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2017-18 Boys Basketball Preview
Winter Sports

by Matt Cosentino

Bishop Eustace Crusaders

Players to watch: The Crusaders graduated three starters, including Jesse Saul, the heart and soul of last year’s squad who was named to the all-conference first team. The good news is they still have a pair of returning seniors who started last year in playmaker Pat Fish and sharp shooter Peyton Vostenak. Vostenak, a 6-foot-3, 180-pounder, scored 15 points in a sectional semifinal win over St. Joseph-Metuchen and made the all-conference second team. Junior guard/forward Matthew Kempter is another key contributor back in the fold and promising sophomore David Cross should move into the starting lineup and add quickness on the court. Eustace also brings in a pair of transfers expected to have an immediate impact. Mattia Morini, a 6-foot-6 junior, came over from Italy to experience American education and basketball and has been welcomed by his new teammates with open arms. Vince Popejoy, a 6-5 sophomore, came to the school after playing his freshman season at Clearview.

Outlook: Eustace went 22-7 and reached the South Jersey Non-Public A final last year. The Crusaders hope to contend in the Olympic Conference National Division with a revamped roster.

Camden Catholic Fighting Irish

Players to watch: Camden Catholic brings back a terrific duo to build around in senior guard/forward Dominic Dunn and junior center Baba Ajike, who both made the all-conference first team. Dunn, who stands 6-foot-6, is a deadly shooter and can also take the ball to the basket. Ajike has always been able to impact games at the defensive end and improved his offensive repertoire as well last year, averaging more than 14 points per game. Junior big man Chris Okafor, who showed promise as a freshman, could also have a big impact after missing last year with an injury. Juniors Pat Corbett and Dajuan Feliciano and sophomore Hakim Melvin are expected to contribute as well.

Outlook: The Irish returned to form last year after a rare down season, as they went 20-8, captured the Olympic Conference National Division title and reached the South Jersey Non-Public A quarterfinals. Look for another strong campaign this winter.

Cherokee Chiefs

Players to watch: Cherokee returns a strong group led by junior Anthony DiCaro, who made the all-conference second team. A 6-foot-2 point guard, DiCaro has been a varsity contributor since his freshman year and averaged 11.1 points as a sophomore. Seniors Tymere Bennett and Tyler Ludiwikomski are other important returners and junior Jordan Hayes is also expected to contribute. Junior guard Olare Oladipo, a transfer from Union Catholic, should have an impact as well.

Outlook: Even with a young squad in 2016-17, the Chiefs still went 21-7, earned a share of the Olympic Conference American Division title and reached the South Jersey Group IV semifinals. Look for big things this winter.

Cherry Hill East Cougars

Players to watch: East graduated four senior starters, including all-conference first-teamer and leading scorer Joey DiAntonio, so this year’s squad will have a new look. Junior guard Carl Gibson is the lone returning starter and should develop into a top playmaker. Junior forward Sam Serata is another key returner who could blossom in a starting role.

Outlook: The Cougars went 17-11 and reached the South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals last year. They hope to remain competitive while rebuilding around a new core.

Cherry Hill West Cougars

Players to watch: Cherry Hill West labored through a rebuilding season in 2016-17, but the good news is that several returners who gained valuable playing time should benefit from the experience. That includes sophomore guard Tyreke Huff, who shined as a rookie with his 3-point shooting and ability to create off the dribble. Junior guard Ibrahim Lagrier is another key returner, while Marcus Truell and Jesse Randolph are senior leaders.

Outlook: After last year’s rebuilding season, look for the Lions to make progress under new head coach Aaron Burt.

Clearview Pioneers

Players to watch: Clearview’s top two scorers from last year transferred out of South Jersey, but the Pioneers are excited to welcome back several promising young players. That group includes sophomore forward Justin McNichols, who started as a freshman and averaged 10.1 points per game. Sophomore point guard Harold Miller also started as a rookie and showed off his ability to lead the offense and defend. Senior Alex Soriano, who averaged about 10 points per game as a sophomore before sitting out last season, is back with the team and senior Dan Sullivan, a transfer from Kingsway, is expected to provide leadership and scoring as well. Senior forward Marco Piccone and senior guard Jimmy Heise are other key veterans, and Sam Novick and Nick Dalfonso are sophomores looking to contribute.

Outlook: The Pioneers went 7-17 last year with an extremely young squad. They hope to keep making progress with a season of experience under their belts.

