John Vaji is their current coach.
But really, from the time they started playing basketball, Lewisburg's Travis Conrad, Jesse Flannery and Matt Fedorajka have had three constant coaches. And they are pretty good ones, too.
Conrad's father, Terry, has coached men's basketball at Lycoming and Bloomsburg. Flannery's father, Pat, coached Bucknell and helped the Bison upset Kansas and Arkansas in consecutive NCAA tournaments. Fedorjaka's mother, Kathy, also coached at Bucknell and led the Bison to a Patriot League championship. Add in Will Sigl and Sam Allen's fathers having played at Bucknell and Lewisburg really seems to be a team that was born to play basketball.
"They understand the game," Vaji said. "When you show them something in practice you can see it sinking in. They have high basketball IQs."
And really that goes for the entire team since Vaji and his staff are among the area's best. Right now, the Green Dragons are one of the area's best teams, as well. Lewisburg is the lone remaining District 4 Class AA undefeated team after capturing last week's Montoursville Christmas Tournament. The Dragons battered Jersey Shore, 67-28 and then edged previously undefeated Wellsboro, 43-38 in what could be a playoff preview.
Lewisburg is as well-rounded a team as one will find in District 4. The Dragons have a terrific point guard in Travis Conrad, the backcourt as a whole is strong, small forward Mike Driscoll is versatile and 6-foot-6 Sam Allen and 6-5 Erich Kline are a handful inside. Oh yeah, the Dragons also play stifling defense and held both Jersey Shore and Wellsboro season-lows in points, something they also did to Shikellamy in their season opener.
The best part for Vaji, though, is how coachable this team is. Coaches know that often they have to do so much more than coach the game itself and have to handle various other issues. Vaji, though, can simply focus on the Xs and Os and does not have to worry about his team losing focus or becoming interested in individual gains.
"They let the flow of the game come to them and they know they have things to work on but they play with a great attitude," Vaji said. "They pay attention to detail and listen to everything you tell them. They are a fun team to coach."
They are not a fun team to play. Wellsboro was the first team to lose by fewer than 10 points to Lewisburg. The Dragons create matchup problems, can beat opponents in seemingly every way, have quality depth and have made several impressive statements against potential playoff teams.
Lewisburg has had terrific seasons the last two years, winning the HAC-II title in 2011 and finishing second last year while winning 36 combined games. Both times, though, it had difficult district draws and lost heartbreaking quarterfinal games to eventual champions Hughesville and Loyalsock. So do not expect the program's best start to have this team feeling overconfident.
Having five players with basketball in their blood helps these Dragons realize that there is still so much more to do. The journey is the part they are enjoying right now.
"They are great kids and they have a lot of fun playing together," Vaji said. "They like to have fun at practice but they know when it's time to focus and when it's time to play and they go at it and work hard."
KNIGHT RIDERS: St. John Neumann is off to its best start this century. The Knights (6-0) have won all their games by double-digit margins and handed fellow District 4 Class A title contender Lourdes its only loss. Neumann thumped Warrior Run, 79-44 last Thursday.
Neumann has some good size with Alize Johnson and Tyree Vidal providing scoring and rebounding underneath and a strong backcourt with Tre Allen and Jordan Cole running the court well. All four players are averaging more than 11 points per game. Noah Beiter, Isaac Beiter, Ryan Reid and Andrew Keeler have had some big games off the bench to and Neumann looks capable of building off last season's strong season that ended in the state tournament's second round.
The Knights' fans will finally get to see their team play back-to-back home games this week, Wednesday and Friday, against Montoursville and Montgomery, respectively. Neumann has played five of its first six games on the road.
ANSWERING WITH GUSTO: Sullivan County edged Neumann in a dramatic district final last year and has matched Neumann's excellent start. The Griffins (6-0) continued their torrid early-season surge last week with an eye-opening 63-25 win over Hughesville. Sullivan held Hughesville (4-3) to its fewest points in the Nick Tagliaferri-era and has won its last three games by 25, 40 and 38 points.
