WHEN TRYING to determine a favorite for the Catholic League basketball crown, flipping a coin might make the most sense.
As the defending champion, Roman Catholic earns the heads honor. Neumann-Goretti, the titlist in 2005 and '06, is tails. Best of three. Here's a shiny quarter. Let's get started.
1. It's up, it bounces off the carpet, it settles ... heads. 2. N-G. 3. Roman again.
Until the games are played, who could possibly know for sure?
Although Roman returns four of its top seven players, and two of them, junior point guard Maalik Wayns (Villanova, national acclaim) and senior wing guard Courtney Stanley (Loyola Chicago), are already committed, Heart and Soul, twins Bradley and Brian Wanamaker, were lost to graduation.
N-G boasts strong returnees in senior forward Jamal Wilson (Rhode Island) and wing guard Tony Chennault, a highly regarded soph. Also, two more sophs of note, forward Dan Stewart and guard Tyreek Duren, have arrived by transfer from Haverford School, and 6-9 junior Andre "Scooter" Gillette is ready to make a name for himself.
"Right now," said Roman coach Dennis Seddon, "we're searching not only for leadership but for the 15 rebounds a game Brad and Brian gave us.
"We need consistency and our defense will have to be very good."
Said N-G coach Carl Arrigale: "This is a good group. They come fired up to play you. We have a long way to go, but we do have a chance" for a championship.
Elsewhere in the Southern Division, Archbishop Carroll appears most capable of making noise. It's expected that Speedy Morris will find a way for St. Joseph's Prep to cause problems, but wing guard Jim Mower (Lafayette) is still out with a broken hand.
The North should feature a race between North Catholic and La Salle.
North point guard Velton Jones has signed with Robert Morris and coach Mike McCarron calls wing guard Lenny Young "the best-kept secret in the city; definitely a low-I player. He has lost 15 pounds and can just flat-out play."
Enforcer duties are handled by Temple football recruit Shahid Paulhill.
"I've been using as many as 12 players," McCarron said. "Our practices are awesome."
C.J. Aiken, a 6-9 soph, improves daily at La Salle and gets inside help from Matt Crozier and Joe Migliarese.
Father Judge and Archbishop Ryan, where the floor general, Andrew Rogers, is the brother of the bench general, coach Bernie Rogers, also will make strong pushes. Cardinal Dougherty might, but for now is in regroup mode.
In what's possibly a CL first, each division will offer two regular-season dates before Christmas. But since neither is involved in a holiday tournament, Roman and N-G have decided to hold off their first meeting until Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m., at Philadelphia University.
The regular season ends Feb. 10.
There is one new coach, Conwell-Egan's Rick Sabol.
Catholic League thumbnails
RETURNING ALL-CATHOLICS, selected by Daily News
SECOND TEAM: Andrew Rogers, Ryan, G; Maalik Wayns, Roman, G.
THIRD TEAM: Jamal Wilson, N-G, F; Lijah Thompson, Bonner, C; Velton Jones, North, G.
FOURTH TEAM: Will Kirkland, Roman, F; Jim Mower, SJ Prep, G-F; Tony Chennault, N-G, G; Dan Comas, Wood, C.
HONORABLE MENTION: Guards: Rob Holloman, West; Courtney Stanley, Roman; Karlton Byrd, K-K; Ellis Rogers, Carroll; Bob Zanneo, Judge. Forwards/Centers: Eric Brennan, West; Mark Wedderburn, O'Hara; Jim Kelleher, O'Hara; Kasheef Festus, Carroll; Chris Wilk, Ryan; Lenny Young, North; Matt Crozier, La Salle; Andrew Vose, Judge.
Coach: Bernie Rogers, 8th year. Education: Ryan, Ursinus. Career: 115-71.
Last Year: 9-5, 16-11.
Savvy seven: Andrew Rogers, 5-9, G; Chris Wilk, 6-1, C; Eric Jann, 6-1, G; Tom Marshall, 6-3, G; Anthony Keiter, 6-1, F; Rus Slawter, 5-9, G; Mike Colon, 5-9, G.
Rogers' comment: "We have a great group of kids who enjoy playing together!"
