New JFK coach patiently waits for football players

Though the John F. Kennedy boys basketball team returns nine lettermen from last year, several of them are involved on the football team which plays in the state semifinals this weekend, and thus are not available for practice.

That’s not an ideal situation for a first-year coach, but Mark Komlanc is OK with it.

“As difficult as that is, we’re proud of the fact they’re still playing and we hope their success follows into basketball season as well,” Komlanc said.

The new Eagles boss was an assistant for eight years at Hubbard and spent the last four years at Warren G. Harding, three as associate head coach. He inherits a team that finished 9-16 last year and lost in a Division IV district semifinal, 57-52, to Bristol.

The Eagles had just two seniors on the roster last season and the team included two transfers who sat out the first half of the season. And, of course, JFK plays in one of the toughest small-school basketball leagues around, the North Coast League White Division, which includes St. Thomas Aquinas, VASJ and Cleveland Central Catholic.

Komlanc is happy to have so many experienced players back.

“It’s helpful because they know the competition of the schedule that we’re going to play. The system and style of play will be completely different than in the past,” Komlanc said. “It’s turning over a new page for them, but at the same time they’re helpful because I know they understand the type of competition we’re going to see night in and night out. They know the history of our conference and that there are no nights off in our league.”

Returning for the Eagles are seniors Justin Bofenkamp, Nate Woods, Antonio McQueen, Jared Misocky, Aaron Williamson and Evan Boyd, plus juniors Hyland Burton, Terrance King and Alex Burzynski. JFK again has two new transfer players, juniors BJ Williams from Ursuline and Byron Taylor from Austintown Fitch.

With a fast, athletic team, Komlanc plans an up-tempo game.

“Our goal is to be a fast-paced, up-tempo team. We’re going to get it and we’re going to try to run, run, run,” he said. “I don’t mind running sets, but I told the guys the other day that I’d be happy if I never had to call a set, if we just got it out and ran the floor and had our spacing what it should be. Athletically, we’re very good, we’re very quick and we’re going to get after it on defense.”

The schedule has been adjusted somewhat for the football team’s success, but opponents in December include Farrell, Pa., St. Thomas Aquinas and Ursuline.

“Our goal, looking ahead, we expect by mid-January for everyone to have a really good grasp of what we’re doing, and start peaking after that point. Chemistry is not an issue, we’ve had a really good summer,” Komlanc said.

“We will have growing pains early on in the season because of a lack of practice time. Our goal for the program, by mid-January is to be pointing toward the tournament, because we want to try to get to that district title game and win it year in and year out.”

Will football success carry over to basketball? Komlanc thinks that it can.

“I know our expectations are very high and I hope the players’ are as well,” he said. “They aren’t shying away from the fact that we have high expectations.”