Wojcik returning home to launch AAU program

WHEELING — Basketball has always been a major focus in Dave Wojcik’s life. The Wheeling native is now ready to embark on a new hoop challenge.

Wojcik is not coaching collegiately or in the prep ranks for the first time since 1991. He stepped down as head coach at San Jose State in July, despite the program showing impressive upward movement in his four seasons and coming off the most conference wins the school has seen in 21 years.

Wojcik will now be returning home, primed to give the Ohio Valley and tri-state basketball community something it is sorely missing — a first-class and high-level AAU program. The former all-state point guard has the knowledge, credibility, and personality to deliver in championship fashion.

He also has aligned some quality and well-respected basketball figures to assist in the venture.

“I want to give kids a high level program that concentrates on skill development, team work, IQ for the game, and exposure to collegiate coaches,” Wojcik said.

Wojcik is being assisted by two of the valley’s finest basketball minds, as Dave Koehler and Chip Calissie will be Wojcik’s co-directors.

“Dave and Chip are well-respected coaches. They embrace the qualities I want my coaches to have; they are terrific communicators, organized, have a knowledge for the game, and a passion to make players better.?

The teams will go under the moniker of TMPW Xplorers.

“TMPW is an acronym that stands for, Tough Minded Players Win. I believe whether it be basketball or life, if you are tough mentally then you will be able to overcome any adversity that is thrown at you,? Wojcik said.

The program will feature teams from 9U through 17U for boys and 14U through 17U for girls. The Xplorers program will have tryouts Sunday, Oct. 1 at The Linsly School with another planned for the spring. Teams will be selected and competition will commence in April.

Wojcik stressed that even if prospective players are unable to participate on Oct. 1 because of obligations to other sports or for any other reason that they should still come if they are interested for informational purposes.

“I am so excited and energized. TMPW Xplorers is going to be a quality program that parents and players will be proud to be a part of. Our players will always be first and foremost,” Wojcik said.

Wojcik is utilizing social media to get the word out about the undertaking. The program’s website will be launched in about a week, however you can follow the program on Twitter @TMPW–Xplorers and TMPW Xplorers on Facebook. If you are interested or have any questions, you can email the program at coach@TMPWXplorers.com.

“There are no geographic boundaries to where our players live. We welcome any player from any school or bordering state,” he said. “We want to develop high level players and give the players in our program exposure. I am confident we can make both happen.”

Coach Wojcik graduated from Wheeling Central Catholic High School and was tabbed a McDonald’s Honorable Mention All-American selection his senior year. He went on to play collegiately at Loyola University in Baltimore.

He cut his coaching teeth under the legendary coach, ‘Lefty’ Driesell at James Madison in the 1991-92 season. In 1993, Wojcik returned to Loyola to serve on the staff of former Wheeling Central and Linsly coach, Skip Prosser. They helped Loyola to its first NCAA Tournament berth in 1994.

When Prosser took the head coaching job at Xavier, Wojcik joined him at the Cincinnati-based school before returning to Loyola to assist another former Wheeling Central coach, Dino Gaudio. Wojcik opted to come back to the valley in 2000, serving first as Wheeling Central’s athletic director, then becoming the head basketball coach.

In his 2 years as head coach, he delivered back-to-back state championships to the East Wheeling school.

His successful tenure at his alma mater landed him an assistant’s job at Navy under Don DeVoe. He opted to join his brother Doug?s staff at Tulsa before again teaming with Gaudio at Wake Forest.

Wojcik became associate head coach at Boise State in 2010, a position which proved a springboard to becoming San Jose State’s head coach in 2013. Wojcik says he has no withdrawal symptoms from collegiate coaching. Rather, his time away from the game has proven a positive.

?I have taken a step back and reflected on what truly makes me happy,” Wojcik said. “I feel so fortunate to have the time to watch my son play his final year of high school while organizing and preparing our AAU program for the spring.

“With my father?s passing earlier this year and my son?s commitment to play his college ball for Siena in New York, really put things in perspective for me. Everything was gravitating us back to the valley,” he continued. “I have always had AAU in the back of my mind, but it never manifested into anything because of my coaching commitments. Now the time is right.?

