The Elizabethtown boys basketball team went 5-17 in 2016, which was coach Rocky Parise’s first season. Admittedly, he and the team implemented some schemes and tactics that were not as successful as they hoped for them to be.
With those mistakes, however, came a full offseason of learning opportunities for both Parise and his players.
“I made a ton of mistakes as a coach. We talked about those things as a coaching staff in the offseason and I think we’ve addressed a couple things that we tried to take chances on that just didn’t work. I have no problem taking a chance on something and, if it works great, but if it doesn’t, I’ll admit that it doesn’t work and correct it,” Parise said. “There were a couple things that we did last year, defensively, to try and throw some wrinkles in to be different and that didn’t really work.”
Many of those same players that endured the struggles of last season will be back alongside Parise for the upcoming season. The team has three seniors, four juniors, nine sophomores and two freshmen on the roster.
“We have a lot of experienced players coming back and it is going to be nice to mix that experience with a couple new guys as well,” Parise said.
In the offseason, Parise said that many of the players focused on the basic principles, like post-entry passing, in order to improve.
“That was a real weakness for us last year and we’ve gotten so much better at that since April. What I really wanted to do was focus on getting stronger, becoming more skilled and becoming better shooters so we didn’t have to spend all of our practice time working on that during the season. I think we really did that to the point where we don’t have to do dribbling drills for half of the practice,” Parise said. “We’re able to focus on team defense and team offense stuff in practice, where as last year it was a lot of skill-building to get a lot of people called up to where I thought they needed to be as high school basketball players.”
The Bears will return the highest-scoring freshman from the Lancaster-Lebanon League last season in Ryan Parise (9 points per game), who is Rocky’s son. Elizabethtown will also return the second highest-scoring sophomore from the L-L League last season in Larry Locker (11 ppg).
Locker also averaged seven rebounds per game last season, which led the team. Parise was first on the team in assists (3.6 per game). Those two will lead an offense that is preparing to play an up-tempo, fast break style.
“I’ve always been the player and the coach who likes to play fast in transition so we’re really focusing on that and giving our guys the freedom to be able to score in transition,” Rocky Parise said. “I think the difference this year as opposed to last year is that we’re trying to stay a lot more organized offensively. We instituted a base offense that we’re looking at and we’re working at it every day. If we’re not in transition, now what? Now we’re organized and we don’t have to look over to me to call a play. The guys know what to do.”
The organized approach isn’t something that Parise wants to apply to just the offensive end. The simplistic, straightforward approach has carried over to the defensive end of the floor as well.
“We really try to dumb down our defense. By that I mean, we’ve playing a lot of 1-on-1 in the offseason and we’ve really been focusing on, ‘Hey, don’t let your man score.’ I know that sounds crazy, but the first and most important thing is the guy with the ball. Don’t let him score. Don’t count on the help that is behind you. We’re going to get after it and hopefully play a pressure game,” Parise said.
The regular season is scheduled to begin at the Manheim Township Tip-Off Tournament, which begins on Friday, Dec. 8, and will carry over into Saturday, Dec. 9.
Elizabethtown’s home opener is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 13, against Dallastown. The Bears first Lancaster-Lebanon League game is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 15, against Ephrata.