McGrane Tournament: Piontkowski’s Diverse Skill Set Key For Redeemer

December 26, 2018
McGrane Tournament: Piontkowski’s Diverse Skill Set Key For Redeemer

WILKES-BARRE — Jared Piontkowski stands out on any basketball court. This week, it’s at the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center, where Piontkowski will be the tallest player among Holy Redeemer, Crestwood, Hanover Area and Pittston Area for the 53rd annual Robert McGrane Basketball Tournament. “Probably family genetics,” said Piontkowski, a junior who has grown from 6-foot-3 to 6-7 and now 6-9 through each year of high school. “My dad’s 6-7. My mom’s tall for a girl. I was just happy I surpassed my older brother, but I didn’t think it would be by a lot. I’m still on a growing spurt; that’s what my doctor said.” Having played basketball since age 5 or 6, Piontkowski’s most challenging season happened to be the one when he didn’t play at all. That was last year. Last November, Jared and his older brother, Matt, were ruled ineligible to play after transferring from Nanticoke Area to Holy Redeemer. The District 2 athletic committee unanimously ordered the two to sit out the 2017-18 season, a decision that was upheld during the appeals process, as well. The Piontkowskis’ eligibility last season was challenged because, according to PIAA bylaws, transfers cannot be motivated by athletic purposes. Despite what the PIAA ruled, though, Jared Piontkowski maintains the decision to transfer was rooted in academics. “I wanted to better myself and get far and go to a good college with a great education,” he said. “My brother right now is at King’s. He has a 3.9 GPA at King’s, so that one year at (Redeemer) prepared him. I have a 3.6 with challenging courses that I know will help me with my major that I want to go into.” The brothers made the most of their situation, attending every Redeemer practice and game. Their loyalty was rewarded when they were given silver medals from Redeemer’s loss in the District 2 Class 3A championship game at Mohegan Sun Arena. “I learned a lot about them, actually,” said Redeemer head coach Paul Guido. “I didn’t know mom, dad, Matthew or Jared. I didn’t know any of them, and I learned a ton about the character and the resiliency that those two kids have. The whole family has it. Just to be able to go through the process and the things that they went through last year, but to still have the focus or the motivation to come every day and take stats for us at a game, even though they could have been playing. To come and participate and practice and work out and have an impact in practice — but know that they can’t play — that’s tough, man.” While they were barred from playing basketball, the Piontkowskis were allowed to play volleyball. Jared and Matt had outstanding seasons, each being selected to The Citizens’ Voice all-star team and playing key roles for head coach Jack Kablick’s Royals, who won their eighth straight district title. “Great coaching staff, great players,” Jared Piontkowski said of Redeemer volleyball. “Ben Rachilla took me under his wing to make me who I am today.” Rachilla is now a freshman at Quincy University in Illinois, which is one of a handful of volleyball teams recruiting Piontkowski. Piontkowski said he’s communicated with Quincy, St. Francis (Pa.) and Loyola Chicago. An assistant coach for Penn State also reached out to Redeemer about Piontkowski, he said. Regardless of where he goes to college — and what sport he plays in college — Piontkowski is fully committed right now to Redeemer basketball. He’s a member of the starting lineup along with seniors Nick Prociak and Collin Cook, as well as sophomore Mason Mendygral and freshman Justice Shoats. “When I was a freshman, I barely got in,” Piontkowski recalled of his time with Nanticoke Area. “The seven games that I played were probably against bad teams that we blew out. In the first game (this year), I scored seven points, three blocks, a lot of rebounds. In that one game, I had as many points as I had as a freshman in that seven-game span.” Coach Guido touted Piontkowski’s “diverse” skill set, saying he can play the post or the perimeter on offense and defense. “I think everybody sees him as, ‘Oh, he’s 6-foot-9, he’s a post player,’” Guido said. “But then you look at him physically and he’s kind of thin and stretched out and he’s not the ideal post player. ... We’re able to use him and his talents and his skills in a bunch of different ways, which is nice.” The son of Ralph and Danielle Piontkowski of Nanticoke, Piontkowski said he was able to find the silver lining in his lost 2017-18 season, adding that he plays now with a chip on his shoulder. “I’ll never take this for granted,” he said. “Even though I sat out a year, it was worth the wait. It may have shocked a lot of people that I couldn’t play, but it made my brother and I better people. It made my parents — it showed how much pride they have and what great parents they were for their children. I’m not going to take it for granted.” Contact the writer: mbufano@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2060; @CVBufano on Twitter

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