended up on the wrong side of the final score.
Lonardi, who graduated from Elizabethtown Area High School in 2016 after scoring over 1,000 career points, is currently a junior on the King’s College men’s basketball team. He and the Monarchs visited Elizabethtown College on Wednesday, Nov. 28, to take on the Blue Jays, who came out with an impressive 93-63 victory. Despite the loss, Lonardi performed well, scoring 10 points and leading all players with 12 rebounds (a career high) for a double-double.
“It felt great coming back to my hometown,” Lonardi said. “It was a nice homecoming. (It’s) good being back in an area with all the people that know me. I’ve seen a lot of people out here, almost like I was on the home team tonight in some sense. I wish we could’ve performed better, but it goes how it goes, and we’re back to conference play next week.”
Much of the crowd audibly cheered for Lonardi throughout the game. Many of his family members were in attendance, as was the current members of the EAHS boys basketball team. It’s rare for him to have the chance to play in front of them; the vast majority of the schedule for King’s College, which is based in Wilkes-Barre, takes place far from Elizabethtown.
“I miss it a lot,” Lonardi said. “Just the people in general, (as well as) the atmosphere. This is one of the nicest places to play, (and it’s) really the only game within two hours, other than Susquehanna, so it’s just nice to have people who almost made me forget that I played here come and see me.”
Unfortunately, just getting on the court has been an obstacle for Lonardi during his first two seasons with the Monarchs. He played in just four games his freshman season, missing a large chunk of time due to a broken wrist. He fared slightly better last year, starting six games before going down to a knee injury. Still, when healthy, Lonardi has had a consistent role in the rotation, averaging 7.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in 21.3 minutes per game.
“It’s good to be back with the team,” he said. “We got a bunch of young guys, and we only graduate one guy next year. It was a tough night. We’re still learning, we got a lot to look forward to and we have a lot of games ahead of us.”
King’s College has been a program in rebuild since Lonardi arrived, though signs of improvement are there. The Monarchs went just 5-20 his freshman year before doubling their win total to 10-15 last season. They have faltered a bit to begin 2018 though, opening with a 1-5 record. However, they’re also extremely young; of the 13 players that saw time against Elizabethtown College, six were either freshmen or sophomores.
“I like a lot of the pieces that we have,” Lonardi said. “You saw a lot of that today. We have a lot of freshmen playing. With all these moving pieces, we just have to figure out how to put the puzzle together, and that’s really how it’s gonna be most of the season.”
With a starting spot on the team safely secure, Lonardi’s primary focus for the rest of the season is to help an inexperienced team grow. King’s College will find itself behind the field when conference play begins on Wednesday, Dec. 5, against Eastern. But as the Monarchs progress on the court, maybe success will be headed their way soon. That’s Lonardi’s goal, anyway.
“We want to be more competitive in the conference,” he said. “That’s for sure. We want to be able to score more, play better defense and just be able to build. Like I said, not just for this year, but next year as well. We’re really looking forward to the future.”