The turnovers for area high school basketball teams started well before anyone made a pass this season.
Coaching changes came with great frequency during the offseason, including new blood for all three area Southern Tier Athletic Conference West Division boys teams.
In the Interscholastic Athletic Conference, it was the South Large School Division that was shook up the most, with three girls teams with new coaches. That includes Waverly, where former Notre Dame coach Robert Kelly has replaced Brian Miller.
Usually fans need rosters to keep up with the player changes. This season they’re needed to keep up with the coaching maneuvers after many coaches decided to step away.
To recap, the STAC West boys coaches are now Ryan Johnson at Elmira, Jeff Limoncelli at Horseheads and Rick Gallant at Corning. The three they replaced — John Miller at Elmira, Steve Monks at Horseheads and Mike Johnston Jr. at Corning — had a combined 46 seasons as varsity basketball coaches in their districts.
In addition, Mark Prutsman has taken over for Bill Pierce as coach of the Corning girls team.
Along with Kelly, new IAC girls coaches include Maurice Rankins at Elmira Notre Dame and Alicia Learn at Watkins Glen.
Another notable change has seen the Thomas A. Edison boys and girls move from the Small School Division to the Large Schools in the IAC South.
For fans of the status quo, the good news is many of the area’s most talented players are back.
Notre Dame junior point guard Darius Garvin averaged 18.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 4.4 steals per game as a sophomore. He delivered one of the season’s most memorable performances when he scored 32 points to help the Crusaders beat Athens, 66-55, in the Boys Regional Division 2 championship game at the Josh Palmer Fund Elmira Holiday Inn Classic.
Crusaders guard Tom Agan returns for his senior season after suffering a torn ACL in that championship game. He was still named an IAC South Large School first-team all-star despite missing more than half the season.
Defending IAC Large School boys champion Watkins Glen lost four senior starters, including all-state point guard Jesse Teeter.
Waverly has helped make the South Large School Division one of the most competitive in Section 4 along with Notre Dame and Watkins Glen. Those three teams will likely have a few more tense battles this season.
Odessa-Montour’s bid to repeat as IAC South Small School boys champion will come with the majority of its scoring output lost to graduation.
Elmira’s boys will try to repeat as STAC West champions with a new coach and without its two top scorers from last season: Tyler Ladd and Zach Nierstedt.
Ladd is now at Corning Community College and Nierstedt had surgery Nov. 22 to repair the labrum muscle in his hip. Johnson said Nierstedt is hopeful he’ll be able to play baseball in the spring.
Among those back for the Express are senior forward Alex Bellardini (10 points per game) and junior guard Tyler Moffe (10.5 ppg).
The Horseheads girls lost two of their top scorers when Tess Wicks and Jen Chalk graduated. Another talented starter, Marlea Nolan, suffered a torn ACL during volleyball and will miss the season.
The defending STAC West and Section 4 Class AA champion Blue Raiders still boast two of the area’s top players in senior point guard Ellie Leszyk and 6-foot junior forward Amanda Schiefen. Leszyk will play at Division II Le Moyne College and Schiefen was an eighth-team all-state pick last season.
Kelly’s coaching career at Notre Dame included a 168-48 record in 10 seasons and Class C state titles in 2006 and 2007. He left to coach at the school where he also teaches, inheriting a Waverly team that went 19-1 and won the IAC Large School championship.
The Crusaders turned to Rankins, the former coach at Chenango Forks, to run their program. His lineup includes senior guard/forward Sheridan Heine, a fifth-team Class C all-state pick last season who will play at Division I Manhattan College.
The Waverly and Notre Dame girls meet for the first time Friday at Notre Dame.