Eastern Vikings

Players to watch: Although Eastern graduated leading scorer and top-notch defender Darren Gibson, most of the other top players are back in the fold, including four starters. Among that group are playmaking senior guards Jesse Barbera and Troy Edwards, who both averaged around 12 points per game. Barbera—who had a 30-point, 10-assist, six-rebound game against Washington Township—made the all-conference first team, while Edwards was a second-teamer. Eastern also has a talented frontcourt that includes senior Onye Okoro and junior Ryan Ems. A top newcomer is 6-foot-5 senior Matt Cotton, a transfer from St. Benedict’s. Cotton had more than Division I offers and committed to Yale.

Outlook: The Vikings’ 14-13 season—which included 10 losses by six or fewer points—ended with a first-round loss to Atlantic City in the South Jersey Group IV playoffs. They have the potential to contend in the Olympic Conference American Division and go on a longer postseason run this season.

Gloucester Catholic Rams

Players to watch: Junior guard Conor Regan, who averaged 12 points as a sophomore, has a smooth shooting stroke and is one of the top 3-point specialists in the area. He has grown several inches to 6-foot-4 since last season and it will be interesting to see what he can accomplish as an upperclassman. Forward Dan Senlick is another returning contributor who provides senior leadership, and senior Nico Ferrari—a native of Italy who transferred to the school this year—is expected to have an immediate impact at point guard. Mike Racobaldo, a 6-5 sophomore transfer from Clearview, and Adonis Perez, a 6-foot-3 transfer from Hudson Catholic, are other newcomers to watch.

Outlook: The Rams went 16-11 and lost in the first round of the South Jersey Non-Public B playoffs last year. They hope to contend in their new division as they move from the Tri-County Conference Classic to the Tri-County Diamond.

Haddonfield Bulldawgs

Players to watch: Haddonfield graduated just one senior—forward Brendan Gilmartin, a key player at both ends of the floor—so there is a lot to be excited about. The two leaders are junior point guard Mike DePersia and senior shooting guard Will Bond, who both averaged about 14 points per game and made the all-conference first team. Both are excellent shooters and passers and have been battle-tested in big games since they were freshmen. Junior Aiden Blake, an athletic 6-foot-3 junior, is another returning starter. Senior center Sam Heine and junior forward Dylan Heine both contribute with rebounding and inside scoring, and junior guard Lewis Evans is one of the Bulldawgs’ top defenders. Senior guard Ben Schroeter was a top reserve last year and will play an important role as well, while Danny Fleming is a promising 6-foot-7 junior who will move up from the JV team.

Outlook: The Bulldawgs are hungry after last year’s 24-6 season ended with a devastating loss to Camden at the buzzer in the South Jersey Group II final. They should be one of the top teams in South Jersey, even without a true home-court advantage. With their gym undergoing renovations, they will play home games at Cherry Hill East.

Kingsway Dragons

Players to watch: Kingsway suffered a major loss when guard Hakim Hart—a Division I recruit who averaged 26.1 points as a sophomore—transferred to Roman Catholic in Philadelphia. In his absence, senior forward Jamir Patterson appears ready to take over as the go-to scorer for the Dragons. He averaged about 10 points per game as a junior. Other key seniors are guards Jeremiah Bishop and Kevin Zehner and forwards Christian Ho and Tyler Hardy. Juniors William Pollick and Jaelin Keels and sophomore Alex Odom will also look to contribute.

Outlook: The Dragons’ 16-10 season featured a share of the Tri-County Conference Royal Division title and a first-round loss in the South Jersey Group IV playoffs. It will be difficult to contend again in the conference without Hart and two other starters from last year, but expect them to remain competitive.

Lenape Indians

Players to watch: Lenape graduated several top players but has an important building block returning in senior forward Andrew Sims, who averaged 13.9 points and made the all-conference first team. The 6-foot-6 Sims is being recruited by a number of Division II colleges and has at least one Division I offer, and should be in store for a big final season. Senior forward Jake Topolski—who will attend Duke on a baseball scholarship—is another key returner, and senior Matt Ingersoll could move into the starting lineup at point guard. Billy Bruno, Brett Gallagher, Lou Sottolano and Devon Wooding are other returning seniors.

Outlook: The Indians are coming off an impressive 23-4 season in which they shared the Olympic Conference American Division championship and reached the South Jersey Group IV semifinals. More success should follow this year with Sims leading the way.

Moorestown Quakers

Players to watch: Moorestown is paced by a standout junior class led by shooting guard Jagger Zrada, who has been a varsity player since his freshman year. Zrada is a knock-down 3-point shooter who averaged 10.3 points per game last year. Akhil Giri, Vinnie Caprarola and Nick Cartwright-Atkins are other returning junior guards who were contributors as sophomores. Brian McMonagle is another junior who will play a role in the frontcourt and Connor Dickerson is a returning senior.

