Joe Rapczynski's basketball roots go back a ways, embedded deep from playing on the Philadelphia playgrounds and then on the courts at North Catholic and then La Salle. Rapczynski is hoping to build a tradition at Garnet Valley as the Jaguars' new boys' basketball coach.

Rapczynski, approved last night by the Garnet Valley school board, will take over for former coach Dan McManus, whose contract was not renewed after the Jags went 1-21 overall and 1-16 in the Central League last season.

Rapczynski comes in with a great pedigree. A 1975 graduate of La Salle, he played for the Explorers from 1971-75, where his senior-year roommate was Joe Bryant. He coached North Catholic from 1984-92, leading the Falcons over Roman Catholic for the Philadelphia Catholic League championship in 1987.

From 1992-2006, he was the head coach at Brandywine High School in Wilmington, Del., winning a Delaware state title in 1998. He's lived in the Garnet Valley School District for 21 years and sent three children through Garnet Valley High. He comes back to coaching after a 4-year hiatus.

"I've always had a passion for the game and love basketball, and I've been keeping in touch with the game," Rapczynski said. "I think it's something that I can do to help the community and I happen to be a basketball person."

He faces an interesting challenge in the Central League, with Lower Merion, Ridley, Springfield and Penncrest all perennial powers.

"The Central League is like the Big Ten. You have good academic schools that value the after-school activities," Rapczynski said. "I have followed the program, and I know most of the kids in the program. I think that the school going into the Central League has gone through a transition. It'll take a little more time to complete the transition."

Rapczynski does have one big plus returning to the team, sophomore Joe DiCarlo, one of the area's best athletes, who led the Jags in scoring with a 16-point average last season. DiCarlo already has committed to Georgia on a baseball scholarship.

"We need to be able to take the floor and do everything we can to work hard as a team, and play with our hearts and play without reservation," Rapczynski said. "I think we have good players, and the question is, who is going to get better during the course of the season and the offseason. We want to be the best team we can be. We certainly want to be able to take advantage of everyone's talents. Having someone like Joe DiCarlo back is a plus."

Rapczynski is scheduled to meet his prospective players tomorrow.

"With a new coach, I'm trying to encourage everyone who wants to play the game and learn about the game," Rapczynski said. "I have some strong roots. I used to show up on courts when they had 100 kids on the courts, and if you lost, you didn't play again the rest of the night. I still have some of the scars over the years from those games."

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