By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
There will be a Mercer County reunion, of sorts, at the DuBois campus of Penn State University when classes commence next week.
Head basketball coach Dave Bennett has recruited a trio of former area standouts for his program, including Sharon High’s Khalil Hopson, Farrell’s Marshawn Hyman, and Kennedy Catholic’s Arlen Brewer.
Penn State-DuBois competes in the Pennsylvania State University Athletic Commonwealth Campus Conference against other branches, including Beaver, Greater Allegheny, New Kensington, Fayette, Mont Alto, Hazelton, Wilkes-Barre, Worthington-Scranton, York, Lehigh Valley and Brandywine.
“(The Shenango Valley) is a talent-rich area, and I don’t know that it’s been recruited as heavily as it should be,” praised Bennett, who knows of what he speaks.
Bennett played at Elk County Catholic High, which through the years developed an intense PIAA playoffs rivalry with Kennedy Catholic.
PSU-DuBois is coming off an 11-13 season, the first time during Bennett’s 8-year tenure it did not qualify for the PSUAC playoffs. However, the previous season DuBois captured the commonwealth crown, the 2nd for Bennett’s basketball program (also 2006-07). Bennett-led DuBois took a trio of his teams to the USCAA championship tournament, highlighted by a runner-up berth in ’08 and a 4th-pplace finish in 2010.
“We had some senior captains, two of whom were 1,000-point scorers,” Bennett said regarding 2011-12, noting, “It’s just the nature of the beast. We offer some 4-year degree programs (he serves as an adjunct kinesiology instructor), but a lot of kids we don’t have their majors so we lose them after two years. Last year was a rebuilding situation.
Bennett emphasized, “This year we’re young again, but I’m excited about a lot of the freshmen we have coming into our program right now.”
That would include the aforementioned trio.
Hopson had a huge impact on Sharon’s program, particularly during the last 3 seasons. He helped take the Tigers to the postseason each of those 3 years, highlighted by his sophomore season in which Sharon secured a PIAA playoff berth to conclude a 20-6 campaign under coach Justin Magestro.
During his 4-year career Hopson harvested 1,074 points (career-high 39-point performance against George Junior Republic), including 455 in his senior season for coach Jason Rankin. He demonstrated his consistency by scoring in double figures 21 times as a senior and reaching double digits 56 times during his Tigers’ tenure. As a sophomore, junior and senior Hopson helped Sharon stage a 46-26 composite mark, including 3 postseason berths.
“We have some people already on our roster (former VisionQuest standout Shekeal Brown is listed on the Website), and that’s how we made the connection with Khalil,” Bennett explained, assessing,
“Khalil has the potential to be a very good player for us. For a guard he has good size (6-foot-2) and athletic ability. He’s versatile, so he’ll play a couple different spots. He’s gonna play some at the point, but we also want him to play off the ball on the wing because he has very good scoring ability. And,” Bennett noted, “with his length and athleticism, he potentially could be a very good defender, as well. I see a lot of upside with Khalil.”
After transferring from Farrell, the 6-foot Brewer basked in Kennedy’s program and helped the Golden Eagles annex the 2013 District 10 Class A crown.
In a 6th-man role Brewer bucketed 166 points, including a half-dozen double-digit outings (a high of 24 in a season-opening win over Imani Christian). He forged 14 points, tossing in a trio of treys, in the Golden Eagles’ 58-37 conquest of Cochranton in the D-10 title tilt. Under 4th-year head mentor Rick Mancino KC concluded a 17-7 campaign with an opening-loss PIAA playoffs setback to perennial power Lincoln Park Charter.
“Arlen’s a very good shooter and is a good program kid, coming from Kennedy Catholic. He has the ability to really shoot the basketball, “Bennett praised.
Hyman had a dual impact on Farrell athletics in both football and basketball for coaches Jarrett Samuels and Roland Shannonhouse, respectively. The 5-11 Hyman had a hand as a wide-out/defensive back for Samuels’ Steelers, and had a high of 20 points against Slippery Rock for Shannonhouse’s cagers, who concluded with a 14-9 ledger and D-10 Class AAA playoff berth.
“Marshawn’s also a very athletic kid. Good football player, good basketball player, just a good athlete,” Bennett praised. “I think he has a developing outside (shooting) game, where, we think, he’ll get better in time as far as shooting the basketball.”
The 36-year-old Bennett said he plans to spend specific time recruiting Mercer County, in general, and the Shenango Valley, as a whole.
“That’s going to be one of our strategic areas of focus, to become more involved with, in the coming seasons. ... This has been our first real recruiting out there, and they have a lot of good players ... who’ve not been heavily recruited.
PSU-DuBois commences its campaign Nov. 11, hosting Pitt-Titusville, and travels to NCAA Division II Clarion University for a Nov. 26 date. It also will meet D-III Washington & Jefferson College on Jan. 11.