As the head coach and general manager of the new Allentown Lions professional basketball team, Jules Roderick is not only responsible for assembling a roster, but he's also trying to build something that will become a fixture in the community.
The Lions, featuring many players from the Lehigh Valley, will make their debut against the IballAcademy from New Jersey at 7 p.m. Saturday at Allen High's Sewards Gym.
This is an exhibition game for the Lions, who will play in summer leagues in preparation for their debut in November as a member of the Pennsylvania Project, a new league that will be part of the American Basketball Association.
Allentown will be one of 20 teams in the Pennsylvania Project and will play a 24-game schedule against teams from Harrisburg, Chambersburg, Scranton, Erie, Johnstown and Philadelphia.
"We're definitely looking forward to Saturday night and I want us to play well and show people what we're all about," said Roderick, a former Dieruff High player. "Our team is going to play with the same intensity that I've always played with. We want to represent ourselves well."
Roderick said the team will feature former Allen and DeSales standout Darnell Braswell, Jeff Raimo (Central Catholic), Anthony Hernandez (Allen), Jon Brown (Pius X), Javier Rivera (Whitehall), Darren McDonald (Dieruff), Daniel Miller (Lehighton) and several recent Kutztown University players.
"We're ready to go," Roderick said. "We've been conditioning every week for the last several months. We're going to run the floor and I'm very happy with the team we have. They show up every week and practice hard. They all know how to play the game."
Roderick, who appreciates the cooperation he has received from Allen High School, said he has put a lot of time and effort into this team and expects a good turnout on Saturday night, even though it's a holiday weekend and March Madness rages on with the NCAA Tournament.
"From what I've ever heard on Facebook, Twitter, we're going to have a good crowd," he said. "To me, there's no reason why this can't work. I don't want to be involved with something that's here one day, and gone the next. We want this to be a community-oriented team and make it fun for the people who come out. We're got some special things planned, including a few surprise guests."
There will be an admission charge for adults and students, but little kids will get in for free.
EMMAUS IN HERSHEY
The crowd for the Saturday night session at Hershey's Giant Center was about 7,500, part of a big comeback weekend for the PIAA basketball championships.
Among that large crowd in Chocolatetown was the Emmaus boys basketball team.
The Green Hornets were sitting in the first row along the baseline during the Lower Merion-Chester 4A boys title game.
They wanted to see what the biggest stage in PIAA basketball was like, and, as they watched it, they could dream about playing there themselves one day.
"If you can dream it, you can achieve it," Emmaus coach Steve Yoder said. "Our goal as a program is to get out here. Some people might think that's unrealistic, but in our locker room, we don't. When we get here, I want it to be something that doesn't overwhelm them.
"We beat Lower Merion in the 2011-12 season and we beat Chester in the 2011 Stellar tournament, so why not Emmaus? I think our kids really enjoyed it. How could you not? We had front-row seats."
I asked Yoder how he got such good seats.
"I have the best boss in the world," he said. "Our athletic director [Dennis Ramella] hooked me up with Dr. [Robert] Lombardi [the PIAA's executive director]. I told Dennis I'd like to do this for the kids to give them something to think about and he made it happen."
Speaking of the state tournament, I miscounted when it came to the number of state titles won by District 11 girls teams. The total is actually 27, not 26. Pretty impressive since there have been just 41 girls tournaments.
Also, the first of the 13 Class A titles earned by District 11 girls teams was recorded by Nativity BVM of Pottsville, not Pine Grove.
The list of District 11 boys titles is not as difficult to count.
That total has been stuck at 15 since 1986, and remember two of those titles — Allentown High's 1946 and '47 crowns — were later vacated.
PARKLAND HOCKEY TEAM FALLS IN FINAL
Parkland scored first, but Greater Latrobe shut down the Trojans from there and pulled away to a 4-1 win in the Pennsylvania Ice Hockey championship game on Saturday afternoon in Aston.
After a scoreless first period, Parkland's Ryan Dumbach scored the game's first goal at 6:34 of the second period. It was an unassisted, shorthanded tally.
But it was all Greater Latrobe from there as the Penguins Cup champion scored two goals to close out the second period and added two more in the third.
Parkland was outshot 41-9 and the Trojans had just one power play compared to five for Greater Latrobe.
Only a stellar performance by goalie Robert Stock, who made 37 saves, kept the game competitive.
While the ending was disappointing, it was a historic season for Parkland and head coach Gerry Chandik. The Trojans finished 20-2-1. They won their fourth consecutive Lehigh Valley Scholastic League title and went deeper than any previous Lehigh Valley team in the Flyers Cup tournament, winning three games as a No. 11 seed.
KEEPING IN TOUCH
Southern Lehigh freshman Elizabeth Clemmer played on the WC Eagles 16&under team that won its pool at the National Indoor Field Hockey Championships in Virginia Beach recently. … Haverford College sophomore Dominique Caggiano (Central Catholic) was part of a Centennial Conference winning women's soccer team last fall. She is a pre-med major and part of the college's Pre-Health Society. … The Lehigh Valley PIAA Softball Officials named Leo Bernabucci of Allentown as the organization's 2012 recipient of the Martin Weitzman Memorial Award. The Weitzman Award salutes a softball umpire who exemplifies a love for the game, devotion to fair play and an overall desire to excel.