Family is an important part of Wojcik’s life. So much so he has launched the Fred Wojcik Foundation. The non-profit organization pays tribute to his father while assisting, supporting, and mentoring youth through the game of basketball. ?My father?s passion for sports, especially basketball, was so evident throughout his entire life that I want to recognize it and keep it alive. My dad always preached to us, ‘Nothing in this life is given; it must be earned!’ This foundation will be built on this simple motto while benefitting our youth.?

Wojcik is spot-on when he notes that the teaching of basketball is substandard in today?s game. Fundamental players and teams are few and far between.

His TMPW Xplorers program will be a welcome and much needed

commodity to our area. Wojcik, Koehler and Calissie all have proven track records which will make their AAU program a slam-dunk success.

OVAC HOOP CLINIC

DR. GREGORY Merrick is bringing back his basketball coaching clinic. It will be held Saturday, Sept. 30 from noon to 4:30 p.m. at the Howard Long Wellness Center.

The cost of the clinic is $52 (before Sept 20) and $60 after Sept. 20 for coaches and for players $20 before Sept. 20 and $30 after Sept. 20.

Invitations with a registration form were emailed to all OVAC and WPIAL coaches on Aug. 21 and repeated at least two times. If anyone is interested, who does not fall into those categories (youth coaches, AAU coaches, parents, players) they should contact Bonnie at 304-243-6412.

Speakers will include Vanessa Abel. She starred at Duquesne, played professionally in Europe and is now an assistant at D1 Saint Francis. The clinic will also feature Kevin Driscoll, who is an assistant at Loyola University and previously worked for Bill Carmody at Holy Cross, and Wheeling Jesuit’s Danny Sancomb.

BUBBA’S BITS

CHASE HARLER is not just a basketball standout. He also delivers in the realm of academics. The former Wheeling Central great and current WVU sophomore guard was honored by the Big 12 Conference as a member of the prestigious Academic All Big 12 Rookie Team. Moreover, he was tabbed to WVU’S Athletic Directors Honor Roll. Harler owns a 3.5 GPA in business finance. He is the son of Tammy and John Harler of Moundsville.

FORMER ST. JOHN Central softball star Bethany Cera is now the assistant athletic trainer at Hiram College. After her prep career, Cera was a standout player for the University of Charleston. The Terriers are members of the North Coast Athletic Conference.

THE NFL season kicks off this week. The Patriots continued success is growing old as well as is their quarterback. If Ben Roethlisberger can stay upright all season, the Steelers are more than capable of winning the AFC. The NFC is void of any super teams. That being the case, you go with the best quarterback — Aaron Rodgers. So I am picking the Steelers besting the Cheeseheads in the Super Bowl.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE faced Meigs County Saturday on the gridiron. Rick Olexa is the defensive coordinator for Meigs. He is a 1984 St. Clairsville High graduate. Olexa retired two years ago from the Athens Police Department after 25 years of service. He previously served as Alexander High defensive coordinator. Since his retirement from police work, Rick began body building. He placed second in the Senior Division in his initial competition this spring in Akron.

OHIO STATE started sluggishly in Thursday’s debut against Indiana but flashed championship form in the second half. Urban Meyer unveiled two new potent weapons in freshman running back J.K. Dobbins and H-back Parris Campbell. Dobbins is good enough to keep Mike Weber out of the starting lineup while Campbell has some of the quickest feet you will ever see on the gridiron. One concern — the OSU cornerbacks need to grow up before Baker Mayfield rolls into town Saturday night.

JOHN MAGISTRO’S Westerville Central gridders downed Upper Arlington Friday by a 31-21 count. The Bellaire native has his Warhawks sitting at 1-1 on the young season. They will host Eastmoor Academy Friday.

OUR PRAYERS go out to Junior Winland and his family. Junior’s wife lost her long and courageous battle with cancer this weekend. Junior was the longtime athletic director at Monroe Central and one of the nicest guys in the profession.

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