By Phil Anastasia
Here's a primer on South Jersey boys' basketball, by groups:
South Jersey Group 4
Defending champion: Cherry Hill East.
Favorite: Atlantic City. The Vikings have a pair of seasoned seniors in swingman Leon Daniels and guard Lamar Thomas and a sophomore to watch in 6-4 Raymond Bethea.
Another contender: Washington Township. The Minutemen have nine seniors who can play led by guards Spencer Cook and Justin Ortiz and small army of 6-3 guys who cover the floor.
And another: Cherokee. The Chiefs return four starters from last season's sectional finalist, led by senior guards Tyler Tobin and Kevin Brown as well as senior forwards Grant Gibson and Marcus Marshall.
And another: Shawnee. The Renegades might be a year away but they have a solid senior in swingman Dean Austin, a loaded sophomore class and a coach in Joe Kessler who enters his 29th season with 594 career wins.
And don't forget: Cherry Hill East, Cherry Hill West, Eastern, Rancocas Valley and Lenape. This group could go 10-12 deep with solid teams this season.
Player to watch: Cherry Hill East senior center Tim Perry busted out with big game at Atlantic City in the sectional semifinals last season. He has a soft touch around the basket and will need to emerge as more of a leader this season.
Another player to watch: Eastern senior swingman Maliq Sanders is a smooth scorer who can stroke from distance and also get in the lane. He might miss a couple games after surgery in November for a broken finger.
And another: Atlantic City's Lamar Thomas is another in a long line of mentally-tough Vikings who want the ball at crunch time. He might not make every big shot. But he won't be afraid to take every big shot.
And one more: Cherry Hill West's Danny Buckwalter (pictured). Top athlete who can run the floor and is tough to defend in the paint.
South Jersey Group 3
Defending champion: Winslow Township.
Favorite: Winslow Township. The Eagles gained a ton of confidence with last season's surge to the first sectional title in the history of the program. This team returns lead guard Mike Cubbage, who makes plays all over the floor, and some formidible inside players such as senior forwards Nasir Fields, Elijah Campell and Devon Robinson.
Another contender: Timber Creek. The Chargers are set for a strong season with three-year starters in the backcourt in seniors Caleb Bowser and Randy Bell as well as seasoned swingman Denzell Washington. Sophomore swingman Maurice Murray could be poised for a break-out season.
Other teams to watch: Delsea, Ocean City.
Player to watch: Delsea senior Kaleb Morton is one of South Jersey's most natural scorers who averaged 18.7 last season.
Another player to watch: Ocean City senior swingman Connor Laverty averaged 18.7 points and 7.3 rebounds last season.
And another: Seneca senior guard Tommy Egan made 70 'threes' last season while averaging 12.9 points.
South Jersey Group 2
Defending champion: Camden.
Favorite: Camden. The Panthers will be led by four-year starters Jamal Holloway and Brad Hawkins, who have won a South Jersey title every season of their careers. Watch for a break-out season by 6-4 sophomore Myles Thompson and some strong work from sophomore lead guard Corey Greer, a transfer from Middle Township, as well.
Darkhorse: Middle Township. The Panthers play sturdy defense, have a top all-around player in guard Tim Toney and are led by one of South Jersey's top coaches in veteran Tom Feraco.
Other teams to watch: Haddonfield, West Deptford.
Player to watch: West Deptford senior guard Marquise Owens is a skilled ball-handler who can score and dish.
Another player to watch: Haddonfield freshman Mike DePersia is the brother of graduated twins Nick and Rob DePersia, now starting at Rowan University.
And another: Cinnaminson senior swingman Devon Taylor can get in the lane and finish.
South Jersey Group 1
Defending champion: Paulsboro.
Favorite: Paulsboro. Red Raiders coach Sean Collins has been getting 8-to-10 players into a regular rotation for years, so his teams always seem to have depth and experience. This team will be led by senior forwards John Pellegrini and Tyrique King and junior guards Kyle Jones and Cherron Quarles.
Darkhorse: Palmyra. The Panthers will score with senior guard DeVaughn Whitfield-Gaines and sophomore swingman Taj Harris both capable of putting up 25 on any given night.
Other teams to watch: Haddon Heights, Schalick, Penns Grove, Gloucester, Wildwood, Woodbury.
Player to watch: Gloucester senior Jaleel Hatcher averaged 18.6 points and gets to the rim with ease.
Another player to watch: Schalick senior guard Tyler Lunsford is a natural point guard who will assume more of a scoring role this season.
And another: Haddon Heights junior Robert Tindley is a pure point guard, a disruptive defender who averaged 8.3 points as a sophomore.
Non-Public South A
Defending champion: Christian Brothers.
Favorite: St. Joseph of Metuchen. Gill St. Bernard's transfer Tyus Battle, a Syracuse recuit, his freshman brother Khalif Battle and senior point guard Breein Tyree -- who has offers from Iowa State and Southern Cal -- make this team one of the favorites to win the Tournament of Champions.
Darkhorse: St. Augustine. The Hermits have plenty of tournament success against North Jersey powers in their past and they have the right elements for a deep playoff run in a seasoned senior guard in Sa'eed Nelson and an athletic junior forward in Justyn Mutts, among other top players.
Another contender: CBA. The Colts return a top player in senior swingman Pat Andree, whose outside shooting spurred last year's run to the sectional title.
In the mix: Camden Catholic. The Irish have a top point guard in senior Jamal Parker. This team could be dangerous late if young big men Dominic Dunn, Babatunde Ajike and Christopher Okafur make big strides.
Also in the mix: Bishop Eustace. The Crusaders have a seasoned guard in Mike Cohen, an Auburn recruit, and a couple of young players to watch in 6-6 junior Alec DiPietrantonio and sophomore guard Pat Fish.
Another in the mix: Paul VI. The Eagles have depth, a force in the paint in senior Voshon Mack, overall quickness and a little bit of an edge after struggling through an injury-marred rebuilding season.
Also watch: Gloucester Catholic. The Rams will rebuild after losing all five starters from a 22-win team but will play their trademark sturdy defense and patient offense.
Player to watch: St. Augustine junior guard Austin Kennedy does a little bit of everything for the Hermits.
Another player to watch: Paul VI junior guard Justin Ryder is an under-the-radar player for an under-the-radar team.
Non-Public South B
Defending champion: Roselle Catholic.
Favorite: Roselle Catholic. The T of C winners will reload behind sophomore Nazeron Reid.
Another contender: The Patrick School. Former Rutgers coach Mike Rice takes over as interim coach of this loaded squad.
Darkhorse: Wildwood Catholic. The Crusaders return six players who started for a 21-win team. They are smart and scrappy and they can shoot, especially junior Ryan Legler, the son of former La Salle star and NBA player Tim Legler.
In the mix: Holy Spirit. The Spartans lost senior guard C.J. Barnes at least until February with a knee injury. But senior big man Tyler Jones is a force in the paint and the program has a strong sophomore class.
Also in the mix: St. Joseph. The Wildcats have one of the state's more intriguing seniors in 6-foot-11 Auris Tverijonas, who hails from Lithuania.
Also watch: Holy Cross. After years under coach Barry Harper, the Lancers start a new era under new coach Jeff Bilinsky.
Player to watch: Wildwood Catholic senior guard D.J. Smith is a top defender and good outside shooter.
Another player to watch: Leap Academy senior Donovon Guess averaged 21.6 points last season.
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