Outlook: The Quakers went 19-7—a five-win improvement from the year before—and lost in the first round of the Central Jersey Group III playoffs. Despite the graduation of several top players, they expect to stay competitive behind their juniors.

Moorestown Friends Foxes

Players to watch: Moorestown Friends graduated a strong senior class, including point guard Jordan White. The good news is that junior center Jack Stern is back after averaging 13.2 points per game. Surya Reddy and Michael Cramer are key senior leaders, and other returners hoping to have an impact are seniors Vishal Doshi, Marcel Nelson and Aiden Van Osten, junior Peter Frank and sophomores Cory Dennis and Brendan Filoramo.

Outlook: The Foxes finished with a 9-19 record last year and hope to keep making progress with Stern leading the way.

Paul VI Eagles

Players to watch: Paul VI graduated all-conference players Keenan Wise and Justin Ryder but has a key junior to build around in 6-foot-6 forward Hartnel Haye. Tyshon Judge is another junior who got varsity minutes as a sophomore. Tariq Johnson and Nicholas Villa are other juniors hoping to play a role this year.

Outlook: The Eagles’ 14-13 season featured impressive wins over Camden Catholic, Haddonfield and Bishop Eustace. They again should be capable of competing with the top teams in the area.

Seneca Golden Eagles

Players to watch: Seneca is paced by a strong senior class that includes 6-foot-1 guard Jack Brockett, who averaged about 14 points per game and made the all-conference first team. He will continue his career at the University of Scranton. Mike Ginyard, a 6-foot-4 versatile guard/forward who made the all-conference second team, has tremendous potential. Combined with other key players like sophomores Johnny Kennevan and Malin Jasinski, along with returning senior guard Danny Kane, Seneca could surprise some opponents this season.

Outlook: With a deep bench and senior leaders, the Golden Eagles have a chance of improving on last year’s 9-18 record.

Shawnee Renegades

Players to watch: Expectations are high for Shawnee, which returns the entire starting five from last year’s Group IV state finalist team. Although the Renegades have great offensive balance and share the ball as well as anyone in South Jersey, they have a pair of go-to scorers who can take over games in senior forward Dylan Deveney and senior point guard Dean Noll. Deveney, who averaged a team-high 16.6 points, is a physical presence in the lane at 6-foot-6 but can also step out and hit a 3-pointer. He is committed to Lafayette University for baseball. Noll, who averaged 15.1 points, can create opportunities for himself or his teammates off the dribble. He is being recruited by several Division I and II programs. Deveney and Noll were joined on the all-conference first team by athletic senior wing Daevon Robinson, who is headed to North Carolina State for football. Senior forward Sean Heine, an excellent 3-point shooter, and steady junior guard Pat Kernan are the other returning starters. Junior guard Connor Deveney is a key reserve who drained a huge 3-pointer in the third overtime period during a thrilling win over Toms River North in last year’s sectional final, and senior Kane Feudtner also got valuable minutes as the first big man off the bench.

Outlook: Shawnee’s memorable 29-3 season featured the Olympic Conference National Division title, the South Jersey Group IV championship and a trip to the state final. With the nucleus back, this team has the potential to play into March again.

St. Augustine Hermits

Players to watch: St. Augustine graduated South Jersey Player of the Year Justyn Mutts and all-South Jersey guard Austin Kennedy, so this team will have a different look. But that doesn’t mean there is a lack of talent. Senior Marlon Hargis, a 6-foot-6 guard/forward, is a key returner and Division I recruit who could emerge as the focal point of the offense. Senior guard Travis Stoll is another returning starter who will contribute at both ends of the floor. Junior Charles Solomon, a 6-foot-5 forward, was a reserve last year and appears ready to blossom as a starter. Junior guard Jordan Kendricks is another returner expected to play a bigger role.

Outlook: The Hermits went 26-3, won the South Jersey Non-Public A title and fell just short of their second straight state championship. New leaders will have to emerge this season, but expect The Prep to be among the top teams in South Jersey once again.

Washington Township Minutemen

Players to watch: Washington Township graduated a pair of all-conference players in Na’Quan McPherson and Rich Racobaldo, as well as solid guard Josh Garner. Senior guard Colin Meintel and 6-foot-5 senior forward Brandon Hickson both started as juniors and will look to step into leadership roles. Mike Funaro and Connor Hughes are other seniors who will contribute, and junior Billy McCrae, a 6-foot-5 guard, could move into the starting lineup. William Roland is a knock-down shooter and fellow juniors Asante Russell and Giancarlo Viesti will look to play bigger roles as well.

Outlook: The Minutemen went 14-13 and lost in the first round of the South Jersey Group IV playoffs last year. They hope to contend for a winning record against a difficult schedule.