T HE TEMPTATION is to hand Ss. NeumannGoretti the Catholic League basketball championship plaque right now.
After all, coach Carl Arrigale's squad returns four starters, as well as the first two subs.
"Hey, I'm smarter than that," Arrigale said. "We've been here before."
He was referring to the 2002 and '03 seasons. N-G triumphed in the former and lost only guard Chris DelBrocco. Though it advanced to the semis in the latter, it fell to Cardinal Dougherty (RIP) and future NBAer Kyle Lowry.
N-G and its forerunner, St. John Neumann, have seized seven of the last 11 CL titles, and, if this group triumphs, it will extend the Saints' top-dog streak to four.
Chances are strong, folks. Senior Derrick Stewart (Rider), junior John Davis and soph Ja'Quan Newton rank among the best players in their class, and this unit redefines depth.
"I always pride myself on being truthful with the kids," Arrigale said. "I usually don't use big rotations, but if these newer guys show they deserve the minutes, we'll adjust and they'll be on the floor."
In a game of three-on-three, thanks to guards Gene Williams, Stephen Vasturia (Notre Dame) and Miles Overton, N-G would be severely pushed by St. Joseph's Prep. The Hawks' success will be determined by players four through seven.
Though important guard Rip Engel was lost last week to transfer - yes, after the season had already begun - Roman Catholic has an interesting mix of players. The headliner is soph guard Shep Garner, who already owns a prominent profile.
Roman and SJ Prep are Class AAAA schools. N-G is AAA. In AA, Bishop McDevitt appears to have reason to believe it can supplant West Catholic.
As in 2010-11, the CL is all one division.
The only new coach is Lansdale Catholic's Ed Enoch, and he now lays claim to a city record: most years between head-coaching stints. Enoch was Penn Charter's boss for five seasons ending in 1982. He's coming off CYO success at Mary, Mother of the Redeemer in North Wales.
Returning members of the Daily News' 2010-11 All-Catholic Team:
John Davis, N-G, F, jr.; Stephen Vasturia, SJ Prep, G, jr.
Derrick Stewart, N-G, F-C.
Gene Williams, SJ Prep, G; Jamal Nwaniemeka, C-E, F; Steven Griffin, Judge, G, jr.
Miles Overton, SJ Prep, G-F, jr.; Yosef Yacob, Carroll, G, jr.; Billy Shank, N-G, G.
Guards: Amar Stukes, La Salle, jr.; Shafeek Taylor, Roman, jr.; Shep Garner, Roman, soph.; Mark Perez, West; Ja'Quan Newton, N-G, soph.
Forwards/Centers: Josh Hoho, Bonner; Brahieme Jackson, McDevitt; Christian Rivera, Ryan; Shane Neher, Wood, jr.
THUMBNAILS (ALL ONE DIVISION)
Coach: Paul Romanczuk, 9th year (missed '05 on medical leave). Education: Carroll, Penn. Career: 131-82.
Last year: 11-2, 21-6.
Savvy seven: Yosef Yacob, 6-foot, G; Shane Randall, 6-6, F; Alec Stavetski, 6-3, G; Lou Dominique, 6-4, F; Tom Rymal, 6-2, G; Pat Finnegan, 6-3, F; Isaiah Warren, 5-7, G.
Romanczuk's comment: "These guys are some of the most hardworking young men I have been around. We are looking to improve daily and hope to be competitive deep into the season."
Coach: Bernie Rogers, 12th year. Education: Ryan, Ursinus. Career: 160-122.
Last year: 4-9, 11-13.
Savvy seven: Christian Rivera, 6-1, F; Nick Aughenbaugh, 6-1, F; Kyle Slawter, 5-11, G; Brian Okolo, 5-10, G; Tyler Reed, 6-foot, G; Gage Galeone, 5-10, G; Chris McMonagle, 6-2, C.
Rogers' comment: "If we play like we have been practicing, we will have a good year."
Coach: Jack Walsh, 3rd year. Education: Wood, Delaware Valley. Career: 30-18.
Last year: 7-6, 14-10.
Savvy seven: Shane Neher, 6-4, F; Joe LoStracco, 6-6, C; Tommy Rush, 5-10, G; Pat Smith, 6-4, G; Luke Connaghan, 6-4, F; Colin Davis, 5-11, G; Cody Fitzpatrick, 5-9, G.
Walsh's comment: "Have to mature quickly. Great team chemistry. Must play as a team on both ends of the court."
Coach: Jack Rutter, 17th year (missed final 16 games of '05 on medical leave). Education: Dougherty, Alvernia. Career: 146-229.
Last year: 2-11, 10-12.
Savvy seven: Markeise Chandler, 6-1, F; Brahieme Jackson, 6-3, F; Kenyatta Long, 5-10, G; Mike Newns, 6-5, C; Tymere Wilder, 5-7, G; Jordan Watson, 6-foot, G; Diamir Williams, 5-10, G.
Rutter's comment: "We expect to be taken lightly, and we embrace that. We have a talented, yet unproven team, but I will not accept anything less than a ticket to the big dance."
Coach: Tim Kelly, 4th year. Education: O'Hara, Muhlenberg. Career: 13-51.
Last year: 2-11, 6-15.
Savvy seven: Pat Hagenbach, 5-11, G; Chris Duffin, 5-10, G; Ed Allen, 6-5, C; Mike Louden, 6-foot, G; Kareem Walker, 6-foot, G; Raymond Harris, 5-9, G; Sean Havink, 5-11, G.
