Waynesburg Men’s Basketball 2021-2022 season preview

A new look Men's team adds height, determined Matt Popeck

Basketball season is upon us.

Waynesburg basketball is almost here…well, at least for the men’s team because the women already played their first game.

This upcoming Tuesday, Nov. 9, Waynesburg faces Oberlin College at the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.

And the Yellow Jackets are ready to go.

“It feels great to be back on the floor with all the guys for a full season in front of fans,” senior guard Matt Popeck said. “We want to win. That’s our main goal.”

The Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) schedule was condensed to only 10 games for all teams in the 2020-21 season.

Waynesburg finished 3-7 overall with a 3-6 conference record, which was sufficient for seventh place in the conference standings.

The Yellow Jackets’ season ended with a loss in the first round of the PAC tournament to the Saint Vincent Bearcats.

Head coach Tim Fusina felt that the experience that his young roster received last year was “invaluable.” Even with recruiting challenges and a lack of experience due to the shortened season last semester, he still is optimistic about the upcoming season.

“We’re still young, we’re still learning,” Fusina said. “I have full confidence that they’ll be able to handle themselves this year.”

Waynesburg lost six-foot-10-inch forward Isaiah Alonzo during the offseason, who now plays for Colorado Christian University in Division II. Alonzo was awarded All-PAC first team last season while averaging a double-double (19.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg).

Fusina, however, is concerned about his team at the moment.

“We have a young group of guys that are determined to be great,” Fusina said. “This is about them. It’s not about people who aren’t here.”

Size is what the Yellow Jackets needed, and size is what they got.

Waynesburg added graduate student Nijon Kirkman to the roster, a six-foot-five-inch forward who played four years at Allegheny College for the Gators.

“When you’re that young and you’re able to bring somebody in who’s played for four years at the college level already, provide leadership, and also provide something in your lineup that you don’t have,” Fusina said, “meaning size, athleticism, which we don’t have a lot of, that experience is huge.”

Popeck returned to the floor last year after overcoming an ACL injury from the 2019-20 season. In the 2020-21 season, he managed 15.1 points per game.

“He’s the best scorer in the league,” Fusina said. “I think he’s a guy that if he gets going, he’s liable to score 20 any night.”

Popeck, however, is focused on the success of the team as a whole.

“I just want to play the game in rhythm, give my teammates the ball,” Popeck said. “We’ve worked really hard in practice, [and] we’re ready to get started.”

The Yellow Jacket Print Newspaper is back for a Special Fall 2021 Edition.

Pick up your copy around campus Friday, December 3! Copies will also be available at select locations around the community. Happy holidays and happy reading!