Coach: Joe Sette, 14th year (also Maple Point, 1979-80; McDevitt, 1981-89). Education: St. Joseph's Prep, La Salle. Career: Unavailable; 153-178 at Wood.
Last Year: 4-10, 13-13.
Savvy seven: Dan Comas, 6-6, C; Eric Loughnane, 6-foot, G; Joe Huebner, 6-foot, G; Sean McCartney, 6-2, G; Tim Fahy, 5-9, G; Brian O'Grady, 6-2, F; Joe Getz, 5-10, G.
Sette's comment: "Good chemistry must be a priority in order to play meaningful games in February."
Coach: Jack Rutter, 13th year (missed final 16 games of '05 on medical leave). Education: Dougherty, Alvernia. Career: 114-171.
Last Year: 0-14, 7-19.
Savvy seven: Dan Drennen, 6-7, C; Matt Shervin, 6-2, F; R.P. Boyle, 6-2, F; James Williams, 6-4, F; Matt Davis, 5-11, G; Pat Doyle, 5-11, G; Courtney Havens, 6-foot, F.
Rutter's comment: "This team has the heart of a champion. The great thing is, we have been through this war last year and we are all returning to win."
Coach: Mark Heimerdinger, 26th year (also Maple Point, 1981-82). Education: Ryan, Slippery Rock. Career: 430-283; 407-261 at Dougherty.
Last Year: 14-0, 25-3.
Savvy seven: Isiah Mason, 6-1, G; Brandon Savage, 6-4, G-F; Jahkeem Bogans, 5-7, G; Sean Williams, 6-2, F; Jordan Hooks, 5-9, G; Ryan Fitch, 6-foot, G; Zaahir Allen, 6-1, G-F.
Heimerdinger's comment: "We're looking to improve our work ethic, team unity and basketball IQ ... every day."
Coach: Rick Sabol, 1st year; Education: Conwell-Egan, Kutztown. Career. 0-0.
Last Year: 5-9, 10-16.
Savvy seven: Shayne Bonner, 5-10, G; Kevin DeLorenzo, 6-2, F; Jonas Skovdal, 6-4, F; Rashad Little, 6-2, G; Hayk Gyokchyan, 6-8, F; Matt Engle, 6-1, F; Andrew Schaefer, 5-9, G.
Sabol's comment: "I'm pleased with our defense and energy level, but we need to limit our turnovers and play a little smarter."
Coach: Frank Cahill, 3rd year. Education: North Catholic, Temple. Career: 30-23.
Last Year: 7-7, 14-13.
Savvy seven: Bob Zanneo, 6-5, G-F; Andrew Vose, 6-5, C; Matt McLaughlin, 5-8, G; Jim DiLisio, 6-2, G; Tom Ryan, 6-3, F; Josh Jaskowiak, 6-2, F; Ryan Langdon, 6-4, C.
Cahill's comment: "If we learn to play team defense and share the ball, we should be competitive."
Coach: Joe Dempsey, 4th year; Education: Archbishop Kennedy, Elizabethtown. Career: 28-50.
Last Year: 7-7, 16-12.
Savvy seven: Frank Pierson, 6-foot, G; Matt Crozier, 6-6, C; C.J. Aiken, 6-9, F; Todd Stokley, 6-1, G; Joe Migliarese, 6-5, F; B.J. Fitzgerald, 6-2, G; Tom Cooney, 6-2, G.
Dempsey's comment: "I love our chemistry. If we play with passion, we'll be OK."
Coach: Mike McCarron, 6th year. Education: North Catholic, Eastern. Career: 66-63.
Last Year: 10-4, 22-6.
Savvy seven: Velton Jones, 6-foot, G; Lenny Young, 6-1, G; R.J. Handy, 6-3, F; Woody Redding, 5-7, G; Bob Makor, 6-2, F; Shahid Paulhill, 6-3, C; Josh Stevens, 6-1, F.
McCarron's comment: "They feed off each other to create energy. When they have that energy, they're good."
Coach: Paul Romanczuk, 5th year (missed '05 on medical leave). Education: Carroll, Penn. Career: 45-57.
Last Year: 6-8, 10-16.