Kelly's comment: "Mix of returning starters and first-year players. Team is guard-heavy, but we have some speed and a balanced scoring attack."
Coach: Rick Sabol, 5th year. Education: Conwell-Egan, Kutztown. Career: 48-45.
Last year: 4-9, 10-13.
Savvy seven: Jamal Nwaniemeka, 6-2, G; Dylan Pease, 6-1, F; Ryan Pepito, 5-7, G; Mike Kelly, 6-1, G; Bobby McTague, 6-3, F; John Wasson, 6-5, C; Ibraham Kamara, 6-3, F.
Sabol's comment: "This team is very hardworking and the players have great attitudes, but we have many areas that we still need to improve in. Hopefully, that takes place sooner rather than later."
Coach: Sean Tait, 3rd year (also Wood, 2009). Education: Judge, Cabrini. Career: 41-26; 25-19 at Judge.
Last year: 9-4, 16-6.
Savvy seven: Steven Griffin, 6-foot, G; Sean Hanna, 5-9, G; Brian Hennessey, 6-3, G; Tom "Joe" Robinson, 6-5, F-C; Jeff Seigafuse, 6-3, G-F; Malik Robinson, 6-3, G-F; Connor Donohoe, 5-11, G-F.
Tait's comment: "If we can play hard, smart and together, and be really unselfish, we will be fine."
Coach: Ed Enoch, 1st year (also Penn Charter, 1978-82); Education: Penn Charter, Penn. Career: unavailable.
Last year: 1-12, 4-18.
Savvy seven: Alex Talarico, 5-11, G; Brian Rafferty, 6-2, F; Andrew Riviello, 5-10, G; Kyle Pavlik, 6-2, F; Jim Rock, 6-1, G; Cole Sagan, 6-foot, G; Sean Hilsey, 6-1, G.
Enoch's comment: "We will be a scrappy team that has to shoot well and overachieve in many areas to compete in the PCL."
Coach: Joe Dempsey, 8th year. Education: Archbishop Kennedy, Elizabethtown. Career: 95-86.
Last year: 11-2, 21-6.
Savvy seven: Amar Stukes, 6-1, G; Darnell Artis, 5-7, G; Matt Murphy, 6-4, F; Matt Rodden, 6-6, F; Steve Smith, 6-7, F; Ryan Winslow, 6-6, F; Sean Dougherty, 5-10, G.
Dempsey's comment: "Although we lost four starters and nine seniors, there are several young guys that are ready to step in. They just haven't been through the wars yet. They'll have to figure it out very quickly."
Coach: Tom Meakim, 3rd year. Education: Bonner, Philadelphia Textile. Career: 17-27.
Last year: 5-8, 9-13.
Savvy seven: Josh Hoho, 6-3, F; Mike Proska, 5-11, G; Paul Pfeffinger, 6-3, F; Kevin Sheridan, 6-2, F; Pat Vanderslice, 6-5, F; Malcolm Richards, 6-2, F; Dan McLoone, 5-11, G.
Meakim's comment: "These kids are a pleasure to coach, and work extremely hard. Our goal is to get better each day, and see where that takes us."
Coach: Chris McNesby, 4th year. Education: Roman, East Stroudsburg. Career: 53-27.
Last year: 9-4, 17-9.
Savvy seven: Shafeek Taylor, 6-4, G-F; Britton Lee, 5-11, G; Shep Garner, 6-2, G; Raquan Brown-Johnson, 6-4, G; Secean Johnson, 6-4, F; Rashann London, 6-1, G; TreVaughn Wilkerson, 6-6, F-C.
McNesby's comment: "Young group. Good chemistry."
ST. JOSEPH'S PREP
Coach: William "Speedy" Morris, 11th year (also Roman, 1968-81; Penn Charter, 1983-84). Education: Roman. Career: 602-163; 214-67 at SJ Prep.
Last year: 8-5, 14-9.
Savvy seven: Gene Williams, 6-3, G; Stephen Vasturia, 6-3, G; Miles Overton, 6-3, G-F; Kevin Oberlies, 6-1, G; PJ Kelly, 5-11, G; Kyle Thompson, 6-1, F; Tom Stewart, 6-3, G-F.
Morris' comment: "Defense is the name of the game. If we play it, we'll be good. If we don't . . . oh, well."
Coach: Carl Arrigale, 14th year. Education: Penn Charter, Lycoming. Career: 298-76.
Last year: 13-0, 27-4.
Savvy seven: Derrick Stewart, 6-5, F-C; Billy Shank, 5-8, G; John Davis, 6-4, F; Ja'Quan Newton, 6-3, G; La'Quan Coaxum, 6-2, G; Hanif Sutton, 5-9, G, Troy Harper, 6-1, G.
Arrigale's comment: "We have a nice mix of young and old. We're hoping our depth will help us win out."
Coach: Guy Moore, 2nd year (also N. Catholic, 2010). Education: Roman, Temple. Career: 18-29.
Last year: 5-8, 7-17.
Savvy seven: Anthony Fleet, 6-5, F-C; Marquese Daniels, 5-10, G; Isayas Habtu, 6-2, G; Mark Perez, 6-1, F; Carnel Harley, 6-5, F; Anwar Epps, 5-10, G; Marques Jackson, 6-5, F.