If things go according to plan, the Cherry Hill West boys' basketball team will be decent in December, better in January, and dangerous in February and March.
The Lions' success depends largely on the emergence of a sleeper of a junior forward and the return of a seasoned senior guard.
Rodney Williams, an athletic guard and 1,000-point career scorer who averaged 16.1 points last season, is expected to return in mid-January from a leg injury that cost him the final five games of the football season.
Williams will join with 6-5 junior forward Can Oztamur, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, to form an imposing 1-2 punch.
Oztamur has been making waves in the preseason, averaging better than 20 points in scrimmages and dropping 33 on 13th-ranked Schalick.
With junior point guard Elijah Bey handling the basketball, Cherry Hill West looms as one of the favorites in the wide-open Olympic Conference Patriot Division race.
Defending champion Shawnee has what veteran coach Joe Kessler calls "the most inexperienced team" of his 26 seasons, with no returning starters. The Renegades will be led by junior guard Alec Warren, senior guard Eric Aita, and senior forward Paul Chiusano.
Timber Creek will be in the mix behind Keith Washington Jr., Justin Thompson, Dikemba Amugo, and promising big man Victonio Pratt.
Olympic American. Cherokee could make a run at the title with a veteran team led by seniors Kyle Kahriger and Kevin Wixted and featuring junior swingman Paul Bellamy.
Eastern will be in the hunt behind senior forward Matt Klinewski, a Lafayette recruit, and athletic senior guards Alex Barr and Tom Flacco.
Lenape suffered a setback with the loss of senior forward Cameron Green, out indefinitely with a knee injury. The Indians have experienced senior big men Cole Moody and Jesse Spitznas.
Cherry Hill East has one of the division's top players in junior guard Jake Silpe, a slick playmaker, and a promising big man in sophomore Tim Perry, son of the former Temple star.
Olympic National. This might be South Jersey's toughest division, with four teams in The Inquirer's Top 10 preseason rankings.
Two-time defending champion Paul VI looms as the favorite with a senior-heavy team led by swingman Jay Howard, who is nursing an ankle injury and could miss the first few games, and forward Matt Risse, a James Madison recruit.
Other key seniors for the Eagles include guards Ivan Robinson and DeVahnte Mosley and forward Jair Green.
Bishop Eustace will challenge behind senior guard Flo DaSilva, a top defender, as well as junior forwards Brandan Cazan and Connor McLaughlin and sophomore guard Mike Cohen.
Camden Catholic has a solid set of senior guards in Rob Brosh and Tom Organ and another returning starter in 6-6 junior forward Brendan Crawford. The Irish will get a big boost with the return to health of 6-9 junior Demola Onifade, who is nursing a shoulder injury.
Camden will be led by senior guard Tavaris Headen and will feature junior guard Rasool Hinson and talented sophomores Brad Hawkins and Jamal Holloway.
Colonial Liberty. Haddonfield returns three starters from last season's division champions: twin junior guards Rob and Nick DePersia and senior center Abby Bah.
West Deptford returns a veteran squad led by senior guard Justin Hansen, a fourth-year starter, along with senior guard Mike Gardner and sophomore guard Marquise Owens.
Sterling has one of the league's top interior players, senior forward Marvin Jones.
Haddon Heights will be in the mix behind senior Tre Broadway and junior Lucian Brownlee.
Colonial Patriot. Defending champion Paulsboro again is the team to beat, with a deep and athletic squad led by junior forwards Theo Holloway and Saleem Little and senior guards Keenan Williams and Cassius Carter.
Tri-County Royal. Delsea returns a veteran team led by senior guard Ronnie Russell, senior forward Keith Braxton, and junior forward Kwame Morton. Sophomore guard Kaleb Morton, Kwame's brother, is another key player for the Crusaders.
Clearview will be led by senior forward Adam Herman and senior sharpshooter Mark Wilhelm, who made 37 three-pointers last season. Juniors Gavin Bright and Sterling Sheffield also will play important roles for the Pioneers.
Williamstown has a talented senior backcourt in T.J. Booth, a top scorer, and On-Nir Kendall.
Tri-County Diamond. Schalick looms as the favorite and could contend in South Jersey Group 1 behind 6-9 senior center Rashaan Holloway, a Massachusetts recruit, and his brother, 6-6 junior forward Mike Holloway.
The Cougars also have returning starters in senior swingmen Melvin Allen and DeAndre Solomon.
Gloucester Catholic received a big boost with the addition of 6-4 junior Matt Green, a transfer from Camden Catholic who will be eligible right away. Green joins forces with junior guard Fran Kinsey and senior swingman Chin Akwarandu.
Tri-County Classic. Pitman is the prohibitive favorite in this division and likely will be one of the top teams in South Jersey.
The Panthers have a top returning trio in 6-9 junior Tim Delaney, a Villanova recruit; 6-4 senior swingman Eric Stafford, a Lafayette recruit; and 6-2 senior guard Darnell Foreman. Pitman received a big boost with the addition of 6-6 senior forward Tyler Wisniewski, a transfer from Deptford who will be eligible immediately.
Burlco Liberty. Trenton Catholic is the favorite, with Syracuse recruit Malachi Richardson and Medford Tech transfer Myles Powell.
Rancocas Valley will challenge behind senior center Nick Davidson, a Bloomfield recruit, and senior guard Vince Anfield.
Burlington Township has seasoned returning starters in Kenny Davis and Curtis Thompson.
Burlco Patriot. Pemberton could be primed for a big season with a top senior in swingman Shaun Brooks and returning starters in sophomores Tyler McShea, I'Javion Ivory, and Antoine Wilson. The Hornets could get a major lift with the addition of 6-7 Jean LeBrun, a transfer from Haiti.
Willingboro returns several veterans led by senior forward Awwal Reid and junior guard Jeff Haddock, the son of coach Jeff Haddock.
Medford Tech has a top junior in 6-6 forward Dennis Tunstall and an experienced senior guard in Sidney Harris.
Cinnaminson has a sharpshooter in senior guard Jackson Merget, who has hit 84 three-pointers in his career. Junior Jack Hart is another veteran for the Pirates.
Burlco Freedom. Burlington City is the defending champion and features a top senior, swingman Jelani Glaze.
Cape American. Atlantic City is the two-time defending Group 4 state champion, and the Vikings have battle-tested seniors in guard Isaiah Graves and forward Dennis White.
Holy Spirit will challenge behind senior forward Junior Saintel, junior guard John Middleton, and junior forward Jordan Taylor.
Millville could be dangerous with an explosive senior guard in Khaliq Ford, and Absegami features senior swingman Abdul Anderson, a Bucknell recruit for football.
Cape National. St. Augustine will be young but talented with a squad led by senior Brian Seward and featuring sophomores Mike Vasturia and Sa'eed Nelson and freshmen Justyn Mitts and Austin Kennedy.
Middle Township will rebuild behind senior Tanner Kerr and junior Trai Greer, and Hammonton will be led by senior guards Trey Hughey and Justin Harris.
Ocean City has a talented lead guard in senior Griffin Grimes.
Cape United. Wildwood Catholic has one of its top teams in several years with seniors Ed McWade, who averaged 18.4 points last season, along with standout swingman Jordan Robertson and center Clinton Freeman.
St. Joseph has a top player in junior swingman Ben Mitchell, who averaged 15.8 points and 8.6 rebounds last season, and a seasoned senior guard in Charlie Riccardi.