Savvy seven: Ellis Rogers, 5-11, G; Lamar Jackson, 5-10, G; Brian Concio, 6-5, F; Bender Retif, 6-3, F; Andre Wilburn, 6-2, G-F; Kasheef Festus, 6-5, F; DJ Irving, 5-10, G.
Romanczuk's comment: "If we get improvement and all-out effort on the defensive end, we should be in the thick of things."
Coach: Bud Gardler, 32nd year (also Kenrick, 1969-75). Education: Bonner, Saint Joseph's. Career: 550-399, 453-327 at O'Hara.
Last Year: 5-9, 8-16.
Savvy seven: Jim Kelleher, 6-5, F-G; Kevin Merkle, 6-4, F; Matt Romano, 6-3, F; Zach Tansey, 6-2, G; Josh Showers, 6-6, F-C; Mark Wedderburn, 6-7, C; Ryan Wolski, 6-foot, G.
Gardler's comment: "Having five starters back is no guarantee of success. We're a work in progress."
Coach: Jack Flanagan, 2nd year; Education: Kenrick, Temple. Career: 0-26.
Last Year: 0-14, 0-26.
Savvy seven: Karlton Byrd, 6-2, G; Greg Santangelo, 5-10, G; David Tornetta, 6-3, F; Brad Miller, 6-5, F; Darnell Hinton, 5-11, G; Kevin Shemar, 5-8, G; Alex Byrne, 6-3, F.
Flanagan's comment: "After last season we told our kids they needed to have a good spring, summer and fall. Now we need to have a good winter."
Coach: Brian Daly, 3rd year. Education: Bonner, Saint Joseph's. Career: 31-22.
Last Year: 7-7, 17-10.
Savvy seven: Lijah Thompson, 6-7, F-C; Henry Smith, 6-5, F; Rob Siter, 6-2, G-F; Brian Boyle, 5-10, G; Jamal Melvin, 5-7, G; Jerry Colvin, 5-10, G; Keefer Francis, 6-2, F.
Daly's comment: "We return only one starter, Thompson. We are young, but at least we're inexperienced."
Coach: Dennis Seddon, 22nd year. Education: North Catholic, La Salle. Career: 497-122.
Last Year: 12-2, 28-3.
Savvy seven: Courtney Stanley, 6-1, G; Will Kirkland, 6-5, F; Wes Kirkland, 6-5, F; Maalik Wayns, 6-1, G; Rakeem Brookins, 5-10, G; Aaron Brown, 6-4, F; Kevin Regan, 6-3, G.
Seddon's comment: "We'll go as far as our defense takes us."
Coach: Carl Arrigale, 10th year. Education: Penn Charter, Lycoming. Career: 200-58.
Last Year: 13-1, 26-6.
Savvy seven: Jamal Wilson, 6-5, F; Tyreek Duren, 6-2, G; Tyrell Taylor, 6-2, G; Tony Chennault, 6-2, G; Daniel Stewart, 6-6, F; Andre "Scooter" Gillette, 6-9, C; Shane Irwin, 6-5, F.
Arrigale's comment: "We have the pieces. Now we have to put them together."
ST. JOSEPH'S PREP
Coach: William "Speedy" Morris, 7th year (also Roman, 1968-81; Penn Charter, 1983-84). Education: Roman. Career: 541-126; 153-30 at SJ Prep.
Last Year: 11-3, 22-8.
Savvy seven: Jim Mower, 6-3, G; Joe Meehan, 6-foot, G; Phil Giordano, 6-1, G; Matt Williams, 6-2, G; Rich Hofmann, 6-foot, G; Sean Dooley, 6-2, G; Mike Bradley, 6-5, F-C.
Morris' comment: "If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride, and never quit, you'll always be a winner."
Coach: Bill Ludlow, 15th year. Education: St. James, Delaware County CC. Career: 182-177.
Last Year: 2-12, 9-17.
Savvy seven: Eric Brennan, 6-6, F; Rob Holloman, 5-8, G; Curtis Drake, 6-foot, G; Sergino Mystil, 6-4, F; Eric Beal, 6-1, G; Haleem "P-Nut" Hayward, 6-1, G; Aquil Younger, 5-10, G.
Ludlow's comment: "We have a very hard-working group of terrific young men. Good things normally come from that combination."