Jacket hoops go to work under Fusina

Waynesburg basketball set to open 2019 season this weekend

2,469 miles is what it took for the Waynesburg men’s basketball program to find it’s newest head coach. Tim Fusina takes the reigns for the 2019-20 season, and hopes to lead the Jackets to their first winning record since 2014. 

Returning home from Thousand Oaks, California, Fusina was the head man at California Lutheran University for two seasons before coming back to where his coaching career began. 

“It was the perfect opportunity to come home,” Fusina said. “I’m from Charleroi. Waynesburg seemed like a better fit than what I thought it was going to be. I decided the best thing for my career was to come back home and lead a program closer to where I’m from.”

Fusina brings in a less traditional offensive outlook. For the other side of the floor, he can’t stress the importance of defense enough. 

“Our style of basketball is defensive oriented,” Fusina said. “Offensively, we’re trying to screen and change the ball side to side with the pass and get great shots. However, if we don’t defend at a high level this just isn’t going to work. Defense leads to offense.” 

Fusina will have four starters from a year ago coming back, led by junior guard Matt Popeck. After finishing the 2018-19 campaign with one of the top ten scoring averages in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference,  Popeck enters his junior season just 266 points shy of the 1,000 point plateau. However, the Washington native has one thing in mind, and it isn’t the milestone. 

“This year, we want more results,” Popeck said. “My main focus is winning games, so I don’t think about [a thousand points] at all. We’re trying to do things better together and go a step up from last year.” 

Popeck likes Fusina thus far, and as a result, the 5-foot-10 guard expects big things from a team returning most of its talent.

“We’re all trying to be open minded with a new head coach,” Popeck said. “We know how good we can be. If we all come together and everyone plays their role, look out for us.” 

Brennen Smith was injured for the entirety of the 2017-18 season, but last year, Smith returned  in a big way. The incoming senior averaged 14.7 points per game, which ranked 10th among all scorers in the PAC. Although Smith bounced back strong in 2018, he looks to be even better in his final season. 

“I trained a lot this offseason with former Waynesburg player Jared Gamble,” Smith said. “He’s really been helping me with my ball-handling and other guard skills. Coach is kind of moving me to the three position this year, so I have to look to make plays for not only myself but my teammates from that spot.”

Fusina has his goals for the Jackets on the court, and there are also goals for Fusina’s players, his staff, and himself off the hardwood.

“I plan on being as involved as I can on campus,” Fusina said. “These are great kids that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with. We want our team to be recognized on campus, and we’ll do everything we can to make sure that happens.”

Fusina went on to break down the different strengths of Waynesburg’s PAC opponents and the challenges the Jackets will face in the upcoming season. With those in mind, Fusina knows that his group is ready. 

“I expect us to compete every night.” Fusina said. “I think we can win here at a high level because these guys know what it takes to win a basketball game.”