It’s a family affair at Union.
Scotties coach Mark Stanley welcomes back four lettermen this season — three of whom are his sons in senior Anthony and juniors Matthew and Mark. Junior Tyler Staub is the other returning letterman, but is sidelined with an injury sustained during football. He is expected to join the basketball team at some point.
It’s an advantage that the three Stanley brothers have been able to work out together, even if team activities were limited throughout the offseason due to the pandemic.
“It’s been a lot different than years past. It’s definitely a different time,” coach Stanley said. “We are not close to where we usually are, but that’s ‘normal’ now since everyone is going through it. We just have to make due and keep plugging forward.”
Union believes it does has some depth, though. Senior Aaron Gunn, a Louisville football recruit, is playing basketball again and so is Anthony Nealy. Senior Jake Vitale and junior Nick Vitale bring experience, along with senior Mike Mrozek.
“Those guys have been in the program and now it’s time for them to step up,” Coach Stanley said. “I think we can go eight or nine deep. I have some young kids that can play — our sophomore group is pretty good and we’ll see if they can get some time. We’ll see how that goes.”
The team’s short preseason work did not allow the inexperienced players chances to earn minutes in game situations.
“I’ve never gone into the season with so many unknowns, with the way things have been and the limited workouts. The question marks, usually at this point, some of them are answered. Preseason is going to be very interesting this year,” Coach Stanley said. “Right now, it’s wide-open, as far as playing time goes. The kids use practices and scrimmages for a chance to make their mark. Problem is, I don’t know where we’re headed, in terms of practice. Your first scrimmages might be your first games you’re playing, too.”
Once they get into games, the Scotties hope to dictate the tempo.
“I think we shoot it well. We like to play fast,” Coach Stanley said. “I think we’ll be better inside than in the past. I think we have some guys who can score down low for us.”
Last year, Union finished tied for fourth in Section 1-A. The Scotties reached the WPIAL quarterfinals, but fell to Bishop Canevin, 40-39, and finished 14-9 overall. Their section will have a different look this year after Vincentian and Cornell both closed their doors and Eden Christian moved to Section 3, leaving just holdovers Cornell, Nazareth Prep, Western Beaver and Rochester.
“With a smaller section now, we don’t play a section game until January. That’s definitely going to be different. Usually, we have three section games in before Christmas,” Coach Stanley said. “With this short preseason, I guess that’s a plus. We have more time to get ready for that.”
Union is eager to get the season started.
“Every year is different and brings you new hope. We’re going to take it step by step,” Coach Stanley said. “I hope we get a season in. So much is up in the air. Football did it, but this is a little different beast. Hopefully, we can make it work.”