And then there was one . . .
As the 2009-10 basketball season concluded, with his team boasting a 20-7 overall record, Malvern Prep coach Jim Rullo excitedly looked forward to this one.
His top four scorers, including two first-team members of the Inter-Ac League's all-star squad, would be back.
Then the transfer winds began blowing. At gale force. And they didn't stop until two games into this season, when DeQuann "Bootsie" Walker headed for Chester. Lamon Church had vamoosed for the same school 1 month earlier. Tracy Peal had trekked to Archbishop Carroll after last school year ended.
The lone Big Four survivor is junior guard Brendan Kilpatrick, a second-team honoree. (Walker and Church were first-teamers.)
"I'm always talking to the kids about opportunity, how you can always lose kids due to injury or sickness and that you have to keep working hard and be ready if that chance does come," Rullo said. "The kids are confused. They don't understand why this all happened. But the new kids in the lineup have stepped up and done well. It's refreshing to see that.
"We're up for the challenge. We still think we can have a special season. Every day the kids are working their tails off. Brendan Kilpatrick and Kevin Rafferty are giving us great leadership. We're fightin' the fight."
Though young overall (no seniors on roster), Chestnut Hill Academy returns three rotation members in swingman Malik Garner and guards Luke Mulvaney and Billy Dooley, son of coach Bill Dooley.
Penn Charter, itching to erase the bad memories of a 1-9 league slate (7-16 overall), returns five of its top seven.
At Germantown Academy, coach Jim Fenerty always finds a way to contend, and don't expect that to change.
The one new coach is Craig Conlin, the former double La Salle star (high school/university) who spent a long stint as Fenerty's assistant and now can be found at Episcopal Academy as the successor to mega-legend Dan Dougherty (retired).
The league's annual opening tripleheader will be played Jan. 8 at Cabrini.
CHESTNUT HILL ACADEMY
Coach: Bill Dooley, 4th year (also Germantown Friends, 2006-07); Education: Rumson-Fair Haven (N.J.), Richmond. Career: 80-41; 58-18 at CHA.
Last year: 10-0, 21-4.
Savvy seven: Malik Garner, 6-5, F; Billy Dooley, 6-4, G; Luke Mulvaney, 6-2, G; Bobby Keyes, 6-foot, G; Mike Hayes, 6-foot, F; Andrew Dowds, 6-1, G; Ryan Smith, 5-10, G.
Dooley's comment: "Though we return three rotation guys, we're still a young group with no seniors on the roster. We're developing. We'll see how far we can go."
Coach: Craig Conlin, 1st year. Education: La Salle, La Salle. Career: 0-0.
Last year: 3-7, 12-14.
Savvy seven: DC Gaitley, 6-1, G; Taylor Wright, 6-5, G-F; Dan Mengel, 6-2, G-F; Brian Metzler, 6-4, F; Billy McAvoy, 6-3, G-F; Matt Angelos, 6-foot, G; Drew Peters, 6-3, F.
Conlin's comment: "The boys and I are getting to know each other, to see who we are and what we can be. So far, I like what I have seen. Their effort and passion has been tremendous!"
Coach: Jim Fenerty, 22nd year (also Egan, 1982-89). Education: Dougherty, La Salle. Career: 469-302; 408-164 at GA.
Last year: 6-4, 19-8.
Savvy seven: Jimmy Hammer, 6-1, G; Beau Jones, 6-4, F; Greg Guers, 6-1, F; Julian Moore, 6-8, F; Nick Lindner, 5-8, G; James Drury, 6-1, G; Earl Edwards, 6-2, F.
Fenerty's comment: "A lot of young, energetic guys will need to help out the three returning varsity players with experience."
Coach: Steve Cloran, 8th year (also Marple-Newtown, 2001-03). Education: O'Hara, St. Francis (Pa.). Career: 96-158; 79-102 at HS.
Last year: 2-8, 12-13.
Savvy seven: Andrew Acker, 6-7, C; Zach Thomas, 5-11, G; RaShaan Hollman, 6-foot, G; Brendan Purcell, 5-11, G; Semaj Reed, 6-5, G-F; Conor Kelly, 6-1, G-F; Eric Anderson, 6-4, G-F.
Cloran's comment: "Simple plan for a simple game. Defend, rebound, take care of the ball, execute, and be selfless!"
Coach: Jim Rullo, 5th year. Education: Malvern, Drexel. Career: 78-37.
Last year: 8-2, 20-7.
Savvy seven: Brendan Kilpatrick, 6-5, G-F; Kevin Rafferty, 6-8, C; Steve Perpiglia, 5-8, G; Tom Pitt, 6-4, F; Sean Gordon, 6-1, G; Mike Louden, 5-11, G; Alex Dentinger, 6-4, F.
Rullo's comment: "We are very excited about this season. Opportunity is knocking for a lot of players that have not seen significant varsity minutes; should be a challenge. I think this group is up for that challenge."
Coach: Jim "Flipper" Phillips, 10th year (missed '09 on sabbatical). Education: Penn Charter, La Salle. Career: 126-116.
Last year: 4-6, 7-19.
Savvy seven: Michael Brown, 6-2, G; John Moderski, 5-9, G; Demetrius "Meat" Jennings, 5-11, G; Mike McGlinchey, 6-8, C; John Loughery, 6-5, F; Nick Lamb, 5-9, G; Grant Shaffer, 6-4, F.
Phillips' comment: "We have a good group of young men. Beginning to mold into a cohesive unit."
RETURNING ALL-INTER-AC PLAYERS (Selected by Coaches)
Malik Garner, CH, F; Andrew Acker, HS, C; Brendan Kilpatrick, Malvern, G-F.