Billy Clapper, who served as an assistant men's basketball coach at Penn State Altoona four years ago, is now the school's new head men's basketball coach.
Clapper, 26, appointed earlier this week, succeeds Alan Seretti, who resigned the position in July to become the Dickinson College men's basketball coach.
Clapper - a 2001 graduate of Hollidaysburg Area High School - is thankful for the opportunity to take over a college basketball program in his native central Pennsylvania.
"It's a true blessing,'' Clapper said of his appointment as Penn State Altoona's coach. "Growing up in central Pennsylvania, it's so important for me to be a college coach here. I have so many friends and family members throughout this community. It's really nice being somewhere you want to be.''
After serving as Seretti's assistant coach at Penn State Altoona in the 2005-06 season, Clapper worked as a graduate assistant at Indiana State University in the 2006-07 campaign.
The last two seasons, he has been an assistant coach on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown men's basketball coaching staff, helping direct the Mountain Cats to a 47-16 overall record and back-to-back berths in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Clapper - who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in business education from Youngstown State and a masters degree in educational technology from Indiana State University - has an extensive basketball background. He played two years of high school basketball at Tussey Mountain under legendary coach Dave Bailey before transferring to Hollidaysburg and playing his senior season under Mick Pentoney.
A guard whose forte was outstanding ball-handling, Clapper began his college playing career at Mount Aloysius and continued on to join the Division I program at Youngstown State University.
Clapper has delivered instruction as a clinician at over 225 basketball camps throughout the United States, including camps at prestigious basketball universities such as North Carolina State, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Xavier.
"Billy has a true passion for the game of basketball, and he brings a great deal of enthusiasm to our program,'' Penn State Altoona Athletic Director Fredina Ingold said. "We look forward to him continuing the growth and success of our basketball program.''
Clapper, who helped Seretti recruit some of the veteran players on the current Penn State Altoona roster, will have a good nucleus with which to work in his first season. Penn State Altoona returns four starters - seniors Zach Spitz and Justin Gasbarre, along with juniors Eric Gaetano and Kirk Peters - from last season's 14-13 team.
"This is not a rebuilding project,'' Clapper emphasized. "[Having the experienced players back] really does [help], and Alan did a great job at bringing in some talented freshmen for this season's team. I know that playing in the AMCC [Allegheny Mountain Commonwealth Campus] Tournament championship game for the first time is one of the goals our players have for this season.''
Clapper's sharp clinical background in the sport will no doubt be a big asset to those players.
"I'm big on player development,'' he said. "I really believe that, individually and as a team, we'll be so much better when the conference tournament starts next February than we are when practice starts this October.''