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Basketball: Preseason Top 25

By Phil Anastasia

Inquirer Staff Writer

Here is South Jersey basketball's preseason Top 25:

(Last season's record in parentheses)

1. St. Augustine (27-2)

This is a deep, talented team led by the dynamic duo of senior point guard Sa'eed Nelson, an American University recruit, and 6-6 junior forward Justyn Mutts. Junior guard Austin Kennedy is a "glue-guy" for the Hermits.

2. Atlantic City (21-6)

The Vikings have top seniors such as swingman Leon Daniels and guard Lamar Thomas, who averaged a combined 29 pints last season. Senior forwards Jamir Prevard and senior guard Ayishon Centeno are players to watch along with 7-foot junior Keionis James and 6-4 sophomore Raymond Bethea.

3. Camden (25-7)

The Panthers have won four South Jersey titles in a row. This team could strike deep in the tournament again with seniors Jamal Holloway and Brad Hawkins, a pair of four-year starters, along with standout sophomores Myles Thompson and Corey Greer, a transfer from Middle Township.

4. Washington Township (13-15)

The Minutemen have nine seniors led by guard Spencer Cook and Justin Ortiz and a pair of sturdy 6-7 athletes in A.J. Michaels and Rasheen Merlin. This team has a battalion of rangy 6-3 guys who cover the floor. The Minutemen should be a major factor in the Olympic American and in South Jersey Group 4.

5. Winslow Township (16-11)

The defending South Jersey Group 3 champions return several veterans, including senior guard Mike Cubbage and senior forwards Elijah Campbell, Devon Robinson and Nazir Fields. This team will enter the season with confidence after last year's surprising run to the program's first sectional title.

6.  Cherokee (19-10)

The Chiefs have reached the last two South Jersey Group 4 finals and should be in the mix in the sectional tournament and in the Olympic American race again under new coach Eric Cassidy. Cherokee returns several veterans including seniors such as guards Tyler Tobin and Kevin Brown and forwards Marcus Marshall and Grant Gibson. A strong group of younger players and loaded youth system has the arrow pointing up on this program.

7. Timber Creek (13-13)

The Chargers return a pair of all-conference guards in seniors Randy Bell and Caleb Bowser and a three-year starter in swingman Denzel Washington. Senior guard Donovan Spencer is another key veteran. Sophomore Maurice Murray, a 6-5 swingman, is a player to watch.

8. Wildwood Catholic (21-8)

The Crusaders return six players who started games last season, including senior forward Will Bell and senior guard D.J. Smith. Junior guards Ryan Legler, the son of former La Salle star and NBA player Tim Legler, and Trey Smith are players to watch along with sophomore twins Caleb and Charles Fields.

9. Shawnee (17-10)

The Renegades return a pair of starters in senior guard Dean Austin and sophomore swingman Dylan Deveney. Senior forward Anthony Mague is a football standout who should help on the boards. Shawnee has a pair of sophomores to watch in guard Dean Noll and swingman Daevon Robinson.

10. Cherry Hill East (26-6)

The two-time defending South Jersey Group 4 champions will miss guard Jake Silpe, now at Penn. But the Cougars should contend in the loaded Olympic American behind senior center Tim Perry and senior guards Olin McClendon and Pierce Elliott.

11. Camden Catholic (25-4)

The Irish return senior point guard Jamal Parker, one of South Jersey's quickest players, as well as sixth man Terrance Harris, from last year's undefeated Olympic National champions. This program has some younger players to watch in junior guard Milo Proctor, sophomore forward Dominic Dunn and freshmen forwards Babatunde Ajike and Christopher Okafur.

12. Eastern (17-10)

The Vikings have a top scorer in senior swingman Maliq Sanders, who averaged 16.6 points last season. He could miss the first few games after surgery to repair a broken finger. Senior guards Keith Davis and Justin Williams and junior guard Darren Gibson are other veterans. Sophomore forward Onye Okoro and 6-8 freshman forward Jacob O'Connell are young players to watch.

13. Cherry Hill West (17-10)

The Lions return three starters led by senior swingman Danny Buckwalter, who averaged 13 points and seven rebounds. Senior forward Jack Goan is a versatile player and junior guard Bruce Neal is a talented floor general. Senior guard Nick Krake is another seasoned veteran.

14. Paul VI (9-14)

The Eagles will look to bounce back from a rebuilding year behind senior forward Voshon Mack and senior guard Lonnie Moore. Junior guards Justin Ryder, Kennan Wise and Andrew Zuccarelli could be impact players.

15. Holy Spirit (20-8)

The Spartans suffered a blow when senior guard C.J. Barnes sustained a knee injury that likely will sideline him until February at the earliest. Senior center Tyler Jones, a burly 6-7 athlete, is a force in the paint and the program has a loaded sophomore class led by Travis Stoll and Andrew Gallagher.

16. Rancocas Valley (21-7)

The Red Devils will rebuild a bit but have a pair of talented senior guards in Adam Perry and Brenden Ruby, plus a tradition of playing ferocious defense.

17. Ocean City (12-14)

The Red Raiders return several veterans led by senior swingman Connor Laverty, a top scorer.

18. Paulsboro (31-3)

The defending Group 1 state champions lost key veterans including four-year varsity players Theo Holloway and Saleem Little. The Red Raiders return several athletes with experience including senior swingman John Pellegrini and Tyrique King and junior guards Kyle Jones and Cherron Quarles.

19. Lenape (18-8)

The Indians are rebuilding a bit but will play their traditional tough man-to-man defense and control the clock with patient offense. Seniors Dylan Yerkes and Jordan Johnson lead the way.

20. Delsea (24-6)

The Crusaders return senior guard Kaleb Morton, who averaged 18.7 points last season, along with his younger brother, junior Kamel Morton, and scrappy senior guard Steve Birmington.

21. Haddonfield (23-7)

The Bulldawgs lost four starters and the one returning starter, senior swingman Tommy Kadar, is likely out until February with a broken leg. Senior swingman Rich Bond is a veteran and should lead the way along with seniors Matt Fell and Greg Gibson and junior Brendan Gilmartin. Freshman Mike DePerisa, brother of graduated twins Nick and Rob DePersia, is a young player to watch.

22. Bishop Eustace (13-14)

The Crusaders were the hard-luck team of last season with seven losses by seven or fewer points. Senior guard Mike Cohen, an Auburn recruit, leads the way along with senor guard Eric Sobocinski, junior guard Nate Carpenter and junior forward Alex DiPietrantonio. Sophomore guard Pat Fish is a young player to watch.

23. Bordentown (24-6)

The Scotties return several veterans from last year's Central Jersey Group 2 finalist, led by senior guard Myron Gordon, who averaged 22.6 points.

24. Moorestown (16-11)

The Quakers return four starters from a team that went 7-2 down the stretch and won a tournament game. Senior swingman Dan Dyer, who averaged 15 points, leads the way. Senior guard Jordan Austin, senior center Sean O'Sullivan and junior guard Xavier Alston also are returning starters.

25. West Deptford (14-14)

The Eagles have experience in the backcourt with seniors Marquise Owens and Luke McKeown, a pair of four-year varsity players. Sophomore Tom Sampson and freshman Elijah Malloy are young swingmen to watch.
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