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Basketball: S.J. preseason Top 25


1. St. Augustine (30-2 last season): The Hermits lost Player of the Year Sa'eed Nelson, but return the other four starters led by senior swingman Justyn Mutts and senior guard Austin Kennedy. Mutts is a High Point recruit. Senior forward Walter Harvey and junior swingman Marlon Hargis are the other returning starters. The team also should get a lift from junior guard Travis Stoll, a talented transfer from Holy Spirit.

2. Camden (26-6): The Panthers have waited a long time to play another game to try to  ease the sting of last year's loss in the Group 2 state finals after building an 18-point lead. This team has the potential to return to Rutgers and finish the job behind junior guard Corey Greer and junior forward Myles Thompson. Senior guard John Evans, a crafty left-hander, scored 24 in the state finals last season, and senior forward Deaquan Williams is a Lincoln recruit and emerging force in the paint. Sophomore guard Ethan Tarte is another player to watch.

3. Atlantic City (26-5): The Vikings reached the Group 4 state final in 2015, with strong contributions from then-sophomores Ray Bethea Jr., Nah'Sir Morgan and Nazim Moore-Derry, all of whom seem poised for strong junior seasons. Senior guard Luis Colon, a transfer from Georgia, could make a big impact as ball-handler and outside threat. This team has depth and should get better during the course of the season.

4. Paul VI (14-13): The Eagles will look to build on a strong finish to last season with a big boost from senior D'Andre Vilmar, a transfer from Roman Catholic, and sophomore El Khana Hidalgo, a transfer from Life Center who will sit 30 days. Senior guards Justin Ryder and Keenan Wise are experienced perimeter players and senior forward John Calvello is an active presence in the paint.

5. Bishop Eustace (17-11): Senior swingman Jesse Saul and sophomore guard Pat Fish lead the way for the Crusaders. Senior big man Alec DiPietrantonio, senior guard Nate Carpenter and junior swingman Peyton Vostenak are players to watch as well.

6. Eastern (19-10): The Vikings return seasoned guards in senior Darren Gibson and junior Jesse Barbera, who emerged as a top ballhandler down the stretch last season. Sophomore Jacob O'Connell, a 6-foot-10 center, has an offer from Stony Brook and could develop into one of South Jersey's top big men. Junior Onye Okoro, a 6-foot-7 forward, is drawing recruiting interest as well.

7. Wildwood Catholic (19-7): The Crusaders have firepower to spare with junior twins Caleb and Charles Fields as well as seniors Trey Smith and Ryan Legler, the son of Tim Legler, the former La Salle star and NBA player. Freshmen Jahlil White and Taj Thweatt are young players to watch.

8. Shawnee (16-11): The Renegades have been building toward a breakthrough season and this could be it. Juniors Dean Noll, Daevon Robinson and Dylan Deveney and sophomore Patrick Kernan should lead the way.

9. Pennsauken (16-12): The Indians finished strong last season and have a new coach in former star guard Al Fisher, who played overseas for five years. Pennsauken is deep and talented, with seniors Zaire Davis, Jaylen Robinson, Quincy Wright and Josh Oxendine setting the tone for a program on the rise.

10. Lenape (14-14): Senior swingman Justin Kupa, senior guard Dante Owens and junior forward Andrew Sims lead a deep Indians squad. Senior forward Jermane Carter and junior guard Jake Topolski are among the team's other players to watch.

11. Camden Catholic (7-19): This should be a big bounce-back season for the Irish, who were hurt by injuries to veteran guards last season. Camden Catholic should feature versatile junior swingman Dom Dunn as well as sophomore big men Baba Ajike and Christopher Okafur. Senior guards Ian McCarthy and Nazir Streater, a football star who didn't play basketball as a junior, figure in the mix as well.

12. Cherokee (21-9): The Chiefs will be young but talented. Senior swingman Steve Gervasi is seasoned veteran. Junior guard Tyler Ludwikowski and sophomore guard Anthony DiCaro, son of the former Cherry Hill West and St. Joseph University standout, are among the other players to watch.

13. Haddonfield (18-10): The Bulldawgs will be led by senior swingman Brendan Gilmartin, who averaged 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists last season, along with sophomore guard Mike DePersia, a clever left-hander who averaged 13.3 points. Junior Will Bond is a threat from distance.

14. Woodbury (18-10): The Thundering Herd has one of South Jersey's top all-around players in senior swingman Ja'Zere Noel and a talented sophomore guard in Aaron Estrada. Senior swingman Jordan Herrin, a high-scoring transfer from St. Joseph, could make a major impact after sitting out 30 days.

15. Paulsboro (27-5): The Red Raiders return four regulars from last year's South Jersey Group 1 champions in senior swingman Cherron Quarles and senior guard Kyle Jones and junior guards Eric Diaz and Dehron Holloway. Senior D'Andre Blue-Eli, a transfer from Deptford, likely will be an impact player after sitting out 30 days.

16. Timber Creek (21-7): Junior swingman Maurice Murray is one of South Jersey's most talented players, a pure scorer who can shoot from distance and attack the rim. Senior forward Dyan Johnson and junior guard Isaiah Sanders are other players to watch for the Chargers.

17. Bordentown (27-5): The Scotties lost first-team All-South Jersey guard Myron Gordon but return springy senior swingman Manny Ansong, hot-shooting senior guard Darnill Brown and junior lead guard Jacquey Mendez.

18. Pemberton (21-10): The Hornets return several key veterans from last year's Central Jersey 3 champions including senior guard Jordan Heck and senior forward Kevin Clifton. Sophomore Andrew Heck is a threat from distance who saw significant time as a ninth-grader.

19. Cherry Hill East (18-10): The Cougars have a top outside shooter in senior swingman Joey DiAntonio and a veteran lead guard in senior Evan Campbell. Seniors Colin O'Donnell and Will O'Kane are players to watch along with senior guard Bruce Neal, a transfer from Cherry Hill West.

20. Williamstown (16-11): The Braves have a top junior in guard Mike Patterson, who averaged 15 points last season. Senior guard Eriq Johnson and senior forward OG Uhuego are players to watch. Sophomore center Nick Kenton is a talented young big man.

21. Winslow Twp. (16-15): The Eagles are two-time defending South Jersey Group 3 champions. They return two key players in senior swingman Tyrae Taylor and senior guard Sidney Brown and have a new coach in Wayne Nelson.

22. Woodstown (22-4): The Wolverines set a school record for victories last season and return their top scorer in junior swingman Jawan Roane, who averaged 22 points.

23. Haddon Heights (17-10): The Garnets have a top backcourt in senior Robert Tindley and junior Jared Latane, who averaged a combined 32 points last season. Senior forward Jake Barr, who averaged 10 points and nine boards, is another returning starter.

24. Willingboro (17-9): Senior Julius Chamble and junior Greg Thurman are veterans of a team that finished strong last season. Junior guard Greg Burke is a player to watch.

25. Washington Twp. (25-4): The Minutemen lost nine seniors, including first-team All-South Jersey player Spencer Cook. The team has two top veterans in seniors Rich Racobaldo and Na'Quan McPherson and senior Drew Hohman is a potential impact player slated to return from a wrist injury in January.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Cinnaminson (19-8), Mainland (18-11), Medford Tech (16-14), Middle Twp. (19-7), Moorestown (14-13), Rancocas Valley (16-12).

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