This is Part 4 of The Mercury’s All-Area Week
Perkiomen Valley head coach Mike Poysden used to be able to get to the gym around the same time as Justin Jaworski.
But three kids under three years old will change that quickly.
So, Saturday mornings, Jaworski was left to his negotiation skills to get into the high school at 7 a.m. At least for a little while.
“At first I’d have to explain myself to the janitors about what I was doing there,” Jaworski said, “but after a while, if one of them was there at that time, they usually let me in.”
Inside, he was tougher on himself with an audience of one so he could dazzle the audiences of many.
It was during this time alone that Jaworski made sure he’d lift Perkiomen Valley to new heights.
Mercury All-Area Week
Wrestling: Tomorrow night
After a Pioneer Athletic Conference championship, the No. 1 overall seed entering the District 1 Class 6A playoffs, a program best in wins and the second PIAA win in school history, he did just that.
The Mercury All-Area Player of the Year award is the result, his second such recognition this school year after sharing the football distinction with Perkiomen Valley quarterback Stephen Sturm in the fall.
“In the summer that was the goal for me,” Jaworski said. “I told Steve that I was trying to take his Player of the Year award from him. We ended up sharing, but it’s a nice honor to be recognized in both football and basketball. After three years of hard work in both sports, it’s like a storybook ending to go out like that.”
All deserved, says Poysden.
“It’s a blessing and a privilege to have coached Justin because you know you don’t get a transcendental player like him often,” Poysden said. “With Justin, I barely coached him. I coached him on how to best use his teammates but that work ethic and that desire, that drive, that is what’s special
“I feel like everywhere we went to, everyone looked at us and said, ‘When’s the varsity team getting off the bus?’ Then they started coming against us and they started realizing how we walk each other into success. That started with Justin, it got into (Sean) Owens and Hogan (Millheim) and young players like (Andrew) Light and (Tyler) Strechay had to come into it. You can’t come up with a counter-argument as to how those players played. That’s what’s been really special. You couldn’t have asked Justin to give more, to sacrifice more, to work more and he deserves everything that he’s going to receive.”
For Jaworski, preparation is the key to his confidence.
A typical Saturday morning or morning practice (when the school has off), Jaworski would beat his teammates and coach to the gym by at least a half hour: 7 a.m. his target time. Ball-handling took up his first 30 minutes, followed by shooting drills for the next 30; sophomore Tyler Strechay making an appearance at that time more often than not. Always fast-paced and always chasing his own shots, he’d get 100-200 shots before practice even started.
“Dennis Stanton, who is now the athletic director at Souderton, played a huge part in my preparation,” Jaworski said. “The biggest thing he said is that if you’re not tired, if you’re not sweating, then you’re not doing right.”
Bad shooting efforts only added his motivation to shoot even more.
Following a loss to eventual District 1 Class 6A champion Abington in which he scored only eight points, Jaworski got right into his car after the trek back to the school and hightailed it to Ursinus College. He shot. He shot over and over again until he corrected his mistakes. The next morning at practice he did the same.
He didn’t score in single digits the rest of the season.
“That sort of work ethic is just years in the making,” Poysden said. “There’s no way me and my staff can take credit for that. That’s who he was long before he came to us and our job as a staff was just to surround him in the best circumstances that could highlight his talent.”
Jaworski and the Vikings took off, winning 20 of their next 22 entering the PAC playoffs. The senior guard hit for point 1,000 in the midst of that streak – a win on January 3 over Norristown – to become the 11th player in school history to reach 1,000 points, and the first male basketball player to do so since John Boyd in 2008. He shined in the semifinals, scoring 31 as the team dispatched Norristown 59-48 to earn a rematch against defending PAC champion Spring-Ford.
“Obviously that game was a circled game,” Jaworski said. “After we saw they beat Upper Merion, we were like, ‘OK, it’s revenge time for us.’”
A similar result to the 2015-16 final – controversially won by Spring-Ford in overtime – was in the works as the Rams built a 32-26 after three quarters and a 38-31 lead with six minutes remaining. But Jaworski showed up when he was needed the most. The senior hit a 3-pointer from the wing to cap a 9-2 run and then sealed the deal by hitting 10-for-10 from the line. As the clock ticked down to zero, he outstretched his arms with both index fingers pointed outward; a No. 1 gesture as he approached the student section.
“That moment was awesome for us and awesome for our school,” Jaworski said. “That was one of our goals from the end of last season, to get back to that point and win the title.”
A disheartening district run still yielded the Vikings their third PIAA appearance and first since the 1972 season. An upset of defending PIAA champion Roman Catholic propelled them to a meeting with All-State 6A Player of the Year Lonnie Walker and Reading where Jaworski’s 21 points had them in position to pull off another upset before Walker and the Red Knights sprung late to win 62-52 at Santander Arena.
Even in the loss, however, there were no complaints from Jaworski about how this season unfolded.
“We had a really, really good season and set the school record for wins,” he said. “How can I be mad at the season we had? A PAC championship win, the No. 1 seed at districts and a win at the state tournament. Obviously I’d still like to be playing but that was a great way to go out.”
Jaworski, who recently confirmed his commitment to Lafayette College, was named to the Pennsylvania Sportswriters 2016-2017 All-State second team, one of two Pioneer Athletic Conference players to be selected.
“Lots of players say they work hard and that they have to earn everything they get,” Poysden said. “Lots of players think just being in the gym will make you better, but that’s never been the case with (Jaworski). It’s been awesome to watch. I never had a doubt of, ‘Can he become a great player?’
“He became one.”
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