By VINCE PELUSO
As a junior, Edgewood’s Andrew Konczal was a key component on the Warriors basketball team.
His main value? His 3-point shot.
But, going into the 2012-13 season, Konczal and Edgewood coach John Bowler knew that as a senior, he would have to change his game for the Warriors to be successful.
“When the (2011-12) season was over, Coach told me my role was gonna change, I’d have to play bigger,” he said. “I worked hard, got into the weight room and transformed into who I needed to be.”
The results were tremendous. Konczal was the top rebounder in the area at 10.4 boards per game while averaging 13.7 points per game. He was also second in the area in assists at 5.0 per game while helping lead Edgewood to a 15-8 record.
For his contributions, Konczal is the Star Beacon’s 2012-13 Ashtabula County Player of the Year.
“It’s awesome, I honestly didn’t even think about anything like that coming into the year,” he admitted about winning the award. “The whole season was just a great experience. From coming from the year before and not having such a great season, we felt like we turned the whole program around. We started winning and playing together. It was just a great season.”
Konczal admitted taking his game from the outside to the inside wasn’t the easiest thing to do when the season began.
“At first, I wasn’t used to it, it was kind of strange,” he said. “But after you keep winning games, you realize the role you’re playing is what your team needs and that’s all that matters.”
Bowler said he knew that his team was somewhat undersized going into the season, with the exception of 6-foot-5 Matt Fitchet, leaving a need for rebounding.
He credited Konczal for adapting to the change in his role.
“Andrew knew we weren’t going to be real big,” Bowler said. “He lifted weights all summer, he was at the ‘Y’ all summer. He knew he’d have to go inside and bang and he did it so well it was phenomenal. He’s only 6-foot so it’s all timing and his effort was tremendous.”
Konczal’s effort was outstanding, and it showed such as a 27-point effort in a come-from-behind win at Conneaut late in the season, where he used his size and strength to get into the paint and go to the line 17 times.
He had 17 points and 11 boards in a win against Pymatuning Valley, which was the Lakers’ first loss of the season at that point.
Konczal only scored eight points in what was his favorite memory of the season, a home win against Fairport in which Edgewood came back from a 24-point deficit, but he also contributed 11 big rebounds and dished out six assists.
“There were two games that stick out to me, the Fairport game we came back from down 24, it’s the most amazing game I’ve ever been in,” he said. “Then against Perry on senior night, we lost that night on a last-second bucket, but it was great game.”
Although that Perry game was a loss, Konczal buried a clutch 3 in the closing moments to ignite the home crowd and contributed 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for Konczal’s success this season was his rapport with his point guard, Connor McLaughlin.
The duo played off each other well and seemed to be capable of doing whatever the other wasn’t doing on any given night.
“It was great, Connor really stepped it up this year,” he said. “Coming from the year before, he got so much better and him and I created a great chemistry. Things starting clicking and to have someone like that next to me was awesome.
“Every night, it felt like someone new was stepping up and had the hot hand. Whether it was me, Connor, Dylan (McCaleb), Louie (Wisnyai), (Matt) Fitchet. Whoever was feeling it that game was who we got the ball to.”
While Konczal admits he didn’t think player of the year was in his future, he also didn’t see himself playing on a 15-win team.
“Honestly, I really didn’t think it was possible for us to win that many games,” he said. “Coach just told us to keep believing and he told us how good we are. He just kept preaching it and we kept playing as good as we could and we started to believe.”
Konczal believes a big part of his success, and the team’s, was their chemistry as a group.
“I haven’t played on a team like that in my four years at Edgewood,” he said. “We were all close. We all listened. There weren’t very many arguments, we just stayed close together as a team.”
While the season didn’t end how Konczal wanted it to, he didn’t think it detracted from the overall season.
“I look at it as the season didn’t end exactly how we wanted, but we really improved,” he said. “I feel like from the beginning of the season, we as a team got better and I know I got a lot better. The whole season really was a success.”
Konczal gave credit to not only Bowler, but to Bowler’s son, assistant coach Jay Bowler, and the Bowler’s former players who came in on weekends to work with him.
“Oh yeah, the former players come in every weekend, they’re always there and come to games to support us,” he said. “Every time they see anything that might be off with me, they come up and try to help. All those people behind coach have been very helpful to me.”
Now, Konczal said he’ll look to become the same type of influence to the returning players at Edgewood.
“I hope they keep playing how we played this year and keep getting better,” he said. “I know I’ll be in the gym here and there to help. I think they’re really improving and be even better next year.”
At this point, Konczal doesn’t plan on playing basketball in college, although that could change.
The son of Bonnie and Tim Konczal said he’s narrowed his college options down to Kent and Akron, but is still undecided on a major.
He was sure to thank his parents for their support in his basketball career.
“My parents are the most supportive people in my life,” he said. “Starting when I played in seventh grade, I don’t think they’ve ever missed a game. I thank them so much. I really can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me. They’ve been great.”
Peluso is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.