Sullivan is playing well in all facets and players like Sean Flannery, Adam Szklanka and Bob Polcrack are providing quality depth, something that could be an X factor as the season develops. Those who thought the Griffins would go away after all-state guard Sharif Welton graduated are sorely mistaken.
"I don't like to compare this year's team to last year's team, but I think we can be pretty darn good," Sullivan coach Glenn Vaughan said. "I feel we're pretty balanced and we have scoring off the bench too and they can knock down shots and if they keep playing defense they're going to keep playing. That could add an extra element to our team."
PUTBACKS: Canton captured the North Penn Tournament championship, rallying past the host Panthers, 55-41 in the championship. The Warriors (5-4) outscored North Penn, 18-0 in the fourth quarter and have won five of the last six games ... Montoursville forward Pierce Ranck has topped 20 points in four straight games. He scored 45 points at the Montoursville Tournament and is averaging 24.3 points per game during that stretch, the best by a Warrior player since Vince Molesky in 2009 ... Jersey Shore had a nice bounce-back win against Montoursville at the Christmas Tournament. The Bulldogs won, 61-51 and Brody Smith scored a career-high 19 points.
Dr. Masse's Top Five
1. Williamsport (9-1): The Millionaires made a nice statement at the Josh Palmer Tournament in Elmira, winning multiple games against solid out-of-state teams. No Williamsport team this century opened the season with a better unbeaten streak than the Millionaires, not even teams featuring players like Chevy Troutman, Darrell Blackman and Dontahe Jordan. Williamsport has been especially effective in fourth quarters and rallied in the final quarter to beat Lely, Fla., in the first game, 53-51. Herb Stelly hit the game-tying shot before Penn State recruit Isaiah Washington hit the game-winning free throws.
2. Loyalsock (6-1): The Lancers really cannot get too down about losing to perennial Class AAAA state title contender. Win or lose, playing teams like the Littl Lions, Williamsport and Communications Tech this year could be a huge bonus entering the playoffs. Roger Wilson continues having a monster season. The senior center had 19 points and 19 rebounds against State College. He has topped 10 rebounds in every Loyalsock game thus far.
3. Lewisburg (7-0): Sam Allen is a player to really keep an eye on. He is 6-6 and is not just a tall player who happens to play basketball. He is a potentially dominant inside player who could be one of the district's best the next three seasons. Allen had 19 points and 10 rebounds against Wellsboro and likely would have had a double-double against Jersey Shore had he needed to play in the fourth quarter. His addition to the lineup is a big reason Lewisburg is off to such a strong start.
4. Sullivan County (6-0): The Griffins likely will be 8-0 entering a big week next week. Sullivan will host both Neumann and Muncy in two games that will be big in the HAC-III title picture and that could be potential playoff previews. Four starters are averaging in or near double digits.
5. Wellsboro (8-1): While the Green Hornets lost to Lewisburg, they validated why they should be considered a serious District 4 Class AA title contender. Wellsboro fought back from an early nine-point deficit and knows what to expect against a HAC-II force should they meet again. Wellsboro has an excellent shot at being the district's top seed and has beefed up its non-conference schedule this season. That should only help a team that has a nice six-man rotation and that has five players averaging more than nine points per game.
Player of the Week
Emmett Watson, Canton: The senior swingman is having a big year and continued lighting up opponents at the North Penn Tournament. Watson scored 40 points in the two wins and was instrumental to the comeback in the final.
Game of the Week
Williamsport at Harrisburg: Two traditional and current state powers collide Thursday in a rematch of last year's thrilling second-round state tournament game. Though separated by nearly 100 miles, these two teams are big rivals and both have state title aspirations. Harrisburg won last year's state game on a buzzer-beater and the Millionaires are hoping to exact some revenge and make a big statement two nights before hosting Westside Christian Academy from Detroit.
Masse may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter at @docmasse